Mister Beacon Episode #119
The Art of Scaling IoTOctober 27, 2020
Even with the obvious benefits of illuminating your supply chain with IoT technology, assembling all the pieces of the solution puzzle can seem like an onerous task.
Who best to shed some light on the topic of scaling IoT than Bob Proctor, CEO of Link Labs. Bob used to be a McKinsey consultant and his company works with the largest wireless carriers, hospitality providers and eCommerce providers. Link Labs is an end to end solution provider for asset tracking and monitoring – a true expert at bringing the puzzle to life, both with ease and affordability. In this episode, we dive into what makes up a solution, starting at the product level to discuss performance, data efficiency, and networks. All the way to through the layers that lay above: operations, financials, training, and support, to name a few. Tune in to hear an interesting discussion about the best drivers that scale projects and to hear Bob’s thoughts on the state of the Internet of Things Industry.
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The Mr. Beacon Podcast is sponsored by Wiliot, scaling IoT with battery-free Bluetooth.
Steve Statler 00:17
Welcome to the Mr. beacon podcast. This week, I have the pleasure of interviewing Bob Proctor who is the CEO of Link Labs. And we're going to be talking about scaling indoor location systems, IoT systems. So, Bob, welcome to the podcast. My pleasure to be here. Thank you, Steve. I have admired your company for some time. And I think for a number of reasons, you've combined some really excellent technical brains with I think, some very deft management and strategy and focus. And so I'd like you to introduce Link Labs in a moment. But I think where I'd like to focus the discussion is all of the things that go into scaling these solutions that we talked about so much on this podcast, which is we talk a lot about real time location systems, and IoT, and so forth. And I think a lot of companies have started and failed. But I think some of the ones that have been very successful have been able to build a full stack solution that really does scale. So I want to drill into that. But maybe we should start off with you introducing people to link labs. Let's start there. Yeah, wonderful.
Bob Proctor 01:45
Link Labs is a end to end solution provider for asset tracking and monitoring. And are really mission is to make it easy and affordable to track and monitor anything anywhere. And those adjectives are chosen purposefully. We want to make it easy. It's got to be easy to use. Everyone today expects a consumer product like experience just works out of the box highly interoperable with third party technologies. In my view, IoT is about affordability. All these assets that people want to track and monitor are largely fielded today. It's a question of wireline, tracked or monitored. Mostly it's about cost, and bringing the cost down enough to drive ROI. So we really focus on those two things. From an end to end perspective.
Steve Statler 02:38
Very good. And if you were to when you sell a solution to customers, what what are you selling them? What are the core building blocks of that solution?
Bob Proctor 02:50
Who there's a lot that goes into it. So there's the solution itself. And oftentimes, that involves everything from tags and sensors, through to a local network, that could be an LP when network layer or ble mesh technology or something that delivers through, you know, directly a cellular, there can be an aggregation layer through the cellular networks, we typically use the like all purpose built IoT network layer technologies, you know, cat m, and NB IoT, through to cloud platforms and device management, and on to user interface, which might include workflows and those types of things. That would be the codename of the core product piece of what we have to deliver. But in addition, you have to deliver the everything that wraps around that product and make it scalable supply chain and operations on getting hardware into the US typically put sourced out of outside of the US, you know, most of our scalings happened here. Working with a 3PL to kit it for specific facilities, making sure it gets delivered, handling returns, there's a lot of just on the operation side. And there's you know, financial aspects of tied to all of that financial integrations that need to happen. Then you have field installation, training, certifications, auditing, monitoring tools, you know, phone based tools, web based tools, that kind of thing for field operations, and you've got to build a kind of a support capability for fielded products. And there's everything that goes into that. And then you also have to have, you know, the more traditional DevOps and monitoring.
Steve Statler 04:44
Okay, so there's there's a lot that wraps around the actual product, and how far up the stack do you go. So tags, infrastructure, connectivity, support, what about in the application layer?
Bob Proctor 05:00
We go end to end. Our application layer is very sophisticated, we really use all the state of the art tools from, you know, basic tables and reports and maps. But you know, the mapping now has gotten quite sophisticated, we integrate with third parties where we can do seamless indoor outdoor mapping. So you can take a, what you might typically view as a map that you would zoom in on, you can zoom in on a facility, you can zoom into the floor plans within that facility, and you can find assets inside specific rooms or your office, but I can also track that, you know, leaving your facility over the road into a distribution center, through that distribution center over the road, again, to say, and then customer, seamless indoor outdoor tracking, types of capabilities connected into all the search sort tabulation, ai type tools kits that are available as well. So pretty Yeah, a lot of work has gone into that.
Steve Statler 05:58
Um, and you guys have been known as pioneers in using all sorts of radio technology. So I think there's some companies that do what you just described, and they don't have RF experts, they don't have people that are kind of building things from the ground up. But you do you did some of the pioneering work in with Lora, the long range, wide area, technology, low power. Is that necessary? Why? Why go to the trouble of assembling a team that can go that deep, rather than just kind of using off the shelf? Building books?
Bob Proctor 06:44
That's a great question. I mean, some of it is where we started. But I think if we were starting a new, I wouldn't go there. You know, we started as an LP when network layer technology with the first certified Lora products in the US. And then as the carrier is entered with cat m, we partnered and had the first certified cam products. But what we learned through that is if you think about, again, affordability of an IoT solution, this is where our partnership with with Wiliot, you know, really makes a lot of sense to anything times millions of tags, starts to drive the ROI model, multiply any number times, you know, millions, and you're like, Oh, I got to worry about the cost. And really, that cost is not just the cost of the tag, it's the total cost of ownership over the lifetime of that tag that very quickly takes you into for anything that's battery powered, either, you know, with a tag or through some of the intermediate layers, what's the battery life of that device? Because the battery replacement cycle drives cost tremendously. And then also, what is the data related costs for transport of that data. And I like to, to point out that the data costs of IoT are extraordinarily high. You know, a megabyte on a cat m plan might be, you know, order of magnitude $1 a month? Well, your consumer cell phone is probably, you know, for that same plan about a penny a month. IoT has this golden coffee stirrer, straw, you know, size data pipe, it's very expensive and very narrow. So you really have to be worried about data efficiency, as well as battery and power consumption, efficiency. All that is resting in the wireless network layer technologies. So you've got to be really smart in those areas in order to drive down cost, which again, opens up the promise of IoT and makes it real.
Steve Statler 09:03
What are you seeing the in terms of your own business about the backhaul is it going over wired or wireless networks, you were talking about the cost of NB IoT and
Bob Proctor 09:16
you know, for us it's predominantly wireless, because we're looking at where the big volumes and a lot of that promise in IoT or supply chain logistics, shipping, transport, those types of things, where the goods and the containers that ship those goods are all moving, and you there and they're moving through a very fragmented supply and distribution chain, where you don't really have the luxury of installing any kind of infrastructure. So you've got to have your network layer technologies essentially moving with the assets.
Steve Statler 09:52
So you're putting gateway devices for use of better time in To vehicles but also into static to what? So let's let me ask that question and I want to ask a kind of about later on in the life of product, are you putting your devices into vehicles?
Bob Proctor 09:57
We're not in the kind of traditional odg be poor vehicle fleet telematics, space were more, you know, we think of it as you know, trucking isn't wildly fragmented. And you know that you really want to be on the pallet that has the goods on it. So I think of more as a pallet or a tote, or a crate becomes a IoT platform, a mobile IoT platform. And if you can have a mobile gateway that last 510 years, integrated into that, now you can have low cost tags and items at the package level writing on top of that. So that's where, you know, again, I think our partnership holds tremendous commercial potential.
Steve Statler 11:06
And what about when you get to the destination? If it's a store or hotel? Or what wherever the location? Is? A your devices running over Wi Fi? Or are they using cellular connections there?
Bob Proctor 11:23
Yeah, our devices are meant to essentially take advantage of the most power efficient and low cost available backhaul capability. So for example, if you have a, a facility you own, you can establish a lpwan network layer. And the devices will backhaul through that typically connecting via Bluetooth, if there's a local Bluetooth enabled, what we call, in our terminology, an access point. And then that access point can backhaul, any cut type of network technologies to the cloud. And that's more power efficient than if that's not available, and you're in a third party site where you don't have an opportunity to put an infrastructure, then it'll backhaul through the cellular onboard cellular capability.
Steve Statler 12:14
But why not just have every device go into the Wi Fi.
Bob Proctor 12:18
That's a possibility, we tend to not see that in the market, because again, you've got a highly fragmented supplier distribution chain. And those Wi Fi networks all have different, you know, security and credentialing associated with them. And you, as the provider have a capability. It just takes somebody in that chain to change the password or credentialing and your whole system stops functioning. And so, you know, reliance on compliance of third party, you know, many third party IT departments just not a good kind of reliable solution. So, you know, we'd like to, we'd like to say, look, you know, you don't want to be relying on that Wi Fi capability. And also, you know, Wi Fi is expensive to put in areas where it doesn't exist, you know, a lot of warehouses might have it in the corner near the warehouse managers, office, but it will not be ubiquitous throughout a warehouse or a factory floor. In which case, you do need to establish a network layer. And beyond Wi Fi, what we've also found is cellular coverage is really designed for people with phones, that can move to an area where there is good coverage. Now, how many times have you walked outside a building to get a good signal? You know, things don't do that, you know, the forklift driver puts it in the corner of the warehouse. And if there's no coverage there, there's no coverage there. So you need a very cost effective and easily deployable way to augment coverage as well. And that's where the LP when technologies do fit in really nicely into an overall solution architecture.
Steve Statler 14:00
So it's really it's quite a sophisticated cocktail of radio technologies that you're bringing together. It's, and I, you know, the theme of our discussion is achieving scalability. And it's kind of interesting, how sophisticated you need to get in order to do something simple, which is helped cover a huge chain of hotels or whatever.
Bob Proctor 14:25
Absolutely, yeah, no, it's taken us a long time. We've been at this for five or six years. Right. And, you know, we've had to solve these problems in order to scale some of our customers.
Steve Statler 14:36
And what stage have you got to in scaling your your customers? Where are you seeing success?
Bob Proctor 14:42
Yeah, our biggest success has been in the hospitality industry. Certainly, you know, that's on a for all practical purpose on pause with COVID. And that was really because there have been if you're in a sales world, you call it an urgency. Driver, but really compliance drivers in that market, many state and local governments mandated a housekeeper safety solution, essentially, for housekeepers, and hotels, where they could essentially have a forever solution as a pendant, they can squeeze a pendant, you have to identify the specific room, they're in and be able to notify security and it has to not reside on that Wi Fi network, because it's just not reliable enough across a footprint of 1000 hotels. So we scale that solution to several hundred or Well, 100,000 plus hotel rooms, acquired a couple hundred thousand yet. And ultimately, I think that'll end up in, you know, close to a million hotel rooms, we're certainly contracted to, to get there.
Steve Statler 15:47
That's that's very significant scale. And I think, yeah, as we're focusing on scale, it seems like one of the things you need is a compelling event. And legislation is, is one I've seen other companies that have been using this safety of staff members as a driver to to get some success. I remember in the early days, when I was going on a lot of sales training courses, there were all sorts of acronyms to remind business people on how to qualify, given opportunity. And one of my one of my favorites was Scotsman, which is basically stands for Do you have a Solution to an important problem? You know, who's the Competition? Do you know what the other alternatives are? Is it Original? Have you are you differentiated? And the T in Scotsman was Time and time was basically do you understand the timescales of this project? But is there a compelling event why it needs to be done this month, this year? And I think legislation is clearly one of them. Are there any other just because people are gonna wonder what the rest of Scots saw is isn't enough, money just doesn't have a budget, access, have access to the decision maker, and is kind of a compelling need with an ROI that's associated with it. But going back to the T and Scotsman what what are the other drivers that you're seeing that are actually driving people to spend money on IoT?
Bob Proctor 17:27
Yeah, so let me talk about hospitality, I want to come back to sort of where we think that you know, our focus more broadly, or the larger commercial opportunity impact opportunities, but in hospitality, there's a couple other ones for you, this is really about employee safety, obviously, the unions are behind it. And that's become part of collective bargaining agreements as well. So there's an urgency driver around that as well and compliance with those agreements, then finally, it becomes part of the brand promise, you just can't be a large employer looking to recruit in and say that you don't care about your people, right. So it's, we're going to deploy this capability because it's part of our human resources, brand promise in the employment market. So those three combined, really created enormous urgent urgency driver to say, we're going to implement this in all hotels, by the end of this year. You know, full stop, which has been great. In fatale in the other areas, you know, I continue to be astounded by the the sheer dollars and cents, and hard dollar ROI that is available from asset tracking and monitoring. And just how much low hanging fruit there still is. You take something, you know, one of my favorite examples is sort of take something like beer kegs, just to take on a random vertical. And you say, Well, how much money is there in tracking and monitoring beer kegs? Where's the value created? Well, there's obviously lost and not recovered steel, but that's really just the beginning. There's out of stock situations at bars and restaurants where your product is just not being served. That's lost sales. There is delivery Route Optimization to get you know, the right beer to the right places. There is brand compliance. What of this stuff sits on a dark shelf or something gets hot gets served. You know, that's that's impacting your brand. There is understanding demand and production planning, and doing a better job actually forecasting demand because there's no real time demand signal. Now, you go back into from a production perspective. active. So as you get deeper and deeper into it, you're like, you know, there are many drivers of ROI here, all basically enabled by the data of where is it enter the temperature go out of balance. And we see that over and over again, in the supply chain logistics base.
Steve Statler 20:20
I'm interested in, I find these examples of ROI fascinating. Because you end up learning, you peel up the layers of the onion, and you get under the covers of these businesses. And you realize it's very exciting when you can have that sort of conversation. And you also can have conversations about multipaths of radio waves and signal propagation. There's a lot, you have to be kind of a bit of a renaissance man to cover all that. How do you I mean, tell me a bit about how you ended up having the kind of conversations that lead you to understand those ROI is it's seems like it might be challenging spam, the technical and the business.
Bob Proctor 21:07
Yeah, I mean, I guess, I set out my career wise, that sort of family technical in the business, right, but with a technical background, going into a long training arc of maybe 20 years in the business world really not doing things. Yeah. But, you know, I think from a customer perspective, it starts usually with only one aspect of the ROI. It could be simply, I mean, I've seen it from a loss and recovery perspective, glass shipping racks have been treated, you know, there might be anywhere between 1000 and $3,000. For a rack for industrial glass, think about the you know, the big panes of glass, you see in office buildings, like you know, the one behind you, those things are shipped on racks, in the racking itself is quite expensive. And in many ways are they have, you know, up until now been, in some ways thought of like paper clips that are thousand dollars each, you'll look to recover them, but you don't recover all of them. And you see companies losing, you know, millions, if not 10s of millions of dollars, on lost racking, and so the person who's in charge of that might start there. But then you quickly realize, well, a customer support is really interested in understanding where the where the glass, it didn't go somewhere was supposed to go. Or, or you end up talking to the production people saying, you know, we need a particular SKU of racking, or we can't actually run production today, because we didn't recover enough racks to have anywhere to put the glass that we're manufacturing. So we see typically one pain point being the cause or initiation of a conversation, and then it broadens to too many more overtime.
Steve Statler 22:58
And when you go in to these accounts, are you so you basically stopped when you find one that's big enough to drive a project? How do you manage scope? Because it must be tempting to where where do you stop? In terms of the online, you want the biggest ROI as possible. So scope gets very big. On the other hand, you want something that's achievable, the quick, the quick win thing? How have you managed that in achieving scale? Because it's true scale requires breadth? But it also requires progress? Which?
Bob Proctor 23:40
That's a great question. I mean, I think, you know, I'm probably overly influenced from my consulting days of our approach really is what we call a journey partner. And we really need to work with customer, as a, as a partner, an extension of their team to understand, you know, just the reality of their situation and Stage Gate, any work we do with them around, look, you know, we need to start by building trust with you, let's do something small, delivers impact shows you what we can do. After that, you know, you need to start to think about building the ROI case and gathering the data to prove ROI. And so we look to get to a scope or scale that says you know, what's your net, you know, that we can do what we say we can do? Let's show that we can actually deliver value in a reasonable way. So it's a way of, you know, I think the way we think about it is from a customer's perspective, they're looking to manage their risk. And they manage that through a series of project stages. And so we try not to go in with hey, here's 10 ways you can save money and the ROI case and you need to go straight to a million assets right away. We tend to go in with, let's understand your appetite for risk and the strategic importance of this to your business. And then we'll appropriately Stage Gate and scope of project to kind of fit in your risk profile.
Steve Statler 25:16
Yeah. And I mean, that potentially is taking a long time. And I always end up going back to Geoffrey Moore and Crossing the Chasm and the kind of the bowling pin metaphor where you start off with one and then you know, and you as you cross the chasm and things get faster. Where are we if we're Crossing the Chasm, and the chasm is in IoT adoption? And if I mind I Nirvana is we connect everything to the internet? If you know, wherever it is, then suddenly costs go down, sales go up. capital is more efficiently used? Have we crossed the chasm? Are we in the middle of it? Where do you think we are?
Bob Proctor 26:00
I think we are a toehold on the other side, okay. You know, the promise of all the various components of this technology. You know, they're they're all kind of beyond Gen one. Now. You know, there's a lot of hype, and then you get to Gen one. And that kind of delivers on the hype, but it's expensive, and it's missing some features and capabilities and doesn't connect with third party things. And, and you can, you spend a lot of time solving a lot of problems saying, Hey, you know, in order to really deliver on the promise, we got to get to Gen two, or Gen three. But, you know, we have now, you know, stitch together in many instances, Gen two, or Gen three of the various aspects of a solution. And I'm to the point where I'm like, this is pretty powerful. And it's working more and more out of the box, with massive scalability and a very reasonable price point. And we're starting to see also, I think, more broad based market demand. You know, it's, this is becoming a strategic initiative for many more companies. So I think we're, I look at it from a technology perspective. And believe that we're basically there. I think from a market perspective, the state of maturity, that technology is not fully appreciated yet.
Steve Statler 27:34
Right? So I guess one way of calibrating This is Who are you selling to typically, if we were, if you were wrong, and we're still firmly on the other side of the chasm, then you'd be selling to innovators and early adopters, quirky Mavericks who are trying to do something because it's different and have a strategic advantage, because no one else is doing what they're doing. And if we really cross the chasm, then you'll be selling to the early majority. And maybe, who do you who is buying your technology?
Bob Proctor 28:11
Yeah, I think of it from a ROI perspective, and you can kind of back that into a intrinsic value of the asset perspective. So for example, you know, I often talk about, you know, if you've had a $100,000, you know, piece of art or pallet of vaccines, that's probably already tracked, right, you stick a motorcycle battery in a cell phone and figure out how to track that thing. Because it's so valuable, you get down to a $10,000, you know, high end computer server, where you get lower down to a piece of list, you know, least medical equipment at the intrinsic value is one to $5,000, these glass shipping racks, powered wheelchairs we see. So you get into asset values that are called no plus or minus $1,000 range. There, the ROI for cranking monitoring things is really high, because the asset value is really quite high. You get down to beer kegs. We're not there yet. Because you still got to get farther down the cost curve to really make that
Steve Statler 29:28
how much is a beer keg cost? Approximately?
Bob Proctor 29:30
I think it's between 50 and 100 bucks of steel. So you've got you've got a ways to go to get down, down down the curb, but, you know, there are a lot more. There may be you know, I'm trying to think off the top of my head, you know, hundreds of thousands of black shipping racks there are, you know, hundreds of millions of beer kegs, and there are, you know, billions of wooden pallets, right. So it's all about getting down the cost curve to make the work. So we're seeing is we're coming down into that kind of sub thousand dollar range pretty nicely now. And where you're just seeing, hey, I'm looking for a solution, what do you have, we now have the ability to, you know, help people stand up a demonstration capability and with an out of the box experience that, you know, we're looking to deliver in under 60 seconds. And, you know, people are like, this is great. I want to deploy it. You get into, again, if I was going to be working in me. Now, we don't have any even inquiries in the beer keg world. So it's funny, I'll use that as an example. I think we'll move there. Yeah, yeah, we should talk about that. Yeah. And the reason we don't is because we need to do more with your tags. But it's it is the cost of the tag, right, to make that business case, but the volumes are huge. Yeah. And, you know, to our point, you know, we've just started working together as we get this integration, you know, nailed down and have, again, it's the wrapper, the supply chain, the operations, I'm sure you've spent a lot of time working on how you make these things, you know, with Avery printable and mass volumes and getting to your second generation of technology. But we're kind of there, right? I mean, it's, uh, the technology is kind of there. And so I think we'll see more and more, you know, significant scale trials and pilots, and these lower cost assets. And so we're, in my view, we're kind of Crossing the Chasm by asset value, if you will. And we're seeing it. Yeah. at a higher price assets. We've sort of crossed the chasm, the really low, low cost assets. We're on our way there, but we're not there yet.
Steve Statler 31:54
Yeah, we debate about tracking. Some of us feel like we should be tracking bottles of beer, others of us think we need to be tracking bottles of spirits. And
Bob Proctor 32:08
right, exactly, it's it's just a question of, how much can you drive down the cost curve to make it effective? Yeah,
Steve Statler 32:16
yeah. Um, are you do you? Who's Who in the organization and you normally selling to? Are you selling to innovation teams or an operations manager that's got a problem that your technology can fix?
Bob Proctor 32:31
It's both. Great question. But it's both. We see again, with the more kind of early majority client space, that's more operations folks. And more the innovation teams when they're looking at broad corporate transformation.
Steve Statler 32:54
Yeah. Very good. And so how, how big is your company?
Bob Proctor 33:02
We're about 40 people today, and we're growing like crazy. So.
Steve Statler 33:07
And so how does a company there's only so fast you can grow that company? How are you looking to scale up in terms of your go to market,
Bob Proctor 33:18
We do most of our go to market through partners. You know, and frankly, you know, what we found is technology partners have developed a component of an end to end solution at various level. And that's everything from, you know, Bluetooth chip and cellular modem providers to hardware providers to network layer technology providers, you know, the tag ecosystem providers, Device Management, mapping companies, lot, there are a lot of great components of the solution. They have built customer relationships in demand. And the vast majority of demand in the market is asset tracking and monitoring. So by being interoperable with that broad ecosystem of technology partners, the first thing we're doing is really partnering with them on their go to market and picking up a lot of customers that they've developed to various stages. We also have channel partnerships in with big players. on the supply side, our deepest relationship is with at&t. And there are times I think of it as you know, those are best utilized when there's also value add from the channel partner, either through field operations, you know, the, as we've scaled the hospitality industry, their ability to have feet on the ground, in you know, hundreds of hotels in two weeks later, you know, across the entire US really strong relationships. So the way to manage that security related services we don't provide the things escalate outside of kind of a core technology to a managed service, you know, those types of things. So, what we find the most challenging from a partnership, and we've, we've kind of done a few and then, you know, it's always tricky to find the right opportunity or on the pure systems integrator that we're in some ways as an end to end solution provider we compete with in the margin stacking takes you down a road of, well, we just made this solution, no longer cost effective, because because you just somebody, basically not really adding a value valuable service or just straight to channel partner. So we found that we're going to go to market perspective, you know, working with our technology partners is the easiest, and the best, followed by when a partner like an at&t has a value added capability that the client also needs.
Steve Statler 36:03
There are other providers, vendors, horrible name vendor that were vendors, who have been very successful working with the systems integrators, the extensions, the delights, so forth. SAP comes to mind, going way back Lotus Notes, and as those companies had like huge boons, working with them, what, why, but what you say makes sense, you're you provide end to end solution. So having someone charge a million dollars to figure out you know, what the solution should look like when you've already got something is kind of a waste of money, isn't it? So maybe, maybe your problem is, your solution is too good. If it needed a huge amount of tailoring and wasn't wasn't so complete, there would be a role for the systems integrators hat. How do you account for that? You know, why why not you and those other technology providers?
Bob Proctor 37:04
Well, I think we can we can make it work as like, you know, we think we have made it work, but it's back to, I like to think of them as a systems integrator really is, is has a value add, you have to ask the question, what is the value add, so that you can get the economics to work? If I go back to, you know, my enterprise software days, 20 years ago, you know, the systems integrators I used to think about was predominantly driven by there was so much implementation work for integration, that you couldn't scale your labor nearly fast enough, as a enterprise software companies, so you had to work through a systems integrator that was really doing a lot of the implementation services related work. Yes, as the value add. But as you start to bring that implementation services down to, you know, ideally close to zero, there's less and less work for them in the overall context of the solution. Right. And that's, you know, to me, the goal of IoT. And one of the things that's really nice about asset tracking is, you know, in the oversimplified sense, you slap a tag on something, and you're done with the, and then then I'm giving you a, you know, a report and the analytics, and, you know, with the API's and the cloud infrastructure, you know, connecting these systems together with micro services today is much simpler tasks, and it was, you know, years ago. So, you know, it's a question of, you know, where's the value add? Yeah, that's where I go to Field Services. Along with, you know, ongoing monitoring, managed services, or, you know, getting into some of the uniqueness of verticals, you know, we are integration, you know, we don't, for example, integrate into all the different trucking companies to set up shipping lanes for returnable assets, right, but we provide the data flow, and then si can play in there. So it's just a question of, as we mature a little bit, developing those partnerships, where it's where the core technology, the solution isn't marked up. But instead, you know, ancillary services are sold, and that's how they make their money.
Steve Statler 39:22
That makes a ton of sense. What about analytics partners? Because one of the things about IoT is you're suddenly creating all this data that didn't exist, or does your solution provide the the actionable results in a way that doesn't require a lot of analytics and you see synergies that,
Bob Proctor 39:42
yes, you know, we have a lot of the analytic capabilities ourselves, as well, you know, you know, straight up through the AI capabilities. And so again, it's an interesting question sort of analytics on the watch. We've actually built her, her platform to ingest any source of third party data to provide those analytics and, you know, most of the tools from, you know, as an example, Google, for example, on their search capabilities and their AI capabilities have all been sort of open sourced and are leverageable into, you know, a back end platform. And so we've integrated all of that capability. So, you know, I find that we can go pretty far with what we've got, we like to do an exercise with our customers, which we just call a magic wand. Let's sit at the board. And if you could, magic wand, your ideal report, or your deal alert. And who would be told what when what happens, you know, and have a working session with a magic wand. Usually, it's less than a day to actually turn that into real reports, real alerts, and capabilities, which is a lot of fun. And we can deliver custom reports and workflow capabilities now through our UI to an end customer in very short turnaround. So what used to take months back in the day, when we were you know, we were building like enterprise software is now you know, an hour's long task. So the speed to create that is just amazing.
Steve Statler 41:26
It's very cool. Very cool. Well, unfortunately, we're running out of time, I there's a ton of stuff I'd like to talk to you about your your link Labs is doing some amazing work back if we go back down the stack on in terms of really precise location using Bluetooth technology. So let's resolve to get back together again and talk about that. But in the meantime, Bob, thanks very much for telling us a bit about how you've managed to scale link labs. And I think there's a lot of really interesting lessons for lunch or other people watching. Thank
Bob Proctor 42:04
you, Steve. Yeah. And I would welcome the opportunity to talk about what we're doing in the Bluetooth location. So that's a whole nother topic. So that'd be great. Appreciate it.
Steve Statler 42:19
I noticed you have a PhD in Applied Physics. That's correct. What was the what's the application that you ended up? Studying? What was your
Bob Proctor 42:30
I ended up working in ultrafast lasers actually worked in, designed and built at the time a laser that set the world record for the shortest pulse of light directly generated from a laser.
Steve Statler 42:45
How do you shorten what's what does it take to shorten the pulse of laser beam
Bob Proctor 42:52
takes nonlinearities in the behavior of the media that you're doing. So basically, the electric field if the pulse gets shorter and shorter, electric field gets higher and higher, and that starts to alter the index of refraction of the material. And so you get you can get a reinforcing effect, but can lead to a very short pulse of light. It's pretty, pretty cool stuff.
Steve Statler 43:11
How did you get from doing that to McKinsey? Is that why you?
Bob Proctor 43:16
Yeah, I said in great question. I read about a guy who helped invent the thing called the soliton. In fiber optic communications, for at Bell Labs, which kept the need for batteries to be used as repeaters and undersea fiber optic cables, essentially allows the pulses to not disperse through fiber over you know, 10,000 kilometers or more of fiber. And I learned how much money he made versus what the CEO made, and said, you know, maybe you want to be on the business side of this equation. And McKinsey was a great way to do it. They had a new program for taking PhDs and turning them into business people and I signed up for that and with off in the business world,
Steve Statler 44:10
and how did you get to link labs from that? I imagine it's fairly sick. It's sort of a long path. But
Bob Proctor 44:20
yeah, for me, I've always been in it at the interest at the intersection of technology and business, and always been very entrepreneurial. So really focus my career on starting and growing companies and gaining experience at large company which is certainly got with McKinsey and intermediate scale companies with a corporate executive board. A couple hundred million in revenue, but very entrepreneurial, and was fortunate enough to do pretty well with a couple of early stage companies and became a full time angel investor and advisor in 2008. I started looking for opera communities at the, at the very beginning, centered around what I call the critical mass of World Class talent. The belief being if you can get a critical mass of World Class talent together, you can figure out the product strategy. You know, I brought a lot of marketing, from my experience or post McKinsey, early stage finance was what I was in the middle of, and start to build a company. So I looked for groups of people looking to start companies that were really had deep technical competence and started focus my investment activities there. linkless is one of those companies. And then about two years later, the technical team said, Hey, we need a CEO. And I was basically about seven or eight years out of a corporate job and said, you know, okay, I'll do one more run. So here I go. I'm going to actually,
Steve Statler 45:55
yeah, I've worked it. I think Willie art is kind of similar to that the founders, like super, super smart engineers, and basically surrounded themselves by other engineers, I think almost everyone in the company with this, like three exceptions out of 50 people who's got some kind of engineering degree. And I worked at another company for many years. That was an amazing, amazing company. And they were founded basically based on the people. And then they started looking around for things to do, and ended up developing the world's first symmetric multiprocessor. computer that was used for commercial applications and eventually got bought by IBM, but the start was about the people.
Bob Proctor 46:42
Yeah, yeah. So I mean, you see that over and over again. So that was basically the core of my investment thesis and the foundation of a wine club. So yeah.
Steve Statler 46:52
Well, I traditionally ask our guests about their musical tastes, but no particularly good reason. But are you? Do you enjoy music? Or I do.
Bob Proctor 47:01
And, you know, given my age, I'm more of a classic rock kind of guy. And I certainly listened to much newer music, a lot of it. But if I had to pick three songs to take the Mars, they would be definitely in the classic rock genre.
Steve Statler 47:13
And what did you choose?
Bob Proctor 47:16
You know, it's funny, I had a hard time choosing because there's so many. But I would probably pick from Boston, more than appealing. Okay? A little bit of Fleetwood Mac. Probably cashfloat. I pick out of a Fleetwood Mac. I'll come back to that one in a second. Okay. All right. Men, Dire Straits may be Sultans of swing or I was listening to spirit of radio. I don't know if you've ever had that on your podcast or not from Russia? No, there's a there's a lyric in there about the invisible airwaves crackling with life. Of course, we're in the IoT space.
Steve Statler 48:01
That's a great show.
Bob Proctor 48:03
I thought you know, maybe that's got to be part of part of what you take with you.
Steve Statler 48:08
Yeah. Well, occasionally when good things happen, which they seem to happen fairly regularly where we work we celebrate by people get it choice of buying some vinyl because we've got a vinyl record play here at the office and someone chose demonstrates I really been enjoying it. Yeah,
Bob Proctor 48:26
yeah. Yeah, Boston's first album was probably what my paper album from growing up.
Steve Statler 48:32
Cool. Yeah. Well, thanks for