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Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Joel Young, Senior VP of Research & Development/Chief Technical Officer of Digi (Part 5)

Posted on Friday, Dec 21st 2012

Sramana Mitra: That is the direction I was going in earlier.  You talked about your Internet of things business in a range of about $100 million.  What is the size of the current Internet of things industry?

Joel Young: In the commercial business and in the commercial space, where we play, it is a billion to a billion and a half dollar industry. It is difficult to count, because you can’t count every microprocessor there is.  I counted cellular modules companies which specifically target cellular modules for internet of things applications.  It is easy to calculate a number of ways, but the question is, what is the most meaningful way?

SM: What segments are the early adopters?

JY: The biggest markets today are asset tracking, security, and consumption monitoring.  That is where the earliest deployments were. People and businesses need to know where their stuff is. One of the newest growth areas is medical devices – medical in terms of health monitoring and remote monitoring. Imagine a world where the goal is to get people out of the hospitals and into their homes as quickly as possible in a way that it is safe but doesn’t require around-the-clock nursing care. You can do that by remote monitoring and remote diagnostics. But you have to do maintain the equipment, as well as the condition of the patient. This is one of the newest growth areas we are starting to see.

SM: What about the world of consumers?

JY: In the world of consumers I never count tablets, cellphones, or PCs.  Music players, gaming consoles, DVD players, or alarm systems (that is, home security monitoring and connected automobiles) are the big areas of consumers. If you think of your own home, you should count the number of Internet-connected things that aren’t your phone, tablet, or computer.  I think you’d be surprised at the number of things that are now tied and connected.

SM: I can’t think of anything other than those specific ones at the moment.  My TV, for example, is connected with Apple TV, which I don’t consider being a part of this category. Its specific purpose is being connected through the Internet.  I don’t see a lot of Internet-connected devices in my home.

JY: Entertainment devices in the consumer world are part of the Internet of things.

SM: That is still in the realm of consumer electronics. The home entertainment is being integrated into the computing universe. What I am saying is that that doesn’t surprise me.

JY: This is what I mentioned earlier. The consumer drivers are entertainment, convenience, and personal safety, whereas the business drivers are customer service, efficiency, and revenue.

SM: That makes sense. I was just aiming to see if there is anything I missed.

JY: I have Internet-connected alarm clocks.

SM: My alarm is on my iPhone app.  Why would an Internet-connected alarm clock interesting?

JY: It is all tied to our home music system, too. And, I created a heat map for my house.  I have 26 temperature sensors that are all connected to the Internet.  This way I can monitor how temperature changes across the entire house.

SM: If the utility company wants to offer those types of devices to consumers so that they can optimize their energy consumption, for example, that would be interesting.

JY: We have a customer who offers that exact service.  They monitor thermostat temperatures in the house. Based on the rise and fall of temperature in the house, they calculate the thermal mass of the house and adjust set points to optimize the way the house heats and cools. The worst thing you can do is heat the house too quickly, because [the heat] sits in the air and temperature leaves with the air. What you want is the temperature to actually reside in the building, and the air in the building will tend to radiate more towards the actual temperature of the building itself.  They have algorithms that automatically adjust set points of the thermostats in order to optimize energy efficiency.

SM: My takeaway of this conversation is that the mechanical problem of trends of Internet of things is converting mechanical systems into electromechanical systems. We heard from a lot of people that there is a big gap between mechanical and electronic engineering.

JY: I would even extend that.  It is not just the gap between those two.  They tend to spit out data streams which work with obscure binary protocols that some engineer created for his own purpose of maintenance years ago.  People who know how to use that don’t know anything about networking.  So, the problem is expertise.

SM: Networking falls into the category of the electronics industry in a broad sense. It is therefore electronics and communications as opposed to mechanical issues. I believe there is a gap between those two worlds.  Your observation is correct. During the next 10 years of this technology, we are going to see a lot more products that combine aspects of both of those worlds.

JY: I agree with that.  This is what makes it fun.

SM: Thank you very much for taking the time for this interview.

JY: Thank you for your time as well.

This segment is part 5 in the series : Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Joel Young, Senior VP of Research & Development/Chief Technical Officer of Digi
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