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IoT In Action: 5 Questions with Kirk Byles, CEO, Freewave

Q1: How would you describe the current state of IoT?

The IoT solutions landscape is extremely fractured. I think both customers and technology providers alike are carefully weighing and ultimately defining what the future holds in this arena. As technology evolves and customer demand increases, I believe the advantage will go to the companies that deploy IoT solutions that help customers cost-effectively and reliably solve real operational challenges. The opportunities will be significant in the coming years. Q2: Freewave comes from a private radio background but is quickly transitioning to becoming more of an intelligent edge company. What is driving this move? Our customers are driving the move to the intelligent edge. For years they have relied on mechanical machinery to handle a variety of processes at remote sites. Historically, the connectivity that FreeWave provided was the only connection available. It’s becoming increasingly important for customers to access real-time data to make critical operational decisions. Sending all this data up to the cloud and back is not viable for every process and could introduce significant points of failure depending on power capabilities. The only way to capture operational efficiencies in real-time and act on data intelligence requires new edge computing models. For FreeWave, it was a natural extension of our technology and solutions growth. Our focus now is creating a library of software solutions that customers can leverage at the edge to run their business effectively with limited incremental investment.

Q3: What is the most common thing that you are asked from companies trying to use IoT in their products and services? What comes up repeatedly is “what type of efficiencies will we get?” What applications are other people using to drive these efficiencies? FreeWave has evaluated numerous software offerings available on the market over the last few years, but decided to focus on very specific markets and applications. When an oil and gas company asks for help, we know exactly what they need and can help them achieve their goals with only minor changes to their legacy infrastructure. Traditionally, they could be paying $10-$20k for machinery to do a particular job, but with software we can remove most of these costs. We are also working with partners to develop solutions for other markets like healthcare. Customers continue to come to us to provide guidance on available solutions and we are well equipped to provide this insight and create solutions that address their needs.

Q4: What is the dumbest thing you have seen in the market lately? There is considerable hype around the benefits of IoT. With it has come the misconception that you can manage all remote operations with a drone. Given our deep knowledge and success delivering government defense solutions, we understand the limits of what drones can do and the real benefits that can be achieved through edge computing technology. You cannot deliver HD video over a span of 10 miles using a narrowband connection. The right approach combines edge computing and drones. As new technology comes to market, there is a tendency to overhype the capabilities of what can be done at the edge with any one technology. Q5: What do the next 12 months look like in IoT?

I strongly believe a small group of customers and vendors will ultimately drive IoT leadership and that the industry will see significant consolidation. I think this year you’ll see enterprises across several industries deploy game-changing IoT solutions. We are already seeing our solutions make a significant difference in oil & gas, precision agriculture and government operations.

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