Mister Beacon Episode #184
Networking the Real World: Exploring Nodle's Digital RevolutionSeptember 19, 2023
This week on Mr. Beacon, we dive into the world of blockchain networks with Nodle. You might recognize the company as we interview the CEO back in 2019. Well this time we’re sitting down with Garrett Kinsman, one of the co-founders of Nodle, a groundbreaking company that's changing the way we connect the real world with the digital world.
Nodle's mission is to bridge the gap between physical and digital spaces, and they've achieved this by harnessing the power of smartphones and Bluetooth technology to create wireless networks that span continents.
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Steve Statler 0:00
Welcome to the Mr. Beacon podcast this week, we're back to some traditional territory. We're talking to Garrett Kinsman, who is co founder at Nodle who are both a network and a maker of a device. So they have a crypto based network that runs on smartphones and actually Wi Fi access points and other things that can be used for what we would describe as Ambien IoT use cases. So a find my have almost anything, they're going to tell us about one of their early wins in finding stolen cars for French insurance company. And we'll get into their views of the best Bluetooth beacons out there. Some of the interesting use cases, but also their hardware, they have announced the nano computer, the N one nano computer, which is a super thin, low cost but programmable, smart tag, essentially, it's it's a compute device as well. So if you like devices, this is for you. If you're thinking about the networks that are gonna allow us to crowdsource and see everything, then check this out. And this is a follow up to an interview that I had with Misha the CEO back in 20 2019. So if you're really into the details, you can watch and listen to both and compare and contrast. But I think Garrett does a great job of explaining where they're at so that the episode stands on its own. I hope you enjoy it.
And Mr. Beacon ambient IoT podcast is sponsored by Wiliot IoT, bringing intelligence to every single thing.
Garrett, welcome to the Mr. Beacon podcast, it's really great to have you on the show. Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be on the show. Well, in in many ways, this is a secret, we add your co founder Misha, the CEO of Nodle lon back in February of 2019. Seems like just forever ago. So if anyone wants to compare and contrast they can go back and and watch that. But let's save them the trouble. Why don't you just give us a quick recap on what your company does. And you know, I I'm interested in the progress, we will visit that, that that theme, you know lessons learned where you've got to where you're going to. But also you have some intriguing information about what I would see as an Ambien IoT device, your nano computer, the one device and I want to talk about that as well. But for people that didn't watch Mr. Beacon back in 2019, can you remind them what your company does? And how would you describe it now? Sure. So we're nodal, we like to say that we're connecting the real world with the digital world. And we started back in 2017, using smartphones and Bluetooth to build wireless networks. So since we started at these ideas have become very popular with things like Apple air tag, where you use a swarm of smartphones to connect things like a little Bluetooth tag to find your keys or your pet. But we're much more interested in the enterprise world. So last year, Apple made over a billion dollars just on air tag just for finding your car keys. We believe that the enterprise space is much, much bigger. And we believe what are the key kind of limitations to seeing just a swarm of Bluetooth devices in the real world around us is a common network where a Wilayat tag can talk to a network where an iBeacon where a air conditioner can all work with the same network, much like the internet and communicate with each other. And that's really what we're building is we're working to create a standard network where starting with smartphones can communicate with the world around us capture Bluetooth signals and then pass those signals back to the owner of that device. Amazing. I believe in that will too. How are things progressing? How big is the network these days?
Garrett Kinsman 4:35
So it's been very exciting. A few things have happened since since 2019. It's definitely been a wild ride. But it's really interesting. We've proved it out the fact that you can build enterprise revenues with a network like this. So our largest customer now, insurance companies France In France, is using our network to locate stolen vehicles. And it's working, we'll probably have some announcements More on that in the next few months. But we've shown that you can use Bluetooth just like you've used a cellular or satellite connected device. And fundamentally, we believe this is incredibly transformative. Because not only can a lot of devices today that are using a SIM card, just use Bluetooth. But a lot of devices that today just could not afford to connect to the internet can now connect to the internet. We're talking in some cases, an order of magnitude, more cost effective and more power effective way to send data up to the internet. So we've proven this out with some insurance customers. We're working now to scale this up and enable all kinds of other devices. One of the key trends with our network is its programmability. And we announced at the beginning of this year, a white paper and we're now pretty deep into the development and deployment of the programmability of this network with something called Smart missions. And a smart mission basically is, we can program our network to any specific Bluetooth device that we wish. If Wiliot at wants to use the network, we can program its identifier into our network. And now our network adapts to it and can communicate with that device based on programmability of the network. We think this is really cool, because today, all these Bluetooth networks that are deployed are not programmable. If you want to use a competitive network, you have to use their language, their firmware. And it's incredibly cost prohibitive.
Steve Statler 6:39
Gosh, so much to unpack there. And I want to go back and unpack it. But just back to the question on size. So I guess you maybe don't want to answer that. That's that's fine, if you don't, but the way I think about these networks is in two dimensions. One is the things that you're tracking kind of the tags. And then the things that you're using to read, which I guess is the real network is the the how many devices? Do you have that? Have the Nodle app or the SDK? Is are your readers all in the Nodle app? And how many of them are there? I guess that's two questions. But pick pick which ones.
Garrett Kinsman 7:22
So it's in the right now it's in the hundreds of 1000s of active devices, right? Yes, obviously, we want to increase this much, much more. But even that's enough to start covering places like Europe, especially France, we've had a big focus on France with reliable coverage. And just a few weeks ago, we came out with our Explorer map. So if you type in network.nodal.com, and od.com. So network.nodle.com, you can see this incredible map of the world around us. And you can actually see and zoom in onto your your neighborhood. And you can see within 30 days, did a smartphone running the nodal software come into your neighborhood. And you can start to explore the map yourself, which we think is really, really cool. We grow through a few ways. So one is the noodle app. So regular people just like you and me can download the nodal app, I think you've been playing with it for some time. And it allows your smartphone just to start earning a cryptocurrency because we are a crypto incentivized network for sharing your Bluetooth. So we operate through an app, we also have an SDK. And this SDK can go into games and other mobile apps. And this provides a way for developers to earn crypto just by sharing Bluetooth anonymously here. So it's a multi pronged way of growth. And we're also having discussions with smartphone makers and telcos and allows providers to embed this at a native a native scale, our long term goal would be to really be the common network that things like Apple's network, and Google's network could use to talk to each other. Because you don't have to trust one single company, you you have this decentralized aspect of the network. And we think that's really important. And a lot of customers think that's really important.
Steve Statler 9:11
So it's your app, but it could be a lot more than that. It could be an SDK that goes into other things. Well, what about things like Wi Fi access points, could could you put your SDK and
Garrett Kinsman 9:24
definitely, we have a partnership with Cisco Meraki. So we actually work with some of their API's for enterprise settings. And we've been looking very closely at gateways to being able to support right now Android and Linux Android gateways, but even a single, tiny Bluetooth chip with an internet connection. This is something else that we've been been looking at as well so that you could build a gateway for almost nothing. So if I was the CTO at Starbucks, and I happen to be a man
Steve Statler 10:00
Cisco Meraki customer I could potentially would I have the ability to activate the Nodle network at every Starbucks? So if someone Yep, lost this device and it ended up in a Starbucks, then that could get a report it back somehow?
Garrett Kinsman 10:18
Yes, it would be very straightforward to do that. We think that use cases more like analytics are much more interesting. So strangely enough, we see a lot of coffee makers on our network, I think because some brand of coffee machine is just blasting Bluetooth, probably a bit more than they should. But it's one that actually shows up on our network quite a bit. And if that was transmitting analytics, now Starbucks could get essentially real time analytics from their coffee machines. How many coffees are being made? What type? Is the motor? Okay, what's the status? It is these little analytics, this type of information that it can really help a business and really increase efficiencies.
Steve Statler 11:03
So you have a network and it sounds like you can already across the hundreds of 1000s of nodes in that network, look at the kind of Bluetooth devices that are out there, you kind of get a sense of what's going on. Yeah, that's pretty quick and run, we can run searches, we call it kind of a search engine of the physical world.
Garrett Kinsman 11:25
And what's happening with this arc transfer smart missions is this data will actually be routed at the edge. So this means that if we want to route data directly to a customer server without it having to go through nodal, then we can do so.
Steve Statler 11:40
And let's get back to the use case of finding stolen vehicles. So the vehicles, do they have a special Bluetooth tag in there? Or are you just using the fact that cars have a lot of Bluetooth devices in them?
Garrett Kinsman 11:56
Anyway, they have a special Bluetooth tag, which basically transmits a unique identifier. In this case, they've custom designed it, but you could use any off the shelf Bluetooth tag, it just depends really on your level of security. Most cars do transmit Bluetooth, like every Tesla transmits Bluetooth. But most of these companies are pretty clever and anonymize the identifiers, so you can't actually locate a specific vehicle. Okay, but if a car company we see a lot of Harmon, Samsung rooms, Harman sound systems out there in the wild if they wanted to include a unique identifier and their transmission, we could very simply program that into our network and be able to recover stolen vehicles made by that radio company.
Steve Statler 12:48
And this is getting geeky. But do you just see Bluetooth Low Energy advertising packets? Or do you see other kind of Bluetooth devices, audio devices that are looking for a connection? Right now?
Garrett Kinsman 13:02
It's just what you see in the scans advertising packets is what we focus on. Okay. Yeah, we can technically support anything that the phone supports. So in the future, Wi Fi, we're very interested in what's happening with some of the new Wi Fi standards for building networks, ultra wideband, we think it would be cool if phones could do mesh networks in the future.There were even some experiments with LTE direct and passed on before the telcos killed that off. So really, we make smartphones, programmable and new ways new, very secure privacy preserving ways. And any new protocol that's added to the phones, we can support that. And to what degree you talked about things being killed off, it feels like
Steve Statler 13:49
Apple and maybe others are trying to kill off the crowdsourcing use case with with Bluetooth. Are you able to do what you do on Apple phones? Or is it an Android only thing?
Garrett Kinsman 14:03
Yes, we can do iOS and Android. These certain companies make want to make it very difficult. They claim in the name of privacy, but when they're making a billion dollars on a certain product, and their privacy changes, build a wall around their billion dollar product. It's a tough argument sometimes. Yeah, thankfully. Especially with the new European regulations. These things have to be more open. And androids really great about this. Apple is definitely moving in that direction. So today, we work both on iOS and Android pretty reliably. Android you can do a bit more on Android, you can have a bit more fun with both Android and iOS. So worked worked quite well. And a lot of people have built their businesses around both zones. So the manufacturers really have to make sure and in maintain these things. I'm sure you guys at Wiliot you really pushing the limits of what a smartphone can do. Even using smartphones to energize your network attack. So I don't think anyone's really thought of using a phone as a wireless energy communication device. But I think that's pretty awesome. And definitely pushing the limits of what the ad what the Play Store would like. So that's good, too.
Steve Statler 15:25
Good to hear that you have that coverage on both ecosystems and yeah, you know, I think you imply that, but let's let's just make sure it's super clear. There's a motivation for consumers to install the app. Yeah. You know, why would I install the nodal app? I mean, I installed it because I thought it was cool and super interesting. But why Why might someone join the network?
Garrett Kinsman 15:54
So right now, it's because they can earn a bit of crypto. Today, it's not much. But it's, we believe, someday that I could help pay for a fraction of your data plan. So really, it's a crypto economic model, which means you get paid in cryptocurrency for sharing a bit of your Bluetooth. And we think that this is really what's required for networks, like what Apple and Google are doing with these small tags to scale into the enterprise. People need a robust and reliable network, but they also need a network that can be incentivized to grow in specific parts of the world where today, there's not much coverage. That obviously since we last spoke, crypto has been on a roller coaster ride, ride, as far as
Steve Statler 16:39
You know, positive positivity and negativity, how has that impacted you, if at all, in the way you describe what you do, and people's willingness to use it.
Garrett Kinsman 16:52
It's kind of crazy, because when we first met, when I first met Nisha, back in 2014 2015, crypto wasn't really a thing. We were always steadfast on building these new types of mesh networks. And there was there was like the Bitcoiners was kind of a movement, there were the the mesh guys, the decentralized mesh networking guys. And then there were kind of the anarchists, the people working in BitTorrent, and in torrenting, files, and all this type of stuff. And it wasn't really until much later that the crypto space came around and in Nisha had always been very, very focused on how do we build enterprise applications that work. So since 2017, even when crypto came into the field, we realized that crypto was a very good way to structure these networks and to secure them just from a fundamental decentralized route of trust. I can say definitely having crypto, boom, and then crash and then boom, and then crash. It's it's a bit wild. But we've always been focused on how do we provide a great enterprise product that that works, and scaling that up in that fashion?
Steve Statler 18:01
And what are the benefits that blockchain and crypto provide to the solution that you're building?
Garrett Kinsman 18:11
So like the internet, it's a decentralized system. And we believe that any type of network that's operating at the scale, like nodal, it has to be decentralized, which means that data isn't going through one server. And this is also something that a lot of customers enterprise customers have demanded. They say, No, we want a system that can work on our own servers or route data directly to our own servers. And a decentralized system is ultimately the best way to do that. Now, you need a way to secure that, but also to incentivize that system. And that's when a cryptocurrency comes into place. It would be like building in a global telco billing system into the fundamentals of the internet. Back in the 90s, they weren't thinking like that. And cryptocurrency didn't exist, but now it does, we have these tools. And we can program bandwidth incentives, we can program all these things into into our network, which which can work at a fundamental IoT level, which is really cool. Very good.
Steve Statler 19:17
Okay, let's talk a bit about the hardware. Before we do that, I just want to say a couple of things about how I see what you do, which is you know, there are many terms that are used to describe it, but I I really see your company as being an ambient IoT company. This podcast is now called the Mr. Beacon ambient IoT podcast and it's so maybe I'm just sort of justifying why you're on here why I thought it was a good idea to have an update, but I really think you're ambient in because ambient is about connecting every single thing to and having readers that are ubiquitous that are everywhere. And Yeah, feels like what you're that you're doing that, yes, you can track cars, but you could equally track coffee makers or pairs of socks or anything. And the network could be very broad and heterogeneous. So would you kind of accept that as as a as a marketplace that you're in? Yeah, yeah, I'll take it. Very good. The way that we've been thinking about it is that
Garrett Kinsman 20:33
Wiliot Wiliot is probably one of the best examples of an enterprise company that's built a really cool application on top of Bluetooth. But we fundamentally believe that what's keeping these types of things is Bluetooth tags, Bluetooth devices from just becoming a multibillion dollar, multi trillion dollar space, is the lack of a network. If you want to go connect your device to a network, you've got to modify all your firmware, change your business model, build a hardware device, connected to the network, and all that data has to go through. Sometimes a competitor, and it's just not, it's not productive. And so we believe that the difficulty is and really getting online, it looks a lot like the internet did in the in the 90s, where, if you want to get online, you've got to get a CD popping in your computer, plug your computer in a telephone line and hope and pray that it works. And it wasn't really that conducive until the 2000s. When internet connectivity spread these it really became standardized. And there was one comment that worked for computers and humans and machines to talk to, we think the same thing should should be for Bluetooth devices. And so we believe the network was missing, we started to build out the network. But now what can we do with this network? Most of the world is thinking about Bluetooth iBeacons, simple Bluetooth device that says hello, I'm here, there's my name. But I thought that wasn't that exciting. I said, what is this going to look like in 100 years from now? And what we imagined was a device that could use the full capabilities of the neural network and be as intelligent as possible. You know, we look at really device we say that's cool. But what happened as you cram as much compute power into a device like this as possible, what would you get? And then what could you do as such things? So that's kind of how the noodle nano computer was, was born by saying, how can we leverage the full capabilities of a network like nodal to the stream, and then set up a world where in 10 years from now, they're not just talking over Bluetooth, but maybe they're building mesh networks with a different technology like Wi Fi, and maybe they're actually becoming part of the infrastructure itself, doing compute, building basic wireless networks, and so forth. I love it. So the first product is called N one is that right? The N one is think of it like a prototype, an open source prototype, just to set the space it to get people thinking about where this goes next. This was kind of our first foray into printed zinc based battery chemistries, which is a totally new, totally new space. That's still evolving very quickly. But this is cool, because you're not using lithium, which has a much higher carbon impact. So we can build this type of ambient computing, essentially a zinc battery with a system on a chip. And we can put much more capabilities into it. So the nano computer is loaded with sensors temperature, humidity, pressure, motion, hardware security module so we can encrypt communications. And it's really just the first step into where we things are gonna go next. And it can it can it listen, as well as transmit, or does it just transmit? Today, the firmware that we've open sourced is just transmitting. What we're doing with smart missions is, is we're programming logic that we can push into the network. And so we want to use the nano computer as a reference device for smart missions. So this means that we can build a simple program that is deployed on the network. And we think that just a network running applications is kind of an interesting idea that having a wireless network that's programmable and then we can have that network interact with a device Lexa nano computer in a programmable fashion. And so that's really where we see things heading next is that we open up this type of this this device for other developers so that they can programs things that run the data. Or they could build an app that runs on the narrow computer and captures sensor data over the course of a week and then computes on top of it, or so forth. And so that way enterprises can really get to the edge, they can start programming applications at the edge and then have a common network that can send data back to the cloud.
Steve Statler 25:21
Let's describe what this looks like. And roughly how much does it does it cost.
Garrett Kinsman 25:29
So today, the Nano computers a sticker, it's about four inches by three inches. So it's, it's a relatively small sticker. And the target cost is $5, below $5. But today, it's a bit low volumes, it's a bit more expensive, it's closer to $10. Here, the goal for this, though, is to create a path towards sub dollar computing. And today, you're never going to do that with the standard way we manufacture products. Today, it's a you have a circuit board PCB, a battery connected together, you put it in a plastic case, that's how most things today are manufactured. You have all these different components, you stick them together. We think that if you can continuously manufacture like tape, or a newspaper, a product like the National Computer, then you can get the economies of scale that we need. We're still several years away from this. And again, we believe that that's this network is missing. That allowed the economies of scale and the prices to come down. That could enable a device like the nano computer to be much, much cheaper than existing hardware manufacturing. But there's a several years to go. And there's kind of a long, long manufacturing scale up. And it's really a shift of supply chain. When the LED came out in the 80s, it was a very expensive device, everyone was using light bulbs. And LEDs were extremely, extremely expensive. And it took this type of device to come out to get that product market fit for the price of an LED to just collapse exponentially. And now you've got millions of billions of LEDs, and displays. So we think that we can do the same thing with computing. If we start thinking about computing, we're printed steadily.
Steve Statler 27:20
And today there's a printed circuit board and there's a there's a there's a zinc battery.
Garrett Kinsman 27:27
Steve Statler 27:29
And it's rechargeable, right. So it has has potentially, it's a REIT.
Garrett Kinsman 27:34
It's a rechargeable battery chemistry. I'm a big believer in photovoltaics. So solar panels. And we think that a lot can be done to kind of unify the design into one common substrate. So we don't have a separate battery separate device, we can actually print everything together. And if you look at what's happening with a lot of new technologies, circuit boards printed even a chips are printed today, especially some of the lead the new technologies coming out of of China, where they're really integrating printed boards, with silicon chips. With printed batteries, we think there's really a big space to innovate on what it even looks like to build a computer. So if we like to think about, could this be something like a Raspberry Pi, but what comes next? How do we build the next level of a computing? For developers that can be just built it really, really high volume? Around? What is the process to do the programming? Can it be reprogrammed over the air? Or is it a matter of connecting to the tag with some kind of device? Right now it's like a JTAG interface. Okay. It'll it'll probably remain like that for some time, until we can open up an over the air programming function. That would actually be a cool, smart mission to see if we could make a smart mission on our network that would allow you to program the device. So it's very early today. But it's really just to get people thinking about this new type of computing. And if you make it completely open, force as much compute power in the device as possible, what type of applications will people come up with? And then what's the status of the project? So right now, phase one is open source. So you can check it out on GitHub. You can see you can test it out right now we're using it just leaves a development platform for experimenting with new beacon frameworks and things like that. And we're now thinking a lot about a v2 design. So I can't say anything yet, but we think there's really a lot of room to innovate, and it makes something really streamlined. Really powerful. really aware. I mean, really me computing should be intelligent, it should be loaded with sensors, as smart as possible. All, and ultimately be able to be made as cheap as possible to if we if we can see volume someday and the millions or hundreds and millions of units, for sure.
Steve Statler 30:11
And I'm always conflicted with this show because obviously I have a day job it isn't Wiliot out. You've mentioned where they are. I've been studiously trying not to talk about. But I think people may. People may be curious, and we can cut this bit out because I really want this to be about normal. But I was thinking in my I was just sort of going through and seeing what how does this compare with what Williard is doing? And I know that some people will think you know, why the heck is Steve interviewing these other people that are doing ambient computing, but I really believe what we're doing is building a category. And that there will be multiple products, each one with its own strengths and weaknesses. It's like, this is about having a toolkit, not the you know, every problem does not require a hammer, you need hammers, screwdrivers, the whole plethora of things. And you know, what, what really does, our primary focus is battery free. And the price point that we're focused on is, is sub 10 cents. So we, when we started, we were like, we said, it's less than $1. Now we're like, yeah, where, so next year 2024, it'll be less than 10 cents, and I'm hoping that we can really hammer that down, we're looking at stripping out the paper in the paper tag and just printing the antennas directly, and stuff like that. But while you obviously give things up there, there's no way that's going to be ever going to be programmable, it's we burned the phone, wherein at the chip manufacturing level, and we have production runs of millions of these things, not, not small numbers. And so and that definitely, and that they're you know, we worked with a partner identity. And so there is a zinc battery version of our product. But again, it's it's the same chip, so it's not going to do the kind of general purpose programmable things that you guys do, and it's not rechargeable. And, you know, the price point is, is definitely more than 10 cents for, for for the zinc battery version. And so that's sort of, I would say, sits in between what you've described as the end one and, and what we have for our general battery free products, but you know, we need to have all of these products out there so that all the use cases can be built out and deployed and people can learn and yeah, you know, whatever the the tag, you still need the network, which is what you guys are really focused on. And so I think what you do, and what Wiliot does is very complimentary from from that. We're fundamentally a network. We want to be a network and the nano computer was kind of built out of like this. This this this nagging angst of I was saying I said what somebody needs to build a device that is hyper intelligent can do everything.
Garrett Kinsman 33:19
And if you're trying to build something for an enterprise that works today, and you're trying to build a beat be sensible, Wiliot, it is very sensible. Was his device designed to be as efficient as possible, deployed very quickly into production? What what we were thinking was, what is the anti Wilayat look like? What if you take a similar form factor, and load it with compute power, load it with an AI and sensors and, and mesh networking. And today, it obviously is a very simple chipset. But what happens in a few years, when you can have an AI chip that cost a few dollars in a run off of a few milliwatts. There should be a form factor ready to accept these types of these new types of technologies. And so that's kind of where we're thinking of you have the kind of the Wilayat you have, you have RFID at the bottom. And you've got the Wiliot at battery free tide, which I think is an awesome factor. You have the Wiliot battery power tag, which obviously with a higher power budget, you can do much more you can do more inventions, you can operate much more often. And then way on the other side you have like the raspberry pi and this supercomputer. We're thinking of kind of what comes just before the Raspberry Pi, how can we take something like a Raspberry Pi, make it much, much cheaper, significantly cheaper, and then open source it to the world? What if you can make a device like a Raspberry Pi that costs a few dollars? What happens that? I don't know but we want to open source and find out. I love it. I love the approach.
Steve Statler 34:56
So we should probably wrap up soon but I want to make sure we've done justice for the use cases, you folks have probably learned a lot over the last few years. I can't wait to hear more about the car tracking any other use cases that you know, where do you see the sweet spots for for what you're doing.
Garrett Kinsman 35:15
So, obviously, logistics, I think any use case where WM is used today in a wide area sense. So things like shipping container shipping pallets, boxes and carts. Anytime we have to be tracking and, and understanding complex logistical networks, networks like Nodle will help you get that visibility. And, and we believe that devices like Wiliot it are some of the best tags and some of the best hardware to do so. So we think there's a fantastic a fantastic combination there. I'm very interested in things like insurance. So tagging, construction, equipment, generators, stuff that needs to run a Bluetooth tag needs to run for five or 10 years. And a lot of the time these devices just disappear into the wild. So how do you have a connected asset that can stay connected for 10 years, can end up in really wild parts of the world in the middle of nowhere and still be able to be connected? Even if it takes a few days for our network to find it. In the woods or in the forest somewhere. Somebody walks by with a cell phone and it gets picked up. And that's incredibly valuable for insurance companies for for logistics networks that have assets all over the world.
Steve Statler 36:37
That's really what we've been looking at right now. And really helping companies like Will it or other due to tag manufacturers or device manufacturers bring their devices online? Well, let's talk about those other tag manufacturers. This podcast started, you know, I finished writing the Bluetooth beacon book, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the beacon system was the subtitle and and the the podcast came out of just wanting to carry on talking to smart people that were developing cool beacon technology and and the other networks that we're using that even back in the book was a chapter on the networks, although that was pre pre Nodle, Nodle, but you probably have one of the best perspectives of the Bluetooth beacon market because your network is connecting on there. And I think there's been a shakeout, but there's still a lot of the the early some of the early players have disappeared. But you still got your contact IPOs the estimates?There's oh, gosh, so many, so many what the Chinese vendors this, this really interesting players there. What's interesting there, and what beacons are you using when someone wants a Bluetooth beacon? What do you recommend? And what are you seeing out there? So we're, we've tested all times.
Garrett Kinsman 38:11
The biggest thing for us is that because our networks global, we find that a lot of Beacon manufacturers are a little lazy, and they'll reuse IDs, like especially if you look at the really low cost chipsets. So we'll query our network for it and see five of them in different parts of the world. And so we found that somebody that has a good quality chipset, but also can put the identifier on the device, so you have it laser etched, or something. Hardware is also kind of difficult. If you go and buy a mobile beacons from manufacturers, a lot of times they don't have an easy way to identify it. And this was also why we had to make our network programmable because even within the beacon world, there's kind of 10 different sub formats. People don't always follow the spec properly. The way that we identify devices is all totally different. Some people use major minor, some people use Mac ID, which most smartphones can't even see anymore. So it's very diverse. What we like I mean, we've got a great relationship with em out of Switzerland. So this is the same the same group that's making your luxury watches and your Swatch watches is making Bluetooth chipsets because they had to stay with during the quartz crisis. They got really good at building low power chipsets for timing and things like that. And so em is doing some just, it's just good, reliable, Bluetooth device that you can scan with your phone in it and they work on a Minew is just kind of dominating the space. In Asia. They're really doing a good stuff. Obviously, you want to have a diverse supply chain. So it's a great to have a supplier and your supplier in Asia. And if anyone else has Bluetooth devices reach out to me, I'd love to chat, I always want to test stuff. And of course, what you guys are doing is really cool. I think in the next two or three years. The Wiliot, especially the battery power tags, I think can be really interesting for enterprise as well. I'm just kind of antsy. And I want to see, you know, a full ARM chip and sensors and a hardware security module and all the features. And I want it to run for 10 years and in communicate to my network and build mesh networks and talk to satellites and stuff. So. So that's why we're thinking about, you know, building our own device. What What would it look like kind of the ultimate step, I think there's plenty of room, the issue is growing the category not fighting for market share. So I love the fact that you guys are doing what you're doing.
Steve Statler 41:02
Garrett, thanks very much for telling us about it. Well, you've got proper music headgear on that makes me think that you're an audio file. Are you an audio file? Do you like music?
Garrett Kinsman 41:14
I do love music. I used to actually wear studio monitors. So the ones that actually plug into the, the mixing panels, but I definitely love music was very inspired by the iPod. That was certainly one of the more pieces of hardware that got me really inspired as a child.
Steve Statler 41:33
And you did a TEDx presentation that had music as as the theme I was watching it before this, and I was struck by the parallels with Nodle and and some of the some of the concepts that you were talking about. Yeah. That's pretty cool that you got How did you get on? How do you get to do a TEDx? What? What's the secret?
Garrett Kinsman 41:59
So it was the local TEDx in my hometown. And I remember how maybe through my school, I think I was in high school when I did that, but had already been really thinking about mesh networks, and how to how to think about connectivity. And I really thought it'd be music, getting music to play with devices that would bring these types of new networks. And in fact, it's more like Bluetooth devices, which we'll probably talk about in a second, which are more likely Yeah, so so very good. So back to music. Did you choose three songs that are important to you? Do you manage disease, so I had three that were kind of very special. So the first was Viva la Vida by Coldplay. And it was more for the advertisements. I remember sitting on TV when I was very young, watching the apple ads. These were done by TBWA ChIAT day in Los Angeles, in some of the most amazing animation I've ever seen us. Wow, I want to make stuff like that. And that's what got me out of becoming a graphic designer was that ad playing butyl Aveda. Back in the old days, when Apple was doing really, really cutting edge stuff and pushing limits. They did amazing ads, didn't they? Yeah, they're the the, I think back to the Mac versus PC ads didn't have the same graphic flair. But certainly credible creativity. A lot of what's taught me is just looking at things in the world around us and saying how's that made? In first was really that ad is it? How do they make that ad and that got me learning about graphic design. And then I said let's take what I've learned in the second dimension and push the third dimension. And that's how I got interested in hardware. Back to music. The the other two songs, which I really love are a song called stay crunchy by Ronald Jenkees. He's this guy who just has really crazy keyboard. And then finally, it was the entire album of random album title by dead mouse. That's the album that got me into electronic music. I've kind of been all over the place. And dead mouse is really cool because he does a lot of work with analog synthesizers. So for somebody like myself doing a lot of work in RS, people that take that same same technology and they're making music out of it to me, it's really cool.
Steve Statler 44:34
So dead mouse, round JTS and Coldplay. I love the way you're joining all these dots, you have a very integrated view of the of the world. How did you get to be doing what you're, you're doing? You're co founder of Nodle and you know, I can tell that from that TEDx talk that you'd be and thinking about related concepts. Yeah. How did you Ameesha meet? And how did that what's your origin story?
Garrett Kinsman 45:08
I'd always been interested in mesh networks. So this idea that you can use the devices, you already have your phones or a specific node on your rooftop to build networks. And Google in early 2010, I would say 2012, or 2013, came out with the idea of the modular smartphone. Again, this was in the early 2000s, where companies were really innovating and didn't have so much focus on profits more just on creating really compelling ideas. And Google invented and built this modular smartphone. So you could remove the screen, you could change out the CPU, and it was just almost like Lego blocks, I remember. Yeah. And the crazy part is I had it working, but their finance team killed it off. So really, if that had gone through, we would be in a totally different world of computing, computing would look very different than it is today. So that's what got me out to Silicon Valley and to a conference for project are at the Computer History Museum. And it was there that I was introduced to Misha, I'd met some guy who was very interested in mesh networking, he says you need to talk to this. This Misha guy from Europe, you guys are both on the same wavelength. I gave me a call literally in the second floor of the Computer History Museum, right above where they had the Babbage engine, his hand cranked computer. And he said, Oh my gosh, you're hired for an internship. And so that's at 17, I flew out to San Francisco and really never moved, never looked back. And started working with Misha who today is my, my co founder.
Steve Statler 46:54
Incredible. So how long was it from that first internship, and, and starting the company.
Garrett Kinsman 47:04
So the first internship, this was 2014, or 2015, then this was a different company called Fire chat. So I had believed it would be music that would create these mesh networks for people. Their philosophy was, it would be messaging. And so this was an attempt to create mesh networks, but allowing people to share messages. And fire chat was pretty exciting, because it became really a symbol of democracy. So in all these protests around the world, this was really at the tail end of the Arab Spring movement, people were using fire chat, it was actually kind of crazy, because in the data, you would say, oh, my gosh, there's a spike in this country. What's happening a few hours later on the BBC, we'd see coming through that there was a protest or some government had fallen or something crazy happened. So it was really an interesting time, especially a kind of a wild first job in tech. So that was really the first job. And it was really another total about four years, until we came back together and started nodal in between I moved to India and lived in India for two years, and came back in 2017, when none of these ideas really to build a very solid, sustainable mesh worked, we came back. So let's give this another crack. Maybe we can use the concept of IoT devices, these are all Bluetooth devices all around the world around us to subsidize and incentivize the creation of these new types of wireless networks. Very good.
Steve Statler 48:35
Well, Garrett, it's been great talking to you. I'm glad I got to hear a bit of the insight to how the company got started. And I love those music suggestions, you're gonna have to send us the links there, we'll we'll publish the YouTube pointers so that people can listen to the music. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast.
Garrett Kinsman 48:40
Thank you for having me, Steve.
Steve Statler 49:00
So that's my conversation with with Garrett, who is really interesting guy, I encourage you to check out his TEDx talk. It's him looking very young, but being super eloquent and visionary. So that's definitely worth a look, check out the Nodle website. And thanks very much for listening. As you've listened to the end, we must have done something right. Please do rate and review us on whatever your podcast app is. It helps us raise the visibility of what we're doing and encourages us to keep on doing it. I want to thank everyone for listening. I want to thank Aaron for for editing this episode. And I look forward to having you join us next time and in a couple of weeks time where we have the next episode of the Mr. Beacon ambient IoT podcast