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IoT In Action: 5 Questions with Wienke Giezeman, CEO & Co-founder, The Things Network

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

Do you remember when you first experienced Wi-Fi and you had to reboot every 15 minutes to make it work? You felt two things 1. This is not working yet. 2. This is the future and it is never going to go away. I feel it is a perfect analogy that captures the current state of the IoT industry but also the promise of the future. We are really just getting started in IoT. The industry’s immaturity is especially difficult for companies who are raising large sums of money and have yet to see a significant revenue stream.

Q2: The Things Network and Things Industries have been driving IoT innovation longer than many companies have existed in the space. How do you see your role in IoT?

Enterprise IoT is moving away from a single systems integrator approach to an ecosystem of technology providers that can easily integrate and provide a solution with less custom solution components. Both vendors and users need to build an ecosystem.

What we do is focus on getting from an initial idea to the first product with the Things Network. Things Industries then takes you to a million devices. The zero to one phase is to validate the business case and market and it is required before the next step. We have a pure focus on building private LoRaWAN networks. While the networks may be public, the routing of the data is always private.

Q3: What are the most common questions that customers and partners ask? What do they need help with?

There are two segments. The first group is focused on how to get started. They have been inspired by a specific problem and they need help in how to get started, to experiment and to learn. Once they figure out the basic use case, what they have usually does not scale.

Now the question turns to scale and in keeping operational costs low as part of the project. The tools to provision and deploy 100 devices a day are very different from deploying 1000 a day. If you are not careful, the total cost of ownership will be huge.

Q4: What are the biggest misconceptions that you have seen in the market lately?

Enterprise and industrial companies need end to end solutions but not end to end solution providers. Large Customers want to take IoT technology, integrate it into their existing operations and to broadly use the data across the company. A complete full stack solution is desirable, but it cannot ignore existing company infrastructure. Suppliers need to allow customers to choose which part of the solution stack that they want to use. It is the only way to scale but it takes time. Agnostic, hybrid approaches tend to work the best. For instance, IoT technology is so immature that a customer needs a drag and drop dashboard rather than static one.

Q5: What does the next year look like for the industry? How will NB-IoT impact LoRa activities?

We will see a steady 60% year on year growth in the IoT. LoRa is finding its place in local networks - it is becoming the Wi-Fi of IoT. It is also where we are seeing the majority of our success. NB-IoT is definitely a winner but solving different problems. Around the world, NB-IoT is being treated as critical for large corporate accounts but operators are struggling with go to market. I believe NB-IoT will only scale if operators allow vertical MVNOs to play a major role in solutions and solving customer problems.

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