Be sure to check out the first installment of this Q&A for Deron’s view on the Industrial Internet of Things.
Current is well-equipped to lead organizations into the new era of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). But what does implementing the IoT and a digital ceiling in your space really look like? We asked Deron Miller, Chief Revenue Officer at Current, to shed some light on some of the practical aspects of the IIoT, building management and more.
How do you explain GE’s stance on the digital ceiling?
It’s unique for us at GE to have the sensors in the fixtures. Look up at the ceiling—you can imagine if we had a sensor in every one of those fixtures and what the richness of the data captured could be.
How we use that data also sets us apart. We provide APIs to anyone who wants to build an application and solve a problem. That differentiates us. We don’t necessarily want to build applications, but we want to provide the operating system. Think of it like an iPhone. We want to provide iOS; we don’t want to write every application on your phone. There are great companies out there that already do that. We provide the data and the operating system, which allows companies to build great applications that will provide savings. It all comes down to how you get the digital ceiling in, and we have a great, cost-effective way of doing that.
We’ve heard customers say that Current’s digital ceiling has an advantage because people understand lighting. They know about lightbulbs. Do you think that’s an advantage, even though there’s so much new technology that companies aren’t totally equipped to handle yet?
It’s funny, I’ve pitched that before to a CIO. She couldn’t get her head around indoor positioning and everything we were trying to present. But we said, “Can we agree that you’re going to do an LED replacement in every manufacturing facility and commercial office?” The answer was yes. So while you’re doing that, let’s put a sensor in every one of these fixtures so we can get a digital ceiling. If you don’t do that now with us, you have to do it later by yourself. You’ll have to go in and wire the building, and you aren’t doing an LED replacement where you have an ROI of 50% built in so it gets really, really, expensive. Oh and by the way, the LEDs you just put in are good for 10 or 12 years, so your buildings are never going to get smart or catch up for that period of time.
That’s exactly how we sell it everywhere: We take baby steps. There’s people who want to rock and roll—JPMorgan Chase is doing everything—and there’s customers who want to go slow. The main thing is educating them on how they get their buildings connected in the most effective, affordable way. The companies that are in lighting have a unique advantage because of the LED revolution that’s going on right now.
Where do you see the AllSites platform fitting in?
In the beginning, AllSites was called EMS, and we were competing with BMS. We didn’t want to go head to head with them—that was a very established, old school vertical. We found our sweet spot around AllSites being “BMS light.” Affordable, install it with the digital ceiling, and a good example has been with retail banking facilities around the world that don’t have the money to put in a full BMS.
I think retail banks and any small box footprints are prime for this because they can’t afford to do a huge building management system. It’s too expensive and their ROI doesn’t work. But if you do it through the lighting and you do an energy/lighting app like what we have with AllSites, it’s affordable. You can get it in and get an ROI and then you can really start to get data around water leakage, energy savings around lighting and HVAC, things like that. We’ll give you one point of view across your global portfolio. We’ll pull all your data together.
I think AllSites can play both ways—either as a standalone product or integrated as part of a BMS. We’ve done a good job of differentiating ourselves from a BMS. AllSites used to get sucked into competing with a BMS, but we want to lay on top of that and be in addition to that.
One of the biggest concerns surrounding the IoT is privacy. What do you say to organizations to assuage their fears?
Three years ago, everybody was really concerned about security. Even a year ago, we’d get more questions than we’re getting now. It’s just not that much of an issue anymore. It’s something you have to deal with, but we’ve done that in our product and our process. We use multiple layers of encryption to pass the data to the cloud, and then there’s all kinds of data security in place in the cloud.
The biggest thing is personally identifiable information (PII). When you start sending that, there’s a whole other level of difficulty. But we don’t ever send PII, so we don’t have to have that level of security around data. We don’t lose opportunities around security because of how our architecture is configured and how we do it, and because the cloud has massive security now. It’s becoming less and less of an issue because everybody is solving for it.
What is the one thing companies who haven’t started implementing these smart solutions can start doing today to ready themselves for the future?
Start with your facilities. Get your buildings smart. You’re going to do LED replacements anyway; use that ROI to get the digital ceiling in. Once you have that, you can venture off into applications that would make or save you money. This is very specific to companies, but there’s some basic applications around space optimization, space utilization, conference room management, indoor positioning and asset tracking. Once companies get the digital ceiling in and start collecting their own data, they’ll start to see the power of that data.
We did this one time for a customer and we started showing them their data, and it showed that on Fridays, everybody came into the office and left at 1 p.m. And they all came to the same place. We went back with that data to the CEO and CFO and asked what happened there, and they said they serve free breakfast and lunch on Fridays. That’s why everyone was coming to the office, and then they would leave. The only reason they’re coming to the office is for the free breakfast and lunch. I asked, “If I told you this was going on, would you have believed me?” And they said no, absolutely not. I give you that example because when companies start seeing their live data, they’ll start saying “Hey, if we could do this, we could save a ton of money.” That’s how we get people fired up about it.
My advice is to start with the building, which is your second biggest asset. It resonates. It’s not easy because there’s a lot of people involved. Some employees at the facility levels say, “I’ve never done this before, why do I want to do it now? My lights are good, and I’ve been doing it this way for 25 years.” You have to educate them, and you need some firepower from the C-suite. It’s a process.