The Future of IoT - Version 2 Q&A with Wiliot CEO
The Future of IoT - Version 2 Q&A with Wiliot CEO
Our recent interview with Tal Tamir was a historic and important one. It was the first time Wiliot’s CEO appeared on Mr. Beacon (even though his company underwrites the production costs these days); it was also an exclusive, and the first time we have heard a public and comprehensive account of what Wiliot is doing, where it is headed, and the market context for that. All from Wiliot’s inimitable cofounder and leader. This is also the first time Tal has spoken publicly about our V2, which is an advance on Wiliot’s hardware/software hybrid model.
We know you can't wait to listen to the entire interview, but until you clear your calendar or jump on your Peloton, we asked our friend and a previous guest on Mr. Beacon Adam Hanft to summarize the conversation, while making Tal and I sound a bit more adroit. It’s not a transcript, it’s the Q&A as we might have spoken it if either of us had grown up in front of a keyboard, with a pencil behind our ears in the classic newsroom style.
Wiliot – the generously-funded and pioneering start-up that is transforming the IoT – is poised to introduce its V2. This combination of an advanced IoT Pixels tag, with more range and lower cost, is the hardware nucleus of a new Cloud Platform that will enable the IoT to scale to trillions. Continual hardware and software innovation is the DNA of Wiliot’s IoT.
This interview between Tal Tamir – co-founder and CEO of Wiliot – and Wiliot's SVP Marketing, Steve Statler, promises to be enlightening and cheerily provocative.
SS: Tal, let’s start with this – How would you define a “smart thing”?
TT: It’s endless. It goes from an insulin injection to a zucchini. At the core of how we create smart things are the tags that we attach to them. Tiny compute devices we call Wiliot’s IoT Pixels. They’re battery-free and communicate through Bluetooth. Of course, things aren’t static – they are changing locations constantly. As their environments and circumstances change, we communicate conditions like temperature, humidity. More will come – like lighting!
SS: Isn’t that just one part of the story, though? How are you enabling the IoT to move from its chronic under-delivery?
TT: Absolutely. Wiliot is bigger and broader than just our hardware innovation – which itself is very bold and exciting.
We’ve solved the infrastructure problem that has prevented the IoT from realizing its promise. Right now, IoT is in the billions – which sounds like a big number – but not the necessary trillions. That’s because up till now, in order to make anything smart, you need to invest in the sensors, the cameras, and more. And that’s just one location! That’s why it’s largely expensive, high-value things that are connected. Your refrigerator, for one.
With the current place-centric IoT, you need to replicate the investment. It's expensive, it takes time. And it would need something apocalyptic to trigger broad adoption.
SS: What do you mean exactly? I don’t know if the world is ready for any more apocalyptic events!
TT: I am speaking a bit figuratively. During the Cold War, America needed to ferry missiles from one end to the United States to the other. That’s what caused it to invest in the infrastructure of the highway system. IoT hasn’t had that moment yet.
SS: So how does Wiliot effectively jump over the need for infrastructure-based solutions?
TT: We build the IoT around things, not around places and spaces. Consider a piece of cheese. Once you take that Swiss cheese out of that store, it will not warn you if it's bad and expired. That’s our goal. Thoughtful Swiss cheese and consumer products at macro scale. More and more, consumers demand solutions that address the quality of food, the quality of drug efficacy, that reduce waste. Heavy infrastructure can’t fix it. You need to embed the solution by creating smart things with an end-to-end solution.
We use some bridge devices to boost connectivity, but for the most part our IoT Pixels harvest energy on their own. It’s a huge part of our IP that can create the trillions I speak of.
SS: That’s part of what makes Wiliot unique. What’s the data part?
TT: Let me explain. It’s a new concept that requires a mindset shift. When I talk to customers, they are so accustomed to statistics, the first think they ask about is “dashboards.” But that’s reactive. Dashboards count failures. What we’re doing at Wiliot is helping customers fix the problem – on an individual, unit basis.
SS: So you’re saying that things can make themselves better?
TT: That’s our mission in a nutshell. It’s the essence of the V2 you asked me about. Our Cloud Platform empowers things to fix any problem they encounter. Everywhere they go. We are creating tools – we call them “playbooks” – that let any product with a Wiliot IoT Pixels cure itself by providing the data signals that IoT stakeholders need. Counting failures is itself a failure!
SS: So every product becomes a sensing device?
TT: Exactly. Because our tags are getting smarter and wiser and more contextually aware all the time. That’s why we design and manufacture our own chips. It’s the only way. Even things we cannot predict today will be “sensible” on our Universal Automation Platform tomorrow (It’s in Alpha today).
Think about those three words: Universal. Automation. Platform. It’s an amazing future, where our IoT Pixels will be sending an extraordinary richness of data to the cloud. Private and encrypted. It’s a virtual world that precisely models the physical world that trillions of products move through. A better metaverse.
SS: Let’s go back to your V2 tags.
TT: So from the beginning we said we want to double the range of our tags and cut the cost in half. V2 will do that. To be honest, while it's not perfect, the performance that we get is better than I expected. We are working on V3. Our mission is to give our tags away and charge for the cloud services.
SS: That sounds crazy.
TT: It’s just one crazy part of our goal of making trillions of things smart, connected, and creating a world that is more sustainable than ever before. Wiliot combines core, chip-level design and connectivity that can make a cardboard box a sensing organism, if you will.
SS: Does a company need to be all in, at once? Or is there a digital toe in the IoT water?
TT: We’re not looking for any commitment. No big decisions. Customers can start with a simple test to prove to themselves that we can help them. We can take the massive volume of information our Cloud Platform generates and deliver it in a way that creates a playground where our customers can learn. You can buy specific cases or “kits” as we call them to test the things you care most about. You can also connect with our partner ecosystem.
The future is here but will require some getting used it.
SS: We covered a lot. Anything you want to say to put a bow on this?
TT: Well, let me make it clear that there is no – zero! – programming required. You set the conditions and connect the actions to the real world, and other applications out there. That’s the beautiful thing about V2 and our Cloud Platform. The customer defines it. There are thousands of possibilities and connectors. In five minutes, I can show you how I can take an ordinary pillbox and program it to do anything from scheduling a meeting, sending an email or connecting to a specific customer system.
It feels like magic … like there's nothing that can't be done. We will get better and better at harvesting energy, which means the need for bridge devices will diminish.
All of this amazing technology is shining a light on many things that were previously in the dark. Stay tuned and watch where our tags and the Wiliot Cloud will take us.
SS: Thanks, Tal. I am lit up.
Watch or listen to the full Mr. Beacon podcast here.