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In S2 episode 5, we learn about the exciting use cases IoT is adopting 🌎 and how the Twilio Microvisor is transforming IoT development 📈 with Jonathan Williams – Product Manager, IoT & Wireless, Twilio.

Sit back, relax, tune in and be the first to discover…

  • Jonathan’s background 🌎
  • What is the Twilio Microvisor and what is it enabling for IoT and device security? 🌎
  • How is the Twilio Microvisor transforming the way embedded engineers are building IoT devices? 🌎
  • What are the exciting use cases IoT is adopting in 2021 on to 2022? 🌎
  • Out of all the IoT use cases, what one excites you most about the future? 🌎
  • And much more…

ABOUT THE GUESTS

Jonathan Williams is the Product Manager, IoT & Wireless at Twilio. Twilio, Inc. develops and publishes internet infrastructure solutions. The Company offers cloud computing platform to allow web developers to integrate phone calls, internet protocol voice communications, and text messages into web, mobile, and phone applications.

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To find out more about Twilio Click Here

Episode Transcript

Tom White
Welcome to The IoT Podcast Show. I’m your host, Tom White. Today we are joined by Jonathan Williams. Jonathan is the Product Manager for Wireless and IoT at Twilio. Jonathan, welcome to the IoT podcast show. Yes. Hi, Tom. Yeah, thanks very much for having me really, really looking forward to it. Absolutely. Same here, being been looking forward to learning more about Twilio, and hopefully our listeners as well, certainly making inroads in the industry.

Tom White
So it’d be great to, to get into that today. Just to kick things off as we normally do. Can you explain a little bit about your background, Jonathan, and what led you into this crazy mad world of IoT?

Jonathan Williams
Of course, yeah. So my background, I guess I started as a hardware and software engineer, many moons ago, and then worked for CSR, a bluetooth chip company initially. So in the software teams running the software teams, and then kind of crossed over to the dark side of product management where I ran a number of the sort of large audio chips that that CSR made, and now of the Qualcomm Bluetooth audio chip. Okay. Yeah. From there, I went into a a startup,which did primarily video conferencing, where I kind of grew and ran a new business line within that video conferencing startup, which really had a sort of IoT focus to the meeting room.

Jonathan Williams
So we had a management portal and a back end managing meeting rooms globally for our customers, and a across their deployments, which is pretty exciting. And from there, I’ve kind of moved it back closer to the hardware, I guess, and into Twilio, where I look after the device builder platforms of Twilio. Fantastic. Yeah. So I mean, obviously, you know, great background in there in hardware software. No CSR. No Qualcomm quite well. So I think that from a networking perspective, has obviously led you on quite nicely into into Twilio. Jumping straight into Twilio, and a bit more about some of the products and the services that the company delivers. Could you talk a little bit about the Twilio customer engagement platform, and how that’s being used to enhance IoT as we see it today? Oh, yeah, completely. I mean, you know, Twilio began, really, you know, all about customer engagement and bringing, you know, communication to whether it’s web applications or mobile applications, you know, through the power of really simple API’s. So things like SMS connectivity, or voice connectivity, and all of those kinds of things are really, you know, bringing an almost developer first focus to that web development community to easily add things like connectivity into those applications, you know, and since then, Twilio is obviously expanded into other types of connectivity and moved up the stack. So we now provide things like end to end contact centre applications.

Jonathan Williams
And more recently, you know, through the acquisition of segment, you provide sort of intelligence and insights into the actual customer data that is going over some of those channels, then it really is all about the kind of the, you know, the voice of the customer and bringing all of those disparate comms mediums together. And I think for you know, Twilio, IoT, which is almost a separate business within Twilio, you know, there are almost huge parallels between what we’re doing now in IoT, and that early Twilio journey, so we’re really looking to bring the sort of complexity of the secure connectivity, you know, between IoT devices, and the cloud, through a similar sort of simple set of API’s.

Jonathan Williams
So really bringing that connectivity all the way down to the edge and the products and devices themselves, which I think is, is pretty cool and exciting.

Tom White
Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, it’s great to hear that, because one of the things that are discussed a lot on the show is this journey, you know, from device to user, and how that trickles down, and the waterfall approach. So the fact that you got a series of API’s, and you know, these, these things are able to link together, it’s so useful and beneficial because, you know, great IoT devices and kind of deployments, unless they’re connected, and the less things work in harmony together, you don’t get that synergy effect and the adoption of that will be of course, a lot less in the mainstream market. So it’s really, really good to hear that and I know recently, you’ve launched the Twilio micro visor for those building an IoT device? Obviously, there’s lots of capabilities around that. Could you go into a little bit more on that, Jonathan for us?

Jonathan Williams
Yeah, of course. Yeah. So yeah, so I within Twilio tea, we effectively have two sort of product lines today. So we have our, our super sim product offering, which is a sort of multi MZ global sim solution. So So providing access to multiple networks globally for IoT devices, and we power, you know, things like the various micro mobility companies, and all of those things, where we’re where we’re enabling the cellular connectivity through our multi MC solution. And then on top of that, we acquired a company a few years ago that have been in the IoT space for a number of years called Electric imp, and electric imp offer sort of device, build a platform approach, you know, edge and cloud end to end secure connectivity, and to build the devices themselves. And what we’re doing is we’re really taking all of the IP from that electric impact section, and then creating a brand new approach to the edge devices themselves. And that is our micro visor offering. And micro visor essentially is a sort of hypervisor environment, running on the edge that allows you as a developer to have, you know, access to all of the hardware, all of the real time codes that you want to run on the edge device itself, but effectively protected by that that hypervisor, or the micro visor, if you will, around that.

Jonathan Williams
So microvisor itself enables, you know, real end, end to end security. So from the factory all the way through, through the the manufacturing phase and into the real world, you know, making sure that devices remain secure and are secure almost by design, which I think many, many devices kind of look to layer security in at the end of the development. You know, I’ve been there myself as a software developer, you focus on the the cool and sexy features first. And then at the end, you worry about well, how do I how do I ensure this is secure, and really building on top of microbiome, so you get to build that in from the beginning, which I think is quite important. We then bring things like over the air firmware updates.

Jonathan Williams
So you want to effectively outsource all of those sort of boring, but necessary components of your IoT device to us here at Twilio. And we manage that security, the managed connectivity, all of the firmware stacks, the IP stacks, everything that’s running. And to provide the connectivity is now hidden behind a very simple Twilio API. And were responsible for managing and maintaining all of those. So over the air updates, secure connectivity, and you know many other things. And one of the recent things that we’ve demonstrated, which I think is really cool, is the ability to have remote debugging of your devices in the field. So in the way that you would, you know, connected debugger locally on your desk, and set breakpoints, stop the code, start the code, change things and implement your code, we can now enable that exact same experience, but over the connectivity link, the connectivity barrier, so be that Wi Fi or cellular, let’s say you’ve got a device that’s not behaving properly. In Guatemala, you now can go to that exact device, and connect your debugger over the connectivity link and, and debug that device in real time on the other side of the world. And I think that, you know, as a software engineer at heart that that is, that is pretty exciting. Right? And something that’s never been done before.

Tom White
Yeah, I mean, it’s great to hear I’ve been Sahab Sembi, the friend of the show, and friend of the business, talks about, you know, if it’s if it’s not safe, it’s not smart, right. And, and this whole process is really, really important. Because, as you say, from a software engineering perspective, and from your background, you focus on the cool sexy things first, and then look at the security as, as a sort of gold plating exercise. But yeah, and a lot of people do, right, because it’s just natural, you want it to do what you want it to do, first of all, and then the security comes afterwards. But but it’s the wrong way. And it’s good to know, that there’s more and more. Yeah, that more and more focusing on this. Right.

Jonathan Williams
I completely agree. And that’s where I think, you know, building on top of the, you know, the the IP and the knowledge and the people that we have with the electric imp, acquisition, you know, security is kind of, you know, it’s fundamental to, to CMS, in our DNA, if you will, and making sure that, that that that secure approach that as I said, you know, starts in the factory, you know, can you trust the factory to build the product and put the right code on there? And, you know, many, many products that launched today cannot say yes to that question. And I think that’s quite a scary thing. You know, if you can’t trust the code that your device is running, then you can’t trust the device regardless of how, how many layers of security you’ve put on top of that. So you know, building on top of a secure boot and sort of a, you know, chain of trust for, for the application and the code running on the device itself, I think is, you know, in my mind, that’s a mandatory, you know, a must have when it comes to building devices. And, you know, we’re working closely with St. microelectronics and laundry with the STM 32. Five, which has, you know, some of those hardware security features built in. And then we obviously provide the, you know, the software security on top of that with the micro visor approach.

Tom White
Okay, fantastic. Well, I’m filming this from Bristol. So I did a lot of work with SD Micro, when that their office in Aztec west, so, so know the company really, really well, actually. So it’s great, it’s great to hear that you’re using some of their chips and working with them. Because I think from from a secure aspect, a lot of obviously silicon vendors out there, some of them, obviously going through hard times at the moment in terms of shortages and what have you, but sto has always been up there from from a security point of view. So that’s really, really good to know. I feel like I’m gonna hijack this to talk about embedded stuff. But I think we should touch on that a little bit more, is a lot of people from an embedded background, who listened to the show myself, obviously included, what does this mean for embedded engineers using Twilio micro visor? Just, you know, a short summary? How can it? How can it improve and what they’re doing ?

Jonathan Williams
So I think one of the I think the most interesting things in in the sort of IoT and IoT platforms that have have kind of existed so far is that is that all of those platforms, or the platform approaches, they kind of they kind of asking the developer, the embedded engineer who’s looking at, you know, integrating into one of these platforms, that kind of asking you to kind of go all in, in a platform way of doing things. And, you know, my, as I said, my experience as a software engineer, and as a embedded developer is that is that genuinely, you kind of want to own the code, and you want to write that code yourself. So, you know, the ask to go all in on a platform and and, you know, bend to the ways of the platform, I think, is quite a big ask. And I think it’s probably fair to say that, that that’s one of the reasons that many of these IoT platforms that have existed until now, arguably haven’t been that successful.

Jonathan Williams
So the thing that is really, really different with the micro visor approach is that we enable you as the developer to completely own your code running in the application space, you can use whatever operating system, you want to be that a bare metal implementation on the chip itself, be that running on free artists, be that some homegrown iOS, you’ve got yourself or anything, anything you want to choose. Equally, you can write in any programming language. So you know, we will support, obviously, bindings for C C++, and but we’re also looking at providing support for for things like rust, and micro Python and things going forwards. But essentially, the micro visor architecture enables you as the developer to write your application your way, in, you know, the way maybe you’ve been doing it for for years and years. But now add in the micro visor features without having to change any of the ways that you write your code.

Jonathan Williams
And I think, you know, compared to all of the other IoT platforms that are out there today, I think that makes the micro visor approach quite unique. Because, you know, every other platform requires you to change your your software, your architecture, your way of working to kind of bend to the ways of the platform, whereas with micro visor, it just essentially wraps around your code. And then through that hypervisor approach provides the, you know, the security and the trusted elements outside of that almost completely separate to your code itself. So I think, you know, in terms of developer adoption, and some of the feedback we’re seeing so far, you know, that is exactly what embedded engineers want. They kind of want to own their code, but then have the the safety and security that microbeads brings off to one side. And I think that’s, that’s quite unique.

Tom White
Yeah, yeah. It’s, it is, frankly, speaking, right, compared to what’s out there in the market. But but a really nice, a really nice story to talk about the way things are going and initiatives at Twilio taking. I want to talk more about some of the use cases that Twilio are doing, actually, because I think it’s important that people know, recently, obviously came across an article about Twilio, IoT being used by by Analytics to measure such things like buying patterns, beer quality, etc. Can you talk a little bit more about that? Because that’d be quite interesting.

Jonathan Williams
Definitely, I think, you know, and this really comes with our our super Semar cellular connectivity product that we’ve got, but I think when we first first launched that, that platform, we probably like everyone expected, you know, things like transportation, logistic companies or fleet tracking, asset tracking type use cases. And obviously, we’ve got lots of customers who are using using us for those kinds of things. But on top of that,

Jonathan Williams
You know, we also have this company, yes, called bar analytics, that have actually embedded cellular connectivity into the beer taps that you see in pubs and bars. And so that gives bar analytics, real time data in terms of usage and flow rates, temperatures, and all of those kinds of things. And they’ve actually, you know, because of that, you know, getting access to that real time data running in the bars and restaurants around the world, you know, that actually gives them, you know, gives them the data they need to manage their business, which I think is pretty cool. I think the, you know, the benefit of cellular connectivity is quite an interesting one in that space, because you could think that, well, you know, lots of those environments might have access to Wi Fi or other types of connectivity.

Jonathan Williams
But actually, providing that direct cellular connection, you know, puts you as the, the device manufacturing cold in control of your connectivity, you know, there’s no reliance on the local networks, you know, the challenges we see when, when, when local networking goes down, and those kinds of things, but also, because super sim is a multi MC solution, giving you access to multiple different networks in multiple different countries, then wherever those beer taps are deployed, you know, if they’re in a bar on the 15th floor of a skyscraper, or, you know, right down in the cellar somewhere, then because of the super sim approach to allow you to select which network you have access to, then then bar analytics can actually choose which networks give them the best network coverage, you know, for each and every beer tap, if you like, which is is pretty cool. So, you know, it turns out as well as providing connectivity for things like logistics. We’re also providing connectivity for the Internet of beer, which I think is a pretty cool thing.

Tom White
Yeah, absolutely. But but it’s a great, it’s a great story, right? Because I think ultimately, for the pandemic, a lot of the use cases, and a lot of the things that Twilio IoT must be working on or thinking could be a solution, actually agile enough to, to start deploying solutions to different areas. Now, of course, obviously, you know, Beer Beer being obviously restricted for such a long period of time with with the closures of pubs and bars, etc. You know, now that’s turning round, isn’t it? You know, we couldn’t be more popular, you know, especially having come out from the, from the recent euros. Right. So I think the connect the Connect connectivity element, and the really the wide adoption of various use cases is, and I always say it’s almost limitless, isn’t it? You know, it’s just another example of where you can put a sensor where you can put a cellular network or cellular device, and start using that. And it’s absolutely fantastic to hear and I’m, and I’m always kind of pleasantly surprised and astounded by just yet another example of what we can do with IoT in general. And I think internet internet of beer is a great one definitely going to coin that.What what else is going on with Twilio? At the moment, in terms of other use cases, anything else that you want to share anything, anything as cool as the internet of beer, Jonathan?

Jonathan Williams
I think I think the beer one probably wins. But I, you know, obviously, I was thinking of some of our other customers that we’re working with at the moment. So I think people like, you know, air thinks that are doing air quality monitoring, which again, is quite topical, obviously, at the moment, and also a company based here in the UK called free space that do occupancy sensors, so desk, desk usage. And I think when we’re all looking at the kind of return to the office aspects, then, you know, enabling enabling the facilities managers to know how many people are using which desks to be able to have dynamic cleaning schedule, so that you can clean a desk when it’s been used in preparation from an expert person, and keep the sort of flow of people at the right rate for everyone as we return to the office is pretty cool.

Jonathan Williams
And there’s an example where you know, free space, took our device, build a platform and built effectively a new product for them in a matter of months to kind of address that market. And I think that, for me, really shows the sort of power of adopting or working with a platform approach as you build a product. Because all of those, you know, as I said earlier, there’s sort of necessary or the boring components that you need to create a connected secure device, you get to inherit all of those, and then really focus on the call, you know, value add bits of your application. And that’s exactly what freespace have done in rolling out their, you know, their their latest product, which I think is pretty cool. And, you know, behind that we’re working with multiple companies across multiple different sectors. And you know, and I think we’ll see a whole a whole load of off sort of both super sim and micro visor powered products come to market fairly shortly, which is quite exciting.

Tom White
Yeah, I mean, no, it’s fantastic to hear. I mean, I think you mentioned air quality. So we we had air things recently on the podcast, talking about, obviously their sensors and air quality monitoring inside buildings and domestic settings. And I think the the connectivity platform that you’re that you’ve got, and you talk about free space and being able to build on this is opening up the amount of use cases, isn’t it, it’s opening up the amount of people that are able to bring something together, that combined with micro visor is fantastic. And it’s and it’s great to hear of a platform enabling people to do this without the rigmarole of having to set this up from from from the ground. And that’s often been the blocker in the past is people have these great ideas and, and a vision to create something but without the firm foundations. It’s almost it’s almost too much of a challenge. So it’d be lovely to follow Twilio, IoT, and some of the use cases that that are going to come out in coming months and years. Because, yeah, I mean, crikey, it’s given me absolutely loads, isn’t there? On that note, so for you personally, I think you’ve done a fantastic job of obviously explaining Twilio, Twilio, IoT, etc. But what are the most exciting things that you believe we’re going to be built on some of these platforms? And where, where do you think the future is going with all of this?

Jonathan Williams
I think and I think that’s a really interesting question. You know, for me personally, you know, I think that that kind of joining of the, there’s almost the voice of the customer and the way that when you, you know, you have an app, and a company that kind of knows all about you, as a customer, through your customer engagement is obviously something that that Twilio, you know, quite involved in today, I think extending that so that, you know, your, your habits and your and the data that’s associated with you. And the things that you do is not just the buttons that you click on, on a website or an application, but it now extends to the way that you use all of the products around you, I think is quite exciting. And almost the, the kind of the way that you use or interact with a company’s products and services, I think that is the exciting thing that’s really going to drive the sort of, you know, the almost the next generation of customer engagement, and we like to think of that as almost, you know, the voice of the product kind of tells you more about the customer than then the customer itself. Because, you know, when you eat when you interact with the customer, maybe you do that through, you know, a time of purchasing or, you know, when they interact with an app, but with the product, you know, the customer will use that for many years beyond that, you know, my robot, Hoover, for example, goes off, or, you know, whatever, five times a week, and being able to know that from the the, you know, the company that owns that I think is quite exciting. And being able to then offer services layered on top of that is I think, you know, something that we’re going to see more of, which is again, pretty cool.

Tom White
Yeah, absolutely. Jonathan, it’s been absolutely fantastic. having you on the show really appreciate your time and explaining in more depth what Twilio does, I think for our listeners, and for me in particular, it’s great to hear about some of these use cases and a little bit more about the technology that Twilio is creating. So we really appreciate your sharing that for anyone that wants to follow up after this podcast and look online for other content. Where’s the best place for people to go and find a bit more about Twilio? Yeah, if you search online for Twilio, IoT, that should take you to our top level page on the Twilio websites. And from there, you can learn more about both micro visor and the super sim connectivity offering so you know, super super sims are our, you know, it’s a GA product now, so you can order those super Sims and get started straight away. And we’ve got you know, many millions of devices out there using those super Sims today. And with microphones. So we are just just launching now, this this sort of private beta access to that. So you know, you sign up for private beta. And then and then can kind of join into that sort of, you know, internal review of that. And we’ll obviously share all the code and all the documentation with you to get you up and running straightaway. So yeah, come and join us at Twilio. It it’s yeah, lots of exciting things happening. Jonathan, thank you. Until next time, take care. Cheers, Tom. Thanks very much. And if you’d like to find out a bit more about Twilio, obviously follow the links in the content that Jonathan kindly shared and get involved in the conversation as usual. Follow the hashtag the IoT podcast. Get involved in the comments, ask some questions. We’re interested to know your thoughts. No suggestion is a bad suggestion. And we look forward to joining you on our next episode.

The IoT Podcast Team

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