Podcasts > Strategy > Ep. 071 - Building the 'Bloomberg' for IoT data - David Knight, CEO, Terbine
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Ep. 071
Building the 'Bloomberg' for IoT data - David Knight, CEO, Terbine
Monday, October 12, 2020

In this episode, we discuss Terbine’s approach to contextualising and indexing data feeds to increase usability, the challenges of monetising IoT data, and how colocating servers with cell towers can enable edge computing use cases. 

David Knight is the CEO of Terbine. Terbine is the digital marketplace for IoT/sensor data about the physical world – things like ocean salinity, railcar movements, carbon emissions, and crop density. terbine.com




Erik: Welcome to the Industrial IoT Spotlight, your number one spot for insight from industrial IoT thought leaders who are transforming businesses today with your host, Erik Walenza.

Welcome back to the Industrial IoT Spotlight podcast. I'm your host, Erik Walenza, CEO of IoT ONE. And our guest today is Brian Watkins, CEO of Federated Wireless. Federated Wireless provides cloud native private wireless solutions as an end-to-end managed service using the CBRS spectrum. In this talk, we discuss the value of connectivity as a service for improving the performance and cost structure of industrial use cases. We also explored the rollout of 5G and the implications for edge computing use cases from AGVs to large scale device management.

If you find these conversations valuable, please leave us a comment and a five-star review. And if you'd like to share your company's story or recommend a speaker, please email us at team@IoTone.com. Thank you. Brian, thank you so much for joining us today.

Brian: Erik, happy to be with you guys and talk about my favorite subject, anything to do with IoT?

Erik: Well, before we get into the topic and into Federated Wireless, would be great to understand where you're coming from. You've worked with a lot of the bigger players here with Ericsson, Dell, Intel, Samsung. And then about a little bit more than a year and a half ago, you joined Federated Wireless, what led you now to Federated?

Brian: When I look back, I've been in wireless for probably the better part of 24 years now. And every time you see us change to a new G, whether it's 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, with regards to technology, and now we're headed to 5G, you see these radical shifts in the marketplace, and they're radical technology shifts. And everything, from going to digital to going to apps to going to the iPhone to becoming mobile internet, and now as we head into this new world of 5G, which really is going to enable the industrial Internet of Things help us move to that industry, [inaudible 02:29].

Before I went to Samsung, I worked for the Intel IoT group. We were all still very shiny new objects, how exciting was IoT. And at the time, we’re playing all kinds of companies were building this really great value proposition, it was gaining momentum. But what was always the long pole in the tent for us, the thing that always kept us from really having great breakthroughs with enterprises was connectivity. And connectivity was really the weakest link of the entire solution set that we bring to the table while at Intel.

And so at that point in time, I think Intel lost a little bit of steam and momentum, began to start dissolving companies. I went back into the wireless side of things with Samsung, and was approached by Iyad and his team, and I'd met Iyad Tarazi, our CEO many years before about having the opportunity to work in something that was completely disruptive in the wireless world that was not just disruptive, but it was cloud-base, which gave a scale architecture.

And at first, I wasn't super interested. But the more I talked with him, the more I talk with the team and I began to recognize that if I wasn't a part of this great movement, that I would be kicking myself rather, and so agreed to join the team about a year and a half, 18 months ago.

Erik: And it's funny that you mentioned when you were with Intel, I mean, that was not so long ago, right, that was 2013, 14, 15? And at that time, we were just setting up IoT ONE in 2015. And the question was what is IoT? You go to conferences, and everybody has a slide like, here's what IoT is. And quite rapidly, at least awareness has progressed, I think the technology is progressed in many aspects. From a connectivity standpoint, from then to now, have you seen already very significant improvement in connectivity? Or is it 5G in maybe the coming five years where you expect to see that step forward?

Brian: So what I think is driving the connectivity revolution, if you want to call it that, is that there has always been a massive demand for private wireless. The traditional connectivity models, if you take a look at how much of the US today is actually connected, less than 2% of most office buildings in America have adequate connection. And so it wasn't for lack of technology, it’s really for lack of a business model that made sense. And what's really driving that conductivity disruption today is cloud scale.

And this is what we really didn't have available to us back in 2013 when I was in Intel was a cloud scale really is driving the connectivity innovation today. And you can't pick up a newspaper today without seeing an article about all of the major players, many of which I used to work with, whether it's Amazon or Microsoft, or VMware or Dell. Or everybody is making announcements, Amazon about some cloud technology investments and cloud technology advancement that's all about trying to drive innovation in connectivity, and compute at the cloud level for enterprise. And so I think cloud is really what's been the transformative technology that's bringing it to the forefront today.

Erik: When most people think about cloud, they think about data storage and processing and aggregation and so forth. These companies, AWS, Microsoft, and so forth, do they also have a role in providing connectivity? Or is it the combination of cloud services with the services provided by the wireless carriers that we're talking about here?

Brian: So they are actually making significant strides in connectivity. So for example, Microsoft recently announced that they acquired Affirmed Networks. They're now into the software based switching business. Amazon has strengthened its cloud portfolio with Snowcone. But they're basically new devices, new technology that helps drive cloud-based network functionality. And it's really advancing at a very, very rapid pace moreso than even the first year I was with Federated: the rate at which enterprises are demanding that somehow they participate in this revolution of cloud scale connectivity.

Erik: Well, this is then a great headway into Federated Wireless in what your business is. Who do you serve? What are the problems that they have? And what's the value proposition?

Brian: So basically, Federated Wireless is what we call a spectrum administrator. The industry calls it a SAS, a Spectrum Administrative Service. And our core functionality and when we started out was we're about five years old but we didn't become commercial until the FCC made the CBRS spectrum commercially available back in February.

And so for us, strategically, we are built by wireless carrier people. Our CEO used to run R&D for Nextel. So we're built and run by many, many people that have had very successful careers in the wireless industry. And so who we are in this space is that when the FCC made this spectrum without going too deep available that there's a handful of us. There’s us, there's Google, there's CommScope, that have been certified by the FCC, to be, I guess, I call property managers for lack of a better term of 150 megahertz mid-band spectrum that sits between 3.55 and 3.7. So it's really good mid-band, long range, high capacity, low latency. It's that great 5G spectrum.

And as a caretaker of this spectrum, Federated Wireless has really established ourselves over the last handful of years as a market leader for the development of making spectrum allocation possible. We're entirely built in the cloud. Our entire solution, as massive as it is, is built in the cloud. We currently have built this thing we test it regularly, to be able to handle up to a million connectivities at any given moment.

So again, you start talking about the importance of cloud scale, we are cloud scale. And so from a technology standpoint, what Federated Wireless does today is where we are technology enablers, and that we make this spectrum readily available to enterprises, to wireless carriers, to cable companies, to rural wireless, to anybody that is seeking to participate in the shared spectrum model. Shared in the sense, but it's not shared between enterprises, it's only shared with incumbents like the Department of Defense. That if they say they need it, we need to move what was in their little space to a different space.

But that's kind of a high level of who we are and what role we're kind of playing today. And this year is that we started out primarily as a spectrum property manager for lack of better term. That makes sense?

Erik: That makes sense. Connectivity is on the one hand, it's very horizontal solution, everybody requires it. Are there specific verticals that you're focused on right now? Or is it more just seeing where the market arises?

Brian: To begin with, we were primarily focusing on the wireless carrier market. A number of the wireless carriers we support today in the US, the horizons of the world, the T-mobiles of the world, and then on to the cable companies, the Comcast, and the charters and the dishes of the world. They're all looking for different reasons, but we primarily we're operating as that property manager between them and really high quality spectrum that it could be acquired by means other than just purely auction, that is generally made available to everyone. Like the FCC came out and their goal continues to be to make as much spectrum available as possible.

I think it goes back, [inaudible 11:15] maybe seven or eight years, one of the administration's, their goal was to advance 5G growth and technology in the US by opening up roughly 500 megahertz of new spectrum that could be dedicated to the advancement of 5G. The CBRS fan, which is this 150 megahertz we sit in we're talking about today is part of that 500. But that's kind of how we started out, was we started out by providing spectrum.

And we were approached, I want to say, probably two years ago by Amazon, where Amazon wanted to do some cool testing with us on artificial intelligent, video cameras. And we began to recognize that there was an ecosystem towards really making connectivity available that was missing. And a number of people that play a big role, whether it's radio manufacturers or packet core, there's a number of components that go into making conductivity available for an interface.

But at that point, when Amazon approached us, we really recognize that we're not really working that well together and we hadn't figured out how to make this easy for the enterprise customer yet. Because it was kind of business as usual, I buy my radio from these round vendors, I get my switching from this vendor. I have these people design and install my network. I have somebody else manage it. Maybe I manage it myself. And with a spectrum allocation model, like CBRS, you really can't run private connectivity that way because the long [inaudible 13:11] intent is there's only a handful of us that are actually allowed to manage the spectrum.

So we recognize the importance. We strategically went back to our investment community. We went back to the leadership of our organization. And we created a second product, which is becoming a new core product for us today, and it's called Conductivity as a Service. Really simply, to us, connectivity as a service it's we can deliver to your enterprise a turnkey CBRS wireless network. What does that mean? That means that Federated Wireless today, we help you plan it, we help you design it, maybe you need a radio design, depending upon how big the network is. We work with nationwide installers. We actually install it for you. And we already had a 24 by 7 manned network operations center because we were built by wireless people.  As part of our SLA s today, we make available spectrum with 5-9 SLAs.

And so we plan, we design, we build, we manage that wireless network on your behalf. Because what we found is that most of the enterprises we talked to today, they don't want to build and manage wireless networks. They want someone to just do it for them so they can focus on the things they are interested in, like enterprise, application development. We're starting to see a big shift of the IT budget move today from investment in IT to investment applications.

And so by us showing up with a turnkey wireless network, we have enabled the internet community today with private wireless LTE with a roadmap to 5G, meaning what meaning that we're ready for 5G now, like the spectrum is the spectrum, Federated Wireless is ready today for 5G. Like the hardware or the handsets, we see growth and evolution and those every day. We're beginning to see the 5G ecosystem around CBRS begin to develop. So we are 4G private LTE with the roadmap to 5G next year. So, that's our new offer and what we're making available to the marketplace today.

Erik: When we think about the types of enterprises that you'd be working with, is it correct that these are typically campus environments, so stadiums, malls, airports? Or would there also be use cases for this and for example, connected vehicles or connected healthcare devices, something that would be disparate? So is this primarily a campus service?

Brian: So we're finding today that the biggest use cases driving us come from, you’re correct, the venue environment, the campus environment for both outdoor and indoor, as well as the venue environment. Now we've done some cool deployments in venues like Angel Stadium. But we're also finding that smart manufacturing, I probably spend more time on energy companies and smart manufacturing in the last four weeks than I had in the prior five months combined talking with some of the largest logos inside America when it comes to manufacturing, automotive, and energy.

And so we're now beginning to find those use cases are moving into utilities and energy, smart manufacturing supply chain. And when you start talking about the smart office or smart building environment, COVID-19 has really got a lot of people thinking very differently about what will back to work look like. What will those back to work applications or use cases that don't exist today that they're going to need very rapidly to create an environment where people feel safe coming back to work? So we're beginning to see across a whole bunch of verticals. And now I guess I should add another one too because I was just in a meeting this morning, retail, retail is now becoming a very, very big one.

Erik: It's just one point that I wanted to clarify or dig into a little bit on the CBRS. So just for our listeners, CBRS stands for Citizens Broadband Radio Service. If I understand correctly, there are basically incumbents. So this spectrum was previously allocated to military or government and now the government is making this available for commercial use, and you're managing it. And then is it the case where let's say Canada invades and the military has all of a sudden a need for a lot more spectrum, you would need to orchestrate the opening up of that spectrum or the shift back to government access for a period of time? Is that the dynamic here where the Spectrum was being underutilized, but it was allocated to the government, and now it's being opened up but there still may be some extreme cases where there might need to be a shift back to the original users? Can you just help me understand a bit?

Brian: So today, we recognize three incumbents. We recognize commercial fixed satellite service, we recognize grandfather fixed point multipoint providers, and we also recognize the US Navy radar. And so when I talk about Department of Defense, it really represents roughly 14 aircraft carriers in the US Navy. And what that means is that one of the things that really differentiates us in the marketplace today, and there's a lot of quirky rules, and this is some of the stuff we'll talk about later that sometimes is a barrier to entry with customers is trying to explain the rules.

So, the Navy said that, in the coastal markets, we will share our spectrum with you under the condition that within I think it's 90 miles off the coast of all the coastal US. If an aircraft carrier comes on and says, okay, we now have a need for the spectrum. And I need to double check, but I think it's used in flight landing and taking off on aircraft carriers. But if we need this spectrum, then we have to, number one, sense that they're asking for it and then two, anybody that exists in a designated protected area.

And so designated protected area is typically every 40 kilometers, is kind of chopped into little slices up and down the coast is recognized as an individual designated protected area. And that protected area goes about 90 miles out into the water and 200 miles inland. So we roughly have five primary Navy ports in the US.

And so within each designated protected area, it's required by a SaaS provider in order to make it available 100 of the 150 because of the lower 100 megahertz, the Navy can be anywhere and ask anywhere within the lower 100. So anyone that were 100, we have to be prepared to take you if you've got a solution, and it happens to be the exact same spectrum band that the Navy just asks for, we will pick you up and temporarily move you somewhere else in the full range of 150 that's available and ask for typically 20 megahertz chunks. So you may take your 10 or 20 megahertz chunk and move you somewhere else for a period of time, and then move you back when the Navy has done.

Why that's such a value add proposition for Federated Wireless is that our leadership recognize that fundamental to being a leader in this industry, we have got to be able to make available as much spectrum as possible. ESC stands for Environmental Sensory Capability, if you don't have an ESC network in place, then you're not even allowed to offer any of that 100 megahertz 200 miles inland from the coast, wherever you want to operate business.

Erik: So the model here to connectivity as a service, which implies that this is going to be primarily a service based maybe a monthly fee structure. But what would that look like? Let's say there's an airport that wants to sign up for connectivity as a service, what would be basically the business or the investment for them?

Brian: Our business model is intentionally very simple. We try to keep everything about how we do business as simple as possible. If I can figure out a way to put on all of my presentations a great big red easy button, I would. Our pricing model is intentionally very simple. When we come in and plan and design and build and manage your network, we have 2 billion components to that.

The first one is the design and installation. We typically charge for design and installation upfront. Now that costs will vary depending upon whether it's an indoor installation or an outdoor installation. But roughly it's around anywhere from $1,000-1,200 per radio to design and install your network.

So let's use as an example. You've got 100,000 square foot warehouse, we typically find that because the coverage is so good with CBRS radios, we typically find that about every 6,000 square feet, you need a new radio, maybe every 5,000 if there's some complexity in the warehouse. So that you're probably looking at anywhere from 100,000 square foot warehouse, you'd probably look at anywhere from 12 to 15 radios. So you would pay the $1,200 per radio times 12 or 15 radios will be your flat design and installation costs.

Well, the great thing about CBRS as a deployment it's not your typical DOS network, it actually looks and installs a lot like WiFi. It's all cloud based, it’s servers and a few radios. And so from an installation standpoint, it's very simple, we can typically send something up in less than a week.

And so the second component of our billing is an ongoing monthly fee, and included that ongoing monthly fee, and for indoor, it's 370 a month per radio. And included in that is the spectrum management, the 24 by 7 NOC. So we bring the radios and include the radios, and all of the server and software based switching packet core that goes with that. So, all in about 1,200 for design installation per radio, and about 370 a month on a three year contract for all of the monthly ongoing management including radios and packet core. Customers aren't buying radios and packing core out.

Erik: And will that be the same when 5G rolls out or is there going to be a different cost structure around 5G?

Brian: The only thing that would make the cost structure a little different is the cost of the radio. So we work today with best in class vendors. We select them so that we can continually drive costs out of the market by using handful of vendors that we use across a whole large group of marketplaces. But because the radios or the radios, it really depends on the cost of the radio itself. We will change the cost of our management. We will change the cost of our design installation. The only thing that could potentially change is how expensive is that 5G radio compared to the cost of those radios today. And we're committed to continually driving the cost of those radios down in the marketplace just by sheer volume in the market, by being out there and doing as many installations with as many business partners as we can.

Erik: I'm based here in Shanghai and, of course, the Chinese government is pushing 5G very, very hard in China. So there's, on the one hand, a fairly high level of awareness around 5G. But I would say there's still a fairly low level of awareness, including with myself, frankly, around what are really going to be the actual underground impacts. So if we maybe look at a manufacturing environment, or warehouse environment as an example, maybe you can walk us through. How do you see 5G transforming that the types of use cases that can be deployed or the reliability or functionality of use cases that are maybe already employed? How would you expect this to actually impact for the end users, the experience?

Brian: Well, clearly, 5G will impact in user significant. You're able to do so much more with less. You're able to handle so many more endpoints with the same number of radios. And so just from pure scale perspective, we all know that 5G really will help scale very rapidly IoT. Again, coming back to why it's so important to have cloud scale capability, so that you can rapidly add more radios, add new things for us.

And this is kind of interesting, because to me, it's interesting how many conversations begin with, even government contracts where we're heavily involved where the requirement it's got to be 5G. And well, 5G, like we all talk about it isn't quite here yet. We're still waiting for the devices, the handsets, the equipment of the ecosystem. We're really waiting for them to catch up.

From a CBRs standpoint, from using CBRS spectrum to deliver 5G solutions, we typically put ourselves out there and our marketing material in our presentations and our conversations with customers that what we can deliver today is we can deliver private LTE 4G with an honoring to 5G. Meaning that when that ecosystem is available, that doesn't change anything about what we do within our spectrum allocation manager, it will change the installation assume they’re radios. I think it will change probably a lot of the partnerships that I have today. So I have a number of partnerships with IoT application people, because I'm delivering the network, they're delivering the application, we co-sell a lot together. I think it'll rapidly change maybe the profile of some of the IoT applications for the good.

But fundamental to being able to handle a rapid expansion of just sheer end users or measurement, or more devices that you're measuring or more things that you're able to do because 5G does give you that capability, fundamental to that is got to be the ability to cloud scale. And if you have a cloud-based architecture, for me, I can rapidly turn up hundreds of thousands of devices on any customer in a matter of dates. And literally, you can activate a new radio on my system in a matter of seconds because we're able to scale the spectrum allocation engine that sits behind the whole thing.

And so, for us, we actually are very excited about 5G. We honestly believe that we're going to be a huge, huge part of 5G. The simple reason is that the market now believes that the shared spectrum model works. We're also beginning to see enterprises making massive investments and ecosystem into cloud based architecture, and marrying up the ability for us to deliver a cloud architecture centric spectrum solution combined with their applications, and their edge compute capabilities are also cloud architecture driven. The long pole intent just becomes let's get those devices, we can't get those fast enough and really begin to really drive industry 4.0 because we finally have all of the components in place.

But we're still a ways from that. We're still probably a good year, year and a half on that. And we're seeing that companies are looking to make investments today to begin to transform a lot of function in their business. They’re like us, because nothing changes. It's the same spectrum. It's the same vendor. It's just different radios. And we handle that one.

Erik: But when we talk about industrial, the life cycles move much more slowly, or they're much longer than they are in the consumer, what would be a time horizon for when you expect more of the industrial hardware to be 5G ready?

Brian: We're still looking late 2021, early 2022. We've already been testing some things in our labs. I would expect that by the end of this year, the first part of next year, we'll begin going through rapid testing in our labs with these devices. But then again, once you have something to test and build, it takes a little bit of time to rapidly ramp up manufacturing to create these things. So it can take us a little bit of time. So I think you'll start seeing devices available in the market year, year and a half, how long will it take for that trickle down past the wireless carriers to enterprise, maybe a little bit longer.

Erik: So if we think about a few different device categories, we can think, okay, mobile phone will be pretty quick, because those turnover every couple of years. Then we have maybe like AR glasses or wearables, those might also I would assume be relatively quick, maybe three years or something but a little bit longer than a mobile phone. And then we have devices like AGVs, for example, in warehouses, and they might have a lifetime of 10 years or 20 years. As we move through these different asset classes, would you expect the 5G enablement to be significantly different for different each asset class, or would it be that even an AGV that has maybe a 15 year lifecycle, you would expect that people will just add a radio, modify them, and then they'd be 5G enabled also relatively quickly?

Brian: I will use AGVs as an example, we're actually seeing that today. I'm doing some testing with an automobile manufacturer today, where we are really just simply upgrading the radio. We're upgrading from WiFi to private LTE 4G CBRS. On the ecosystem today exists with everything from routers to gateways, that ecosystem is already exist today with large scale for CBRS. I think that's where you'll start to see the transformative things take place within the entire device ecosystem.

Of course, the consumer devices are always leading the market. But I think you'll see that we're very rapidly that the ecosystem of devices, the routers, the gateways, the things that really talk to devices, inside smart manufacturing or utilities, the things that really are talking to the radios, the things that are really gathering that data, collecting that data, moving between devices between the cloud, I think you'll see that comes a little bit faster than the five year timeframe. I think this is the kind of set we're testing right now. And we think will start be developed at year, year and a half timeframe along with radios.

Erik: So there's another topic here, which is probably something you come across regularly for at least manufacturing space, which is the topic of cybersecurity. Will 5G have any implications, whether positive or negative for securing assets or data in transit?

Brian: Yeah, one of the things relative, and I'm going to keep in the context of CBRS because that's my strength. But from a security standpoint, one of the things that is such a huge value proposition for us, it's always one of the first things we have to address is that when I first begin by telling you that most of my compute happens in a public cloud, you start seeing people get a little nervous, you start seeing people [inaudible 34:32] wireless carriers, some of the bigger energy companies and utilities. The thought of having some level of compute actually take place outside their network.

And so we've actually designed our solutions such that everything with the exception of spectrum allocation in our connectivity as a service solution actually happens behind their firewall. So the levels of protocol that exists today that are already in that security solution such that all data is authenticated and encrypted already, it sits behind their firewall, today, everything within the CBRS ecosystem we deploy is already following the 3GPP standards. And so, we're inherently adopting that entire ecosystem of security standard that all the wireless industry under 3GPP already follows today.

As we move to 5G, especially on the hardware, and devices will just continue to migrate to that new standard. And so we won't see any disruption. If anything, we'll probably see that we strengthen our ability to provide a fully blown private network that you want to manage all the data, we don't touch the data, it's yours. But we're able to deliver in such a way that we put everything behind your firewall, all the endpoints are behind your firewall.

Traditional DAS, would put the endpoints outside your firewall and push the data to you, not in a CBRS dedicated session environment, you get all the data. So when you start talking about in the context of 5G, doesn't really change as much. It just means that we'll continue to evolve our security standards, just like the industry is with as they evolved 3GPP into the 5G standards.

Erik: So I'd like to get into a case study. But before we go there, are there any other aspects of the technology or the solution that we haven't covered yet do you think are important?


Brian: I mean, there's always a bunch of ancillary things. But I think we covered the bulk of it. And then when it comes to CBRS, I typically find that maybe this is a good translation for the use cases. What I typically find is that there's a lot of confusion around the rules of CBRS. And I typically find that customers fall into one of two categories. Either one, they don't want to mess up the network. They just want you to deliver it. They want it to work. They want to focus on their applications, other use cases. You bring us a network. And if I have an IoT pardon it's really good at solving the problem that they have, then I bring them with me to, and we all three work together. And so that's one customer, I think, at the end, most customers will be like that.

But then there's this other kind of customer. And this is the large utilities. This is really large global manufacturers. This is the large logistics, transportation companies. These are businesses that have been leveraging wireless technologies for many, many years and they have teams of people whose job is to manage wireless networks. And it's interesting, as I meet with them, many of these people came from the wireless industry, where they were managing a wireless network. Now they're doing it for an oil company, or now they're doing it for an electrical utility company.

So what makes the two different kinds of use cases interesting is that it's very easy for me to have the conversation around I’ll bring the network, don't worry about the details, it's turnkey. I will manage it to 5 nines SLA, that's a very different conversation when it comes to use cases versus trying to have that same conversation with those other really mega companies that already have teams of people that look at this stuff.

And so I typically find when I get into the kinds of companies and use cases that want to deploy solutions, and energy or utilities or mega manufacturing, that we spend a lot of time just talking about CBRS to really fully understand the rules, to really get into the details, to you really want to kind of pull the components apart. And has been in the last couple of months for me, it's been a little difficult bringing the conversation back to what was the original problem you're trying to solve here. But you got a lot of cooks in the kitchen, they want to touch it and do things with it and break it up and feel like they're a part of the process. And so for me, from a use case standpoint, I typically find we get involved in two very, very different types. And the lien cycle, as I'm sure you can imagine is very different for both of us. So we can talk about both kinds today.

Erik: I mean, maybe we start with the simpler case would be actually useful. But useful in understanding who in that circumstance you would actually be speaking with initially. I mean, are we talking about VP of manufacturing, or are we talking about the CIO? Where would this conversation even originate for a company that doesn't have a dedicated team for managing wireless?

Brian: Most of these conversations originate in IT. And this is what I find super fascinating about this new world of private wireless, is that we're beginning to see a radical shift where the budget exists. We're seeing a shift of who the people in power are. And that we've seen systematically is that IT wants to spend less and less on IT infrastructure. And that's why they really, really embrace cloud native architecture. They want to spend less time talking about the wireless network, and more time talking about and playing with the applications that we enable. So let me start with one use case.

It was a company that is a manufacturer that has retail locations throughout America that coexists with a warehouse of parts. And the use case challenge they had was that, and this answers, your first question is it's the people that were running the WiFi networks. And the problem they were having was that so many people were trying to use the WiFi in this 80,000 square foot building. We have a front end showroom, and you have a back end warehouse. You had everybody using it for communications. You had the front end using it for digital displays and they're also using it for point of sale and they were using it for iPads walking around to interact with customers in real time.

Some of the items they were selling in the showroom were all WiFi connected to show you the cool features of the connected thing that we're selling. And that was being shared with the people in the warehouse. They’re trying to run inventory logistics and trying to run supply chain. They're trying to do barcode scanning as well as corporate communications. And so the WiFi network very rapidly became very, very taxed. And I think what's super fascinating to me about CBRS as a technology is that we don't position it as this technology to replace the thing you're doing. We position it as an augmentation to your existing WiFi network, or your existing internet service provider, or your existing use of unlicensed spectrum, or the current use you have of a wireless carrier that you might be using some of these solutions.

And they brought us in just to focus on rather than trying to beef up and build a better more secure WiFi network, they brought us in just to help manage inventory logistics, barcode scanners. And the barcode scanners can then automatically load and feed the inventory system. So because the backend representative 50,000 square foot warranties, we were able to in less than one week, we installed six indoor, what they call CBS, that's the label for a wireless radio ran that is used in the CBRS network, is called the CBSD or radio or an access point, how we will call it.

We came in and we installed six access points and stood the entire network up connecting into their network because it all sat in the backside of their firewall in less than a week. And in less than a week we were using their barcode scanner application. And so because we're we've seen a very rapid expansion of the ecosystem of people participating in the CBRS band. So, as you might already know today, everything has been coming out with Apple since the last release and Samsung and LG are all CBRS-band enabled. All of the companies like Zebra, they develop and don't really ruggedized tablets. By the way, the new iPad coming out is also going to be fully enabled with the new CBRS band.  

So we're able to take these ruggedized tablets made by Zebra and they loaded their windows based inventory system and barcode scanning application on it. And they were able to within one week completely transform the logistics in the back of this warehouse because people are using scanners and then real time populating the inventory control system without having to use the WiFi network.

Here's what's really exciting is that once the network is in place, it's very easy to add new things to the network. So we're in conversations with them today about security cameras, because security cameras today use up a tremendous amount of bandwidth. And if your security cameras today are being run using a wireless carrier sim, just the sheer amount of data, and the overages that you'll pay are ridiculous.

And so when you own your own spectrum, you own the spectrum. It's unlimited usage, all you can eat, do whatever you want with it. Because there's so much bandwidth available on this new simple network, it was really just to create an offload to WiFi, they're now looking at adding security cameras to the back because they've already got the network in place, and now it's just a simple function of I've got another new network that has a lot of bandwidth. The latency is super, super low, so I can begin to add new applications, maybe I might not otherwise be able to add onto a WiFi network. So that's a really cool use case.

What I'm excited is that this particular company has locations all over America. And so once where we get the use case, then we have to elevate that conversation to somebody much more senior within the IoT organization, it will end up with the CIO. But initially, these conversations began with IT people that run WiFi networks, or are responsible for what I would call the wireless networking solutions inside a large company.

Erik: And you mentioned here that Zebra and apple and so forth, some of the manufacturers that are CBRS enabled, if you can give a percentage right now, what proportion of devices would you assume are CBRS enabled? And if they're not enabled, does that mean that they're just not able to use the network or that they have some limited functionality on the network?

Brian: So band 48 is the CBRS radio bands. And so we talk about does the cell phone, or tablet or laptop, or a push-to-talk device, do any of these things have the band 48 radio in them. And today, there's over 25 handsets that have the CBRS band. All of the iPhone elevens and everything beyond that has the band. all of the Google Pixel three, four and four XL have it. All the Samsung 10, anything 10 and above, and everything new just being released has band 48.

All of the LG, the LG 50, the [inaudible 47:48], and now all the 1+, 7+70, 7 Pro 5G, 8 Pro, the Motorola Turbo Nitro, the push-to-talk device, all of those today are band enabled. And here's the interesting fact too. All these devices are coming out with dual SIM technology, your primary SIM and eSIM. And I think what you're going to find is that these things are people will use under enterprise solutions to empower people with the device to do data when on the campus, to do things when on the campus. And you'll see it manage the eSIM.

Because the way we architect our solution, we put the entire eSIM control in the hands of the enterprise. It's not controlled outside of them. It's going to take a couple of years before we start seeing iPhone 8 out there, iPhone 6 is out there. I think over time, as an example, you're going to start seeing as devices retire, all these devices that are being made today, the whole ecosystem of devices being made today, all now incorporate band 48. It's like asking me, well, how long is it till everybody gets rid of their Samsung Galaxy 9s and only has a 10 and above? Well, how long until everybody gets rid of iPhone 10s and only has 11 and above? Well, that's how long it's going to take in order for the consumer sim side of things to really grow.

But on the enterprise side, we're able to manage and use these today. And this is how they're managing, especially things like laptops or tablets, especially those today. The same company that wanted me to come in and transform their back end logistics and one of their manufacturing facilities, they’ve been in a bunch of remote offices that are outdoor, ancillary to the manufacturers. They can't quite get WiFi all the way out to the remote buildings of this manufacturing campus and they just want to use CBRS as the backbone network. Because all these gateways and routers already exists where I plug in a gateway and it's taking as the backbone in one side CBRS, but it's broadcasting WiFi.

So another use case I'm working on right now is a very popular outdoor concert venue that has been using WiFi today, and has now come to us and asking let me help design. Well, how does CBRs network? How can I leverage CBRS network one to monetize all the people coming to my outdoor venue, but to provide a higher quality of access to everybody that's here? Well, for the first couple years, it'll probably be we'll be making WiFi and applications available that allow them to interact with everybody that's concert goer because these gateways will broadcast WiFi with a CBRS backbone architecture.

But going forward, we're looking two to three years down the road. And the conversation we're having is how can CBRS enable 100,000 people showing up to the venue? So we're two to three years away, as to answer your question about device population, from seeing the devices themselves fully directly out of the box with CBRS networks.

Erik: And should we then wrap up with this use case regarding one of the utilities or global manufacturers?

Brian: Absolutely. So I'm working with, I use the utility as an example. The buying cycle is very different. Now you're talking to people that they run wireless networks. You can actually go out to the internet and find a lot of published white papers. But one in particular I'm working with is struggling with the fact that they manage 11 different wireless networks today. And that's everything from unlicensed spectrums to license spectrums to mobile network operators spectrum to WiFi solutions, they have so many networks that they have to manage today.

And they're actually looking at a way to do two things, leveraging CBRS. One, they're looking at a way to just consolidate some of these networks to a more reliable technology. If all you're doing is monitoring something, which is pretty typical with utility, then many of the wireless solutions they have in place today, they really work fine. But they recognize that in order to transform to the smart grid to be able to transform into a world where utilities today are very much omni-directional, meaning somebody generates the power, somebody wholesales the power, and people consume the power: nothing comes back the other way.

But when you start looking at all of these, what they call, share applications, and they share technologies and [inaudible 53:07] today, where you create a shared environment, I was reading, they're doing some cool tests in Texas today where thinking about the Airbnb model, which is really simply I'm a person who has an unutilized asset, I'm going to rent out a bedroom, I'm going to rent out something.

I was watching the news the other day, and many, many places in the south where the heatwave is, it's called pool share. People are now ‘Airbnbing’ out their swimming pool today. But in this world of asset share, you're beginning to start seeing a tremendous amount, especially in the south western in the southern states, that people generating electricity and today, they also have the capacity to store it like they never have before with new battery technology.

And now that you have this share, this creation of on the consumer side of electricity, but the whole industry has always been one directional, you create these amazing opportunities now to create new business models for people that are wholesaling communities that now can say I'll buy some of my power from the traditional way that I get power. But then I'll turn it a look at the consumers and I will buy power from them and I can then redistribute that power to other people and I can radically lower the overall cost of generating power.

Because today, the consumption model, the wholesale model is very difficult: it's you have to plan and try and plan for the peaks and valleys of usage. And you might pre-buy your energy with the expectation that there'll be an energy spike and if you miss an energy spike, then you pay all kinds of royalties on top of overs just like you would with a wireless carrier. We're working with a company today looking at, well, how can CBRS play a role in the wireless connectivity part of this new ecosystem that's happening.

The same company is talking to us about the upstream of how can we do a better job of managing our wind farms? And it's one thing to measure data, the wireless networks in place today do a great job of that. But if you need mobile edge compute capability, if you need to move decisions out to the edge of the network, one thing that we found is great about the way we have structured CBRS, or wireless network in a box, if you going to call it that, we deliver the turnkey.

Because we're cloud-enabled, we work seamlessly with cloud infrastructure of not just the customers, but also the whole ecosystem of partners. So for example, today, we're partnered up with every cloud person out there in developing these mobile edge compute solutions. We're part of the Microsoft Azure edge stack for IoT solutions. We're part of the Amazon stack for solutions. We now are engaged in these really large cloud companies that are just looking for a different way to get that data that it's low cost and secure in a way that is cost effective for the use cases.

So what's the buying cycle like for a company like that that's looking at me to help build to Airbnb for personal generation of electricity, at the same time, drive all kinds of new cool edge compute capabilities for the wind farms? It's a really complicated sales cycle. There are a lot of people involved in that discussion. Our go-to market model is that we typically try to hitch our wagon to partners that are really good in that ecosystem environment.

So for me, is somebody going to want to come talk to me from a large utility about these solutions? Probably not. I mean, I've had those conversations, but I typically find that they're very the ecosystem with these large utilities, these large manufacturers, it is a very partner driven model for us. So we work with the large marketplace models. Like Amazon, we're on we're on Amazon Marketplace, and Azure marketplace today. It's safe if you can go out and buy shampoo, but think about going out and within a couple of clicks buying a wireless network. We're not there yet. We're almost there. And we're developing that capability.

But we're also working with a large OEM and cloud providers, we're also working with the wireless carriers, and the network providers. We're working with global network providers that don't have presence here in the states today, but they want us to be their presence in the states today, even though they already have larger organizations here. So what I really described to you is two different approaches.

We're really working to fine tune our go to market model of how can I scale rapidly in my sales model with simplified products to the enterprise side that wants nothing to do with the decision, compared to large global manufacturers, a large utilities and energy companies that already have an entire organization of people have built and designed and currently manage wireless networks? Very different sales cycle for me. Very, very different conversations are both rapidly advancing, that's been kind of cool.

Everybody asked me what's the killer app out there? There isn't one. I mean, they want him for all kinds of crazy things. And I wish there was a killer application that's driving CBRS and is driving 5G. But right now, it's anybody that has a process that can be made more effective, drive more data, make decision making better because they have a low cost wireless network, those are the applications driving industry right now.

Erik: So it sounds then like there's actually quite a large range of different companies that might have an interest in getting in touch with Federated Wireless, whether they're an end user that are deploying a solution for their facility or whether they're a service provider that's trying to figure out how to improve the quality of the applications that they're deploying for their customers. What's the best way for somebody, Brian, to reach out to you or to reach out more generally to Federated Wireless?

Brian: So we have a customer portal at federatedwireless.com. It's just a very simple interactive, here's what I'm looking to do here. So I'm looking to learn more about the technology, or I've got some things I'm trying to do with it. Can you help me? And that portal is screened every single day. The things that are looking to drive solutions today, they typically end up on my team somewhere or with me, and we address those every single day. And so if somebody has an interest, he was looking to drive a conversation, you will get a response very, very quickly and you'll be engaged usually within 24 to 48 hours with somebody on what are you trying to do? What are you trying to learn about it? How can this help you?

And honestly, I mean, CPRS isn't for everyone, because of your use case is good with WiFi or with a real low narrowband, use that. But if you're really trying to drive a lot of volume, if you're trying to scale rapidly, if you're trying to create solutions that have super low latency, or if you're an ecosystem partner that's looking great to partner with us because we think you rang a really cool IoT application to the table that we can partner up with, we love those kinds of partners, because people don't want to talk to me about networks but they really weren't talking to me about automatically guided vehicles. The network is just the thing that makes it work, but they really want to talk about the application.

So I've found that if I can partner up with those people, and that I can bring them in to my conversations, that we typically advanced the sales process so much faster because I'm actually bringing you real value. I'm bringing you the solution and the network behind it, not just the network. And we're currently today working on really combining IoT applications with my network. We're working on today making combination packages that literally somebody could go to marketplaces and buy. They could actually go to the AWS Marketplace or Azure marketplace and buy a solution.

I only need five radios and real silver box, ship it to me have it installed in it and put the application already on it. And that's actually what we're working on today to rapidly serve the broader market, which is a smaller market that doesn't have super complex windmill needs or super complex turn all of Texas into the Airbnb of electricity. That's a really bespoke conversation relative to what we think will be the bulk of people is you're just looking for a simple application solution solve the problem, and a very easy seamless way to acquire that solution. But www.federatedwireless.com.

Erik: We'll post that in the show notes. Brian, this is a super important topic that I think many people know far too little about. So I really appreciate you taking the time today to walk us through how this works and explain also where we're going as an industry.

Brian: That's my first involvements of Intel background 2013-2015. I was so excited about the concepts and the ideas, it just conductivity wasn't there yet. And now that cloud scale drives the new cloud conductivity, it's all becoming very, very real, very, very fast. And so for those of us, like you with your program, like we, a player in the industry, we're so excited about what the next couple of years hold for us because I thought that I'd be less busy during COVID-19 month down. This is the busiest I've ever been because everybody wants to have the conversation. And I mean, everybody.

And so we're not traveling. We're not tied up in meetings. We're not out to lunch. We're all very focused on these problems and so I'm just very, very excited energized because I feel like this conversation since 2013. We're the shiny new object. We've come through our trough of disillusionment. And now we're really at that place where I believe IoT in the next couple of years is going to go through this rapid, rapid transformation. It's a good time to be in the industry.

Erik: Well, Brian, again, thank you very much. And I look forward to hopefully a new conversation maybe in two years, and we can see where we are once 5G rolls out.

Brian: Oh, I look forward to that. Take care, Erik. Good talking with you.

Erik: Thanks for tuning in to another edition of the industrial IoT spotlight. Don't forget to follow us on Twitter at IotoneHQ, and to check out our database of case studies on IoTONE.com. If you have unique insight or a project deployment story to share, we'd love to feature you on a future edition. Write us at erik.walenza@IoTone.com.

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