Interview Series: The Future of IoT

Interview Series: The Future of IoT

Interview with Chad Burow, Director of Sales, Telkonet, Inc.

What does the future of IoT look like in terms of our markets (hospitality, higher education, senior living, MDU’s)?

We will automate more of our daily functions as our lives get busier. The growth of devices that connect with one another will to continue to expand. Now, that may seem obvious, but the devices the  market will create, they’re far from obvious; we have just begun to conceive of them.

You’re asking about our markets specifically. Our markets are similar to each other in that they’re living spaces with intermittent, unscheduled occupancy. On the other hand, the occupants in those spaces have widely different needs and wants.

These individualized needs and desires are the catalyst of Internet of Things innovation.

Jason Tienor (CEO) and Jeff Sobieski (CTO) talked a lot about the hospitality market, so let’s start our conversation with student housing…

On campus, the very notion of sustainability will be the impetus for IoT innovation. This is true in hospitality as well, to a lesser extent.

On college campuses, being “green” and acting “sustainably” is hugely significant. Students want to live it, study it, enforce it, advance it.

In fact, I think the students are going to be the primary IoT motivators in this market. Let’s talk for a second about universities as a whole, not just campus residential communities. How much importance a university places on sustainability is actually one of the criteria students use in their selection process. In fact, there has been increased interest in environmental and sustainability programs offered by universities nationwide. These universities foster empowering environments where experimentation and thought-leadership is encouraged. I think 20 or 30 years from now it’s going to be fascinating to see what universities look like in that regard.

Circling back to IoT in student housing, I think the kids are going to be the ones driving what those solutions are. They’ll be automating some of the time consuming menial tasking they deal with on a daily basis, to focus more on their studies.

Another primary market for Telkonet is senior living. Are they focused on sustainability as well?

The senior care market, on the other hand, is less concerned with sustainability. Their focus will be finding advances in health monitoring. For example, wearable devices tied into a thermostat; automated pathway lighting as the resident moves from the bedroom to the living room; anything from a safety and security perspective is going to be huge. Being able to send a report back to the central desk that the resident’s pulse rate is within a certain range. Or issuing health alerts when pulse rate falls out of a certain range. Fall alerts. Even measuring their gait from bedroom to living room is possible: are they slowing down?

Our CTO, Jeff Sobieski, and I met with a prominent local healthcare institution here in Wisconsin. We were discussing in-home care for seniors and how Telkonet can use our expertise in data collection and analysis, and create other functionality from a reporting standpoint. The objective is keeping our seniors in their own homes for as long as possible, sidestepping moves to assisted living facilities. IoT is going to play a huge role in promoting senior independence and remote caregivers.

Imagine being able to say, “Mom is walking from the bedroom to the living room more slowly than she used to.” Or her walk is getting longer. Or she’s spending more time in the bathroom than normal. Or the trips to the bathroom are becoming less frequent. Or the refrigerator is not being opened as often as it used to.

All of these are activities we will get data on. When their habits change, IoT devices will provide indicators that something is wrong, or there’s something we should pay attention to.

As a side benefit, the son or daughter or other caregiver enjoys the peace of mind that there’s something in place for their loved ones. It is more than connecting to just “stuff” at home, but also connecting the resident themselves, being aware what’s going on in their daily lives. Without seeing, hearing, intruding. There will have to be a balance between IoT and privacy.

OK, so what challenges will IoT address in the MDU environment?

I think there are similarities on the MDU side. Taking the health monitoring component out of it, how do we create an environment that is inclusive of the entire building itself plus individual living spaces. How do we address the health and energy consumption of that building as a whole, but also provide the automation that individual tenants want.

How do we seamlessly roll out enterprise-level solution, meaning the entire building, but then create easily deployed, individualized mini-compartments, meaning the actual apartments or condos?

How can I easily connect to everything that suits you, when your next door neighbor envisions a completely different living space? Contrast this with a hotel, where I am deploying basically a predetermined solution that fits in all rooms. It’s kind of a one size fits all design. MDU is a little trickier. I could have a base level of inclusions, but how does it tie into specifically what you want in your space, and what he wants in his space? How do I tie all those things together, ultimately individualizing each tenant’s wants and needs and features, creating that unique living space? That’s where the challenge of IoT is right now. How do we connect everything seamlessly right now? And the answer to that is it’s a very messy proposition.

Do you have any concerns about IoT use in the future?

Privacy. Hands down.

Earlier, we talked about senior living. We do not want to intrude on their privacy by installing cameras all over the space, watching them all day (not to mention the impracticality of having to actually sit in front of a monitor and be watched). Instead, we can use sensors that are relatively respectful of a person’s right to privacy.

I think that’s the root of conflict in the future: how much this connectivity starts to challenge the privacy of one’s life. That’s where the big challenge will lie. The more connected we are, the less private we are.

Cutting edge IoT devices and integration is just going to continue to expand.  More stuff. It’s just going to become more and more and more. How far will it go, and what will some of those points of resistance be in the development of new technology?

On the one hand, what are our customers looking for? Perhaps they envision this really cool feature. Perhaps we create an advanced level of data analytics using this feature and take action based on this data. Maybe we can create a more sustainable property, or a more attractive property for occupants.

On the other hand, we absolutely must be mindful that we are not digging too deep into someone’s privacy. Are consumers going to be signing a waiver someday that states, “this building is so intelligent that it might know X about you?”

At what point is sustainability, the convenience, and the automation of my life so valuable that I am willing to sacrifice my privacy? I think that’s the $100,000 question each of us will have to answer. It remains to be seen.

I think we are all just so unaware of how far it’s come already today, even with our cell phones.

How will all this “stuff” be tied together?

There are intelligent appliances like smart refrigerators, washers and dryers. We’ve got all this stuff that’s smart. Whoever develops the killer platform that ties ALL this stuff together, the one that’s rock solid out of the gate, will be a huge winner.

That’s one of the advantages at Telkonet. We have been very cognizant of that challenge, trying to tie in third party technology, like Control4, Saflok, VingCard, Salto, with our ZigBee mesh network. We’ve got some competitors who, as an analogy, live in a very restrictive proprietary box. Verdant for example, or WiSuites. They and some other players fashion themselves as IoT but in reality, their technology is very limited. They live in that restrictive box and that is all they can do. They’re sentenced for life to that prison of 900 mhz wireless technology. The fact that no one else around them is approaching IoT from that wireless discipline restricts them tremendously.

So to sum it all up, IoT will advance based on the needs of individual environments.

In higher education, sustainability is king, and the students are the future of IoT.

There are a lot of exciting ideas using IoT to advance the senior living environment. Being able to keep our seniors in their homes, where they’re comfortable and where they most want to be; and simultaneously addressing some of the safety and security concerns of their caregivers. Tons of opportunity.

The challenge in MDU spaces is, “How do I individualize the space but within the framework of the entire building?”

The key to all of this will be developing the platform that ties all of these technologies together.