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In episode 12 of The IoT podcast, we dive into the world of IoT as a potential solution to climate change with Musstanser Tinauli, the Chief Digital Officer of HAYK and Founder of Fori inc. Musstanser is a prominent figure within IoT, spreading awareness for IoT at a solution to global challenges such as climate change.

In this episode, we discussed:

    • His background as an entrepreneur in IoT with HAYK and Fori, and past projects.
    • Ways in which IoT solutions could be involved in the awareness of climate change, and potentially, the solutions.
    • Whether IoT could potentially hinder climate change in any way and the challenges specialists have faced with IoT as the issues change.
    • Future prospects for Musstanser, HAYK and Fori


Episode Transcript

Tom White:
Welcome to the IoT Podcast show. I am your host, Tom White. Today, we are joined by Musstanser Tinauli.

Musstanser is the CDO and board member of HAYK. Musstanser is also the founder and CEO of Fori Incorporated. As a multiple times founder, entrepreneur, and speaker, Musstanser is a prominent figure within IoT, setting up innovative businesses and spreading IoT awareness as a solution for global challenges such as climate change.

We are delighted to have you on the show. Thank you for joining, Musstanser.

Musstanser Tinauli:
Thank you very much. Thank you for having me, Tom. It’s a pleasure.

What is your background in IoT?

Tom White:
You’re very, very welcome. Musstanser, do you want to start by explaining your background in IoT and what you do currently within HAYK and Fori?

Musstanser Tinauli:
Absolutely. Usually, it can take me a while to explain the things I’ve been doing over the years.

Tom White:
We’ll try and keep it brief.

Musstanser Tinauli:
Okay. Well, so I have a PhD in design and innovation. I started my career as the IT guy, and I slowly transitioned into more of design.

Because I believe to really make something powerful happen, you have to understand both sides of things: the real user perspective and what technology can do.

More than quite often, technology takes over, and then you need to learn technology to achieve a simple task. I believe technology has to be visible, so it actually helps users solve something.

So my quick background would be, so as I said, I’m a PhD design from Italy. And one of the world’s first projects that I did focusing on IoT, was an MIT. We did a project called Trash Track. So we literally tracked people’s garbage. The idea was, ‘what happens when you throw things away?’ ,they’re out of sight, and out of mind. What if your trash could talk back to you? What behavioral change would it make on you as an individual, if your trash or whatever you throw away, would talk to you?

That’s where it really began for me to focus on cities, smarter cities, and all these big tech companies in a way like IBM, Cisco, they’ll all be focused on cities. We can talk about why cities are important. I do have a slightly different narrative from just the focus on cities. I think it’s important to focus on people. But we can come back to that again.

Tom White:
So I’m curious about Trash Track. So you did this at MIT whilst you were studying? Is that correct?

Musstanser Tinauli:
Oh, no. So I was doing my PhD, but I was invited as the project lead to go and join Senseable City Lab. This was about 10 years ago. So we were literally the first in the world to create an application that presented the power of IoT.

Tom White:
What was the aim behind Trash Track? So obviously, you want to track where it went afterwards. But what were you hoping to achieve?

Musstanser Tinauli:
Okay. So, there’re a couple of important things. The world has known a lot about supply-chain and everything about how things are created. But we still know very little about the end-of-life cycle. So you do not know what happens to your laptop/computer/ phone when it’s thrown away.

Tracking the afterlife journey of an object is essential to create a circular economy happen. This was one of the core ideas of the project – if we know that there is something then you can go pick it up.

We were approached by companies like Walmart. They wanted to know where all the plastic bottles go. Because if they knew where they were, they can actually go and grab them. I’m sure you know about, I’m sure the listeners know about this island of plastic that has gathered because of how the current is in the ocean in a certain point. But if you knew how things are moving, you could go and do something about it.

So that was the primary idea. I can also mention, we worked together with one of the largest companies in US waste management. So all the systems of waste collection are designed, are a century old. So how do you actually create something that is based on today’s data? How waste collection should happen is not really… Like in the Nordics, you have these three colors of bags, and you put things almost there, and you think everything is done. It’s not done. The moment you throw away your garbage, it starts to move in a city sanitation system. And sometimes it moves for days and months.

So one of the videos… So we won one of the NSF visualization challenge in the US. We invited about 3000 people to come to Seattle Public Library, and tag whatever they wanted to throw. These could be things like diapers, e-waste, anything you wanted to track or something that was of value, or maybe it could be your boyfriend or girlfriend as well, and you wanted to see how they move. The moment you put the structure-

Tom White:
It’s a bit worrying.

Musstanser Tinauli:
Privacy [crosstalk 00:05:49].

Tom White:
Yeah, I get it. But then you have something similar on Find My iPhone, and you have the ability in a way. But anyway, sorry. Carry on.

Musstanser Tinauli:
Yeah. So if we spoke just about Trash Track, our time is not enough. So I’m trying to summarize things as well as we go.

So that was the idea, that we build something to track trash, and make an influence on people’s behavior.

Because let’s say you take a coffee cup. Now you go to a coffee shop, you bring the coffee, and then you throw it away. For you, this is it. What if this coffee cup could talk to you and say, “Hey, I’m here,” two days later, “Hey, I’m still here,” three days later, “Hey, I’m still here.” Now you throw at least one coffee cup every day. What would that be? So we believe that would create a behavioral change among masses. So those were some of the primary ideas.

How can IoT combat Climate Change?

Tom White:
Yeah, I really see that. And it’s accountability to the throwaway culture that we have, and that we’ve had for a long period of time.

Clearly, now there’s a big movement behind single-use plastics, isn’t there? And we’ve started seeing in fast-food restaurants, where they’re using cardboard straws. I really liked that idea, actually, the accountability aspects of saying, I’m still here, I’m still gathering that. Now, I’ve got my buddy with me, and then there’s a whole collection of us. Why don’t you use a reusable cup?

That’s really interesting. Yeah, thank you for that. I mean, besides that, obviously, climate change is a huge challenge. It’s affecting awareness of life on this planet. What are the potentials of IoT, in your view to combat this? And what are you doing specifically HAYK and Fori to turn or combat some of these issues?

Musstanser Tinauli:
Okay. So the first thing first is, if you really want to go out there, and now we hear a lot of talk about circular economy as well.

For circular economy to truly happen, you need a system which collects every waste, and then either recycles it, upcycles it, or just reuse it. And there is a very important thing to make circular economy happen that is your own behavioral change, like the reduce thing.

So it’s very important to do a [inaudible 00:08:22] around it, and start at each level. You know what can be done, for example, with plastic is, now you can convert plastic into different products, and also you can make fuel out of it. So at least it is nothing is going to be wasted anymore. It’s very, very important.

Tom White:
Yeah. And I think that, that in itself, is a real area to IoT, which is kind of, only in my humble opinion, in my vision of what I do, it’s kind of undernourished a little bit.

A lot of people talk about monitoring assets, be that freight, equipment, farming, utilities, IoT from warehouse perspective to connected devices and wearables. But the climate change [inaudible 00:09:19], and the efficiency of managing issues when it comes to this throwaway culture that we have, is something that people don’t talk about a lot. So it’s really interesting to know that you’re focusing on that.

Can IoT have an adverse effect on the environment?

Do you think there’s many ways in which IoT maybe could have an adverse effect perhaps on the environment?

Musstanser Tinauli:
Okay. Quite a lot of people talk about it. In the end, we will have smart dust, for example, and what is the future of IoT.

But I don’t know what kind of listeners we have here, so I often get this example. You take a glass, you give this ability to be trackable and traceable.

That’s essentially IoT. And then we started hearing over the years smart XYZ. Essentially, what anything smart does is when you start adding some sensors on top of it, so it can sense how much water is in the glass. Is it warm or not? Is it boiling? And then you can do a million things around it. Now, when you’re tracking an object, it gives you the ability to know its journey.

When you know the journey, you can calculate a lot of things. For example, how much energy it is consuming, how much CO2 it is producing? And if it was just the trash, after you have used the object, then you can also calculate what was the energy used or utilized to take it to dismantle whatever the object was.

So only when you can understand where everything is, when you know where things are, you can do something with it. So I believe it’s going to be essential to know where everything is for a real IoT world to happen.

So the challenge we went when we did Trash Track was initially the tracker was quite big. And we realized it would cost us like around $100 to make a tracker. And that is just not feasible on the long run. But we learned that a combination of, for example, RFID trackers, together with some real time trackers, that combination can work, because things can then talk to each other as well.

So when objects are talking, they would know their health, for example, then you would know what to do with them, where to take them, what’s the best route. All of these things, so the whole system starts working better.

Well, your question was, what are the negatives of this, for example? Microfiber, and pretty much all the water we know, today. Because plastic, the new problem with plastic is not what the plastic you can see, it’s the plastic you cannot see. So that also presents a massive challenge to our health and how we grow.

But the best way of explaining if IoT is harmful, is if you have that heart attack, they inject you with this thing. I’m really bad with names sometimes. And to see if any veins are closed. It has more benefit than harm.

How can we promote the change towards sustainability through IoT?

Tom White:
Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s an interesting question that I asked you. Because obviously, there’s loads of benefits. Sometimes it’s nice to know about the adverse side of this, if there ever is.

You’ve mentioned a couple of times about what type of listeners that we have. And I think, to answer that succinctly, at the moment, we have a lot of technical people listening in, previous guests and people aware of that.

But the aim really is to get across in layman’s terms of benefits of IoT to the everyday person on the street, and what that really, really means.

And I guess, given what you’re doing within your businesses and your position, how can we make people more aware of IoT solutions and promote change towards a more sustainable way of life? What do you think that we can do to in order to promote this further?

Musstanser Tinauli:
I think one of the most important things to realize is that Europe alone, creating any smarter solution for Europe alone is just not enough. You have to take the emerging economies, South Asia, Southeast Asia, all together in this. Because I’m in Oslo right now, the whole population of Norway is 5 million people. Even if we do something remarkable, it’s just not enough.

But something really good happened recently. But I’m really sad about COVID. But it did show us something really powerful that we can change overnight. I think that is one takeaway we must take from COVID. We knew this is the only solution the next day everything was shut. We saw clear rivers, really clean environment, the AQI improved around the world. And cities like Bombay, and Karachi, and Islamabad even, it was just so clear.

So, this was one important recognition that we can change given we know we have no other option. Environment is a massive crisis. And the air would not be- You know, if you look at some any of the apps which are out there to see the world AQI, so many cities in the world it’s not breathable, it’s beyond red. It’s important. I think people only change when they know, there is no other option. They need to know how important it is. But I hope Americans would be joining the Paris Agreement again. About emerging economies, I think it’s important that the Western world or let’s say, the more advanced world, rather, they help the emerging economies not to make the same mistakes.

We all know, with the accent of industrialization, everything changed. We started consuming much more, we started creating much faster, but that had a negative impact on the society, because we transform from need-based to want-based society.

Now with IoTs, and the ability of tracking and tracing everything, taking everything, to a motivated, we don’t need to own anything anymore. I think now we’re into technology is for the first time in the history, we can reverse the whole negative impacts of the industrial revolution.

Tom White:
It’s a bold statement, but potentially, I agree with you. And I think it’s all very well and good, western countries adopting solutions and what have you.

But it’s the emerging economies, and areas of, let’s say a lower GDP, countries that may not be as forward-thinking in terms of technology solutions, that really need to adopt. We had someone on the show recently that was saying that, in general, cellular connectivity is only 25% of the world. I’d never think that myself. I’ve had mobile phones since I was 16, 17 years old. So for me, it’s just normal.

So I think you’re right in saying, you’re in a beautiful country in Oslo, but again, it’s a blip, really in the whole scheme of things, isn’t it? And it’s until that widespread adoption really comes in and people can understand what solutions can do for them, that is really [inaudible 00:17:28] changing.

Musstanser Tinauli:
Absolutely. I never answered you, what I do. So the first startup, the first bigger startup, I would say, I failed quite a lot of times, but Fori, Fori was the first thing that I really launched, and that got some scale. And the reason why I did Fori, I was again, living in Oslo. I moved back to Pakistan, because I said, “Okay, I really want to focus on creating Smarter Cities, sustainable livelihoods. But if I do it in Norway only, it’s just 5 million people.” I mean, the whole Norway adopts whatever we built, the impact is just not there. You do something like that in a country like Pakistan, or any emerging market, the impact is massive.

I went back and there was just so many… Even today, as you were saying, this number, half the world is still offline. Here we’re talking about IoT and what it can do, but the fact is, people do not have access to internet. So the half the world does not have access to internet.

So that startup was focusing on gig economy. And how do you bring people who do not have technology to do reach internet, to get incentives of internet? So, it’s massive. It’s very important to recognize these small things. And with the current startup that we also recently closed, a raise more than a million-dollar, it’s focusing on transportation mobility, really.

And mobility is one vertical that really excites me a lot. It excites me because mobility can go 100% circular from tomorrow. And one of the reasons you can really do this is the power of IoT. I would love to explain why I say that. So there are these several devices. Actually, every guy now has some kind of a GPS device in it. You add few features to it, like opened or closed or get basic telematics, and you have a smart-ish car.

Now you can also install some kind of third party box to a car, and still get access to opening doors, closing doors, or sharing the car with someone else. And mobility is one sector which can be really 100% circular from tomorrow.

Now, there are very interesting facts around this. Car stand idle 90% of the time. Cars going in urban city centers, when you drive around looking for parking, you are a direct reason for creating a traffic congestion, or a jam from 35 to 50% of the time.

So it is massive. So it is critical to start interlinking how you think about mobility altogether. You would have seen a lot of these micro-mobility solutions being deployed. Alone, these are not enough. You really got to move more towards [inaudible 00:20:28] as a service, where you start focusing on the cars that are already there.

What will the future of IoT look like?

Tom White:
Yeah. I think… Well, first of all, congratulations on that, getting the funding and getting to where you are. I completely agree. There’s a lot of mobility projects happening at the moment.

And when we start talking, again, about autonomous driving level five, there’s still an oligopoly when it comes to enterprise-level systems with well known manufacturers. I mean, there’s a prominent one, obviously, in the Nordics. And there’s obviously the well known American firm. But I think there really is the chance to change this, and to impact and make something happen quite quickly with that.

That leads me really nicely to my final question, really, in the show today, Musstanser. We often ask people the same question, but it’s really interesting to see what the perspectives are from different people. But what is your vision for the future, specifically in HAYK? Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? And why should people take notice?

Musstanser Tinauli:
So, we have been trying to solve mobility in different ways. My starting point of talking about mobility is this Ford, really. Many years ago, Ford said, “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” I start my thinking, I’m a design thinker. I consult on that. So whenever I’m posted, given a question, I say, what would have Ford said about mobility today? Which is the non obvious solution?

What we are focusing on right now, we have a major goal. Our goal is not just to make cars smarter. That is not what you’re solving here. Our goal is to end traffic congestion in the cities. Now, how could you do that?

Now, it’s almost a proven fact that when you make one car shareable, any car shareable, it replaces up to 10 cars. Number one. Number two, when you park a car anywhere, it takes about 300 square meters of space. Now, you don’t only park the car at one spot. You park the car at home, at work, and when you go to a utility store. This is the space you’re wasting in the urban city center, which is very expensive, and very, very important.

And thirdly, when you’re talking about sharing your cars, the whole concept of a secured community also comes in. There are cities like Berlin where Uber is banned, because of security risks. So how can you overcome that, and give people this ease that they can share their cars?

So that is kind of the the challenge we are solving, and we really want to go hyperlocal in this. When I say hyperlocal, city-level deployment is not hyperlocal. It’s really, when you for example, you launch with one company which is there in nine countries, you do launching in 20 cities, 40 buildings, that’s level where you have to go to make this happen. So we really hope to contribute towards that and scale very quickly.

Tom White:
Do you know what, I’m confident given your background and your passion behind this, Musstanser. I think you’ll be okay. And I think you’ll be able to do it. So good on you.

But look, it’s been a pleasure having you on the show. I really, really appreciate it. It’s a little bit different to talk about the start a bit about climate change, and the sustainability element IoT. Something for me, it’s quite dear to my heart. So it was really nice to learn about that and of course about HAYK. So thank you very much for coming on. We really appreciate it.

Musstanser Tinauli:
My pleasure. Thank you for having me. And the last word before I go. The future of IoT is quantum sensors. That’s the level where you are going to go as the world moves forward. Thank you so much, Tom. Have a great day.

Tom White:
You too. Thank you Musstanser. Bye-bye.

Musstanser Tinauli:

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