The Impact of Embedded Technology

On this episode of the IoT For All Podcast, Ryan Chacon is joined by Brandon Cannaday, the Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of Losant, to discuss IoT and embedded technologies. Brandon begins by introducing himself and Losant before giving his take on the current state of the IoT industry. He then focuses on the impact he’s seen from the growth of embedded technologies and new business models they have unlocked. Brandon wraps up the episode by discussing challenges in the industry and advice for companies navigating adoption.

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About Brandon

Brandon has 15 years of software engineering experience in chemical detection, telecommunications, cloud services, and The Internet of Things. As CPO of Losant, Brandon works directly with enterprise customers to help bring to life their own IoT products on top of Losant’s platform. Brandon is an avid board game player, constant tinkerer, and enjoys learning and experimenting with new technology.

Interested in connecting with Brandon? Reach out on Linkedin!

About Losant

Losant is an easy-to-use and powerful enterprise IoT platform designed to help teams quickly and securely build real-time connected IoT products and services for their customers. Losant uses open communication standards to provide connectivity from one to millions of devices and provides powerful data collection, aggregation, and visualization features to empower enterprise teams with new data insights. Losant’s edge and cloud platform processes billions of data points and is trusted by some of the largest organizations in the world. Customers choose Losant because its unique, low-code approach to application development offers a level of agility and speed to market that is hard to find anywhere else.

Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:

(01:05) Introduction to Brandon and Losant

(03:42) Perception of today’s IoT market

(06:56) Impact of embedded technology

(09:27) Popular IoT use cases

(11:16) Business models

(13:35) Vendors investing in R&D

(15:06) High-level challenges

(17:37) Advice for companies


Transcript:

– [Voice Over] You’re listening to the IoT For All Media Network.

– [Ryan] Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All Podcast, the number one resource and publication for the Internet of Things. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon. We do ask that if you are watching this on YouTube, please give this video a like and subscribe to our channel. If you’re listening to this episode on a podcast directory somewhere, please subscribe so you get the latest episodes as soon as they are out. On today’s episode, we have Brandon Cannaday, the Co-founder and Chief Product Officer at Losant. They are a company that has built an easy-to-use and powerful enterprise IoT platform designed to help teams quickly and securely build real-time connected IoT products and services for their customers. We’ve had Losant on before. They’re fantastic company, fantastic group of people. We talk a lot about the IoT market from their perspective, the impact of embedded technologies, popular use case for IoT products, value of vendors investing in R&D to IoT enterprise consumers, why it matters, challenges they’re seeing in the space, all in all fantastic conversation. Brandon is a great guest. I think you’ll get a lot of value out of this. And without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the IoT For All Podcast. Welcome, Brandon, to the IoT For All Podcast. Thanks for being here this week.

– [Brandon] Yeah, thank you.

– [Ryan] Yeah, it’s great to have you. Let’s start off by having you give a quick introduction about yourself to our audience.

– [Brandon] Absolutely. So once again, my name’s Brandon Cannaday. I am the Chief Product Officer and one of the Co-founders for a IoT platform company called Losant. So we’re in business to help people across all industries really bring their specific IoT product or solution to life.

– [Ryan] And tell me a little bit more about the founding story of Losant. I’ve met many people on the team over the years, but I’ve always wanted to hear a little bit more about how the company was founded, the opportunity you saw in the space to have the company, obviously, exist, and then grow into what it is today.

– [Brandon] Yeah, so I’ll give you the short version, is… Prior to Losant, we were in cloud services in a different technology, really not opinionated on any technology at the time. We had grown that organization pretty big, got a really strong understanding of highly scalable, highly secure cloud services. But near the tenure, we were eventually required… Near the end of our tenure there, our customers started coming to us asking, could they use that platform to deploy IoT solutions? IoT was gaining a lot of traction, especially cloud-based IoT. And sure, you could deploy it on that platform, but it really didn’t have any of those concepts that IoT requires, the concept of devices, time series data, the rules engine, eventually publishing an end user experience. So that got us really thinking, “What would a platform specifically tailored “towards the development of an IoT product look like?” We did a little bit of exploration. We’re in Cincinnati, Ohio, we’re surrounded by midterm manufacturing, a lot of perfect customers. We just started knocking on doors, asking questions, and we found out there’s a really good opportunity here. This was about seven years ago when Losant was founded, and really on two major principles. One was usability. The developer experience on the existing offerings was not that great. We wanted to make something friendly, very easy, very enjoyable to use. And the other was cloud native. At that time, the cloud vendors had no concept of IoT. There was nothing in their catalog that said IoT. So we found a really strong opportunity to make a cloud native, very user friendly, enjoyable IoT development platform. And that’s what we launched with, and we’ve had a really enjoyable, successful journey.

– [Ryan] Fantastic. Well, appreciate that overview. Let’s talk a little bit high level here. I’d love it if you could share your perception, or maybe the company’s perception, of the IoT market as it exists today. Obviously from when you all started Losant, it’s changed a decent amount until where it is now. What is the current state of the market from your point of view? Yeah, it’s a really good question. We have what I think is maybe a unique perspective on IoT, especially when we talk about manufacturing and industrial. When we started, that was where all the activity was. This Industry 4.0, smart manufacturing, industrial IoT, that’s where all of the use cases were. And still even today, when you go and look up industrial IoT, most of the use cases are as part of the manufacturing process. But what we’ve really honed in on and found this growing, this emerging, opportunity that our technology is catered for is what’s happening to the things that they’re manufacturing, especially in industrial space. This large equipment that’s being created, being shipped to customers, there’s no real technology being added to that stuff. So for us, we’re not in the manufacturing process at all, we’re on the flip side. We’re helping these manufacturers turn the things that they manufacture into connected products. So still a huge opportunity. Manufacturing process, manufacturing floor, that’s not for us. We found a great opportunity. It’s growing very quickly, a lot of interest on that industrial connected product space. And then also, especially post-COVID, we’re seeing a ton of interest in what we call smart environment, which is campuses, rooms, and spaces like that. Understanding occupancy, understanding how the space is being used. Do I have too little space, too much space? So that’s where we see a lot of the interest in IoT as it stands today.

– [Ryan] Yeah, I’ve had a lot of conversations recently around the connected spaces, and as people are coming back to the offices, just realizing how powerful IoT can be in helping build smart spaces, these connected spaces, that provide a level of insight and data to these buildings, commercial real estate companies, managers, you name it, even companies themselves who rent the space, more insights than they ever had before to be able to really understand how best to build out and how best people are utilizing the space to help them make better decisions.

– [Brandon] Yeah, especially… Right now we’re in this time of uncertainty where we’re in this back-to-office plan, we’re in hybrid work environments. There’s just a lot of unknowns. So facilities management, security, even the HVAC energy consumption, there’s a lot of questions that this technology can help answer. And what’s nice is it’s very approachable. Doing uninvasive occupancy monitoring, you don’t need actual video cameras, which is uncomfortable for employees. You can do very simple sensors that just count. And with that limited, small amount of data, that very small step, it’s amazing how much insight you can get.

– [Ryan] Absolutely. You mentioned, when we’re thinking about connected products, or you mentioned that a second ago, I wanted to ask a little bit about that. What have you seen the impact of… Or, I guess, how have you seen the impact of embedded technology grow over the years, and how has it grown to help OEMs, help harbor manufacturers, really deliver IoT connected products?

– [Brandon] Yeah, so this gets into the technology stack and how difficult it can be when it comes to making a connected product. So if we back up a little bit, one of the fastest ways, and still a very popular way, to convert a piece of equipment into a connected piece of equipment is through a retrofit. So bringing on a small gateway, the gateway has… In our case, we have an agent that runs on that. It can talk to the control and the equipment, get the data to the cloud. No changes required to the equipment. So upsides are very quick, very easy. Downside, high cost. So some of those gateways, especially once you add cellular, can get up into that several hundred, even $1000. So that limits… The unit economics sometimes don’t work out. It requires some expensive equipment for that retrofit to make sense. So now we get into the embedded world, your computer’s much smaller, the cost drops significantly. Now the product lines that you can convert to connected grows. The challenge with embedded is, unlike a gateway that can run our full agent that’s all just drag and drop, embedded development is hard. It’s one of the most complicated types of development there is. Former engineers are some of the most sought-after engineers. There’s not very many of them. Difficult to create. So we saw that opportunity last year… Actually a couple years ago. We then spent about two years trying to… Well, successfully developed, brought to market, an embedded version of our Edge Agent designed to run on these very small, constrained devices, brings our drag and drop development environment, trying to bring that approachability of technology that you can get through bigger gateways all the way down to the embedded Edge. So that’s where the industry has to… The tooling has to increase, it has to get easier, back to our number one value as a product is the usability. We wanna make it enjoyable. So we’re trying, the ecosystem has to work harder too, but embedded plays a huge role in making connected products successful. Still a lot of opportunity to make that as easy as it can be.

– [Ryan] Yeah, and one thing I wanted to ask you, aside from the use cases we were talking about a second ago, are you seeing any other popular use cases pop up for IoT producers?

– [Brandon] Yeah, so you used the word “IoT producer” there. That’s a phrase that we use to describe the companies that are producing, delivering IoT as, I’ll say, an integral part of the thing they manufacture. The opposite of an IoT consumer, which is more using IoT to understand their own environment. So yeah, when it comes to use cases for producers, that’s really backing into, what are the types of services that companies can sell to their customer base? Industrial manufacturers, by far the largest opportunity. But when you get into smart environment, there’s two windows there. You had mentioned the real estate management companies. Think about them becoming IoT producers. They develop their own product, they sell it to their tenants so every one of their tenants don’t have to go out and find their own smart environment solution. They can acquire it straight from the property manager. Another really big one for us is telecommunication companies. They have a wonderful foundation of connectivity, and they’re out there pursuing value added services, they’re becoming IoT producers, producing these products and services that piggyback on their core connectivity, extending it in new ways, new value. For us, Verizon is a really big customer that we have. They have brought to market their critical asset tracker, which is GPS tracking, as well as their condition-based maintenance solution, which they sell into their industrial customers.

– [Ryan] Hmm, yeah, so it seems like it’s a great way to extend the value of existing product lines for these producers that we’re talking about. Tell me about what you’ve seen, not just, obviously, having another thing to sell, but what kind of business models is this enabling for companies? Is it more subscription based? Are there new business models that maybe we’re not thinking about, or we don’t hear about as often, that are now being enabled because of these producers building these solutions and selling them?

– [Brandon] Yeah, that’s probably the most attractive part, especially to industrial manufacturers. They’re normally in a world where they manufacture a large, expensive piece of equipment, they sell it, and outside of maybe some support and service contracts, they’re done. Revenue stream has basically stopped. So what’s really nice about surrounding your piece of equipment with a value added service is now you get your one-time revenue model, but these connected services are almost exclusively licensed as subscription or recurring services. So now you can get into the recurring revenue game, which is an area a lot of companies want to get to. So obviously, new revenue. The other is increased sellability. So the technology you add to a product makes it more attractive and adds sellability because of how much easier you’ve made it to integrate into some of these larger smart environment or smart manufacturing solutions. So if we pretend you’re an industrial equipment maker, and you have sold this piece of equipment, and it has all this technology into it, you’re probably selling it into someone else’s manufacturing process. They’re going to want to include your piece of equipment with a bunch of other vendors into a broader Industry 4.0 solution. So if you’re selling a piece of equipment that has this technology integrated into it, all of a sudden, it made their job a lot easier. So it’s gonna be more attractive, you’re gonna get a recurring revenue model attached to it, just generally increases your competitive advantage and customer satisfaction.

– [Ryan] Absolutely, yeah. I couldn’t agree more. Super interesting, just, way to think about how IoT is being not just built, and where the demand is coming from, but also how it’s getting out to the end user. And definitely, different channels are being opened. Something I wanted to ask you is… So if we talk about the value of vendors investing in R&D to enterprise, or to IoT enterprise consumers, why is that so important in their process?

– [Brandon] I would… I guess I’d go back to, customer expectations right now are extremely high, and the competitive landscape is extremely tough. Especially in the industrial space and telco space, those are fairly competitively active industries. So if you’re a vendor or a company thinking about, “How do I stand out, “how do I make my product more attractive,” that’s where this R&D investment is coming in. Certainly you have to think about it in terms of customer value. I’m not gonna lie and say we haven’t had innovation for innovation’s sake come through. That’s a bad way to think about it, but this technology you put in place really is to increase the value of equipment in the hands of your customer. The equipment’s gonna be easier to use. The overall lifetime cost is gonna be less. That remote monitoring, remote maintenance, remote service really can drastically reduce the ongoing service cost of a piece of equipment, all boiling back to, you’re gonna make a better product. So your R&D investment is to make your product more attractive and more better for your end customers.

– [Ryan] Fantastic. So one of the last questions I wanna ask you before we wrap up here is high level challenges in the space. Where are you seeing the biggest roadblocks, the biggest headaches, that companies are coming across in their journey to being successful with IoT? You can approach it from any stakeholder’s point of view, but just, I’d love to hear, from your perspective, where you see the biggest challenges lie, and then also, the advice to how to overcome those challenges, if they are able to be overcome.

– [Brandon] Yeah, yeah, I would say the… I would start with… I guess I’ll go to one, organizational, more business, the other one, technology. So a lot of times, organizations pursuing, especially this connected product world, now they’re selling a service versus a piece of equipment. That’s a way different way of doing things. It’s a different way to support a product. Software products, cloud services are supported quite a bit differently. So it’s not unusual a customer gets it out in the market, and then they haven’t quite figured out, “Well, how do we support this?” It’s just different. “Do I use my normal product support channels?” “Do I do this?” “How do I sell it?” That’s another common problem. “How do I monetize this?” So a lot of that work has to be thought through upfront to have that successful product launch. On the technology side, a lot of it does boil down to the hardware, the sensors, and to also starting small. A lot of times companies do get excited. “I think this looks great. This technology’s awesome. “It’s gonna change the way we do business,” and then they have this giant group of people and stakeholders in the organization, and they come up with hundreds of use cases they wanna pursue for IoT. That’s too big. You can’t move that forward. It’s too big of a step. So distill it down into, what’s the smallest value that you can add to your customers? A lot of times it’s, “Can I just get the data “from the controller in the cloud “so people can see it anywhere in the world?” Stop there, see if your customers even care. That’s another one. Fail-fast is sometimes really good. Limit your investment, limit your risk. So starting small, sometimes a big challenge. Companies really don’t like to start small, they wanna do something big and splashy, but keep your ideas under control, and also think through the organizational side very carefully. You’re stepping into a whole new type of product, a whole new type of technology. Make sure you’ve got the organizational processes in place to handle that.

– [Ryan] And how do you, when you work with companies, and there… ‘Cause there’s obviously lots of different pieces to an IoT solution. It’s not just the platform and the software. There’s the connectivity, there’s the hardware. How do you work with companies, or, I guess, what advice do you have for companies out there looking to understand how to decipher all the different types of options and choices that they have and make the correct decision for their individual use cases? Is that something they should like lean more on the platform company systems integrated that they’re working with, or is that something that they themselves can take on to help make the right decision?

– [Brandon] Yeah, that’s a good one that I missed. Thanks for bringing that up. Yeah, that is certainly another challenge. The IoT technology stack is one of the most complicated. So like you mentioned, hardware, connectivity, platform, integration, experience, cloud, you got all this stuff that has to come together. For us, we do a really nice job, I think, on helping our customers. We’ve seen a lot of the hardware and connectivity options. We know what works and what doesn’t work. So that’s something that we do as a platform provider. We will help customers navigate all of that. So that is an option, work with the platform provider if your provider does offer that. The other one would probably be the system integrator or the professional services group. That can help pull all this together. It’s also not unusual to do internally, but it is a lot to understand. You likely will have to find some dedicated resources or hire new resources that you may not already have internally to tackle that. But yeah, for us, because we’re the platform, we’re central to the IoT applications that get delivered, all the data’s coming to us, and the experience is built on us, we’ve built up a pretty nice, just, knowledge base of what’s gonna work and what’s not gonna work, and we share that back to the customers that use us.

– [Ryan] Absolutely. And for our customers out there, or potential customers out there, and people interested in learning more about the company, what you have going on, follow up with questions, what’s the best way they can do that?

– [Brandon] Yeah, I mean, losant.com, L-O-S-A-N-T. We do have what we call the “developer sandbox.” So if you are a developer and wanna get your hands dirty immediately, you can start building for free. It’s 10 devices you can get started. And through losant.com, you can find some contact information. Happy to give anyone that wants a full demo, and talk about their solutions and how we might be able to help.

– [Ryan] Great, and anything new, exciting, coming out of Losant that we should be able to look out for, pay attention to?

– [Brandon] Yeah, I would say that embedded Edge Agent that I mentioned, that’s our newest major release. Did that just late last year. And like I said, that is bringing our low code visual workflow engine, which is, in my opinion, one of the coolest parts of our platform, down into the embedded world. So that’s definitely something, if you’re a firmware engineer or you want to add some intelligence directly into your device’s controller, that’s definitely something worth checking out.

– [Ryan] Awesome. Well, Brandon, thank you so much for your time, and this has been a great conversation. I really appreciate it. We have been big fans of Losant for a while, working with your team and getting the content out that you all share with our community. It’s been fantastic. So I really appreciate you taking the time here. And I know we have some other videos and content scheduled to build together, so I’m really looking forward to getting this out to our audience.

– [Brandon] Yeah. Thank you, Ryan.

– [Ryan] All right, everyone. Thanks again for watching that episode of the “IoT For All Podcast. If you enjoyed the episode, please click the thumbs up button, subscribe to our channel, and be sure to hit the bell notifications so you get the latest episodes as soon as they become available. Other than that, thanks again for watching, and we’ll see you next time.

https://www.iotforall.com/podcasts/e211-impact-of-embedded-technology

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