Mister Beacon Episode #47

The State of IoT – Aidoo Osei

August 16, 2017

What is the state of the Internet of Things? What are some examples of IoT gone wrong and which companies are getting it right? We sat down with former Qualcomm and Intel IoT strategist, Aidoo Osei and tapped into his well-informed insights on what IoT is now and where it's going in the future.


  • Steve Statler 00:14

    Welcome to Mr. Beacon, the podcast for location aware IoT solution designers. My name is Steve Statler on Wiliot, and earlier this week, I had the pleasure of interviewing or you'd say, an IoT strategist about the state of the Internet of Things you hope you enjoy. Or, you know, welcome to the show.

    Aidoo Osei 00:36

    Thank you, Steve. I'm glad to be here with you guys.

    Steve Statler 00:39

    So we are all friends and colleagues, I invited you on the show, because you have recently left a giant in the Internet of Things. So you used to work at Intel. And I think your title was director of something to do with IoT. Well, can you remind us what it was?

    Aidoo Osei 00:58

    Sure most marketing and business development focus primarily on the low end roadmap. So basically, silicon products and associated ecosystem development for the low power side of things, so not data center, but really the things part of of IoT.

    Steve Statler 01:20

    And before that you worked at Qualcomm, we both worked at Qualcomm. And we were both in the Strategy Group to Qualcomm retail, where we did a bit of everything, but IoT was in the mix there as well. And so you know, my reason for inviting you on here or Akers, you're really smart. And I just always get a lot out of our conversations. And I wanted to share that. But I have this kind of philosophy that you have to talk to people that are working in the business to get an insight into what's going on. But the problem is, when they're actually working for these big companies, they have an agenda, they have to, you know, they have to kind of toe the line and so forth, then you don't work for Intel anymore, you don't work for Qualcomm anymore, you're just a Ido. And I think it's fair to say you've got to move to another role in in a very cutting edge industry into the payment space. But you're now free to just talk about what you think. And we're not going to ask you to dish the dirt. But I just really wanted the opportunity to catch you. When you've just left the Internet of Things ecosystems, you've got a bunch of stuff in your head, and you can just share your thoughts. So that's kind of the premise for this call.

    Aidoo Osei 02:26

    Sure, absolutely. That sounds great. Let's let's get at it.

    Steve Statler 02:29

    I guess the first question that I have to ask you, though, is you've you've just left a job right at the center of the Internet of Things, should we interpret this as a vote of no confidence in the Internet of Things?

    Aidoo Osei 02:44

    Not at all. You know, I think one of the things that I've come to appreciate with IoT is it's a massive transformation that's taking place on a number of different fronts. And it's hard to think of any industry right now, which is in some way being touched or completely transformed by this new trend, which is represented by this moniker called IoT, which means everything and nothing at the same time in some cases. But, you know, I think that it is monument, I think there's almost no sea level executive that I can think of that doesn't have an IoT strategy in some way, shape, or form. So it's a very real phenomenon. And, you know, I think it represents an opportunity for businesses to either exist into the, you know, the next era or be taken out.

    Steve Statler 03:36

    We shouldn't discount it. And I mean, I was at an IoT conference just a few months ago, and they were queuing around the corner. So I mean, that's just one measure of the health instead of things. And obviously, there are other more important measures we'll get on to later. But I got to ask you, what is the Internet of Things mean to you now? And how has that changed over the years as you've got to move from role to role and the ecosystem itself has evolved?

    Aidoo Osei 04:03

    Well, I think, to put it in the context of Gartner and the hype, the hype cycle, you know, it has moved from being a very trendy buzzword to being a very real strategic approach to how businesses will deliver value to their customers in the future. As a result of the very real Moore's law, which has transformed the you know, the cost and the economies of scale achievable, you know, for computing connectivity. I think it's entirely likely that we will see continued evolution in dollars being placed into this space. I think corporations are going to continue to spend a lot of r&d dollars. A lot of startups are going to be developing and innovating putting pressure on incumbents in all types of various sectors. I think the challenge with it Tea. And this is where you get an appreciation having been in the business is, it's not entirely clear how you get the return on your investment in the short term. For some of these technology innovations, clearly we know that the you know, there's technology breakthroughs, and then their business model breakthroughs as well. And those two things have to meet up at the right time to to get a scalable business out of it. But for those that are not really playing and investing in learning, I think that will be left behind.

    Steve Statler 05:34

    So there's a lot of money going into it. Everyone's got a strategy. We're trying to figure out how to make money out of it. But what is it? What is the Internet of Things?

    Aidoo Osei 05:45

    I think it's the intersection of low power and low compute, technology that allows things to be connected to the internet in some way, shape, or form. It is the nearly ubiquitous access to processing and data that can be streamed up to the cloud and aggregated to form in some cases, insights that could transform the way that we do business or the way we live our lives. And most of all, I think there's an opportunity to reconfigure the way that valley that that's when it services and products get delivered to to end users, right, and the experience by which users engage with those technologies. So it's a pretty broad set of statements that I just made and somewhat arcane. But there's really an intersection of a lot of different trends that represent IoT. You know, I think the easiest way to think about IoT is in some of the products that have become so popular in recent years, you know, the Amazon Alexa is a perfect example of something that to deliver a service like that as seamless as low cost. And then with high quality and reliability. Five or 10 years ago, would have been unheard of, you know, you're getting an Alexa experience for under $50. Today, and that's just tremendous, right, and the quality of the connection, the responsiveness, the latency, the low latency, all of these things would not have been possible technology wise. You know, even five years ago, a product like that happens when various components and ingredients are made available to very smart people. And if you can wrap a business model around it, like Amazon has done so wisely. You've got something that could transform not only your living room, but it can transform the way that you interact with, you know, everything around you.

    Steve Statler 07:48

    So you're like, well, Amazon are doing that seems that seems clear. I'd love to hear the companies that you think that are big that have got it wrong. That's probably asking a lot of you because I don't know, you probably don't want to burn those bridges. But I'd love to hear a little bit about give us Academy in Vail terms what you think the wrong approach is, and then I'm going to ask you give you a chance to talk a bit, say nice things about people. But one of the things, you know, what are the just the brain dead things that really big smart companies with brilliant people in doing that? And again, you don't need to name names, although I'd love it if you did. What? What's going wrong in the IoT?

    Aidoo Osei 08:25

    Well, I think you have some very ambitious companies that have kind of coined the term, IoT and smart city and smart. So you gotta you have the big guys that got out there early, you know, the IBM's. And Cisco's the entails, to some extent, even companies like Microsoft, have gotten out there, and in some cases have gotten ahead of their skis, you know, when you particularly if you think about an area that I used to work in, like smart cities. And you go and you get, you know, all of these mayors and city leaders and municipal leaders and eight government agencies really excited about this technology, and what can be done with the data and what can be done to improve citizens lives. But without really understanding the mechanism of how funds are allocated and how these projects would be financed. You know, a lot of these smart city initiatives lead to, you know, disappointing implementations, right. And I saw a stat recently that indicated that somewhere around 60% of IoT projects, never make it out of the POC stage. Right. And to some extent, that's just a function of the fact that we're still learning what to do with this technology. It's kind of technology searching for a problem that people are willing to pay for. Right? So when you have a really big companies with big professional service staff, and they want to kind of sell what they've been selling, you know, for years and years and years to, you know, to cities or industries. Sometimes that's the wrong approach, particularly when you wrap got that in IoT marketing message, because in some case, in some cases, you're missing the the overall point, in that you really need to deliver value. Right, you got to solve a meaningful problem. And that problem needs to to have a market that's big enough to justify the investment.

    Steve Statler 10:19

    So yeah, sounds like part of the problem is everyone thinks IoT is big. And so they get kind of this directive to do some IoT things. And then normal, common sense gets suspended. And so they just don't think through user experience business model. And, you know, maybe in some cases, you just got to decide you're going to do something.

    Aidoo Osei 10:38

    But well, I've always felt, Steve, that there's this tension, you know, and I've spent more more time on kind of the industrial IoT side than the consumer IoT side. But I do think there's this tendency to want to have it both ways, which is you want to have it open and interoperable, for flexibility and to build ecosystem, but at the same time, you want to own the stack, right. And those two things are hard to do at the same time, number one, and number two, you have the innovators dilemma, which is, you know, by investing in something that could be very disruptive on one end, you could erode the value of your core business on the other. So you know, there's a very real risk that big companies take on, which is why I think they go in with a big in, you know, a big play to to own the term and to own the mindshare in this arena, so that they can sell the full stack. Yeah. But I think it free in some cases, it freezes the buyer, because the buyer, the buyer becomes so confused with all of the options that it becomes hard for them to make a big decision.

    Steve Statler 11:48

    Yeah, so if you're a GE, or when any of these big companies, then someone in your strategy group is saying, we need to own this, and they're going to kind of brand a framework, and it's just gonna get terribly ambitious. What are the what are the kind of more focused initiatives that you've seen? What are the good things that you've seen? And talked about one, which was Amazon and Alexa, which, which I'm just addicted to? Any other? What are some other examples?

    Aidoo Osei 12:19

    Well, from a vertical industry perspective, I think the smart industry, the Smart Energy, business is really interesting. Because you have a very complex problem in terms of how we can be more energy efficient in our buildings and in our homes, how we can make better use of renewables, and how we can do a better job predicting the demand for energy is particularly in states like yours in California, but really globally, it's a pretty tough, challenging problem, both technology wise, and in terms of human behavior, and scenting the right behavior, as well as there's a complex regulatory environment there as well. But I've seen some really interesting and innovative approaches that rely on IoT to, to get in there and predict and better manage energy usage in the home or in a building to provide more real time response to demand management scenarios where you where you need to actually reduce energy for some event. And there's incentives behind some of this stuff. And there's a real energy economy that exists there. That's real dollars. It's relatively real, real time. And I see it as being a really good place to invest. dollars from both a university research perspective as well as, you know, company perspective, it's a slow moving market, but I think there's some big transformative things to happen to that space.

    Steve Statler 13:50

    Yeah, then you can see a lot of opportunities in that from everything from the Smart Metering getting the energy there to how's it being consumed, and so forth.

    Aidoo Osei 14:00

    The timing that Nest Labs had in identifying, you know, and I owned my nest. And I loved it right at the lead. And they got it right, in that they didn't just focus on the value to the consumer and forget about the value to the utility. They found a way to provide value to multiple sides of the platform that they that they deliver and integrate user experience around it.

    Steve Statler 14:26

    So yeah, we got Google with Nest, which they I guess they acquired after it was clearly a good thing. And then we've got Amazon with Alexa, any any other specific examples of companies that are doing it right?

    Aidoo Osei 14:40

    I think Microsoft, I'm impressed with the turnaround that Microsoft has had under their new CEO. I think anybody who talks about issuer and what you can do with de jure and you know how that has become a real contender in the cloud space to ADA. To us, I think they do a good job of kind of providing a service to developers, they understand how to build applications on top of it. I think windows 10, and what they want to do what used to be called Athens, but you know, the really tiny footprint around windows 10. I think it's interesting. So I think they get IoT. And I liked some of the industrial and enterprise solutions that they're putting together.

    Steve Statler 15:27

    Nice. So you've spoken to the cloud, and you've described some edge user interface technology, one of the elements of this cocktail of what is IoT? Is these low power wide area network standards, Laura, and so forth. Tell us a little bit about I mean, that seems to be at the core of IoT. Would you agree, and what do you think's happening there? And where's that gonna go? Is how important is it?

    Aidoo Osei 15:51

    I think it's, I mean, particularly with some of my former employers, Laura was one, you know, any low power wide area, sub gigahertz type technology is, is interesting and a bit worrying, to some extent, right, because here you have technology that is delivering great value for how much it cost to implement. And I think even from a total cost of ownership perspective, you know, I think there are studies that say that kind of a Laura network delivers good value for bursty type applications that are not mission critical. And to some extent, I think some of the other proprietary sub gigahertz network providers, both in the US and abroad, in the UK, have delivered are delivering some really good applications around environmental monitoring, you know, some in building type networks, and they seem to be quite resilient and reliable if you have the right mesh topology deployed on top. And what you can do from a battery power perspective is quite impressive, relative to what's available in the market from a cellular perspective, today. Now what I think as we move to Cat M, and narrowband IoT, it will be interesting to see what the global carriers do with their, their plans for the data plans for those types of networks. And I think that eventually, you could have a scenario where narrowband IoT heading into 5g could be the death of, you know, like a horror, or at least cap the upside growth potential of the Laura. But that's probably at least a good four or five years out. And right now, I would imagine that that people are probably not waiting to implement their solutions on more.

    Steve Statler 17:54

    So just so I understand this, so 5g is coming, whatever that is. Part of it means lots of things, but part of it is an IoT thing. And where you can basically use some of this license spectrum for linking sensors over really, you know, the widest area network. And I think what you're saying is the carriers are not just going to sit back and let Laura work in unlicensed spectrum, and that there's going to be they're going to, you know, what, why, why will they succeed? I mean, if I can use Laura and unlicensed spectrum, and I don't have to pay them for subscription or anything, and I can put up my own gateways and so forth. Why would I not just continue doing that? Why would I go back into the clutches of a Verizon or AT and T?

    Aidoo Osei 18:44

    Yeah, I think it comes down to, you know, just the classic buyers decision of how much trouble they want to take on and own themselves. Right, particularly as it relates to things like quality of service. If if you have to have someone maintain your network, and you want to put devices in the field, and you want to not touch those devices for seven years, you want to make sure that you're not relying on a company that may not be here at seven years, to, to, you know, to do that. So I think as you start talking about the utilities, as you talk to start talking about smart metering, and you start talking about really global companies that want to deliver, you know one SKU and have that SKU work, regardless of where it's deployed. You don't want to have to be involved. You don't want to have to be handcuffed by the Regional peculiarities of you know what's happening in the sub gigahertz space because you're gonna have congestion in some areas. You're going to have the inability for your your Laura network to fully propagate in deliver the data in a timely fashion in some cases. But You know, this is a longer term thing. But I think eventually the cellular technology, if the pricing is right, I think it's going to deliver a better quality of service and more reliable for serious applications that get deployed at scale.

    Steve Statler 20:15

    Yeah, I'm reminded that it's tough selling to the utilities, because they, they expect this stuff to last a very long time. And that, you know, the fact that you've got technology that's being obsoleted, and companies that are changing hands, it's kind of scary for those guys that are really deployed.

    Aidoo Osei 20:32

    short term deployments that are fairly localized, you know, I think it's okay, I mean, you're going to have, you're going to continue to have Laura be used in a city, you know, if you're localized to a city, and, you know, it's okay, if the equipment is end of life, step three, at the end of three years, it's not a big deal, you know, I consider that there will be a place that type of technology. But I think for anything that requires, you know, level of confidence that you're going to get the data at a specific interval, regardless of how much congestion or interferences around you're going to have to go with more of a licensed band solution, assuming that the technology that's been specified by release 13 gives you the power profile and envelope, that's expected. I think that people will eventually decide to continue to move in that direction, and release the team.

    Steve Statler 21:28

    That's that's kind of basically part of the carrier standards. That's right. Okay. Well, we're gonna wind it up a little bit. But I do have a few more questions. And one is, you know, the first kind of really basic question is, do you consider Bluetooth beacons beacon technologies as and these sensors as part of IoT?

    Aidoo Osei 21:49

    Absolutely. You know, the way that we've thought about it in the past is there's kind of three phases of IoT, right? You've got kind of the phase where you're connecting things that have never been connected to the internet, and that's the connectivity piece, then you've got kind of the smart piece. So it's smart and connected. And then the third is the third phase is really, you know, how do you move to a place where things operate autonomously without the need of human intervention. So I think begins have a place in providing context for either mobile applications or remote applications so that they understand more about their environment and provide proximal services. And the beacons today that we have tend to be fairly simple because this the computer in our pocket is so capable. Right? I do think there are use cases where beacon beaconing will be deployed within things like outdoor furniture or outdoor lighting, to you know, create proximal services for either vehicles, or humans. And those use cases I think, will be pretty interesting. I think we're in the early days for BLE beacons. And we've had some false starts in different industries trying to figure out, you know, is this going to be a retail play? Is it going to be a city advertising play? So there's multiple ways in which this could go, but it's definitely a firm part of IoT.

    Steve Statler 23:26

    Are you though, thanks very much for taking time out of your day. You're definitely one of the smartest people I've worked with in, in the Qualcomm part of our careers together, which was actually a company full of really smart people. So it's been it's been great to chat with you. And it's always a pleasure.

    Aidoo Osei 23:44

    I appreciate the invite. We'll see you next time. Take care.

    Steve Statler 23:54

    So, you know, the most important question with all these interviews is what are the three songs that you're going to take to Mars with you?

    Aidoo Osei 24:00

    Well, I happen to have the benefit and the curse of having a dad who's kind of an audiophile. So I grew up with a pretty eclectic taste in music, but most of what I like is kind of old school R&B. So you'll you'll get one selection would be Stevie Wonder, Golden Lady. And you say that is a classic. Yeah, Stevie Wonder Golden Lady. That's what I never get tired up. Sly and the Family Stone would be another one, Everyday People. All right. That's a feel good tune. Yeah, we we need more feel good tunes these days.

    Steve Statler 24:21

    We certainly do.

    Aidoo Osei 24:25

    And then I probably would have to go with early 80s Hip Hop for the last one which would be Run, DMC Rockbox.

    Steve Statler 25:02

    Okay, wonderful. Um So your dad was an audiophile was he in the business or this was just kind of a hobby of his?

    Aidoo Osei 25:09

    Oh no as a hobby he had a very extensive vinyl collection. And when hifi systems were the rage in both 901s were just just came out and he was just into all this stuff pretty early on. So I constantly had loud music blasting in our house and did everything from Pink Floyd to Bob Marley to be the OJS.

    Steve Statler 25:40

    Man of good taste. Wonderful. Okay. Well, thanks very much for that.

    Aidoo Osei 25:46

    Absolutely. Appreciate it.