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In episode 18, we are joined by IoT logistics leader Erich Hugo, the Managing Director- Business Innovation at DeltaTrak, a company leading IoT cold chain management and temperature monitoring solutions.

Erich is widely recognised as a major mover and shaker within global IoT innovation, transforming the food supply chain across the planet.

In this episode we explore the fascinating industry of logistics, lensing in on the perishable supply chain, and how Real-Time Loggers are helping to solve mass food waste.

We discover how IoT is reshaping the food industry- Find out:

  • Erich’s Background in IoT and what inspired him to develop Real-Time Logging solutions for food waste : 01.04-19-59
  • What are the DeltaTrak Real-Time Loggers, How do they work to prevent food waste across the supply chain? 19:59​-27:40​
  • An example of how Real-Time Logging has worked to find the reason and create the solution for rotting avocados in transit 27:40​-31:04​
  • How can we change habits to combat food waste 31:04​-36:19​
  • What is in store for the future- how will Real-Time Loggers evolve? 36:19​-48:00​

Episode Transcript

TOM WHITE:
Welcome to The IoT Podcast Show. Today I’m joined by Erich Hugo. Erich is the Managing Director of Business Innovation at DeltaTrak, leading the way in cold chain management and monitoring solutions. Erich is generally considered a bit of a mover and shaker in the IoT industry.

TOM WHITE:
Erich, thank you very much for coming on the show today.

ERICH HUGO:
Am I a mover and shaker or is DeltaTrak a mover and shaker?

TOM WHITE:
I think you both could be, right?

ERICH HUGO:
Well, I hope my boss heard that so that he can give me a raise.

TOM WHITE:
No problem, no problem. We’ll send him the link once we’re done with the show.

ERICH HUGO:
Perfect, thanks for having me, Tom. It’s fun being here and any opportunity to have a chat about myself is always great, you know.

What is your background in IoT?

TOM WHITE:
Very true. Erich, for our listeners that don’t know you or don’t know DeltaTrak, could you just explain a little bit about your background in IoT and what brought you here today?

ERICH HUGO:
A little bit goes a long way back. I was born and raised on the East Coast of Africa, in KwaZulu-Natal. Where my family lives and comes from and where my heart is. And I had an introduction into, let’s say, computing around about 1979, 1980. I know I look very young but I have been around the block a while. And my dad took me to his work and they had installed a Wang computer, which at that stage was like the big thing because there was this new thing called mainframe computing that was going to take over the business world. And it was a mainframe computer with a lot of, let’s say, desktop applications all over the show, all around the building. And I remember the IT guy telling me that this is the future, you know, connected computing is going to be really great. And two years later Apple was released and the PC, the IBM came untoward and killed mainframe computing, basically.

ERICH HUGO:
But I fell in love with computing as a hobby and it also depends on how you see IoT. IoT has been with us from the beginning. Somewhere it’s been just connected computing and that’s basically just getting things going. But my love started in gaming. I got the Thor 2800 then got the ZX Spectrum with my older brother…

TOM WHITE:
Do you still have them?

ERICH HUGO:
No, but I still have the emulators and I still game a lot.

TOM WHITE:
Okay, alright.

ERICH HUGO:
And things like that. Upgraded to a 286 DSX in the late 80s but then I went to study law in 1989, 1990. Made a hash of that. Went to South African army because all the white boys at that stage because of the apartheid regime still had to go into military service.

ERICH HUGO:
Came out, realized that the legal world is not for me but didn’t know what I wanted to do but I’d always been dabbling in computing because my older brother is an electronic engineer and he’s always had the goodies at home and stuff like that.

ERICH HUGO:
And then, went backpacking across Europe for two years. Saw the launch of Oasis here in the UK, live and it was just amazing. Came back to South Africa, decided to become a grown up and decided to go work for my brother.

And that’s where the journey started in 1995. And he launched a company called Intermixed, which was an ISP. And while all the big companies in South Africa went to go and focus on the big cities like Cape Town, Durban or Johannesburg we couldn’t compete with them because they had marketing budgets. So my brother in his wisdom decided, lets go and sit on the edge of the Karoo in the Kalahari desert because there’s all these big mines and everybody always ignores these people and so on and we get them as customers.

ERICH HUGO:
So we wired, I don’t know how long you’ve been involved in the internet but with Trumpet WINSOCK was the default mode of connecting computers to the internet on Windows computers, in those days Windows 3.1. And Apple has always been too expensive for South Africa, it’s not really mainstream in South Africa so it was Windows by default.

ERICH HUGO:
And connected all those mines but it’s very boring living in the desert. It sounds very glamorous but it’s not.

So I started chatting online. Met a woman who was doing her PhD in the Ethics of Genetically Modified Food at Uppsala University and we fell in love in ’95, ’96. And my parents couldn’t understand how you can fall in love with a woman on the other side of the planet and via the internet. Got a shrink to come and speak to me. Can’t you meet a woman in a bar like every normal human being? But then I built up quite a few, lets say, gems on my CV at that stage.

ERICH HUGO:
For instance, I launched one of South Africa’s first e-commerce websites. Where we sold headstones, gravestones via online for our customer. Because South Africa, I don’t know who bought it at that stage but it seemed like a good idea.

ERICH HUGO:
So I moved, threw my CV online, got a job in Moscow in Russia and in Amsterdam but I thought I knew Western Europe at that stage and wanted to see the great empire before it became too westernized. So I went to live and work in Moscow Russia in ’96, ’97. The woman from Sweden came over, we fell in love. Still together, two kids later, moved to Sweden and got my first job programming intranets for corporations. Built one of Ericsson’s first intranets, 1999.

ERICH HUGO:
So, self educated, studied further via University of California Berkeley, remote long distance education. And then just rolled from there because I had this web background.

ERICH HUGO:
And then I got this phone call from Nokia in 2001. And they said, ‘Well, we’re going to launch this new product, it’s called the Nokia Media Terminal, which is a Linux setup box. But we’re going to build a Mozilla browser onto it’.

Now, this is 2001, you have to remember this is really early. And we need someone who can understand, we’re a bunch of hardcore electric engineers and electronic engineers but we need somebody that could really build this ecosystem of content via the Mozilla browser onto the setup box.

ERICH HUGO:
And I mean, this was revolutionary, building Linux setup box in 2001 was just out of the ordinary. You could play, you could record shows and everything like that. And they would build these native apps into the system to, for instance, record TV and I was like, we can do that web technology and just layer a transparent layer via the Mozilla browser onto the screen and record everything with the same quality. And they were like, ‘Ah, you can do that?’.

ERICH HUGO:
Stayed with Nokia, launched music kits for them, built quite a few innovative solutions. Started my own company in 2009 called ITG. I was invited by a good friend of mine to join the now very famous company called Zound Industries, which is the makers of the Marshall headphones that you see everywhere and stuff like that.

They signed an agreement with Marshall, I think they’re up in Milton Keynes, to make the Marshall headphones and I was on the board there for five years while running my own consulting agency.

ERICH HUGO:
And always in this crossover, I never knew what I did. I thought I did rapid business development, which is now called design thinking. And then I, in ancient times you discover you always have your spirit animal but in modern times I’ve got my spirit YouTuber. And it’s a British guy called Tom Scott, I don’t know if you know him?

TOM WHITE:
No, no.

ERICH HUGO:
And if you don’t know, this is a shout out to Tom scott.

TOM WHITE:
Okay.

ERICH HUGO:
And he did a webcast or a show called the art of boging. Now, there’s this great English word called bodging, which is people that basically slap things together and make magic. And I realized, he’s a technical bodger and I’m a business bodger.

And as an IoT you’ve got edge computing now coming to the, in business you’ve got edge business, which is kind of the business equivalent of edge computing in IoT. But it’s people on the periphery of tall these different technologies that put them together into mixtures that do things and do magic things. And I’ve done it. I’ve built mobile phones for two companies, custom made mobile phones. I’ve built connected speakers, I’ve built air purifiers.

What was always the leading question in everything that I developed was more the application rather than the IoT technology. In the case of the air purifier, we said we need to save people’s lives. People are dying of air pollution. I actually saw in Britain right now that it had registered it’s first case of official cause of death, was a eight year old girl who had died of air pollution. She had to walk in London to and back from school and she had a severe asmatic attack.

What drove your interest in logistics?

ERICH HUGO:
So there was a case for technology to address the situation. To 2014 I launched my first real IoT company, before I was more into M2M companies and stuff like that, when it was called machine to machine. Like connected speakers, like connected headphones, like connected things. But then we launched our first IoT company called MOST which was a hub which we’d put in the back of containers that measures five key data points.

And what was interesting is that the idea was born, my little brother exports fruits, citrus to Europe and to Russia and everything like that. And we were getting pretty plastered at one of his farm in South Africa once and he got a phone call from St Petersburg were the quality controller phoned him and said, “listen, we’re sending back this container from the other side of the world because everything is rotten.”

ERICH HUGO:
And I asked him what happen and he said, “You know, I know I can solve this. I know they’re probably lying to me or they’ve got a better vendor…,” because he was carrying the whole risk, “…but if I could just get a Nokia mobile phone on the inside of that container all the way then I can see what went wrong”.

ERICH HUGO:
So he had this idea and because I’m a business bodger, I went wait a minute, let’s get a bunch of people together and see if we can actually build a prototype on putting something inside a container. And I was surprised because all these big companies, like DeltaTrak and everything like that, didn’t really focus on what they now call realtime logging.

I just took off the shelf components and built a unit, got my ex friends at Nokia to design it for me, got another friend to build the website for me, the cloud solution and everything and mixed it into a bowl and created this real time logging company that’s now available in over 158 counties and logging the inside.

ERICH HUGO:
I left that company in 2019 mainly because if you have a hardware company you have to spend a lot of money, it’s expensive and it had run its course and I got contacted by a chap from Silicon Valley called Fred Wu, who is a privately owned company. And he said listen, I’ve drawn so much inspiration of your journey, that IoT journey that you made. Don’t you want to become our business innovator and help us enter this new world. And that’s where I ended up right now.

ERICH HUGO:
So, what am I? I’m a business bodger that makes mixtures inside the IoT environment. I’m technically well gifted enough to understand the technology and I go against the mainstream quite extensively because I know technology companies in the IoT industry they want to sell their technology. They don’t really care about the actual applications. They say they do but the fact is that and I see it right now…

ERICH HUGO:
You have to interrupt me Tom because I’m just going off here, right now.

TOM WHITE:
No, it’s okay. It’s all good.

ERICH HUGO:
Technology companies right now are going off on 5G and Sigfox and everything like that but they’re not really solving, those technologies are not solving the questions that IoT can actually address.

TOM WHITE:
Yeah.

ERICH HUGO:
What are the questions that IoT needs to address and then decide which is the relevant technology. The only appropriate global wide area network IoT platform that I am prepared to swear by is still 2G network. And the funny thing is that we’re going now, I look at, for instance, chipsets that I have to buy and they go, you have to have 4G and 5G and all that stuff and so on. And I go, great but my producers in Guinea Bissau or in Nigeria or wherever, they’re still ten to fifteen years away from 5G, you know.

ERICH HUGO:
And that’s where my journeys start. And it’s still so far away for them and you’re trying to put the technology in their hands that; a) they won’t use and b) it’s totally out of reach for them in terms of financial investment and things like that. And who’s going to carry these costs and stuff like that?

ERICH HUGO:
So they’re not really addressing the people that are at the beginning of the supply chain that need to deliver, for instance, to Europe. I mean if you go into a Tesco right now or I go into a Carrefour or Lider right now and I look at a product that comes from South America, it was probably packed in Ecuador or in Chile or things like that, probably by a person who probably delivered one pallet of that product to a bigger consortium or stuff like that. How, on heaven’s name, are they going to even carry the overheads of, let’s say, a 30 Euro product that needs to be added to the container? But it has got the latest technology, it’s got 5G and blablabla and its got great narrowband connectivity, its got Sigfox, blabla.

ERICH HUGO:
That’s not the point here, the point here is that I need to know that the fruit or the perishable is getting in a good condition here in Europe, or whatever the goods is.

So I made that transition from technology web to hardware to IoT and now into logistics. And its super interesting. And the thing that really got me about logistics is that what people don’t know, by some estimate, logistics is 1/3 of the global GDP. It’s massive, the industry in all it’s different facets. Of that massive chunk is perishables. I mean, we ship food all over the world from everywhere and everywhere. Of that perishable, 40% never reaches its intended market.

Let that sink in. So, we’ve got producers producing all over the world, 40% of that produce never reaches you sitting in your office in Bristol and it was intended.

TOM WHITE:
It’s a terrible waste, isn’t it? Right?

ERICH HUGO:
Its incredible. And yet the industry is profitable. So with a waste of 40% the industry is profitable. And I’m astounded by this. This means that it is one of the most profitable industries in the world. There’s nothing that comes close to it. Because if you can have a waste of 40% of your produce, either somebody is being exploited extremely somewhere or it is extremely profitable.

ERICH HUGO:
And then, so if you can address this waste via realtime logging and everything like that and you can bring it down by 10% year on year and things like that. I’m from Sweden, not now, I’m from South Africa originally but I’m Swedish now and I live in the Zeitgeist of this country and one of the my heroes is obviously Greta Thunberg, who’s a fantastic person who’s done more to save the environment than I could ever hope to.

And all her climate calls can be achieved if we stop wasting perishables. Because it will be less shipping, it will be higher profitability. So lets stop wasting food and we can actually achieve climate goals on the other side. How are we going to stop wasting food? Well, bringing technology into play.

ERICH HUGO:
So, technology from realtime logging, using AI to check the quality of food and so on and so on. Taking a photograph of a peach and see, okay, how far has it gone rotten. How much shelf life has it got left and everything like that. And I’m bodging all those solutions and making it into solutions in the logistics chain.

ERICH HUGO:
The world will, if I can get people excited enough about stopping food waste and I’m not talking… It’s great that people are recycling at home and everything like that. I’m not denouncing that but if you really, really want to affect and be good to the planet we need to sharpen our logistics chain. We need to get better at managing goods and realtime logging is the way to go.

What is the role of DeltaTrak as a business?

ERICH HUGO:
So DeltaTrak is this company that’s been around, Fred started this company 31 years ago. Still privately owned, it’s going like a train. I love working for privately owned companies because they’ve got a longer term vision than, let’s say, traded companies. They can really go, it’s based on a vision that everybody buys into and Fred’s got a great vision.

ERICH HUGO:
And we’re putting all these different elements, he didn’t build a multimillion dollar company by not being wise. He realized that there are certain elements and now he sees that IoT is going to change, well he saw it five years ago, IoT and blockchain and all those things are going to change the logistics industry. So he’s started to make all the strategic investments right now. And we’re bodging these things together into an environment that we feel is going to address this gap in the market.

TOM WHITE:
Yeah, I mean, it’s fantastic, isn’t it? Because you’ve touched upon there, obviously, what DeltaTrak do and the use of realtime logging. And I think the most poignant thing I’ve taken from that, Erich, is the fact that 40% of these perishable items never reach their destination. And we put so much focus on the end consumer to practice good recycling, good practice just around what you do with waste and management of waste but it seems fairly academic compared to the massive issue that you have at the supply chain side of things, right?

ERICH HUGO:
It’s incredible.

What is real-time logging?

TOM WHITE:
Yeah, so just go a little bit more deeper on that. Could you just explain a little bit more about the realtime logging within DeltaTrak. And what it is that you’re attempting to do with them to just stop this issue.

ERICH HUGO:
Well, we’ve got the abstract and then we’ve got, lets say, the pragmatic. The pragmatic is that we’re a company that wants to make data available. It has to be available to our customers, to the consumers to the whole supply chain.

What is happening inside the container? And not just the container, it’s anything that needs to be logged or tracked. And with that we’ve built a range of products that addresses certain verticals. We’re based in Silicon Valley so of course there’s two major food export areas in the world. It’s California, is one of the largest food exports in the world and Holland.

ERICH HUGO:
I mean, people don’t realize that Holland, I mean the Netherlands is the second biggest exporter of food in the world. Not only of their own produce but produce that actually comes via Rotterdam into the European Union and further east. So I believe that DeltaTrak, I mean, I’m fairly new with the company and Fred will probably rap me on my knuckles but DeltaTrak was born out of that need, of transporting perishables out of California to the rest of the States. And it was with dumb trackers which you put in. And very early in this journey we patented something called shadow logging.

So most logging has got something that you basically have to press a button, the user has to activate it. And remember, this logging is used in court cases, so it has to be with the right sensors, with the right connectivity methodology. Everything has to be stand up in the court of law. And shadow logging is basically a PDF log that goes on regardless of whether the customer presses the button or not. So when you retrieve the logger then you can still get the data of what has happened.

ERICH HUGO:
So we built a whole range of products that goes into containers whether it’s from perishables or whether it’s from dried goods or whether it’s from, on the airplane we’ve got flight mode. So it switches off it’s got the options when it goes on to airplane, so that you, as the receiver or the sender can see exactly where your cargo is, what is the condition of your cargo, what’s the temperature inside the cargo at different points, inside the container because, for instance, you can measure the temperature in the front of the container but the back of the container has got a different temperature. But if spoilage actually happens in the back it affects the front, so you need to measure the temperature, we call it two channel.

ERICH HUGO:
We’ve got various connectivity options. We try and create hardware solutions that actually fit our customer’s needs. Lots of technical denominations of these products but basically I would rather say, if someone had to contact me and say can DeltaTrak address the problem for me?

I’ll say, so what is your problem? And then I would go into my bodging book and I’ll speak to our CTO who’s a great young guy and he’ll say, okay but we can actually use this. We could change the interface like this and can put the product in there.

ERICH HUGO:
So you put a logger in the back of the container, it’s on a marine transport for six weeks. I mean, the fresh food that you, if you eat an orange from South Africa in a Tesco in Bristol then I promise you it’s been on the ocean for at least six weeks.

It’s a controlled environment. And then you can see, okay, the temperature went too high or there was light that came into the container because light starts the photosynthesis process. And all of this gives you a registration of, how are my goods, and it helps the logistics guys.

ERICH HUGO:
Importers have to carry the brunt of the losses if a retailer decides not to take a product. They can say, okay, you didn’t deliver on Monday morning 9 AM, so I’m going to go somewhere else. So the importer’s stuck with the goods.

And they can then still see, oh my container is in Las Palmas, maybe it’s time that I find a new buyer because the logger has basically let me know that, we’ve built a geolocation that basically things, says okay, now it’s close to that base station in Las Palmas, let’s me know here in Gothenburg that my container is basically two weeks shipping away. I’m not going to make my deadline, maybe it’s time to find a new buyer.

TOM WHITE:
Okay.

ERICH HUGO:
So, it’s things like that. I focus very much, I’m not technology savvy enough to really go into the details of which type of bads but I’m technology savvy enough to understand how it’s going to affect the business process.

ERICH HUGO:
And then, like I said, the logistics industry still uses the maritime laws from when Napoleon invaded Egypt, you know. It’s an industry waiting for disruption, really.

TOM WHITE:
Yeah, I mean, thank you there Erich. We’re expecting there’s quite a few people involved in massive tracking and monitoring of shipments and cargo, what have you. But it’s the first time I’ve heard someone in a real use case talk about the fact of, if you’re going to be late for a shipment, a delivery to a customer, you potentially can send that somewhere else to decrease that 40% amount that you talk about, right?

ERICH HUGO:
Exactly.

TOM WHITE:
And that’s fantastic, isn’t it? Really. Because it’s almost a little bit, not so much unfair but you hear a lot about this especially in the UK with farmers really being beholden to the supermarkets, right?

And if they’re late or something’s slightly deformed, that the carrot’s not straight then they reject it. And it seems to me like a really, dare I say it, fairly irresponsible approach sometimes from the supermarket chains to do that because it is just causing this waste and it is just causing these issues. And it doesn’t need to be, sometimes, right? And I’m sure this system will help that and try and find a solution.

ERICH HUGO:
Absolutely, Tom. I mean, I’m not going to put the blame at the supermarket’s feet-

TOM WHITE:
Neither am I, for the record.

ERICH HUGO:
Because all these companies just evolve from an Excel sheet where they have to show profit and loss. Is the supermarket’s goal to make money or to feed people. If you have a, if it is to feed people then you’re going to have a different strategy then just to basically make money

ERICH HUGO:
So all these small things have to come into play for everybody to come on but this new generation, the Greta Thunberg generation, they’re amazing. They’re filling me with inspiration because they actually want to make the world a better place for them it’s default state that things have to be sustainable whereas my generation, it’s very much Excel driven, bottom line and making the books balance.

Whereas the new generation says, wait a minute, I want to make money but I want to make enough money but I also want to make the world a better place. And I see that everywhere and I’m so grateful for my kids who are teenagers and early 20s right now. They are making these, they’re engineers and stuff like that but they’re making these small choices to make this better.

A case study of real-time loggers in action

ERICH HUGO:
But just to give you an interesting thing, there’s a country, I’m not going to name the country for fear of pissing off some other countries but they produce some of the greatest avocados in the world. So the buyers of avos go to these specific markets where they trade the avos in the local country. And they say, okay we want to buy, they get an order from Tesco, say we need three containers of avos and we want the best avos.

ERICH HUGO:
So they go to this market and this country makes really great avos, or produces great avos os they place an order. Six weeks later the avos get delivered to Bristol Tesco and they all want them. I’m giving you a real case of what happened.

So they came to us and they said, we don’t understand this. I mean everything is checked and so on. We need you guys to check out why this happened, we don’t know what’s happening. Because when they load it into the container it’s these beautiful vegetables or is it a fruit, avos are a fruit and it happens time and time again. From New York delivery to Berlin delivery to London delivery it all messes up.

ERICH HUGO:
So what we did, we put a realtime tracker into the back of the trucks when they got loaded and we got all this data back. And then we started realizing, okay, we’ve got a mexameter inside of the tracker and we started seeing, wait a minute, the truck is shaking quite hectically. Why is it shaking so much? Because we know if a avo starts bumping against each other, they start ripening, you initiate the ripening process.

We analyze the data, we came to the conclusion, wait a minute, somebody is driving on a dirt road. Most of the drivers from the city through the port, the city is in continent, the port is about 500 km away, they’re driving on dirt roads. Even though there are tarred roads, they don’t take the tarred roads they take…

ERICH HUGO:
Then we actually realized that the incentivization scheme for the truck drivers is to a) conserve fuel and hit time deadlines, right. So to conserve fuel they won’t take the main road, they won’t take the tarred road because they get bonuses for all the fuel that they save, right. So they save the fuel by taking the dirt road and then also the dirt road creates shaking and the avos ripen.

ERICH HUGO:
So we went back to the client and said, there’s your problem. Its not the IoT that’s going to save you, it’s not the trucking company, it’s the goals and the targets that the drivers have. You need to incentivize them in another way so that they stick to it because they’re all private contractors, you know. So you need to incentivize them in a different way to take the tar roads so that the vegetables and fruit doesn’t shake inside the container.

ERICH HUGO:
So, it was this real life problem here in Europe and in America of rotten avos was actually caused by the incentivization of a person on this continent who was basically saying, you have to save fuel.

ERICH HUGO:
So with realtime logging we put everything together. We’ve got this whole pool of data, we’ve got an amazing database, really fantastic database. With billions of data points where our data scientists just go in and they basically say, okay, we want to see how’s this hurricane affecting the traffic and so on. We can see these things in real time, it’s really great.

TOM WHITE:
Yeah. I think from what you said, the logging system is fantastic from a technological standpoint but I think what it could do as well is enhance the conscious effort for sustainability throughout this chain

ERICH HUGO:
Absolutely.

TOM WHITE:
Because I think everyone needs to play a part in this, right. I talked about the supermarkets earlier but if they do the logistics, the drivers, everyone and everyone is incentivized and has a metric against that , to do that, then this is what you know, is probably needed in order to[inaudible 00:31:59]

ERICH HUGO:
Yeah, I mean we can inspire consumers here in Europe and the USA and in China to recycle until the cows come home but if you, that is of the 60% that is being delivered. That doesn’t even address the 40% of perishables that have gone to waste.

TOM WHITE:
Exactly. And that’s what I mean, it’s fair, in a way. It’s not academic, it’s sadly such a massive amount that it really tips the scales, doesn’t it? So if we can address that side and culturally change people. I mean I hold my hands up, right? Ten years ago I probably didn’t recycle that much, right? But now I do. Now I’m so conscious about it and I’m so conscious about making sure that we are making use of food, ways of recyclable items and it’s pretty staggering when you think about it. Even in one household, right?

ERICH HUGO:
Yes, its incredible. I mean, it’s a whole lifestyle change. Our current society is built on the whole concept of growth and we need to grow differently. We need to grow our businesses differently. Here in Sweden there’s a massive trend of the kids right now. The fastest growing clothing chain, I mean, we’re the home of H&M but the fastest growing clothing chain is a second hand retailer that sells second hand clothes and stuff like that.

ERICH HUGO:
Because the recycling, how do we send clothes back to… I mean, if you’re in e-commerce, you ship a clothing item to a consumer, I don’t know how good e-commerce is actually for the environment because we don’t ship one container we ship a bucket load of small products. And that’s something that some PhD student still has to analyze, you know, the effect of e-commerce on the environment.

I’ve got my suspicions but second-hand clothing, second-hand goods, things like that and shifting second-hand goods between, in an open market for instance, not everybody needs the latest devices, you can get along quite well and you’ve got a rich country that basically gets rid of two year old devices. Why not just repurpose this in another market in a different way and stuff like that. It’s happening, it’s growing.

ERICH HUGO:
I also believe that we have to really start looking at our modular lifestyle. For ten years we’ve had this business model where and I take electronics as a reference point here, now everything is included in electronics. If you want to upgrade your camera on your mobile phone, you can’t, you have to upgrade your mobile phone.

ERICH HUGO:
I don’t know if you remember the PC revolution, it was Lego, it was candy, we built our own computers. We upgraded this component, that also led to a lot less of waste, you know. If you buy a laptop these days, the only way you can upgrade your screen is if you buy a new computer. And this goes for everything and our whole lifestyle.

Now we’re a bit off topic but for logistics, it’s going to play a role in all of that. It’s in how ship goods from one point and DeltaTrak is definitely, I mean, I admire the fact that they really want it.

ERICH HUGO:
I mean, I know that California is full of hippies and all that stuff and so on but these guys really want to make the world a better place. And they’re doing it effectively and they’re doing it constructively.

TOM WHITE:
Yeah, its fantastic, it’s something that I’m really passionate about in terms of tech for good and using IoT to make a more sustainable world. Rich Anthebrooke one of his, I don’t know if it’s his final documentary[inaudible 00:35:51] you can’t help but be moved by what he’s done, right? And the collision course that went with facing such. So it’s really inspiring to hear stories about this and general real world affects that it can bring.

You mentioned at the start, when you were talking about your background and we touched up about this in contact before, but when we talk about setup boxes, we talk about media we talk about entertainment, you know it’s fantastic but at the end of the day, it’s just TV. So, when you’re trying to do things that are actually changing things for the benefit of human kind it’s really, there’s a real feel good factor there.

What can we expect to see in the future in terms of real-time logging?

TOM WHITE:
Just on that note as well, Erich, I’m keen to hear what your thoughts are on kind of, where the future’s going with this? Where are we going to be in the future? Where you would like to see it happen. In the sort of not too distant future and then maybe longer term, what do you think we’ll see within an IoT revolution, specifically around solutions such as what DeltaTrak is doing with realtime logging?

ERICH HUGO:
Well, I think the biggest revolution is going to be the one that we don’t see and consumers are driven by things that are visible. But there’s a whole sub current and undercurrent of IoT that’s happening right now, which is in the industrial IoT.

ERICH HUGO:
So I’m going to tell you a story, for instance, the services industry. The services industry is going to be revolutionized and here I mean, not financial services, it’s quality control, that’s the services that I mean. So if you’ve got a subway in London, that subway needs to be inspected every single year.

The trains need to be inspected, the tunnels need to be inspected. The transmission systems need to be inspected and realtime monitoring is going to change that, completely. Because what is an inspection process right now? Well, if you’ve got a nuclear power plant and you need to go and inspect it. You need to send ten to fifteen qualified engineers to a plant every single year. They have to go through, they have to switch it off, they have to check for cracks in the core, they have to check for components becoming run down and stuff like that and so on

TOM WHITE:
Yeah.

ERICH HUGO:
We can solve that with realtime logging. You can place an IoT sensor in various forms, off the shelf components, I’m not selling any specific metrics, I’m talking about stuff that I can go and buy right now. I can build an IoT prototype that I can use in a nuclear power plant that will measure cracks in the core. Because once a crack starts, it’s always there.

A subway carriage, you know exactly where cracks in the steel starts, always. So the inspectors that go out every year and check for those cracks, they go to those specific points and they go and they measure, they spray a paint on it and they see. You can actually layer an IoT sensor on top of that right now and on a micro level it will actually measure that in realtime. And you can have a central data point that gets this data back and you can manage it.

ERICH HUGO:
I actually bring this in because this is happening. And this is going to be rolled out and it’s going to revolutionize the quality control industry because all this engineers go and study to become quality control people, to go out and see the big copper drum that mixes paper, they’re these big drums and if they crack it’s game over. You can check those. So I would say the lower level engineering levels are going to be completely changed by IoT.

ERICH HUGO:
The reason why it’s taking so long is because they don’t have bodgers in those organizations, they’ve got people that are very good at what they do. And they spend 20 to 30 years at becoming great crack engineers. And when you come and tell them that IoT is going to make this easy for you, they may be not that keen because it’s kind of like what cryptocurrency is doing to the financial industry.

Cryptocurrency will make banking so much easier but the bank people go, I’ve spent the last 40 years in this career and I want to keep my benefits and stuff like that. That’s why adoption is going slow but like my namesake Victor Hugo said, you can’t stop an idea whose time has come. Its just a question, it’s happening and you can either be at the front of the curve.

ERICH HUGO:
Where DeltaTrak is really growing, we are fairly big as it is but where we really are going in is that this 40% is a passion thing for us. And we’re really looking at, I can’t really speak about what we’re doing because it’s under –

TOM WHITE:
Sure.

ERICH HUGO:
But all, this whole process of delivering goods from a producer in San Diego in Chile to a supermarket in Novosibirsk in Russia, that is a eight week process that we can lock. And there is data interactions at every single point of those things and we can basically make calculated choices completely along the way.

And we realize that we can do that right now but we also need to educate our customers that you can do it. Because an importer, I mean, these guys have been importing stuff for 30 years. And if you tell them, here’s an IoT RTL logger, they go I want my iPhone, that’s about it. I send emails with it and stuff like that.

ERICH HUGO:
So its a question of educating the market and transforming the market at the same time. Like I say, us old folkies we’re dying out, the new generation is coming in. And they get it. They grew up on science fiction and they grew up on Blade Runner and they grew up on seeing these things that the movie makers could do.

TOM WHITE:
Like [inaudible 00:42:07] right?

ERICH HUGO:
I mean really, my whole career my high point has been interviewing the late great Ian Banks, who’s the father of the culture novels. That man was just so far ahead in the future that it’s just incredible. He predicted quite a lot of this connected things. Not predicted, in his science fiction he projected a lot of these use cases that we’re actually applying right now. And I would’ve never gotten my inspiration if I didn’t read his cultural novels, you know?

TOM WHITE:
Yeah.

ERICH HUGO:
And the same goes for, there’s so many, I say read more science fiction. Don’t read about how to manage businesses, read science fiction because it changes everything.

ERICH HUGO:
So, I think that this process, we’re going to fine tune this process and we’re going to get the data scientists involved. And hopefully in about ten years time we’ve brought down the 40% waste to about 30%. But knowing the internet and the power of the internet it will probably go much faster.

ERICH HUGO:
Once a seller in Robertson in South Africa, like my little brother, when he sees that, wait a minute, my lemons aren’t going to reach Vladivostok on time, I need to find a new buyer fast, because of the realtime logging data.

And he can also see what’s the quality of the fruits or the vegetables on the inside of that container. He can see, wait a minute, I’ve only got about two weeks shelf life left, good for me if I tell the buyer now, sell these out right now because they’re not going to last on your shelves because there was some kind of thing that happened in the container on the trip and so on.

ERICH HUGO:
The big challenge there is how is the data going to be managed because all these big shipping companies they don’t, if you own the inside of the container and you basically come to them and say, wait a minute, your container, your cold chain refer that I booked from you had a leak. All of a sudden they go, we don’t want to take responsibility for this. We’ve never taken responsibility for that since now.

ERICH HUGO:
So, there’s still a lot of legalese that needs to follow all of this right now before we get into that ideal situation. But if I can build a phone for an African country then we can definitely solve this. I’ve got no doubt about that.

TOM WHITE:
Erich, it’s been really fascinating learning more about yourself and obviously the business and really appreciate your insights. And thank you so much for coming on the show today.

ERICH HUGO:
There’s one little story that I want to tell you.

TOM WHITE:
Oh great, carry on.

ERICH HUGO:
With that application, we talk about mobile money and we talk about cryptocurrencies and things like that but very few people realize really where it started as an active application.

ERICH HUGO:
On the east coast of Africa, Nokia was, it’s still the big corporate love of my life, the company that it was in the early time of the century because this is the company that really started out, they wanted to make the world a better place.

Nokia’s had this vision, how can our technology make the world a better place? And so they basically supported countries to build 2G networks and they brought out low cost mobile phones so that normal people could get their first interaction with the internet.

ERICH HUGO:
So these fishermen on the east coast of Zanzibar Africa, there Zanzibar area, they would go out and they would fish early in the morning, 3 o’clock in the morning. And the previous process is they would come back to shore and then they would sell their fish on the market and stuff like that. And its a system that had worked for centuries, I mean, since the Arab invaders came down the coast and basically started this commercial enterprises.

I mean thousands of years ago. And then the mobile phones came and I’m talking 2G dumb phones, right? So that these fishermen could sit like 7 km off the coast and they would send SMSs to the shore and say, okay who’s coming in, who’s coming out? This is now the beginning, this is 2001. I mean, they would get prices for the fish and they would go, I shouldn’t dock there, I should dock there.

ERICH HUGO:
So they could actually start managing the whole logistics just with old traditional 2G technology. And that evolved where they actually started selling their catches for airtime. So the currency of, okay wait a minute, now I’ve taken up 10 kg of fish and I want to sell and that guy wants to buy it right now but he’s 10 km into the shore. How can he buy it? Oh well, he can just credit my airtime on my phone. So I could then go and take this airtime and credit it to somebody else. And it became a complete industry of selling and trading airtime.

ERICH HUGO:
On the east coast of Africa. And that’s where I draw my inspirations from. I mean, I’m excited about what happens in the lives of the west but people applying technology in innovative ways, that’s where the magic happens, you know.

TOM WHITE:
Yeah.

ERICH HUGO:
Really. I mean who could’ve thought that people would trade with airtime? It’s like, what?

ERICH HUGO:
This is in 2002, before cryptocurrency even saw the light of day, and stuff like that, you know.

TOM WHITE:
Yeah, wow.

ERICH HUGO:
So…

TOM WHITE:
I think sometimes its providing the platforms, isn’t it? Providing the infrastructure for people to then monetize it in their own way.

ERICH HUGO:
Exactly. And also, I would like the telecom industry where I’ve got a lot of great friends. When it comes to IoT the telecom industry goes about 20, 30% of the way. They never really take themselves into the actual challenges that the people that have their services.

For instance if I’ve got an IoT solution out there and I need to manage it, I say well here’s the Jasper tool, you know, start managing your sim cards and start managing whatever. That means I have to hire a techie, I just want to move fruit, you know. I don’t want to sit and manage the Jasper tool and stuff like that and so on.

ERICH HUGO:
Another part of the industry where I think and the UK is leading this quite a lot right now is organic farming. I’m not sold on the idea of organic farming. I do believe that it’s not the way to go. It’s going to use too much natural resources to get organic farming off the ground to feed a nation. You need to have controlled farming, you need to have farming that basically can, smaller and that you can do with IoT, smaller area producing more fruit and so on and so on.

TOM WHITE:
Yeah, yeah.

ERICH HUGO:
So, that’s where RTL is going to play a big role as well.

TOM WHITE:
I think it’s interesting you should say that because we work with some vertical farming businesses on the recruitment side of what I do. And it’s just a really interesting topic right, you know.

ERICH HUGO:
RTL, bring it in there.

TOM WHITE:
Yeah absolutely, yeah absolutely.

ERICH HUGO:
Excellent.

TOM WHITE:
Erich, thank you. It’s been really good, honestly, I’ve enjoyed it. It’s great to hear so many stories and I think definitely we need to talk about something else in the future, on here as well, right? And see where your journey is, where DeltaTrak’s journey is. But we can talk for hours, right, about various topics. I really appreciate you coming on and taking the time out…

ERICH HUGO:
Lovely, Tom.

TOM SCOTT:
… To talk to us all, right? But thank you so much.

ERICH HUGO:
Thank you, man.

TOM SCOTT:
Alright, no problem.

The IoT Podcast Team

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