The word “remote” can easily be applied to many facets of our lives and businesses at this point – the concept of remote monitoring has become more relevant than ever as we digitally transform all industries as we work safely from home.
According to the 2019 IoT Intelligence Market Study, over 80% of enterprise leaders consider location intelligence “critical” in applying IoT in business development. This is why we partnered with multiple experts in IoT and solutions to chat with us on their expertise with developing IoT devices and utilizing remote sensors: MistyWest’s Principal Engineer, Taylor Cooper; Losant’s Enterprise Solution Manager, Brian Cerchio; and Actility’s sales manager, Cyril Florin.
Click on “Ask a Question” to jump to a specific time in the conversation to hear an answer from a question you want to know!
Danny deLaveaga (Ioterra): Alright. I’ve got some echo going on. I’m very excited. Great to have you here. Thank you very much, everybody, for jumping on and… So today we’ve got a good one. We’ve got how to architect the best remote monitoring system for optimal data acquisition. And I’m honored to be here with Taylor Cooper from MistyWest, Brian Cerchio from Losant and Cyril from Actility. So let’s go ahead and get this thing started off. I’ll give some brief introductions and then we can jump right in. Taylor, we’ve worked with you or I’ve worked with you off and on over the past couple of years at MistyWest. You’re the principal engineer there. MistyWest is a full product development firm focused on hardware and data acquisition. Brian Cerchio is a member of Losant, and Losant is an enterprise application development platform focused on all kinds of applications, including smart environment, condition-based maintenance, asset tracking, logistics. I’m excited to talk to you about application development. And then we have Actility and Cyril. Actility, is a… It’s a LoRa Alliance member, really focused on connectivity between actual hardware devices and the cloud. So, maybe just to get off… Or get started, I’d really like to introduce or have you talk a little bit more about your roles and your background, so let’s start on the hardware side, and Taylor, thank you for jumping on. Can you tell a little bit about… Tell us a little bit about yourself and MistyWest?
Taylor Cooper (MistyWest): Hey, thanks for having me, Danny. Let me just check and see if I have the right microphone.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): As this is going on, let’s go ahead and start with Brian, actually, with Losant.
Brian Cerchio (Losant): Great, so hopefully I don’t have any feedback here, but my name’s Brian, Brian Cerchio, I manage the enterprise solutions team at Losant, primarily focused on implementation of solutions, utilizing Losant’s application enablement platform as a great backup services layer and business logic to help us get applications developed and off the ground for our customers in a quick to market fashion. My team specializes in building applications that are a little more complex for… They’re… Basically, we build solutions that leverage the power of our platform and develop a front interface to really deliver a branded solution for our customers and also our customers’ customers.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): Thank you. And you’ve actually had quite a long history in application development and connecting IOT products to… Can you tell a little bit about your history as well?
Brian Cerchio (Losant): Yeah, so prior to being with Losant, I worked at a company called Everything But The House, I was the director of IT there. And one of our biggest challenges was we were… Our focus was on estate sales, and every item was a unique SKU, so really thinking about how to track and understand where these items are were very important. When you have 70,000 plus pieces of inventory that are all unique, you can’t lose those at any point. So they’re all critical assets. So my history in critical asset tracking goes back quite a few years, and that really was what brought me to Losant, was using that experience of the struggles that we went through trying to develop solutions that were really complex and difficult to build, finding Losant was a great way to help us, or was really a great way to help build those solutions and leverage the expertise of other IOT experts to get the solutions off the ground.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): Thank you. Thank you very much. And so Cyril, can you tell us a little bit about Actility and then your background, if I remember correctly, it’s been around four years with the company now?
Cyril Florin (Actility):Yes, so yeah, I joined Actility four years ago. Today, I’m working for Actility as sales manager for the Americas region, but I joined, yeah, Actility four years ago as a project manager delivering Actility solutions to key accounts in Europe and here in the US. And then more recently, I have transitioned to this sales position where I focus in finding new partners for Actility and also new solution providers.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): And can you provide some clarity on what LoRa, LoRaWAN, long range Radio Network, and talk a little bit about that and how Actility is involved.
Cyril Florin (Actility):Yes, so the LoRaWAN technology, it’s what we call the long range, low power network technology. By long range, usually we refer to 5-10 miles around, radius around the gateways. And by low power, by like 25 milliwatts. So you have a similar coverage or even better than a cellular network, but using very little power. So with the LoRaWAN technology, you can address use cases where you need battery powered devices, and because it’s really low power, you can run those devices for sometimes 5-10 years. And then the LoRaWAN technology it’s actually a standard. There is… The LoRa alliance is the entity that is doing the specification of this standard. Actility is a founding member of this alliance with Semtech. And to give you a few numbers about LoRaWAN, today there are more than 100 millions devices deployed into the field. Regarding the LoRa alliance, we have an ecosystem of 500 companies.
Cyril Florin (Actility):And at Actility. So we leverage this LoRaWAN technology to provide IoT connectivity platform to our customer. And today our main customer are the big telecom operator in Europe such as Orange, KPN, Swisscom. We also work with NTT and SoftBank in Asia. And here in the US, we work with the main cable operator. But I want to say, I want to mention that we don’t work only with the big service provider, we also work with companies such as Volvo for asset tracking. We work with solution provider such as Birdz in France that are doing water metering, and also with system integrator such as Cisco, who is by the way an investor of Actility.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): Alright, thank you very much, appreciate it. And then Taylor, let’s do the mic check 2.0. Oh, okay. So maybe…
Taylor Cooper (MistyWest): I haven’t actually changed anything since our test run, so I’m not exactly certain.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): I think…
Taylor Cooper (MistyWest): It’s fine now. I’m turning down the volume on my speakers, so… Or maybe I’ll just do that while I’m talking. It’s kinda weird. Yeah, so my name’s Taylor. I’m an engineer with a background in hardware product development. And I’ve previously worked at a medical device company, an experimental cosmology lab, and all over the place which is like… Weird project that I’ve worked on in the past. At MistyWest, I’ve worked here for about six years. I started off as an engineer, working as a mechatronics engineer across a wide range of projects. And more recently, I’ve become the principal and I lead our larger technical teams or try to figure out partnerships or who we can help and where we can help. MistyWest as an entity is a hardware product development company, so we provide engineering services. We’re a team of 25 scientists and engineers primarily with a background in engineering physics, and primarily we help IoT projects where they need a bit more of a first-principles approach. So when there’s some underlying physics or some underlying problems that go beyond just raw engineering integration. But we do work with companies like Actility and Losant, integrating their technologies into final solutions for clients.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): Great, so you’re starting generally on the low end of the spectrum, all the way down to the device side. And so maybe, Taylor, while you’re going with the microphone, can you tell me a little bit about how MistyWest approaches projects incorporating remote monitoring in general, but also more specifically, data acquisition?
Taylor Cooper (MistyWest): Are we still going? Yeah, yeah. I need to move it. I honestly don’t know what happened. Yeah, so how we approach projects that require remote data acquisition is very much on a case-by-case basis. As you can imagine, we work on a wide variety of things. Projects can be anything from… For example, right now we have a project where we’re working on a custom muon detector that’s basically used to image kilometers of rock, so you put it down a borehole, and instead of having to draw 100 boreholes to image an orebody, you deploy a muon detector in on one of these boreholes and wait a couple of months, so there’s some pretty complicated electronics that go into that. And we’re also working on projects that are, for example, trapping and preserving mosquitoes so that the blood in their abdomen can be put through a sequencer so that people can study the pathogens in the animals that they bite, so even humans. So you could use this potentially as a way to track COVID even. Again, we’re providing a small piece of the puzzle to these projects, so our clients are providing the full solution, but we’re kinda solving the engineering problem there.
Taylor Cooper (MistyWest): In terms of how we approach data acquisition for problems like this, it’s very much on a case-by-case basis. The first thing we’ll always do is look for… At off-the-shelf solutions. It’s always cheaper if you can find an existing solution that meets as many of your needs as possible. And often people come to us because there really just isn’t an off-the-shelf solution. But we’ll always start by checking for that. Then we try to answer questions around data rate, power consumption, what kind of compute is needed… Do you need some significant edge compute, do you wanna dis-identify your data before sending it over the cloud because maybe you’re worried about HIPPA compliance or things like that ’cause we do work a little bit in health and medical. And then obviously, we’re also thinking about volume and cost. So if you don’t have very aggressive cost targets, often you can get away using an off-the-shelf solution like particle IO, things like that, or a more module-based solution.
Taylor Cooper (MistyWest): We also do chip-down solutions where cost is a real driver. When we’re trying to… We’re not using the module, we’re trying to do our own RF integration, FCC certification, things like that for… And then in terms of the connectivity side, more and more, the projects we work on are wirelessly connected. And then we’re looking at what are the data rates, what is the availability, what regions are you planning on deploying it to? And then we’re gonna get into questions like can it be connected over WiFi? Can it be connected over BLE? Are you building a network? Do we wanna look at LoRaWAN as a solution there? Or are we looking at cellular? And then when you’re talking about cellular, you’re thinking about things like; can you use NB-IoT? Is it low band width enough? Is there NB-IoT in your region yet or do you need mobility support? And then maybe if you’re low bandwidth, you’re looking at Cat M1 as a cellular solution or if you’re very high bandwidth, you’re looking at 3, 4, 5G solutions. So… That’s the highlight I guess.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): Thank you. Thank you very much for going into that. And like you said, there’s a lot of different use cases that change what people need to look into in terms of off-the-shelf modules or getting started from scratch and it sounds really interesting that MistyWest can really hit more of the R&D side of the spectrum versus the typical IoT use cases… Monitoring temperature, movement, position, etcetera. So thank you very much. I think that there’s a good segue. You mentioned mosquitoes and COVID-19. I’d like to actually go ahead and jump over to Brian and ask you quickly about what you’re seeing with regards to COVID-19 and application development, IoT contact tracing, mobile apps versus actual IoT devices. What are you seeing in the market lately through Losant, ’cause I know Losant has thousands of applications in the field right now.
Brian Cerchio (Losant): Yeah, so as COVID-19 has really affected all of our lives significantly, we’re seeing a huge push in the market for all organizations to really focus on the health of their customers, their clients, their employees. So it’s really been a huge, huge… Not even really a shift, but wanting to leverage the technologies of IoT already, which are related, which is a lot of asset and location tracking. Those can also be brought into the individual themselves. So really, how do you protect your customers, your clients and your employees is such an important thing that we’re seeing across the board, companies wanting to see what’s available and develop solutions to determine how to keep happy and healthy, which is the most important thing.
Brian Cerchio (Losant): And there’s a couple of different parts to that. You mentioned that the mobile applications versus using an IoT solution. The mobile applications themselves are really developed for the public consumption itself. So downloading the mobile app on your phone, there’s a lot of constraints there that are things that enterprise generally has struggles with. First is a lot of individuals don’t have a corporate device that’s a mobile device, so we have to talk about the privacy aspects of installing an application that does do contact and location tracking that… In any manner, onto a personal device. As individuals are becoming much more conscious of what their data is being used for, and when their privacy is being invaded in any manner, it’s really a challenge to make sure that contact tracing really only works if everybody has it and they have the same application. Or they have the same device, the same application and everybody’s gotten it installed.
Brian Cerchio (Losant): So enterprises don’t have that mandate. They can have… Within general public, what they can focus on is their controlled circumstances. So when mobile applications require a much more expensive piece of hardware that’s generally very individualized, IoT applications such as bluetooth LE beacons and things like that can be distributed at a construction site, at a manufacturing facility, at a hospital upon entry, and really trace that in a much more granular manner that doesn’t require as much potential personal identifiable information being shared, which is a big concern, sharing that data, sharing your data. But we still want your HR representative to be able to trace and figure out that if somebody is infected potentially, who would they infect? So solutions we’re seeing out there are… A lot of times a device that’s assigned to an individual. And that person, if they come within let’s say, a case study we’ve recently done within 10 feet of another person for more than 60 seconds records that activity. That’s all through Bluetooth LE tracking. And those devices aren’t identifiable specifically to an individual except for the assignment, whereas a phone itself, mobile device, will have that and then you can be able to process that data, that information but with that unique identifiers in the phone.
Brian Cerchio (Losant): So it allows a little more privacy but also the devices are more cost effective and also purpose-built. So they’re really developed specifically for that application. So you can even get better granularity, more information and more traceability that enables enterprises to really capture the important information in a manner that’s very effective and not burden their staff and individuals with having these personal information or personal data in a manner that isn’t necessary for the corporation.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): Thank you. So when companies are determining what they would like to use for any kind of remote data acquisition system, whether it be a phone collecting data or whether it be devices, a follow-on question for you, Brian, is how do you generally work and help companies decide? Sometimes it’s working with a company like MistyWest who’s doing some kind of really cutting-edge sensor data acquisition and it’s a new method that needs to connect up to Losant. I guess this might also be a question for you, Cyril, ’cause I know you deal quite a bit with connectivity, actually getting the data from a hardware device to the cloud. So let’s start with you, Brian, Maybe can you talk a little bit about the challenges involved there, the cooperation between hardware and then the software data analytics that your platform provides?
Brian Cerchio (Losant): Yeah. So Losant itself is designed to be a hardware-agnostic platform. We have means of getting information into the system via some standard protocols, and really we’re constantly adding more and more protocols to get data in. But as far as the hardware goes, we don’t manufacture the hardware directly, we partner with other organizations to really figure out and build or buy the right solution. So our partnership team has built a very robust partnership network of hardware manufacturers that really go across the board and we wanna leverage what their unique skill set is. As was mentioned, like Taylor said that if you can go off the shelf, it’s always a cheaper solution, but there are some times when custom development has to happen. So we wanna leverage our expertise in that requirements gathering and our experience in seeing and listening to the market and help find the right partner for our customers.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): Great, and then, Cyril, can you talk a little bit as well? So is your network completely LoRaWAN based? What about devices that cannot connect to LoRaWAN or how do you help companies figure out how to get data from devices to the end application?
Cyril Florin (Actility):Yeah, so it’s a LoRaWAN connectivity platform. We’re not hardware agnostic unique to use devices, sensors that support LoRaWAN but thankfully, there is a strong ecosystem. For COVID-19 for example at Actility, we have acquired a company called Abeeway, a few years ago. Abeeway, they are doing, they’re designing LoRaWAN trackers, they were actually the first one to do that. And we are using those tracker, I think in a similar way than Losant is doing with using the BLE capability of those tracker to detect another tracker, to detect if someone is closer than six feet and then we use the LoRaWAN as a transport protocol to store this information in the Cloud or on the third-party application server. So we have worked on this, the solution is like, it’s an turnkey solution with the trackers, the connectivity platform provided by Actility and then we also work, we have partnered with an application server for storing and seeing the data.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): Okay, so you provide kind of the infrastructure backend to actually get the data from a LoRaWAN device to a Cloud application and this might be a business application, it’s already built out and just needs the data input. I recently actually saw the news that you guys are now completely certified within the AWS IoT core and you’re not on the AWS Marketplace. Can you talk a little bit about the decisions that a potential company who’s interested in pushing an IoT initiative has when it comes to the Cloud side once getting the data up into the Cloud and then what do they decide?
Cyril Florin (Actility):So first we are very excited to have signed this partnership with AWS. The work we have done now, it make it very easy to integrate our connectivity platform with AWS IoT core. So now it’s like a one click process to integrate our solution with AWS IoT core. And then when you are attached to AWS IoT core, then you have access to all the AWS service such as the new one that is… It evolved now, it’s AWS site-wise which is a service from Amazon that allows you to collect and store and also see data from an industrial equipment. So we make it really easy for your sensors that are deploying to the field to push data to Amazon. As I said, this integration now, it’s really a one click process. So for us this partnership, obviously it’s bringing us a lot of visibility being on the AWS Marketplace. Well it’s also making it… We also improved the customer experience with this integration.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): Thank you. Now building on that, I’d actually like to jump back to you Taylor. How early does this conversation go? Do you often talk to clients and enterprises you are starting from the ground up? “Hey I need to collect this data, can you help me do that?” Do you talk to them about what they’re gonna do with the data, how they’re gonna get it to where it needs to go? What kind of guidance does MistyWest provide there and what kind of services does MistyWest provide?
Taylor Cooper (MistyWest): Yeah, is this a little better? ‘Cause I get an echo.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): I think if you just turn your speakers down, that should work for now.
Taylor Cooper (MistyWest): Yeah, I’ve done that. It’s automatically adjusting the gain on the microphone.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): Hmm.
Taylor Cooper (MistyWest): Anyway, I’m gonna mute the speakers and I’ll just talk slow.
Cyril Florin (Actility):Technical problems.
Taylor Cooper (MistyWest): Yeah, it’s so weird because none of this was happening in the test call.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): Yeah.
Taylor Cooper (MistyWest): Okay, so I’ve muted speakers. Yeah in terms of how early we get involved, honestly as early as napkin sketch sometimes. Though usually when it’s an napkin sketch, we’ll do things like back of the envelope calculations to go with your napkin sketch just to check for feasibility and things like that. We’ll do usually like one or two day ideation session where we’ll just try to answer, is this feasible? Are there some things we already know about that might make this easier, harder or potentially sometimes impossible? So we do get involved at the very early stage where we really… Where rubber starts to meet the road, where our value proposition really starts to get going. It’s kind of when you have those high-level engineering requirements, with the high level need. We can help turn that into a detailed set of requirements that is like actionable project where you could put a team of engineers on it and achieve results.
Taylor Cooper (MistyWest): So we get involved at the pretty early stage, I would say probably before Actility. It’s kinda before the decision for say, LoRaWAN would be made and we might provide guidance around say different wireless solutions or what the implications of those are in terms of the cost structure for your product or your solution going forward and help you stitch that together with what your client actually needs. Hopefully that answers your question but I could dive into lots more detail but I’ll maybe leave it there for now.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): No, I think that that’s great. I just wanted to get a sense on if I’m looking to start an IoT initiative, how early do I need to look at the software side of things versus the hardware side of things? What is better to look at first even? And I guess I’ll turn this into another question for the whole group. What are you seeing in industries right now? What industries are pushing the boundaries in remote monitoring, data collection and which industries have you not been seeing much work on?
Brian Cerchio (Losant): Well, I can kick it off. What we’re seeing is that across the board, as IoT bit has such a breadth of value, even traditional businesses and traditional industry really are starting to understand what can be brought to the table by IoT. It kind of amazes me everyday what our potential clients and partners are looking at to try and solve problems. How we value ourself is coming in from that early stage. Just like Taylor mentioned is being that first partner to talk about, what’s the problem and finding out what the core issue is, and how can we determine, that, across the board, is this a solution that IoT can solve? Even from traditional businesses such as manufacturing that they’re really interested in being proactive in solutions, which IoT allows you to do.
Brian Cerchio (Losant): Where traditionally it has always been the very reactive preventative maintenance was a scheduled thing, where every six months I come out and look at a device or rectify that. Companies now are realizing that they need to be there before it breaks, or understand why it’s breaking and there’s a value way to differentiate themselves in the market. As your companies are competing for traditionally manufactured items, that’s where our condition-based maintenance stuff really comes in to play, is how do you differentiate with your service package that you can offer as a value add to your customers? Say, you buy a ton of hardware, how do we make sure that that hardware either never goes down or if it starts going down we know why and can be actual about that. The big focus of what we look at at Losant is providing data in an actual and visual way. It’s just really adding value to the end user and customer as across the board we’re seeing. It’s really… Most industries that the market drivers and the ones the really wanna be ready for the next generation, are pushing towards that.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): Okay, I kinda got from there that you’re seeing a lot of OEMs, original equipment manufacturers, companies that are actually manufacturing hardware products, they’re really putting the effort into connecting their products up, monitoring their products. Sort of in the same way that we do in the software world, where you’d never dream of pushing up a website, for instance, or an application without the ability to change it in the future, that you’re seeing that on the hardware side. People who are could change it in the future and monitor how it’s being used?
Brian Cerchio (Losant): Yeah, that and active monitoring alerting and OEMS are a great example of an industry that’s a traditional business that really is embracing IoT.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): Great, anything from the LoRaWAN side, Cyril? Where you…
Cyril Florin (Actility):Yeah, I would say on our side what we see is that the company or the IoT that are pushing the boundaries are the one with a strong return on investment like company or use cases where you have a direct return on investment are the one that are successful today. In the LoRaWAN world, I’m thinking about waste management, when you add the capability of sensing the field of a trash company. And then from that information, you can optimize the trash collect. This is a use case that generates a lot of savings, important savings for a city. There are very successful use cases. And also use cases that we see in the LoRaWAN world is in smart buildings, water leak detection. This use case also has a strong return on investment, because you reduce the insurance fees and you are also the premise that if there is any leak, the water damages would be less so, reduced so.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): Okay, this is bringing up an interesting question, just about how Actility is actually implemented in an actual project. Let’s say that MistyWest designs a new water sensor for building commercial purposes. How does Actility get involved? And let’s say it’s a LoRaWAN device, the radio that MistyWest has incorporated into the sensor. They’ve got thousands of them now that they’re looking to deploy across the city like Chicago, for instance. Do they then directly work with Actility and Actility handles all the gateways and all the network that needs to be sorted out to work? How does it work?
Cyril Florin (Actility):That’s the odd part I would say with every IoT project is there is several parties involved. You have on one side the devices, the sensors, the connectivity, and on the left side you will have the business application. And at Actility it’s a 10 years company. As I said, being the founding member of the LoRaWAN alliance we know the ins and out of this ecosystem. When there is such an opportunity, we try to bring everyone on board because at Actility, we are here to provide the connectivity. We are not developing business applications. We have to work with partner for the business application and with partner for the hardware side.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): In this exact example, we’re doing water management in buildings, we have thousands of devices, MistyWest has helped a company develop this end device. How would you support them in getting their devices implemented across the city? You’d help them find a gateway provider then or network?
Cyril Florin (Actility):Yeah. At Actility we provide the connectivity platform, the backend of the connectivity platform. LoRaWAN, it’s a cellular network, you need a gateway on the field, it’s not a mesh network in gateways. We work with gateway manufacturers, the main gateway manufacturers available today, Tech City, Multi Tech, Curo Link, but also UV Space or Gentech. We are integrated all those main gateway manufacturer. We are able to resell those gateways. We work with the device manufacturer for our side, and then also we have partner with different application cellular provider for… For these use cases, we have several partner to help to integrate the watch input.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): So I guess on the application development side, how often does Losant come in just for the application development versus earlier on? You said it’s hardware agnostic, which means you’re working with hardware devices, sending data up to the cloud. When does Losant come in? And you said that your role specifically was actually to manage these custom software application development initiatives that companies can’t do on the Losant platform.
Brian Cerchio (Losant): Yeah, so I’ll get a little more in depth on that. So it’s… It really varies depending on the customer itself. Losant, the platform, application development platform is strictly a purchase buy, about half our customers do the development themselves, so they may have the in-house resources and engineering teams to build this themselves and help source the equipment. So that’s a large portion of our customer base is buying the platform as a SaaS model to utilize the simplicity and power of developing applications in a low to no code environment but also with the power be able to really inject some development resources into it as well. My team comes in to help build those applications that require what we call as experiences. So custom experiences to brand and make sure that it’s developed in a little more complex matter. Now, some of our customers that are looking for us to just come in and do a frontend application development and the backend development for the business logic.
Brian Cerchio (Losant): Others want us to be… And they’re looking for a real partner in developing the solution. At that point, we will start reaching out to our partnership network, such as Itility, MistyWest, companies like that to help break down the connectivity layer. And all the way to the device. When I think about IoT engineering, I think of it like the full stack of engineering, where it’s all the way down to hardware and firmware development, sensing devices, connectivity gateways through data transmission, databases, data science analytics and application development. I mean, there’s just so much breadth where I try and think of… The best way to approach a problem is to focus on what your businesses’ core needs and what it is really good at and provide that value versus trying to reinvent the wheel. Let’s bring in partners that are great at their field, and we’ll work with them to really build the best solution for our customers. It’s like I would never go and try and build a compressor, I’d leverage a company that builds a great compressor, we’ll instead give value to giving them a business application on top of that.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): Thank you for breaking that down. It’s really cool to see and I completely agree with you. That it really… There’s a huge mash of different parties involved and needs to cooperate and collaborate and build upon what’s already been built. And we’re at a cool time right now where this is possible. So I’d like to jump back in, and also for anyone watching, feel free to ask any questions in the window. We’ll hit those up, and we can either bring you up on stage or I can ask them directly. But one more question for you, Taylor, I’m very curious to hear and see the types of things you’re seeing, ’cause you already brought up some very cool applications that I haven’t heard before. And what are the kinds of crazy sensor applications that you’re working on? Or are you seeing in the market?
Taylor Cooper (MistyWest): Yeah, lots to say there. We’re definitely seeing… And I think it was kind of about trends as well, but I’m gonna maybe talk about just two specific applications again, just so it’s a little more tangible in terms of what we’re seeing. When I first started at MistyWest, around five and a half years ago, one of the technologies we worked on was an optical particle counter technology, which is basically a way to measure particulate matter in the air. But there’s kind of two ways to do it. One of them is called mass concentration where in theory, you pump a bunch of air through a filter and measure how much mass ends up on it, how much dust ends up on it. And another one is, particle sensing or sizing, where, in this case, we built a custom sensor, where you pass air through a laser beam, and it causes light to scatter off of particles in the air and based on a photo-diode that’s measuring that scattered light, you can guess what the particulate load is in the air.
Taylor Cooper (MistyWest): So these are like two different ways to measure air quality and there’s a lot of science now that is getting stronger and stronger, and there’s more and more evidence now that basically maps the impact of air quality to your health. So the reason I’m bringing this up is because six years ago or five and a half years ago, we had to develop something custom and miniaturize it, we had to reverse engineer some existing technology and miniaturize it to meet the customer’s need. And now we’ve, I think we did a blog post about this a year, a year and a half ago, Sensirion has released their sensing company as well, they actually build sensing solutions, sensing modules, so we do custom… They have the product line, you can buy from they have what’s called, the part number is the SPS30. And it basically does the same thing, just better and cheaper.
Taylor Cooper (MistyWest): So some of these things which previously, were maybe not even understood as well as health issues, but also weren’t easily measurable, like you had to go do a bunch of custom engineering and design your own sensor to even enter the marketplace. Now you can go to these places and buy modules to do it. So that’s a place where I would say the industry is growing really quickly. And then a counterpoint to that is another project we’re working on, which is actually in animal tracking. So this is also on our webpage, but maybe the background here is, I don’t know if anybody heard about that recent paper from University of Toronto, they were talking about how polar bears are going to be gone as a species by the start of the 22nd century, if we continue on our current trends of global warming. So like pretty concerning.
Taylor Cooper (MistyWest): So dialing this back about two years ago, we got approached by WWF to help modernize their polar bear trackers, which the last update, the last significant design changes, the original collar was designed in the 1970s, so it uses the Argos Satellite Network, which is still a good satellite network to use, but the collars have a bunch of problems with them. So obviously, they’ve been a little slow to address this, but they’re now coming around and that’s where we’re helping out… Maybe just a little more context, the problems with the collars, they fall off really quickly, you can’t actually put them on the male bears because their neck is wider than their head, so it just slides right off. So you can only put them on the females. It costs like $40K or something to go out there in a helicopter, tranquillize the bear and then put the collar on. So when the collar falls off, it’s a bit of a problem. So what we’re working on right now is using modern electronics, we don’t have to stay with electronics from the 1970s and miniaturizing it, and getting it basically into an ear-mounted solution is the idea.
Taylor Cooper (MistyWest): So it’s like an ear tag basically but it talks to a satellite. So that’s an example where they’ve been a lot slower, I think, and there’s a… WWF, there’s a good reason why they’ve been slower. The economic incentives there are just a little different. Polar bears don’t pay to have themselves tagged, you need government grants and things like that, so it goes a little slower but yeah.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): Thank you, thank you. Okay, so I have a couple more questions. One, for the whole group, what are some common limitations you’re seeing when it comes to data collection and ingestion for IoT applications? I guess, taking the example of an enterprise that’s looking to start an initiative from scratch, and I do understand that many of these applications are very case-dependent and use case-dependent, but what are some things that you feel people miss or should keep in mind as they’re getting started?
Cyril Florin (Actility):I can start… So LoRaWAN, it was designed for battery-powered devices and something that you need to have in mind when you deploy such devices is if you want your IoT solution to run longer, you have to think about how many time you want to collect data, and sometimes it’s something you need to think about when you configure your device. If you can wait for a report every hour instead of every minute, you’re gonna increase the battery life of your device and then you will have your IoT solution that will run longer, and you will also save you the trouble of sending resources on the ground to charge the battery or even change the battery. So that’s something to have in mind regarding data collection, like how many time we need data, especially when you use battery-powered device.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): And I mean, that application… Batteries come up all over the place. I can imagine Taylor has some things to say about that as well but also, what are you seeing, Brian, as the common problems with these initiatives?
Brian Cerchio (Losant): So really to piggyback on Cyril’s concerns there, similar, battery life being affected by polling rate in the sense of themselves but also polling rate of sending the data to the Cloud. That data cost bandwidth, either via a cellular mechanism or even data going into a Cloud-based data center. That bandwidth coming in and out does cost money, so determining what’s the effective polling rate and when data is valuable or not, when you architect the solutions thinking about maybe edge devices where if we can batch that information and send it up in a single package, we’re gonna use less cellular bandwidth with the initial processing on the device itself to really cut down on that transmission to be effective. And when you’re talking about thousands and hundreds of thousands of devices, that becomes a pretty major problem with any bandwidth to what’s really necessary versus “We’re gonna pull every three seconds of every device with all of the data we have on that.” That becomes very accepted very quick and really thinking about what’s the value of the data we’re sending and how frequently do we need to see that.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): Thank you. And Taylor?
Taylor Cooper (MistyWest): Yeah, I’m actually gonna continue that trend, so maybe these also fit nicely together. I’m gonna talk more about the hardware side ’cause I basically have the same point to make. I think, and I’ll try and talk a little bit about a specific project here too, when people wanna do low power, the details in the hardware often get overlooked. So polling rate is absolutely one thing you need to be very careful with because actually having that wireless connection is expensive in terms of battery life, but even below that, there’s a bunch of considerations that need to go into hardware to get it right. So actually designing your firmware so that you don’t have a bunch of things running that are not needed, and so that you’re actually properly using the low power functionality of the associated ICs on your solution.
Taylor Cooper (MistyWest): A lot of that gets into some detailed engineering that you can’t always do without getting down to the real nuts and bolts of it. So if you wanna buy a SOM, for example, or system on a module, it’s gonna come with certain pull-up resistors and things like that on it already. And if they decided to go with a 10 kiloohm pull-up maybe you have on a 3v3 bus, you’re gonna have a milliamps of current going through that thing. So you can’t get rid of that if that’s designed straight into the hardware. So what this often means and where we often get involved or where there’s more work to do… And in this case, I’m gonna talk about one project we did where we took an actigraphy monitor or a sleep monitor, it’s wrist-worn, it was actually worn by the Chicago Cubs when they won the World Series. It’s by a company called Fatigue Science. You can find them on our website as well. We took the original engineering for that band and extended the battery life from one week to 45 days, and we did that by looking very carefully at the electronics and instead of using a 10K pull-up, can we get away with a megaohm, can we use microamps here? So changing the hardware but also a lot of optimization in the firmware.
Taylor Cooper (MistyWest): So like polling rate in terms of how often they got that data, they were actually polling that data like once a day, but the actigraphy data needs to be measured like every 10 seconds or something like that. So the IMU is continuously on on this thing or almost continuously on. It’s constantly turning on, measuring, turning off. And so you have to log all of that and measure all of that, and do that in a low power way in addition to reducing your polling rate if you wanna have true low power and have a device that really meets your customer need where you can just deploy this thing for 45 days and not worry about the battery life, and that was with the rechargeable battery. You can go a little further if you do something that’s disposable but a lot of the new IoT applications rely on a 10-year battery life or something like that, where you deploy something in your house and just forget about it. You wanna have a leak monitor stick it behind a wall with battery and forget about it. Getting there requires a lot of detailed thought on the hardware side that often gets missed.
Daniel deLaveaga (Ioterra): And I bet you that that also plays into a customer’s decision to go off-the-shelf versus customize a solution, and that’s… You had mentioned this in the beginning, is that these devices are complicated and a lot of work goes into creating a device that’s optimized for power or for transport, or for analytics. So thank you very much and I appreciate your time here today. Are there… I think we’ve covered quite a bit with regards to architecture of these devices, hardware, connectivity, analytics, and I’m excited that you’re all here to talk to us, and apologies for my dog. [chuckle] I’m also excited to get back to the office soon. [chuckle] So thank you very much, and if there’s any questions, please feel free to reach out to MistyWest, Actility or Losant. We have their… You can come to this recording any time and your websites and your contact information are attached here. So again, thank you, please be safe and I’m looking forward to helping push more initiatives.