Joel Young is the senior vice president of research & development and chief technical officer of Digi International, a machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions expert for improving business efficiencies. In this interview Joel talks about the integration of the company’s systems in businesses like Salesforce.com and future trends of “the Internet of Things.” According to Wikipedia, the Internet of Things refers to uniquely identifiable objects (things) and their virtual representations in an Internet-like structure.
Sramana Mitra: Joel, let’s start with context about Digi and also context about your background.
Joel Young: First of all, you probably haven’t thought of Digi as in cloud computing. We have been in business since 1985, and we were always in the device connectivity business. We make things that connect devices – originally, to servers or computers. As the world has evolved, we have evolved with it, so we started putting devices on networks. Our goal, since we were founded, has been to connect devices into an application. The world has evolved from serial ports to networks like Ethernet and local area networks (LANs). In the year 2000 things, started to get wireless. We were then pioneering in putting wireless LAN technology onto devices. The devices I am talking about don’t necessarily have humans associated with them.
SM: Whom do you compete with? Where do you fit into the networking equipment ecosystem?
JY: Depending on the segment, we might compete with small RF-module providers, because we make little radios. We also compete with the likes of Sierra Wireless or Cisco, since we make cellular routers. We also make gateway boxes to connect smart energy networks. In this case we compete with Tendril. Finally, in the device cloud space, we have a device cloud called iDigi that connects devices with the Internet. In this field we compete with companies like Axceda and ILS. Depending on the market, we have a variety of competitors.
SM: What is your position in Digi?
JY: Chief technical officer.
SM: And where are you based?
JY: Minnetonka, Minnesota.
SM: I am asking because I saw you had something to do with Nebraska Electronics.
JY: I started my career in New Jersey with Bell Laboratories. After 10 years of working on signaling systems and large networks and databases, I moved to Nebraska to work on a startup on encryption modules. That is where I went into engineering and took the company public. This way I got involved in the local electronics industry. Twelve years ago I moved up here to Minnesota to be in charge of research & development and engineering here at Digi international. I was brought in as part of a new leadership team to turn the company around.