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You’re thinking it, so we decided to ask it! Following on from the very popular Chamber Breakers event, Verizon’s David Vasquez answers our questions on the definition of and future of IoT – Internet of Things.

For us laymen, what are the problems?

Rapid fire answer; the “T” in IoT refers to “things” and just like our computers and smartphones are connected to the internet, so could things. Things connected to the internet!

Google is currently returning 107M+ results to the “what is IoT” query so opinions and definitions are many. I took a stab at it in a previous post where I wrote what IoT and IIoT (or Industry 4.0) mean to me and you can’t help but to come across different versions of the same concept;

  • Internet of everything
  • Connected car
  • Smart cities
  • A combination of these three, etc.


What is the most interesting use of IOT right now?

This is the reason why Google returns so many results – the use cases are many and vary across geographies, regulatory environments and verticals.

In my opinion, asset tracking and predictive maintenance are the most interesting use cases where the Internet of Things could be a true enabler and could deliver value to the entire value chain*1, including (but not limited to) saving lives. Not kidding!

I’ll expand on asset tracking now and leave predictive maintenance for future blog posts.

First, let’s define “asset” as a physical*2 thing that is of value to one or more parties and “tracking” as having the ability to know where (location) and in what status or condition (temperature, moisture, upside down, etc.) the asset is. Secondly and for the sake of illustrating a use case, let’s think of food as an asset; we’d all like to know that what we are about to eat won’t make us sick, right? I hope so because my third point is a problem statement; hundreds of thousands of people die and get sick from food poisoning and illnesses every year!

As a consumer, I want to trust the brand or entity (grocer, e-tailer, supermarket, bodega, etc.) where I get my food from. Living in Amsterdam for 2 years I’ve come to trust the tight community of the Albert Cuyp Market, but initially, I questioned the provenance of the meat and vegetables I was about to buy. It wasn’t until after speaking to colleagues and friends, searching the seller’s name for “bad news”, and personally asking the butcher, fishmonger and vegetable stand attendant where and how they sourced their food that I, well, started to trust them.

So, how can IoT asset tracking help elevate trust in brands, minimize (and work to eliminate) food poisoning deaths and illnesses and where meaningful, show provenance? Well, let me save you from further reading and check out this video.

Cool, huh? This is only one way to do it and many folks are innovating around this problem because it’s worth solving. Brands like IBM, Walmart, Nestle and others seem to agree and are leveraging blockchain to drive the same outcomes I described above.

What’s the biggest risk associated with IOT products?

Perceived risk? Security is what comes to mind.

You see, for some IoT use cases, the sensor data that is being captured could end up traversing a client’s network, hosted in the client’s data centre, integrated into an enterprise application, etc. If security is not pervasive and wasn’t thought about from the design stage, one would argue that a vulnerability is being potentially introduced into a previously safe environment. Luckily, at Verizon (self-serving statements coming) we have IoT specific, security expertise that ranges from application protection credentialing to battle-proven, Blockchain services and include Professional Services to address custom-complex, super wicked, IoT security use cases.

What’s the effect on our lives and culture?

The potential effects and benefits to both our lives and culture are immense. Sticking to food safety, imagine that deaths and illnesses caused by spoiled/tainted foods were a thing of the past? Imagine shifting the economic impact of hundreds of thousands of people becoming sick or dying and turning it into something else that benefits communities.

If designed with privacy and security in mind, with defined personas for user experience, with a path to leverage ML or AI for automated and continued improvement, there is no limit to the positive benefits it could bring to our lives and cultures. That said, the opposite is also true.

What one factor could accelerate the benefits of the Internet of Things?

This is a hard question to answer with just “one factor” so I’ll give you three; Interoperability, Standardisation and Vertical-specific and/or government-sponsored security frameworks like what NIST is doing for Smart Cities also come to mind.

What’s one policy change that would accelerate the benefits of the Internet of Things?

Come up with a consumer-friendly and government-enforceable “right to be forgotten” framework in which a user could control when and how to have personal data purged and permanently deleted from a system or application.

What advice can you give start-ups and entrepreneurs interested in this field?

IoT is an ecosystem so my advice would be;

  1. Figure out how what your start-up delivers could fit into one of these ecosystems (and if being in an ecosystem aligns with the business strategy)
  2. Stay close to corporate accelerators (another shameless, self-serving statement)
  3. Define where you will play and pivot on your experience solving a problem in a complex value chain; why you / why is your mouse trap better?

The IoT has a complex value chain and showing value in one area has proven beneficial when it comes to exits and/or raising capital. Could Square be the IoT’s payment engine? Could Spotify leverage it’s recommendation algorithms for anomaly detection via sound? At Verizon we certainly have a great track record of investing and sometimes acquiring start-ups that fit well within our ecosystem; NiddelSkyward and Sensity always come to mind and so does our Ventures team.

Last question for you, David – the Work Life and Verizon teams are always looking for opportunities to improve the experience of our guests and tenants throughout our global locations. Could you share how IOT would help?

Bathroom and coffee breaks! Seriously – if you want to make my office-life easier, optimise the experience of going for another cup of coffee (or tea) and the bathroom. I’m not alone (it’d be embarrassing if I was) in wishing that I knew EXACTLY if I have time to use the restroom or get a coffee before the next conference call.

(Literally wriote this on my 30th ounce of Starbucks, medium roast Pike coffee)

Occupancy sensors in the restroom intelligent enough to understand A) how many stalls exist B) how many are being used C) how many people are waiting for one  + occupancy sensors in/around hot-desk area + calendar integration all feeding a dashboard that’d tell me the best time to get up and go!

User privacy and security needs to be at the center of the application design. Because the novelty would wear off quickly (we’d get used to it and forget how “it used to be”), the application needs to be flexible and iterative in nature. Because we house a lot of smart tenants, I’d make the data available so that others could bring their ideas and improve the experience.

  • The experience in gender-neutral restrooms is different from gender-specific ones so let’s plan for that; toiletries, temperature, air freshener could all be customized
  • The peak/off peak usage times will vary so let’s also plan for that and keep facilities in the loop; have you ever dashed to the restroom and find it closed for cleaning? And now you have to walk 1000 miles to the next restroom? (that’s how far it feels for me)
  • Test this approach across locations, compare and contrast? What’s different and how do you drive an efficiency ON TOP of a better experience? Use this data to plan the best combination/ratio of restrooms and coffee machines to square footage and occupancy. And if you figured out how to monetize this, sell the model, become a millionaire, take a sabbatical and come back to build the next thing!
  • Accomplish this with a GDPR-like board for oversight and design the system as to avoid inference

*1 My imagined value chain of food; the fishermen or fisherwomen, the oyster packers, the driver who picks up the oysters, the distribution centre and/or outdoor market where the oysters go, the merchant selling the oysters, the consumer who’ll buy them, the charity or soup kitchen that’d pick up units not good enough to sell but good enough to eat that evening, the entity that disposes of the wasted/spoiled produce, surely I’m missing a few links in this chain…

*2 There are digital assets but that’s for another post