Diving into the Industrial Internet of Things: A Q&A with Deron Miller, Part 1

Over the summer, CIO Dive covered the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) in an article, “The fight to overcome the 'not sexy' perception of industrial internet.” They covered a lot of hot topics surrounding smart buildings and connected devices, including some of the problems facing organizations as they look to the future: IoT solutions are so new that many companies don’t know what they mean or how to implement them, and tomorrow’s business model will require organizations to be more agile and flexible. Not to mention, there are talent shortages and security concerns may act as barriers to IoT implementation.


Current’s Chief Revenue Officer Deron Miller gave his thoughts on the IIoT and these challenges as part of the CIO Dive piece, but it only scratched the surface of intelligent environments. We interviewed Deron to take a deeper look into the IIoT and hear more of his thoughts on the future of industrial facilities.


Current: There seem to be a lot of misconceptions behind the IIoT. What do you think the biggest myth is today? How do you overcome that myth when talking with customers?

Deron: I think customers get confused about the Internet of Things and what it is. It’s really attaching assets to the internet. The biggest misconception is that the Industrial Internet of Things is just a platform. There’s so much more to it than that. It all plays into the fact that your biggest asset besides your people is your real estate, and it’s the most expensive besides your people, so let’s talk about how we can get those assets connected to the Internet of Things.


We’re lucky because we at Current sell fixtures and lamps, which happen to have power, and we can put sensors in them and start to get the buildings connected and use the ROI around that to do it. Then you can get them into the IoT, which is really data, applications, SaaS, and then getting users to understand what’s going on in their global portfolio.


What would you to say to organizations that feel overwhelmed at the prospect of launching an IoT environment? How do you work through those concerns?

I’ve been in this space for five or six years, and back in the day if I walked up to a large organization and said, “Can we agree that you’re going to do an LED replacement?” 50% of the time they would say no. Now, if you walk in and ask that they all say yes. Everybody is going to do an LED replacement. So when you do that, let’s put your digital ceiling in and use the ROI around the lighting savings going from fluorescent to LED, as well as the additional savings we can get from controls, to pay for the installation of the digital ceiling.


That’s not too overwhelming. We have a value prop tool that says it’s going to add a year to payback but then we’re going to get the breadth of the digital ceiling and applications and then the value prop really goes up. It’s that whole conversation—breaking it down to what they’re going to do anyway and showing them how they can get a smart building in the future with that LED replacement.


The article mentioned that manufacturing is currently facing the most IoT disruption. What’s your prediction on the next sector to experience this shift?

I would say manufacturing is still next. Retail and commercial office are probably ahead of industrial because manufacturers really get scared about the disruption to the facility. They run 24/7, the lights can’t go out, they can’t have disruption. But the savings and applications you can get with a digital ceiling in a manufacturing facility are huge. How do you get LEDs and sensors in and not disrupt the business? That’s why they struggle a bit.


In CIO Dive, you mentioned that commercial real estate is one of the biggest opportunities for the IoT. What specific types of technology or application do you see impacting the commercial space and being a driver of change in the future?

In general, space optimization and space utilization of commercial real estate will be the biggest driver. Besides people, real estate is the most expensive things corporations pay for. You can figure out through data, and not just assumptions or old school ways of doing it, how many people are in a building, how many people are in a conference room, when do they use it, how many times do they use it, and how many people use it. Then you can have real data-driven conversations around, “We don’t need ten floors in this building, we only need eight, and that would save us X,” which is a big number.


If you can get a digital ceiling in, you can get anybody interested in IoT. Because then you can ask what their biggest problems or concerns are. A bank might say, “I want to know when we have more than four people in the queue, where is everybody in the bank? Do we have anybody coming into this bank? When they do, where do they go?” You can imagine from an HVAC perspective how valuable that would be. Another great example is organizations concerned refrigeration. There’s a lot of FDA regulations and reporting that needs to be done. Large retailers are saying they’re losing up to a billion dollars a year in food spoilage and fines. Imagine if you could build an application to track temperatures and possibly prevent food waste.


That’s finding what I call “painkiller applications.” There’s “vitamin applications” that you have to do every day, like conference room management, but there’s those “painkiller apps” that will move the needle in areas where companies are losing a large amount of money. When organization see that, they say, “I don’t care how much that costs, let’s do it.” That will drive adoption. But it’s all about getting the digital ceiling in first so you can have those conversations.


Check out the second part of the Q&A for more information on the digital ceiling.