In Episode 17 of The IoT Podcast, we are joined by Rob Van Kranenburg – the Founder & CEO of IoT Council. He is considered globally to be one of the most influential thought-leaders in IoT, renowned for his keynote talks on various topics in the Industry.

Rob has over 20 years of experience analysing the IoT environment to conjure deep meanings and trends in this exciting and fast-paced Industry.

In this episode, we delve into the mind of an innovative thinker- discovering:

 

    • The role of the IoT Council innovating the IoT landscape.
    • The construction in the meaning of IoT.
    • Which Industries will be most impacted by IoT in the coming years.
    • Possible negative impacts of an increasingly connected climate.
    • Advice to organisations looking to implement IoT into their business model for the first time.
    • How far we can really go with IoT in the future.

 

Episode Transcript

Tom White:
Welcome to The IoT Podcast Show. I’m your host, Tom Whites. Today we’re joined by Rob van Kranenburg. Rob is the founder of the IoT council and is considered to be one of the most influential thought leaders in the IoT space. Rob, thank you very much for joining the show today. It’s a pleasure to have you on,

Rob Van Kranenburg:
Well, thank you for having me. Thank you.

What is the IoT Council?

Tom White:
Very welcome. Well, obviously I know the IoT council and I’ve been a member for about a year and a half now. I think I was with the 500th member actually, but could you explain a little bit about your background in IoT and what made you start the IoT council?

Rob Van Kranenburg:
Yes. Well, my background is a bit irregular, I think, compared to most of what people work in IT, because we don’t have really, a technical background actually is quite different as in literature languages. And so in the eighties and nineties sort of we saw the internet coming as the backbone that we saw the web and started making websites.

And then around 2000 I was working in a program on media literacy and I found this conference and it said, “IQ, Intelligent Information Interfaces Building Tomorrow Today, it was a conference in Young Shipping in Sweden, and I went there. And that was the first time that I heard about Amy and intelligence and ubiquitous computing and pervasive computing and the disappearing computer. And it was three, 400 people there, and the graphic designers, architects, engineers, computer scientists, massively interesting bunch. But they all seem to believe that we would see kind of a world sort of which in their mind, infused with technology so that there was already envisaging some kind of a layer over everything basically.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
So that this notion of the digital twins a little bit that we have now, they already had that in their heads, sort of in a very early form. And I was simply shocked because I was all of a sudden dropped in this environment of these community people that had been basically working on these ideas for 50 years, basic automation, very, very below the radar, very backend, very automation type of thinking. And now there was sort of ready to come to the front. So they basically had outfitted everything with sensors in the backend and they were now sort of spilling it over into the real world. So they was showing all kinds of demos of smart environments and smart desks and smart fridges, which we had done also a lot, a lot of smart environments.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
To me that was just incredibly new and also incredibly scary because I felt that, if such a digital twin of the world was going to be built, it needed to be built with a lot more stakeholders, than the people who had been doing this prior to this, because they’d been optimizing very specific environments, wherever it was very specific tasks. And now that we’re going to optimize life sort of as it were. And I can recall that the first years, but after that, I was quite shocked. And then I was quite upset and thought, well, this cannot be just build with companies and corporate citizens have to be involved.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
And so I started reading and writing about it. And then 10 years later, 2009, 2010, I thought that’s sort of set up, a kind of very informal think-tank type of group where experts with people who are working on this on their own, because lots of people are finding all these things on their own, can sort of come together and share information. So that’s it, that’s how it started basically, and still is very below the radar kind of informal sharing of information between people who are now involved in building this kind of huge smart environment.

Tom White:
Yeah, absolutely. I think for me, it’s really interesting to see such a cross section of people in the council. And as a recording, I obviously referred someone to last week, someone I think that’d be really useful for the group and to share ideas both in an informal way, but also from commercial context as well, because I know a lot of deals always get done as well. Right. So, yeah. And certainly interesting with your background, most people that I speak to are either in my day-to-day or within the podcast, certainly have come from a technical background.

Tom White:
So it’s nice to see that you come at this from a slightly different angle, and that’s good because I think in my humble opinion, if the IoT industry is to grow with as much as it’s forecast to, then we’re going to need other people from other backgrounds in order to be able to work on this and to cross-train and to provide solutions, be that from a technical standpoint or not.

What Industries are benefitting the most from IoT?

Tom White:
So, yeah, it’s good to see. Rob, obviously we’re seeing a lot of trends about where IoT is heading. I’d be really keen to understand from your point of view where you think IoT is going to be growing in certain areas and what we expect to see the next decade as a really kind of prevalent solution in your eyes.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
Yeah, well, I think in order to understand sort of what it is IoT, I think you can picture it as the merging of four separate networks. So we have the body area network where you have all your wearables, and all the things close to the body. So you have all this information about health, and then you have the local area network, which is the home where you have the Smarthome. And that’s what we see. We saw a lot of activity in the cameras, in the nest and the thermostats, and trying to make this entire home into some kind of a model of convenience. And then there’s wide area network, which is the connected car, which is the car and transport, and traffic. And then you have the very wide area network, which is the smart city.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
So basically you have the body, the home, the car and the city. And so what we’ll be seeing is we’ll see more growth in any of all of these areas. And so doing IoT is, you see that you either sort of you’re going to be very focused on one of the specific offering in any of these areas. But other people are focusing on links in between. So for example, what Google has been doing from very early on is, they had all kinds of operators for the body that would then link into the nest, so that the home would know how you feel. They have a car and they’re in all the automotive association. So the car sort of is also sharing the data from the home and the body space.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
And then of course they’ve been investing in any library in the world and every open data initiative, not from their existence with Google.org. So, it’s basically three main areas, either you’re kind of focusing on one of the areas, wearables home, connected cars, or smart city applications, or you’re focusing on being the glue in between where you reap all the roads of interconnecting the data and offering a good dashboard to your clients, or you’re providing the connectivity.

And so we’ll see growth in all these three main domains of offerings, I would say sort of, we see growth in types of connectivity on the ground with LoRa, I think in the UK, there’s an 80 million kind of project started recently with providing LoRa sort of across the UK and sort of across England, an Alliance that started that.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
And then we see lots of satellite sort of works, that we see things happening on the ground with few things happening on satellites. And then, of course, there’s 5G has been talked about, that’s supposed to give massive push to a faster downloads of all kinds of applications to finally kickstart VR and AR and real life with all this massive, if it really gets off the ground, sort of all of that. So it looks like it’s very difficult to say that something is inevitable or that something will happen because we see, especially with things like COVID, we see all these unknowns. But it seems that even the unknowns are supporting sort of remote applications, and remote is exactly what is supporting COVID now will support sort of…

Rob Van Kranenburg:
It seems that this idea of creating a world in which every object, every person, every situation somehow has some kind of ghost or twin in a database. And you either as a person or as a script, or as an actor of some kind, are able to talk and interact with either the real person, or in real time, the digital replication or twin of that person or object, that that is something that is happening now. And it’s very difficult to find arguments sort of why you will not happen. So we had these arguments, like energy requirements. There’s a lot of work on battery, a lot of work on electric, a lot of work on finding other types of people sort of making their own energy with movement, and all of these things sort of. It’s not sort of foreseen that is energy requirements which is going to hold all these things.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
It’s also not foreseen. I would say that we have different generations that think radically different. I think if we look at the generations sort of active now, it seems that they’re very capable of moving on between all these environments. They’re not really calling for going back to analog. I mean, there’s some analog, but it’s not really as if they are that they’re saying we don’t want this, we want a different… It seems like everybody is sort of working with all the applications. So it looks like it’s here to stay. And that’s also what we see, I think in the investments that are being made.

Are there any Industries lagging behind in IoT?

Tom White:
Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s widely heralded that IoT is going to touch pretty much every industry, right. And there’s certainly industries that are more at the forefront of solutions. As you spoken about, especially with LoRa and the Career|Sigfox, for instance, industrial use cases. Do you think there’d be any industries that may not subscribe to some sort of IoT initiative or might be slightly late comers to joining an IoT based solution for their business? What businesses do you think that may be sort of a little bit behind some of the others that we said a moment ago?

Rob Van Kranenburg:
Well, I think, especially with what we’ve been seeing lately with the enormous amount of hacking activity and all these things, sort of security and cybersecurity is a paramount factor of deciding sort of what are you going to put online and whatnot. So what we will see in what we are seeing more and more is these kind of going back to this old SCADA, stand-alone solutions, where people actually close off, at least build a very strong walls between the activity that they have and the internet. I mean, that doesn’t mean that they are not kind of digital or IoT type of solutions. It’s just that they are building, let’s say, sort of small internets that are not completely connected. But I would say that it’s quite inconceivable that any type of industrial activity of industrious activity of people will be able to be exempt or to escape from this need to interact.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
So it’s kind of what we’ve been seeing with the success of Open-source. So that’s one parallel, I would say, with this entire need for connectivity. If you build very small or focused niche solutions that are closed, then you’ll find that you need to find a very, very dedicated clients sort of that, but it’s not what kind of Open-source it’s really A to world in that respect. And that’s because people understand that in order to survive, you have to be part of an ecosystem. You have to partner up. You cannot partner up if you have very different type of operating are very, very closed ways of working, because then you can’t really share.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
So I would say, I mean, if you would have a look now at the situation, I think you would, you would say more things like, “What on earth have we done in the past 150 years? How is it possible that we built these kind of stand-alone armies of companies or 400,000, 500,000 people that sort of acted like big armies, that created these brands that basically nobody cares about? We just want appliances that work. I just want a fridge that sort of doing what it’s supposed to do. I don’t care what name is on it. I’m not really interested in sort of what kind of brand it is. It’s simply sort of do its job.” And so I think IoT and the large ecosystems and the partnering, and simply going down to the offering of what the appliances should do is actually showing that this is the normal situation of, where you have this kind of cooperation and coopetition where, of course I have competitors, but are competing on niche kind of offerings.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
But we’re not going to compete on 80% of sort of building the things like, how the Germans are not doing automotive and all the big car manufacturers are using the same building blocks and the same, that nobody’s going to build its own and fully owned. People are sharing a lot of their hardware and hardware innovation. And then at some point, I mean, you’re going to really perfect your own specific offering. I mean, it’s really showing that, that is not actually this situation which is kind of strange. It’s actually strange how from the industrial revolution, sort of we went into these risks. We sort of spent so much energy in people doing the same things, and not working together, sort of not cooperating from the start. And so I would say, this is what is happening now is actually quite tuned to how industrial activity should work in a way.

Tom White:
Yeah. Thank you, Rob. I think you’re right. I mean, most industries are going to combine together and use IoT as a platform. And I like your analogy to Open-source, right? There was a big move to Open-source 20, 30 years ago. And unless I think there was a specific defense related type project or something whereby it’s done in a silo. It’s probably hard to see, isn’t it that why businesses wouldn’t want to adopt? We’re certainly looking to strategies around IoT and IoT initiatives.

How can businesses implement IoT into their supply chain?

Tom White:
I mean, given obviously the councils, I think last count was about 552 members from various different fields, but seed stage businesses up to enterprise companies, what would be your advice for people wanting to implement IoT into their business for the first time, be that a corporate body, or even an initial startup business? What are the key take-homes that someone would want to bear in mind when starting this out?

Rob Van Kranenburg:
Well, I think sort of there’s a lot of sort of ways that we’ve seen. And so if you would have asked this question, sort of, let’s say a decade before, things are moving extremely fast, we would see that a lot of industries and lots of companies would develop in-house solutions and they would sort of look at what they have now. And then they would look at how all of that, what they have now would look in some kind of digital form offering, then they would look at how do we get there? They weren’t actually looking at what would my offering look like a few years from now, if this whole environment is going virtual or digital, because that means that you may have to offer something that’s quite different from what your sort of thing that you need to replicate now, when there’s digital or virtual form, because that may be not sort of…

Rob Van Kranenburg:
And as people were thinking along those lines, then the key bit became storage, and sort of because then what do you do with, or are you going to also have that in-house and sort of like that. And that was the moment for the big, let’s say cloud providers to basically, to rise like the… I mean, it’s like [inaudible 00:19:57]. So when you look at the situation now, is very much the cloud providers are going to determine a lot of what you’re actually going to do. If you want to start now, sort of doing all that. But we’re also nearing a little bit, it looks like the end of that big wave, because people also realize that if you would go to these giants, like the Azures or the Amazons or the Ali sort of babas, or sort of all of those.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
And if you go to them, you’re not really sure what you’re doing, then sort of within a few years, they will actually tell you what to do because your entire operation will be datafied to such an extent in the formats that are being offered. It’s nothing wrong with this. It’s just reality, sort of like that, that sort of the wisdom that comes from that, and the idea and sort of then the analytics and the algorithms there are not coming from you, but they’re coming from them, sort of in a kind of horizontal way showing you the kind of way forward, is that you’re becoming a kind of you’ll be tied in that ecosystem sort of very much.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
And so it’s very much, if you would start now, you might as well ask, what do I want really? Do I want to live actually? Sort of do I want to have this company? And what do I want with it myself, because all the expertise and skills that you’ve had to build it so far and have to be matched with some generic and horizontal skills that you don’t have. So who are going to trust in order to sort of to do that? And then I think from what we see is that, if you go with one of these big ones, that you may not exist in three to five years anymore, and especially not in the form which you are now, but you may not even exist at all, because you’ll be taken up in the kind of general offering in some kind of solution.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
So the old question 10 years ago is, am I going to make my product smart or somebody else will do it for me? And is now already past basically I would say. And if you really have to ask this question now, you’re in a lot of trouble. I mean, if it’s only now that you actually realize that this is happening, then either you’ve had a very, very niche offering with a very dedicated group of people are sort of a buying that. But then at the end of this wave of, let’s say, big cloud people are now beginning to understand that you can also be more clever and sort of ask yourself, okay, so what are the essential points from which my data grows and where the value is?

Rob Van Kranenburg:
So where’s the value coming from all of that data? And so how can I pack and I actually protect what I actually, actually, actually offer that nobody else has, which is my specific value adding sort of moment. And then you can protect that. You can try to protect that specific position of where that data grows into the value that really no one has that you can have. And this becomes more possible because if you’re able to identify as, let’s say, these hotspots of where this value is, that you’ll need to want to protect, then you can actually much more easily nowadays make these hotspots real in a sense that, than instead of thinking about putting everything on the cloud, you sort of build smaller clouds, which we can call the edge, which people are calling the edge. So you can do a lot more analytics.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
You can do a lot more meaning, very, very close to these sources, because if you move those sources to do more to architectures, when you embed a lot of basically architectures on chips where you can actually do a lot more of all of that, that somebody else was doing for you. You can do it more closely. And we see a lot of companies, with a lot of domain expertise, moving into these areas where they go to the edge, where actually you decide, this is what I need to protect. And then you go from an analog or an environment that’s already a little bit digital, and you turn that digital environment into a new environment where you basically, from the chip onwards, start building every new layer on that chip. I mean, then you have to secure these wealth, but yeah, it’s all becoming more tailored, I would say sort of… Yeah. I realize it sounds a little very abstract anyway.. But yeah, I think that’s what’s happening sort of.

How will IoT evolve in the future?

Tom White:
Yeah, well, I completely agree. It’s really adopting everything in and every one and every industry. And if I’d have asked you that question, let alone 10 years ago, five years ago, it might still have a slightly different answer. Right. And I think given the possibility of moving forward, it really is endless. Just very briefly, Rob, so my final question to you today, obviously we talk about endless possibilities here, endless things that we can achieve of IoT. What is the one thing that you’re really looking forward to, moving forward, that it can bring? Something that you’re really excited by, that you could share with our listeners?

Rob Van Kranenburg:
Well, I think that’s also the reason why I’m so interested in this, and this is about quality decision-making, that’s what it is. That’s what IoT to me is. And so we’re moving the kind of the decision-making onto a layer where we say, “Look, you don’t have to trust me from my blue eyes. You don’t have to trust me because I have a hundred million. You don’t have to trust me because I’m a King, I’m rich or whatever.” Sort of, we go to a certain domain and there’s some kind of agreement on what’s quality information, what’s not. And then we try to build that layer with as much as objectively identifiable data points. And of course, there’s always going to be discussion because we can say, “Well, you’re measuring wind. And so why would you measure wind?” The blah, blah, blah, you’re measuring this, you’re measuring that.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
But let’s say we’re measuring lots of points. And we’ll say we can come to a certain agreement saying, “Look, we’ve been measuring these things now, can we decide for a little while that we call this reality for a while?” And that’s how we’re going to move forward. So we’re not going to move forward because I hit you on the head harder than you hit me. And we’re not going to move forward because I got a billion dollars and you haven’t. We’re going to move forward on the basis of this transparent kind of relationship. That’s to me, the reason why we should have all of this in everything.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
And so what I’m basically working on is trying to get that level of quality decision-making in politics, because that’s really the thing that is bugging me for quite some time now. And that’s also why I’d sort of buy some interested at the moment, so very much in identity and digital identity solutions and self-sovereign identity type of situations, which I think is going to be quite big, not just for people, but also for objects. So it’s the whole notion of identification is going to be paramount. But the key for me is that, how on earth are we now in a situation where any in every industrial activity is now becoming quite loose from this moment of let’s say ego or money or all of that sort of like, when you go to your clients, when you talk about having certain solutions and you say things like, I think we should do it because I think it’s best. It’s not going to work. You’re not going to sell this solution. You got to prove it to a certain point.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
So what I find really important is to get across that, the kind of transparency that we have in industrial systems is a kind of transparency that we should have in any form of decision-making. And that’s kind of the thing that is now, I think I find very worrying, especially with all the things going on there and politics, we have a situation in which we basically pay taxes to systems and to people in these systems, that are organized in parties. These parties are being paid by the system because sort of like… It’s kind of a strange situation where, of course these parties would uphold this model of, let’s say, representative democracy to a certain extent.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
And so we are in a situation where the most important form of decision-making is something that we as people outsource to in one vote every four years. I imagine I would go to a connected car developer and I would say, “I would like you to give me one input every four years. And I will sort of base all the decision-making like, or provide some algorithms, and I just need one input every four years.” It’s not going to work. We need real time situations and real-time input. And that’s also what we need in these bigger forms of decision-making. They should not be exempted from that. And so that’s what I like about IoT. I think what we see and what we will see is that, we will get a lot more fairness, a lot more objectivity, a lot more transparency, a lot more, you provide good services, of course I will pay for these good services. Of course I will, but I will not pay for bad services and I will not pay for those services. I’m sorry.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
So all of these things that we find really normal and natural in the way that the people doing business and industries working, I think will spill over into these larger forms of decision-making. Again, sort of it’s only in a positive way. So I don’t want to add any negativity to all the negativity around. There’ll be insane because there’s no need for that. So I see all of that happening. So I’m very positive that what we are seeing now in lots of political developments is the last kind of dying breath of these old systems trying to still act as if they can sort of act with respectability and with some kind of a decency, and basically, through their actions, they’re showing that that’s not the case.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
So, instead of new, old days, you would have to put energy in trying to remove them and then come with new things. We don’t have to do that now. We just have to continue buildings good services on all these layers of what we’re doing. And then we’ll gradually, basically, overtake this entire field. And that’s what I really like about it. So, also these notions and discussions about control or not control. I mean to me, they’re not really relevant in the sense that, let’s keep all the cameras, let’s keep all this tracking, all this tracing and tracking of everything basically, it’s not a problem in itself as long as the data coming from that, are basically open to anyone, or to new forms of governance.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
And I’m seeing a lot of work in the direction of these new forms of governance. We’re seeing it in finance, with Blockchain type of solutions that are happening. And of course, Bitcoin is now upfront of that, but Blockchain is underneath and sort of it’s spilling over. We see it in the field of insurance and sort of all of that is where a lot more different type of delegated, decision-making sort of, this is going on in the FinTech business. So everywhere is happening. And so I think it’s not the notion of we’re building control systems. No, we’re building systems actually to base very good decisions on. And I think that will show through in the coming years, that more people will see that it’s not the connectivity itself that’s an issue, it’s the quality of decision making coming from there. And so in my case, I’m very positive.

Tom Whites:
Rob, thank you so much for joining us today. We really appreciate all your insights into this. It’s been great talking to you and we wish you the very best in grow in the IoT council and everything that you’re looking to do there and stay tuned to the podcast and listen to the further releases as and when they come out. But we really appreciate your time. Thank you for coming on.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
Well, thank you for having me and have a great Christmas and fantastic 2021. Thank you.

Tom Whites:
Thank you, Rob.

Rob Van Kranenburg:
Thank you.

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