With connectivity intelligence, IoT devices can choose their connectivity without relying on the cloud. Nick Earle, CEO of Eseye, joins Ryan Chacon on the IoT For All Podcast to discuss connectivity intelligence in IoT devices. They talk about disruption in the IoT industry, the benefits of connectivity intelligence, connectivity intelligence on the device, implementing connectivity intelligence, IoT readiness framework, current challenges in IoT, and the convergence of business and consumer IoT.
About Nick Earle
Nick Earle is the CEO of Eseye where he spearheads Eseye’s strategy. He firmly believes in connectivity that ‘just works.’ He’s a visionary business leader with a distinguished career in technology spanning more than 30 years, oscillating between start-ups and global technology corporations.
Previously, Nick led organizations and cross-company transformation programs for two $50B global corporations; Cisco where he ran the Cloud and Managed Services business as well as their Worldwide Field Services function, and Hewlett Packard where he ran the global Enterprise Marketing function and the internet transformation strategy.
Interested in connecting with Nick? Reach out on LinkedIn!
As a world leader in IoT connectivity solutions, Eseye helps customers to realize lasting value from global IoT projects. They bring the deep device expertise needed to integrate, manage, and optimize IoT connectivity for estates of any scale or complexity, seamlessly connecting devices across 190 countries and more than 700 networks. All with near-100% uptime.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(17:58) IoT readiness framework
(30:09) Learn more and follow up
– [Ryan] Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All Podcast. I’m Ryan Chacon, and on today’s episode, I have Nick Earle, the CEO of Eseye, they are a company that is a leader in IoT connectivity solutions. We’re going to talk a lot about market shakeup disruption that’s happening when it comes to eSIMs, iSIMs really playing a role in the IoT space, why it’s important for organizations to be focusing on the device level of a solution, connectivity intelligence, and things along those lines.
Great conversation. Nick’s been on the podcast before, he’s a great guest. I think you’ll got a lot of value out of this. Prior to jumping into this, if you’re watching this on YouTube, we would truly appreciate it if you’d give this video a thumbs up, subscribe to our channel, so you get the latest episodes as soon as they are out.
If you’re listening to this on a podcast directory, be sure to subscribe, so you get those episodes when they are released as well. And last thing, if you haven’t already checked it out, we have our AI For All Podcast, very similar to the IoT one, except that we’re focused on AI, enterprise AI, all the good stuff on how AI can benefit organizations, businesses, and things along those lines. My co-host, Neil Sahota is AI Advisor to the UN, so we have very good conversations with some very impressive guests. So definitely check that out if you have not done so already. Other than that, let’s get on to the episode.
Welcome Nick to the IoT For All Podcast. Thanks for being here this week.
– [Nick] Thanks, Ryan. In fact, it’s great to be on again. It’s my second time.
– [Ryan] I know. Yeah. Should of said welcome back because it’s been a little while, but we’ve had you on before. Excited for the conversation, but before we get into it, I’d love it if you could just give a quick introduction about yourself and the company to our audience.
– [Nick] Yeah, so, Nick Earle, CEO, company’s called Eseye, E s e y e. We’re an MVNO. We’ll get into it. We’re a different type of IoT MVNO, but we are technically an MVNO based in the UK, offices around the world, manage about 3 million IoT devices.
– [Ryan] So one thing I wanted to kick us off with because I think you have a unique perspective that I wanted to dive into here, talk about how you all have seen, since we spoke, I think we spoke in 2021, it’s been a couple of years, how the industry has evolved and changed. It’s definitely, there’s been some disruption.
There’s, it’s been shaken up a little bit here and there, different industries, different focuses, but new technologies coming in. But tell me from your perspective, what’s happening in the industry right now, what things are having the biggest impact on the industry, disrupting it the most, just go from there.
– [Nick] When we spoke in ’21, I think we were predicting what was gonna happen. And actually I would say that the high level answer to your question is now we can talk about those things that, they actually did happen. And one of the things we talked about was eSIM was becoming the eUICC standard, the eSIM, the SIM that wasn’t locked to the operator and how that would be not just a technical development but a massive disruption.
After 40 years of the mobile network industry where the operators had their own SIM which locked the connection to them. The eSIM would break that 40 year proprietary lock and that has happened and actually that’s going from eSIM to iSIM, so it’s actually the physical SIM is disappearing, and it’s going down to the silicon.
But essentially the biggest thing that’s happened is the breaking of the 40 year proprietary lock. And you can see the reverberations of that happening now all around us, almost on a daily basis. And I’ll just quote you a few examples. What you see from an operator perspective, many of the world’s operators are now embracing global platforms because customers, the end user, is saying, oh, if my SIM can be agnostic, then I can create one product SKU, build it once and just put it all the way around the world and it will, in theory, connect to any operator, right? I stress, in theory. And so therefore, can I buy global connectivity from you, XYZ operator? And of course what they say is no, we only have roaming agreements with a few people, and we don’t do global.
We do these regions, but we don’t do those countries because of regulatory. Basically, the only answer to that is the MNOs, mobile network operators, have to embrace global platforms. And around the time we first spoke, Telus of Canada had white labeled us, and Telus now have a fully global offer.
They’re actually, they can actually sell global connectivity through a single solution. The second thing as evidence of this disruption is the people who provided the platforms to those mobile network operators are all retrenching. The biggest example is Ericsson, who about four months ago divested their platform business.
It used to be called DCP, then it was called IoTA. They basically divested it to a U.S. MVNO called Aeris, which was a pretty big deal. You’ve got something like 60 operators using Ericsson. And certainly Ericsson is no longer in the business. They’ve got rid of it and the people. And you’ve seen similar moves with Cisco, used to be called Jasper, now Control Center, basically narrowing it down to fewer companies. The world’s biggest IoT provider, Vodafone, formally announcing, publicly announcing that they’re divesting themselves of their entire IoT business, right? It’s being spun out. These are all effects of the disruption of people saying that the control plane being at the MNO level is moving. Now where is it moving? It’s moving currently to the MVNO level.
We’re a MVNO. We do global IoT. We spoke previously, we power about a thousand customers. We got four of the Fortune 10. We do big global single SKU deals. And people say, oh, does this mean the MVNO model has succeeded? It’s taking over. Actually, I think that there’s something much more subtle than that going on because, and I’m answering multiple questions here in this one from your intro.
The way to think about this is that, where is the switch? Forget the companies, forget the players in this game. Where’s the switch? The switch that says you’re now connected to X, now you’re connected to Y, now you’re connected to Z. Where is the switch resident? For 40 years, the switch has been resident in the MNO.
The MNO chooses the connectivity. What’s happening now very clearly with eSIM and eUICC global platforms, cloud native platforms, the switch is resident in the MVNO. So we have our own switch. We choose which network your device connects to. But the next thing that’s happening, and it’s happening very quickly, each wave of innovation is quicker than the last, is that the switch is moving from the MVNO to the device.
So that’s the next big thing. The device is going to choose the connectivity. In a nutshell, disruption happening everywhere, triggered by business model change.
– [Ryan] I mean, that kind of plays into what we’ve seen through conversations we’ve had about how big of an impact the adoption of eSIM, iSIM kind of is having. But your comment about focus or allowing the switching to happen at the device, that’s really interesting. Can you, so talk about what that change means from a user standpoint and the benefit and value of that
– [Nick] Exactly. So when you think about IoT devices, a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that they work like your cell phone, right? You can say, well, I can, the cell phone chooses its connectivity, and I can swap a SIM from operator A to operator B just by popping it out and putting it in.
But all cell phones, all iPhones are the same, essentially. All Samsung phones are the same. But all IoT devices are different. Every IoT device has a different modem, different firmware, different sensors, different software on it. So there is no such thing as a standard software image for a device.
So if you want the device to choose the connectivity, which you do, it’s ultimately where the switch has to become resident, then you actually need an application that’s resident in the device. So in our case, what we’ve done since we last spoke is we’ve launched something called SMARTconnect, and SMARTconnect is an application that is basically the switch, which is now resident at the device level. So let me try and make it real with a case study from your neck of the woods. We got a great customer called American Pharma. They do vaccine distribution between the U.S. and Canada. They do blood monitoring of blood samples, tissue samples, embryos. And so what happened was last year, you’ll recall that Rogers in Canada had a 19 hour network outage, which bricked every IoT device in all of Canada for 19 hours. Now, the IoT devices thought they were still connected because they could still talk to the cell tower, but the data path was closed. It was broken. So they didn’t, they couldn’t switch because they couldn’t talk to the cloud platform that was powering them.
So American Pharma had our SMARTconnect in it and SMARTconnect is the switch. So the switch said, oh, I can’t, I can connect to the tower, but I can’t ping the network and get a ping back. I can’t get a data path. So they set a rule that said try it three times every 10 minutes, try it.
And after, if three times, you still don’t get it, switch on your own accord to another network. So American Pharma’s devices all recovered in half an hour without talking to the cloud. And if you’re monitoring, let’s say embryos, where if the temperature rises on the embryo storage device, it is literally a matter of life and death, the embryos have to keep in a certain narrow temperature range, or the Pfizer vaccine has to be in a certain temperature range, you will lose the embryo, or you’ll have to ditch the vaccine. We are now installing and implementing this protocol SMARTconnect in all the devices, so that, it’s a combination of the cloud switch and intelligence in the device, which means that you have an even better resilience than you would have in the cloud.
In fact, final comment on American Pharma, because I did a podcast with them very recently on my IoT Leaders channel. And the guy from American Pharma said that the amount of downtime that they now get per device has reduced eightfold. They’ve gone, they’ve reduced their downtime by a factor of eight, and it’s growing all the time as a result of having device intelligence.
Think about that, and you get a good idea of the device, and then and a final comment I’ll just throw in to get people’s minds even more stretched. Imagine if the switch in logic was independent of the RAT type, the radio access type. So if it was an EV charger in your garage, and your Wi-Fi doesn’t go through the wall very well, you can say, if Wi-Fi is available, then use it.
If not, then use cellular. But only use cellular if the signal strength is X and the latency is Y. So you can have individual device use case rules, which are multi RAT, multi radio access type, device resident for any device regardless of what modem you’re using, what processor you’re using, what sensors you are using.
So that’s the next big thing that’s going to be happening is the switch is moving and the intelligence is moving to the edge or towards the IoT device.
– [Ryan] Yeah, I’m glad you mentioned that because that was going to be my next question was going to ask about why connectivity intelligence needs to shift from more of the network to the device. And I think that’s an important point to highlight there.
– [Nick] Yeah. I’ll give you a second reason. It’s not just the fact that you have the outages, which are pretty rare. In general in IT, intelligences and applications are moving from the edge. They move from the center to the PC, they move from the PC to the cloud, and now they’re moving from the cloud to the edge.
So the edge device has to be intelligent. It has to be able to run its own applications, and that’s true for applications in general, not IoT. But with IoT, these devices are often small devices, and they weren’t set up to be able to have their own processing capability. They’re not all edge aggregation devices.
But you really do want the ability to have intelligence, like switching rules, at the device so that you’re not having to backhaul all the data and pay all these fees for backhauling the data to the, where the application is in the cloud. Make a decision and then go back to the device and say, now do this.
It’s basically consistent with everything that’s happening in IoT, which is intelligence and applications are moving to the edge. And secondly, it actually is the only way you can give 100% resilience, because you are reliant on the link to do the switch, and the link is broken, your device will be bricked.
– [Ryan] When it comes to this work, when we talked about the connectivity intelligence shifting from the network to the device, why it’s important for companies to really be moving that switch you mentioned to the device. When it, if I’m someone looking to adopt a solution, and I’m hearing this, how much of this work, if any, really falls on to the adopting company, the end user, or was it really more just for their benefit and the overall experience for their solution at the end of the day?
– [Nick] Well, that’s such a good question because, I’m a great student of history. I always say there’s nothing new in IT, and we can always learn lessons from what happened previously. If you think about it, in the last 15 years, we’ve, the whole IT market has been conditioned to think the hardware is not important.
Think of Marc Andreessen, software is going to beat hardware. We all thought cloud meant that we didn’t have to worry about hardware anymore. You don’t have to worry about your cell phone. Apple makes it. But if you go back to what I’ve just said, your IoT device, you now have to worry about the firmware and the settings on the device.
You have to worry about battery life management, for example. And that is all controlled by the device, the firmware. And you have to worry about what modem have you got and what version of the modem? And suddenly people are saying, geez, I don’t know anything. I dont, I’ve left hardware behind.
I don’t have hardware engineers. I don’t have firmware experts, and I don’t want to have them. Although technically you could have done this if you had a big department of hardware designers and firmware engineers, people didn’t do it because your business case went out of the window. So in our case, SMARTconnect is basically a downloadable software application that sits inside the SIM or inside the processor in the device, and it’s essentially a configurable rules based engine that handles all the connectivity. And there, the answer to your question is the customer doesn’t have to do the work. They would say to us, I had a Quectel BG95 modem inside this device. I want to communicate with it every X minutes.
I want my battery life management rules to be this. I’m sending this much data, et cetera, et cetera. And then we will send them a download and a version of SMARTconnect, which actually is optimized for that device. So we maintain a library of SMARTconnect based on the world’s modules and different firmware versions.
And so we had to solve that problem for the user. That’s why it was such a good question. Because unless we made it a downloadable application, you, very few companies would do this themselves because a firmware engineer in the U.S., you go on Indeed.com, a firmware engineer gets $200,000 a year, right?
And there’s five times more job adverts for firmware engineers than there are firmware engineers in North America. You’re not going to solve this, and you don’t want to solve this yourself. We had to create something, and I believe the industry has to create something, where you can do this by downloading an application, and then you configure it when you put it in from the cloud that uses Lightweight M2M, which your listeners will be fully familiar with. So Lightweight M2M is the cloud based device management layer. You configure it, like in the case of American Pharma, try every ten minutes, try three times, then rotate to another MZ. Configure it from the cloud, but then when it’s not connected to the cloud, it’ll work on its own accord.
So, we see a sort of a client host type architecture evolving where IoT devices will not only have the intelligence, but if you have a portfolio of different medical devices, say each one could have a different rules engine based on the use case, heart monitor versus a blood pressure monitor is different.
When something happens, the heart monitor has to be able to react immediately and all the time, whereas the blood pressure monitor might, it might be okay if it doesn’t send anything twice a day. So different rules for different devices and different rules for different use cases managed in the cloud, but executed locally in the device.
– [Ryan] Let me ask you, you all have something called an IoT readiness framework, and it connects to a scoring methodology. It helps inform the services led approach that you all take, and I think a lot of companies are moving towards. Talk about the benefits of that.
I’m not trying to obviously turn this into a sales pitch, but just talk about what value this provides for connecting to what we’ve already been talking about.
– [Nick] The best way to talk about it is what problem does it solve? It’s very common, we find, and I know talking to other IoT companies, they find it as well, the most common thing you get is somebody says, oh, I want some SIMs and I want, can I buy some SIMs please? And you say, why? Oh, I want to do a POC.
And you say to them, is your device, what do you know about your devices? Is your device ready? Is your device set up for IoT? Oh, no, don’t worry about it. I just want some SIMs. Send me some SIMs. How much are they? So most people think they’re ready for a POC and actually, in 80% of cases, when you actually dig into it, they actually need to do some more work on the design of the device before they’re ready for a POC. And this is why, according to Gartner and others, 80% of IoT projects fail. When you actually look at why they failed, it wasn’t because connectivity wasn’t there, it was because the device wasn’t optimized. So everything points to the same answer. So what we said was over and above this SMARTconnect software, there’s a gap in the market for a methodology to actually help identify for users where they are in a structured journey based on industry best practices and what they need to do to get ready. I’ve been in the industry for 40 years, and I’ve used many of these frameworks. I’ve used ITIL v4, ITIL v5 frameworks, frameworks for developing software, frameworks for developing products. This is where you are, this is what you’ve got to do. And people get certified in them. But the interesting thing about IoT is, there’s no such thing. There isn’t one for how to create a robust, global IoT product that connects first time, every time around the world.
So we created this having done about a thousand projects and having always work started with the device before the connectivity, we actually took our best practices that we used internally, and we turned it into this IT readiness, IoT readiness framework which we’ve just released, in fact, actually coincidentally today, it just went out on PR, but we have released it.
And so what we do is when a customer phones us up, we say, let’s do a workshop. And we say, okay, look, here’s industry best practices based on a thousand implementations that we’ve seen. Actually, you think you’re at five out of a journey of one to ten, which is ready for POC. Actually, you’re at three because there’s twelve things you haven’t done, which if you don’t do them, you’ll find out when you get to about seven out of ten, then you’ll have to go back and start again.
And actually people say, oh, I, that’s really useful. I didn’t know you had to optimize this, the battery life management. I didn’t know the EDRX protocol works differently for AT&T than it does for Verizon. I, people don’t know that. But if your device is going to switch from one to the other, your battery life management firmware has to be different.
So little things like that, and they all add up to big issues. So we launched that as a framework, and we put it out there. We would love for it to be adopted. We think there’s a need for a standard. And the idea is to help customers get it right first time by sharing best practices from, IoT is all that we do, and we, when you’ve done it a thousand times, you learn what not to do pretty quickly. And so we’re publishing that and making it available to the market.
– [Ryan] One of the last things I wanted to ask you before we wrap up, we’ve talked about a lot of good topics here. From your perspective, we, obviously we dove into kind of how far things have come since we last spoke in 2021. But how about when it comes to the challenges companies currently are facing in the space?
You can take this from any angle you wish, but how are we seeing or how are you all seeing the challenges that companies face change over the last couple years, like where we are now versus where we are then. Technologies have definitely matured. New ones, new technologies have evolved.
Solutions are becoming more prominent. Like we talked about the growth of eSIM and iSIM adoption. But where do you see the problems now that companies are facing and potentially need to be focused on as we move forward as an industry?
– [Nick] Whenever you solve one problem, it’s like going over a mountain range. You get to the top of one of your home, sigh of relief. Oh my word, there’s another range of mountains in front of me. If we assume just for the moment, it’s a big assumption that, okay, we can solve the device, we can solve global connectivity, we can solve the framework of how to project manage IoT.
Is that it? Do we high five? Do we, hey, we can now realize the promise of IoT. Something even bigger is coming towards all of us, which is this idea of multi RAT. So if you think about it, first of all, cellular is only about 13% of connectivity, and you’ve got, so 87% of connectivity is non cellular and you’ve got lots of different types of cellular, but more importantly, you’re now seeing the convergence of use cases where you get consumer and business IoT use cases colliding. So if you go to CES Vegas this year, if you went, all the, a lot of the devices that were on show were actually consumer devices that actually are in a business context, like remote patient monitoring in healthcare. You, yeah, the first wave was it talked to your iPhone but what you really wanted to do is talk to your clinician in the hospital clinic. So you’ve got a consumer grade device that needs to talk to a clinic in a business environment. So what we’re seeing is a convergence of consumer and business IoT, which currently are completely separate stacks in a common device.
Which makes the importance of the device even more important, back to my EV charging one. So if you want, if it’s a, this healthcare thing, if the customer’s Wi-Fi network is available, then use this because it’s free. Or if not, is there a private network? Then use that. Or is, or if not, then use cellular.
But if I’m out of range, perhaps I’m in the hills with my heart monitor on, is there a low earth orbiting satellite for the release 17 standard GSMA, then use that. So you’re now getting not only switching between operators in cellular, my example, but now you want device residents switching between any type of connectivity based on a rules engine with multiple attributes.
It could be availability. It could be latency. It could be signal strength. It could be price. And so that’s a really big opportunity to capture brand new markets. Like energy management in the home is a perfect one. All the different people competing, the car company, the solar panel company, your meter company.
Everyone’s competing to be the hub in the home that allows you to be in charge of your energy management. This is the collision of the world of consumer and the world of business IoT. And that means the device is going to get even more important. So I think the big challenge is the leading companies, the really, the big companies always do things first because they can afford to.
That’s where the projects are now in the big companies, and I think that’s the start of a wave for the next few years.
– [Ryan] Yeah, it’s interesting because a lot of the conversations I’ve had recently have really been around having companies focusing, a lot of them are mainly software companies, but focusing on promoting to the market solutions to help drive adoption, rather than just focusing on like horizontal platforms and things along those lines or the tech, like focusing on the tech, right?
Really focusing on, look, we have some level of domain experience, or we’ve built a solution that’s launched in this industry, and it’s been successful, and now they’re basically doubling down on those vertical industries to drive more adoption, drive more engagement with customers. And there’s, but breaking down the different components of each of those solutions and talking about the maturity, the evolution of those different pieces like connectivity, like the device, how those are coming together to make these solutions more likely to succeed is critical in helping companies understand how far we’ve come and where we’re going.
– [Nick] Another way of saying what you’re saying, I would paraphrase it as you’ve got to start with the experience, the consumer experience you’re trying to deliver and work backwards, not start with the technology and work forwards. And so if you say, I want the consumer experience, which is a hundred percent, not only a hundred percent connectivity with a single product SKU in every square foot of ground, but actually I want it to work where there is, when someone’s on a cruise ship, I want it to work, I want it to work on planet Earth. And you know what? I want it to work with any, why should, I don’t care about connectivity, I just want it, I just want the data. I don’t want connectivity. I want the data. So if the experience is the artificial intelligence interpretation of the data, then actually, why are we shoehorning people into a certain type of connectivity and a certain geographical footprint for that certain type of connectivity? So if you start with the experience, you want all of this to disappear. Our founders, this is the last comment from me, our founders created Zigbee, and they’re still in the business, they’re the Zigbee guys.
And if you think about it, Zigbee is in your garage door opener, it’s in your TV remote, it’s in five billion things around the world, but you never think about it. There isn’t a French Zigbee or a U.S. Zigbee or a Brazilian Zigbee. There’s Zigbee, right? And it just works. And if you’re going to get there, because people just, they just want the red light to come on and data.
So if you’re going to get there, you have to say agnostic connectivity, agnostic provider of connectivity, and simplification of device intelligence with some form of application that’s resident in the device. You’ve got to solve those three problems. If you solve those three problems, we have a chance of actually being able to create things that work like Zigbee.
That’s easy to say, hard to do, but I do believe we’re on the road, certainly it’s, I just described our strategy at Eseye. I think that the industry is moving towards that. And the business consumer convergence by certain use, vertical use case are the things that are the, things that are going to be the, they’re the leading waves of that change.
– [Ryan] The way you explain that is actually something that we’ve said before, and we’ve been very big proponents of, is working from the end user backwards when building something, not the technology forward. So yeah, it’s something I think is really important for companies to understand. But I really appreciate you taking the time to come on again.
It’s been great to catch up. Great to hear how things are going. For our audience who wants to learn more and follow up on this conversation, get a better sense of what you all have going on, what’s the best way they can do that?
– [Nick] Easy way is, two ways, if I can. Our website is www dot eseye, so it’s e s e y e, it’s a strange name, but that was the founders. Eseye, so e s e y e dot com. And then I do, like you, I do a podcast, it’s called IoT Leaders. And we’ve done about 35 now. And each one is a user, one of our customers talking about a use case.
If there’s a particular vertical they’re interested in or a particular subject they’re interested in, if you search for IoT leaders, they’ll get a podcast where I talk to someone who’s already done what I’ve been talking about or trying to do halfway through it, and so that’s probably the best way.
– [Ryan] Thank you so much again for taking the time. It’s great to speak with you again and look forward to getting this out to our audience.
– [Nick] Good to talk to you again and thanks a lot.