Kristoff Van Rattinghe is CEO of Sensolus, the Industrial IoT Company founded back in 2013, by himself and 3 colleagues. In Episode 7, Kristoff explores remarkable IoT use in the industrial environment and the significance of Network security as IoT Solutions expand.

 

Episode Transcript

Tom White:

Welcome to the IoT podcast, this is episode seven. Today we’re joined by Kristoff van Rattinghe, CEO of Sensolus. Kristoff, thank you very much for joining us here today.

Kristoff Van Rattinghe:

Thank you, Tom. Great pleasure to be here.

Tom White:

Kristoff, so for anyone that’s watching that isn’t familiar. Could you tell us just briefly what it is what Sensolus does? What industries the company operates in? How this might affect our everyday lives?

Kristoff Van Rattinghe:

Okay. We connect actually non-powered assets, which are used in the supply chain, mostly at industrial manufacturing. So what is this? This is about containers. It’s about boxes, create specific structures and what we do, we have actually wireless sensors to connect those things directly to the internet for more than five years, without charging, without putting any infrastructure and so on. And as they gather all this data, location data, motion data, they actually, we can give them visibility and the complete supply chain processes. This is our core business.

Kristoff Van Rattinghe:

We do this for automotive and aerospace. You can imagine a lot of parts of your car are actually coming from all over the place. So we’re tracking those car parts to make sure they are in time, but also we’re active for example, in waste management. So we are tracking waste containers. So when people are picking up the waste containers, the routing is actually defined on basis of the location of the containers. And we also doing it now in the foods and then the beverage industry. So we’re tracking for example, beer. So actually sometimes when there’s a sunny weekend forecast, it’s actually your home beer keg that needs to get to the supermarkets. It might be on one of those connected pallets to be sure it’s delivered in time. So it’s actually, we bring all the supply chain visible in all different sectors, and this is our core business.

Tom White:

Okay. All right. Thank you for that. Kristoff, you’ve always described yourself as an IoT enthusiast. I would say I am as well, right? My background is in embedded in engineering and connected devices. What makes you an IoT enthusiast?

Kristoff Van Rattinghe:

Yeah. Well, I think the potential is just enormous if you think about it. There are so many non-powered assets in our industry. You cannot imagine when you talk about pallets [inaudible 00:02:44] there are literally billions of them out there. Now imagine that all those assets today, which are not tracked at all, they all become digital, completely digital. So suddenly you have full visibility. You can always access them, you can optimize your process, but you can even go much further because you can start renting them out. You can start doing pay-per-use. Maybe you can even share them when they are not in use. So if you think about it, once you get all this digital information, it’s incredible all the options what you can do. This is of course it has a potential, but for me, I’m an engineer. And I think what I like a lot is the rhythm of the technology.

Kristoff Van Rattinghe:

I literally left the moments we all had to our first Sony Walkman. Then we had the compact disc. Then we went to the mini disc. Then suddenly there was iPods. Then people start about talking about MP3s. And then today it’s like Spotify. And I have a smartphone in my pocket, which is actually smarter than the space shuttle. So the technology is going so fast, but what IoT is that it’s more inspiring because the technology is going fast, but actually you have to do much more with less. Because it has to be affordable, it has to work all the time, it has to work for many years. So it’s a lot of additional constraints. So today for me, IoT has completely enabled because it will be everywhere at a very affordable price. And that’s quite something I really like about the technology.

Tom White:

Yeah. Yeah, same. I completely appreciate that and agree as well. It’s going to connect everything and everything one day will be interconnected. And I think now is really the interesting time when we’re at the forefront of this. And I’m speaking to people such as yourselves and everyone that we’ve had on the show and seeing it from a different perspective is really, really quite interesting. You’re obviously now the CEO of Sensolus. originally, obviously when you set out the business, you probably had an idea about what the business was going to do. Did it take you on different directions when you actually started developing your product and your product suite? Did you find yourself going down different paths to what you originally envisioned you might have done?

Kristoff Van Rattinghe:

Yeah, certainly. I think it’s crucial for any startup that you do some piloting and we did quite some. And our original ID was actually is to track behavior of elderly people living at home alone. And it was our mission was just like, you have so many informal caregivers that actually are very concerned about daily things. And if you use wireless sensors, just in the home of the people, the elderly at home, you can actually inform them that everything is just fine because it’s a big relief on stress level for those people, the caregivers. So technology was perfect. It just worked. But then we found out that actually the adoption rate, the ecosystem, was very complex to survive in as a young startup. So what actually happened, we pilot and somehow very strange to say, but the supply chain manager has actually the same needs.

Kristoff Van Rattinghe:

He has all those things out there where he has no information about. And his main concern is, is everything okay? Will I be able on Monday to start my production without delay? So it’s a big pilot, this is how things also go. You go into technology, you learn about it, and then you take a next step and we will see the same happening again in technology. In the beginning we’re very piloting on like GPS information. Today we’re much more on indoor location systems because that’s also where the technology is getting into very cheap, low power, indoor location systems.

Tom White:

And just digging down a little bit deeper into that. I mean, our audience is a mixture of really public enthusiasts of IoT, but also technical professionals within the industry. Are you using things like LoRa, can you go into a little bit more detail about how actually the sensors work, how they connect range, limitations, and so on?

Kristoff Van Rattinghe:

Yeah. Perfect. So I always start with the main constraint of our customers. You have to imagine if you worked for automotive or we work for aerospace, we typically connect more than 10,000 units per customer. So you easily ramp up at, okay, how much time will it take to set this up, to install this, to get disconnected? And this is we’re very keen, it has to be a solid install system. And we always say as easy as a sticker. So why is that very important? We know very well, the technology like LoRa, but we opted for Sigfox technology because it’s a public network. It works very well in Europe. It doesn’t require any roaming. And this actually is a very big hurdle we take away for our customers. It’s really plug and play. They can start with 50 units, just put them on the asset and it works.

Kristoff Van Rattinghe:

And they can ramp up to 10,000, 20,000 units without still putting infrastructure in place. So internal change in the process or in the installation process. If you take all those hurdles away, you actually get in easy. And IoT, it’s like, well, yeah, let’s try it. Yeah. It works. It brings value. Right? Let’s expand. Let’s continue. So it’s the ease of adoption that’s really key for us. And today’s Sigfox is actually a front leader in that one for the public communication. When we look at location technologies, if we really dig in into the technology side, is GPS is King. Nobody, you can imagine now with chip of GPS, that’s now in your Fitbit or in any smartwatch, it’s extremely low power consumption, it’s incredible. And if you put it outdoor, I can tell you five meter accurate and it works everywhere.

Kristoff Van Rattinghe:

So the technology is amazing. For the indoor, for example, we use combination of Bluetooth and Wifi where we don’t install any infrastructure, but we actually use the existing infrastructure and we never connect, but we sniff the ID to translate it to geolocation. And that works actually very well. So what we see is always the same. Technology, there’s a lot of choices out there, but you have to pick and choose and mix and match exactly what you need that fits your customer requirements. And for us, it means affordable, easy to install, easy to expand something that just works out of the box.

Tom White:

Okay, fantastic. So just to recap then, so Sigfox is obviously your chosen partner for outside networking and sensors as such. I know the guys in France. It’s actually a really, really great company. And then internal installations is a mixture of a BLE and WiFi and that’s how you get sort of geo locations from that. Is that correct?

Kristoff Van Rattinghe:

That’s correct. And even we always communicate indoor or outdoor on [inaudible 00:09:40] folks. We will never use the customer network, never. Because then you have to pause the IT departments. They have to, if they do security updates, for example, you don’t. So it’s just always about thinking the operational hassle. It just has to work. So all communication is on Sigfox for us.

Tom White:

Yeah, sure. And again, I assume if you’re using, if you were to use internal customer systems, then potentially that you cannot control that network or issues or reliabilities with that as well, right? Whereas you can control what you control or using it on the Sigfox tech support, right?

Kristoff Van Rattinghe:

Exactly. And, and we do know very well LoRa or the narrow band. We know them very well, but what is very important, Tom, is that the problem of our customers is they want visibility outside to their own premises. So the visibility it’s on your own site at your own home, let’s say you can put your own wireless network and set up everything, but you have to imagine if you are in a supply chain, for example of aerospace, we have customers who have more than 100 suppliers everywhere in Europe. So they can not go through all those networks. They just want the full control outside our own premises without changing anything. And then there’s not a lot of options today.

Tom White:

Yeah. Fantastic. Kristoff, where do you see us in the next decade? And what’s going to be in store for us as humans? Are we going to be walking around as assets with sensors? What do you believe is in store for us over the next 10 years?

Kristoff Van Rattinghe:

Well, first of all, I think sometimes even today we’re already walking assets with sensors and they are called Googles and the Fitbits and all the other things that actually are getting your personal data. I think that that should not be the goal at all. I think we should not be as connected as individuals, except if we choose for it, if it’s an explicit choice for us. Sensolus will not go to that direction at least. But what I do believe is that IoT will actually enhance a lot of your daily experience and provide you a lot of visibility. And it’s still your personal choice if you want to consume this or not. And for me it would be quite logical that your package, a postal package that will be sent, actually the package itself will talk to you. I’m now here, I’m now here, I’m in front of your door.

Kristoff Van Rattinghe:

I just get out of the warehouse because it will be directly connected. So at least in Belgium today, if I sent a postal package, it goes in transit and it stays there for three days. And I had the impression that in transit it is extremely big because a lot of my packages are always there for many days, but in the end, as a customer, we will get pinpoint precision where it is, when it is. And I’m quite convinced this is really nearby. Secondly, what I also think is that there will be much more history and traceability, like from the initiatives from farm to fork. So if foods gets harvested somewhere in the chain and produced and processed, all those steps will be linked to IoT sensors. So you will get all this type of data. And I strongly believe, but I think that will take a little bit more time before it gets everywhere.

Kristoff Van Rattinghe:

It’s the sharing economy. I think IoT today, we all know the sharing cars. So you actually don’t know own the car, but you just use the car. IoT has a potential to do this at the level of grass mowers, washing machine, drilling machines. Because if you think about it like a drilling machine or a washing machine, we are using it like three times a week and the rest of the week it’s idling. So you can imagine with IoT, this becomes something you share, something, you actually only one home in the street will have that type of machines and you will access it through the neighborhood. So I do think there will be a lot of optimization on assets.

Tom White:

Yeah. Fantastic. And from a security perspective, I mean, obviously it’s widely reported about potential data breaches, how much data there is going back to data centers. What is your view on a security element of this and how we can best make sure that our data remains viewable by the people that need to see it only?

Kristoff Van Rattinghe:

Yeah. Well, I think that’s a very good point. And I think when we look at security, the complexity in IoT, it’s no longer only in the cloud. It actually goes back to the device to the lowest level. And I happy to hear Tom, you’re an embedded software engineer because you will understand you can actually were to date technology, if you limit your processing power in your battery and you’re actually, you’re based on design, you can make very secure already because you do actually, you do as less as possible at the level of the device itself. I mean IP cameras in homes, but if we look at our sensors, the payload we sent is 12 bytes. I don’t see a lot of hacking on 12 bytes happening. On the other side, you have of course the cloud part. Do you think and what we see is that actually a lot of companies are getting really into the topic to get a full end-to-end IoT security. And we do the same, every chip we produce and that’s already more than 100K today, they have an individual encryption key on the device itself put at manufacturing level. So you really embed security from the beginning, that’s really key in IoT.

Tom White:

Yeah. Absolutely. Secure by design, right? And there’s a phrase that’s banded around quite a lot at the moment. You know, if it’s not secure, it’s not smart.

Kristoff Van Rattinghe:

Exactly. But I do see the same with our customer base. I mean, we work for automotive. We work a lot for aerospace. We do satellite parts. I can tell you, it has to be secure from design at the basic. So they might say, yeah, we go on Alibaba to have a cheaper Bluetooth sensors. Actually they will not because the embedded security is so important for those customers that they just want something, no black box, but secured from the first line of code until it gets in final application system.

Tom White:

Yeah. And that’s really, really important. You know, obviously part of my day job is obviously helping companies find individuals in this field. And we do a lot of work in IoT security and secure by design and from chip upwards is the most important part of a lot of this jigsaw puzzle. In the past, a lot of people have been doing this so-called gold-plating exercise, where you’re trying to retrofit security and it’s never quite as good. And it would never, unless it’s been designed upwards, it’s still vulnerable. And highly vulnerable, which is the biggest concern, especially for some of your customers, as you say, you’ve got massive customers in various industries and that’s what they’re interested in. Something that works with them, but it’s also going to protect their assets as well.

Kristoff Van Rattinghe:

100 percent.

Tom White:

So yeah, absolutely. Kristoff, thank you so much for giving us some insights into Sensolus, what it is you do as a business and also your view on where we are and where we’re going in the future. We really appreciate your time. I know you’re really busy, man. So thank you for coming onto the show today.

Kristoff Van Rattinghe:

No problem. Thanks a lot, Tom. I wish you all the best with IoT podcast sessions.

Tom White:

Thank you.

Kristoff Van Rattinghe:

I think it’s a very good initiative. So keep it on.

Tom White:

Thank you very much. Okay. Take care. Thank you.

 

Get in Touch

Interested in being on the Podcast and telling your story? Please get in touch below and we can arrange a time to have chat and discuss it.

Listen & Subscribe

The IoT Podcast Team

The IoT Podcast is powered by Paratus People, a leading organisation in IoT Talent Solutions.

Innovation is at the heart of IoT, it is our passion to explore and learn more about this fast paced and transforming sector.