In episode 54, we’re joined by Tom Snyder, Executive Director at RIoT. Tom discusses how IoT is adjusting to the new normal, and how companies can not only adapt but thrive by exploring fresh avenues for innovation during the current global lockdown.
In Episode 54 of The Connext Podcast:
- [0:43] What do you see as the biggest challenge for existing and new companies?
- [1:50] Why do you think we are seeing companies accelerate through the current obstacles of new adjustments?
- [3:14] How important are standards to developing IoT applications?
- [4:37] What industries do you think stand to gain the most from IoT?
- [7:21] What are some of the craziest “was not expecting that” IoT applications that you have seen recently?
- [Free Connext DDS Trial] Try a fully-functional version of Connext DDS for 30 days.
- [riot.org] Learn more about how RIoT is creating IoT opportunities
- [Blog] Exploring the Role of Blockchain in Industrial IoT Systems (Part 1)
Hello everybody and welcome to another episode of The Connext Podcast. Today, I'm pleased to be joined by Tom Snyder, executive director at RIoT. RIoT focuses on economic development by capturing emerging markets and accelerating startups. RIoT creates IoT opportunities locally, nationally, and globally. Thanks for being with us, Tom.
Thanks for having me, Steven. I'm glad to be here.
Of course. I'm really excited to be talking to you today. Excited to be talking to somebody who is so well connected in the world of IoT. And what an interesting time it is to be talking about technology. We are actually seeing tons of new opportunities for IoT arise in this unique time period. Is that right?
[0:43] What do you see as the biggest challenge for existing and new companies?
Given the current circumstances that we're in, what do you see as the biggest challenges or obstacles for existing companies or even new companies?
We believe that as economic developers, that jobs get created where technology is going. Markets always evolve and things emerge and change because of technology. We think that's a key driver. What's really unique right now is that change is happening in fast forward. So the normal evolution that every company needs to make, is happening much, much quicker now because of the unique circumstances within which we're living right now.
So I think a lot of trends that we knew were going to happen, we knew there was going to be more remote working, there was going to be more use of video and so on and so forth. We're just being forced to adopt right now. So instead of the normal curve of early adopters and then mainstream users and then eventually laggards, everyone is having to use tech in a different way really fast. And some companies are adjusting to that more quickly than others.
[1:50] Why do you think we are seeing companies accelerate through the current obstacles of new adjustments.
Despite the rapid change in the way that business is done since the beginning of the year, which seems like forever ago, we are still seeing companies accelerate through the obstacles of new adjustments. Why do you think that is?
Some of the companies are recognizing that the economy has not shut down. I think that's a mistake that we've seen in the media and in the national discourse around the economy has shut down and when are we going to reopen? What they've recognized instead, is just markets have changed. Those that have adopted new ways of working or pivoted into new areas to adjust to those market changes, are actually doing really, really well.
I'll give an example. We're working with a startup company that was in the space of trying to help automotive dealers to keep their service bays full and to create loyalty after somebody buys a car to continue to use their shop for service over the long term. They've recognized now in the time of social distancing as they pivot a product, to actually go pick someone's car up, deliver it to a dealership, get it, get the oil change, get whatever repair done and then deliver it back to the consumer.
Well, that's a behavior, even in normal times that people would like, but in this particular market, that's critically important because people don't feel comfortable going and sitting in a waiting room with a bunch of strangers while their car is getting serviced. So pivoting into these changes, there's huge opportunity.
[3:14] How important are standards to developing IoT applications?
I want to pivot the conversation to standards for a little bit and talk about how important standards are to this development process across IoT applications.
Standards are incredibly important, and we're still at this interesting point in the internet of things economy, where there are some standards that are emerging, but there's a lot that is still undecided. One of the things that we focus on in our startup accelerator, is helping startups to understand fundamentally the difference between standards and regulations. Regulations are things that you have to do. They're legislated in some way. But standards are things that are driven by the market. And in areas of IoT where there isn't quite a standard, what is going to become the standard low power, wide area network technology, for example?
What tends to happen historically, is whoever captures the market the fastest, whatever the killer app is that everybody wants becomes the standard. We saw it when Bluetooth won out over IT Plus, for example, for a low-power wireless technology. So, those that are thinking about standards and understand the importance of standards, go out there and solve the biggest problem with the biggest audience that gets the lightest market adoption. If you do that well, you have the opportunity to create the standard.
[4:37] What industries do you think stand to gain the most from IoT?
On that topic, what industries do you think stand to gain the most from IoT? Is it healthcare, smart cities, transportation, energy even?
I think all sectors are going to benefit dramatically from IoT, but they're going to do it on different time frames. Manufacturing and industrial applications have known this for years. Since before it was called IoT, they were using real-time data to drive yield and cost efficiencies and improvements.
We're seeing more regulated industries like healthcare and medical devices and stuff taking longer to come into play, and smart cities to some degree as well, because there are much more difficult challenges around maintaining privacy and security of data and other things. There are companies, RTI is one of them, doing great work in the security space to make sure that information is handled properly. But I think in the end, all industries are going to benefit.
The question is, which industries use IoT to continue to do the same things they're doing today just more efficiently, which is the easy entry point to using IoT, but it's kind of a short-lived model in terms of profit margin. And what are the industries instead that say, because I have all of this new edge information, I can create incredibly new value and get much closer to customers and serving their needs? Those are the companies that are really going to thrive. And we see it in energy. We see it in agriculture. We see it in every sector.
I want to go a little bit off the beaten path here real quick and talk about a buzzword that you hear every now and then in the space of IoT and that's AI. How is AI coming into play during this time right now?
Data is at the center of everything IoT. It's popular to say data is the new oil. There's all kinds of metaphors that are used. But at the end of the day, all this information that we can collect, isn't that important. What's important is what does all that data and information mean? And predominantly, where that meaning comes is through artificial intelligence and through machine learning and other kinds of algorithmic approaches. And that's driven by that fundamentally, if we have the opportunity to automate, not just automate in terms of robotics and assembly, but automate decision-making, really get the machines talking to the machines and making decisions in a good way, we can do things faster. We can do things with higher quality and the decision-making engine behind all of this, we loosely call AI.
[7:21] What are some of the craziest “was not expecting that” IoT applications that you have seen recently?
I have one last question for you, Tom. What are some of the craziest or "was not expecting that" IoT applications that you've seen recently?
We're lucky. We get to see startups across a whole range of different areas. One company we had worked with recently, Companah, is bringing IoT to pet cremation. Who would know that's actually a massive industry that end of life for pets and end of life management. Today, sometimes tragically looks like a pet leaving say a vet clinic or something, and ending in a landfill. And their cremation services have grown, but there's no real intelligence or backend automation of that. And so, wrong pets are getting delivered back to owners and just the things that are tragic.
Through some RFID technologies and some of the chip technologies, a lot of dogs and cats have chips in them, a company called Companah in North Carolina has developed an automated approach to quality assurance through that whole process and bringing the right ashes to the right people. And then having down the road, the opportunities to have things like when you walk near the urn of the pet, maybe a memory comes up on your phone. There's really interesting, new applications, Steve, that otherwise sound like pretty morbid, bizarre industries.
I just wanted to bring this up. There was actually one I heard of the other day where they were using IoT with cockroaches, where there's been buildings that have collapsed and they go in there in the rubble to try and find survivors and things like that. Is that something that you've come across as well?
We have. There's a researcher at NC State University named Dr. Albert Bhaskar, who has done quite a bit of work with both cockroaches in moths, putting tiny single board computers on the insects and then sending them into Fukushima or after earthquakes and other things with little transmitters and microphones and other things. And the ability to bring technology like that to search and rescue, is really, really incredible.
Yeah. I mentioned AI just a minute ago. Is there another buzzword right now in IoT that everyone's talking about or everyone's striving to accomplish?
I don't think there's a buzzword in tech right now that doesn't really tie back to IoT. Now, I'm a little bit biased. We run an IoT focused organization and think of that as an umbrella term, but certainly, one of the buzzwords that's getting a lot of attention is blockchain. And how is blockchain going to help enable authenticity of data across say an IoT value chain? And really make sure that the data that's collected at the edge, that's then maybe moved in aggregated at the gateway and analyzed in the cloud, moved back and forth, are there ways to authenticate and track that?
A good example is traceability across the food supply chain for public health. Blockchain is a big part of a component like that. So that's one of the buzzwords that certainly we're hearing a lot about right now.
Tom, I wanted to thank you so much for your time today. It was short and sweet, but we got a lot of good information and I really appreciate you joining us and letting us discuss IoT with an expert.
Absolutely. Thanks for having me, Steven, and thanks to the audience.
To all the listeners, please visit riot.org to learn more about what they're doing in the world of IoT. That's R-I-O-T.org. And thanks again, we'll see you on the next episode of The Connext podcast.