27 July 2022
Reading Time: 4 mins
27 July 2022
Reading Time: 4 mins
Coffee vending machines, delivery lockers and lawnmowers – albeit robotic lawnmowers – may not, at first glance, appear to be the glamorous corner of the technology industry when compared to Hyperloop travel and leading Cisco and HP through their most significant transformations. However, CEO Nick Earle, formerly of the above, would disagree. The Eseye leader fizzes with enthusiasm for how eSIMs are about to deliver the next wave of Internet of Things (IoT) business change as a key component of vending machines, lockers and lawnmowers as well as much else.
As the SIM card becomes software-defined, Earle and his organisation describe to IDG Connect how the global downturn will increase IoT adoption and, in doing so, disrupt the telecoms sector and require eSIM providers like Eseye to be makers and integrators.
For those not connected to the trends in SIM technology, an eSIM is an embedded SIM card and therefore programmable. With no removable universal integrated circuit card (the traditional SIM card), an eSIM consists of software installed onto a built-in universal integrated circuit card. Telecoms body GSMA back eSIMs which were actually introduced back in 2016, and the first IoT technologies were demonstrated by semiconductor giant Qualcomm at the 2017 Mobile World Congress.
As a programmable SIM, an eSIM can be deployed to connect to the network that best supports the end device. Therefore CIOs are not bound by network contracts or hampered by one network having poor performance in an area where the organisation needs a sensor and the ability to collect data.
“The thing with IoT is that we have talked about it for 12 years with machine-to-machine connectivity, yet we haven’t done it yet. IoT is the biggest unrealised opportunity in IT,” Earle says from his office in the science park area of Guildford, UK. “Why? There are fundamental structural problems in the industry that are inhibiting interoperability.” Eseye believes that eSIM is the standardisation opportunity that will overcome those interoperability problems and enable IoT to become viable.
Earle adds that this is the common theme of the technology story. “The early mobiles meant you could only call people on the same network,” he says, likening the current situation to the early 90s. This is inhibiting technology providers and the options available to CIOs.
“A large device customer wants a single SKU with the eSIM embedded at the point of manufacture,” he says, explaining that existing SIM technologies create supply chain bottlenecks as SIMs have to be fitted according to the local market and local network providers. Yet IoT provides CIOs with the potential for global insight into their devices, fleets or end-users. “If you enable large firms to create Smart products, you sow the opportunity to move out of the noise and enable new models and business opportunities,” Earle says.
“Technology adoption always happens in a downturn. One of the reasons for that is companies have to reduce costs and increase innovation.”Nick Earle, CEO
Earle says of how the need to tackle global inflation, coupled with national and global supply chain challenges, is giving IoT impetus.
Eseye sees medical devices and smart vending machines as the two “hottest sectors”, but also the rollout of electric vehicle charging points and Smart Meters as the world economy must also tackle climate change. The latter will be dovetailed to the need for organisations to be more efficient and therefore track physical assets for greater optimisation. Eseye counts CHEP, famed for its blue wooden pallets, as a customer. The new CHEP Smart pallets use Eseye devices with five-year battery life to both optimise the use of the pallets and create a new data driven revenue model.
Costa Coffee, now part of the Coca-Cola empire, is an example of how IoT can redefine a business. Earle says the vending machines, commonly seen in roadside service centres and rail stations, are the most used vending machines in the world and highly sought after by forecourt business owners. Part of the success of the machines, Eseye claims, is that the machines can be connected to the best network for the location. This increases the reliability of the vending machine, pleasing customers and, most importantly for Costa Coffee, capturing important data. “Costa Coffee is disrupting Starbucks without having to own a shop. So when new markets open up, Costa Coffee can ship a vending machine, connect it and start selling coffee on the same day,” he says.
Eseye effectively acts as a broker. When Amazon introduced its lockers to Australia the e-commerce giant wanted to ship its US and European devices to the country without having to insert local SIMS. Amazon’s partnership with Eseye ensured that a single embedded Eseye SIM in each device meant that the device would localise onto Telstra and be able to connect to the other Australian networks if Telstra had no coverage.
eSIMs are, therefore, yet another disruptor to the telecoms market. “For IoT, there are more than 800 mobile operators, all with the same business model to lock the customer into their network, so there is no compelling business reason for the operators to offer interoperability,” Earle says.
Eseye has a heritage in making connectivity technologies, but as organisations look to adopt IoT, the Surrey-headquartered business has moved into professional services to integrate eSIM into IoT deployments.
“We have built an IoT services department to advise people,” Earle says. This is enabling Eseye to tackle the lack of adoption of IoT connectivity and help CIOs begin to see value from their IoT strategy. “We sell the connection and federate the connection across a group of operators, and all operators are paid the same,” he says of how Eseye is becoming the “Star Alliance” for IoT, allowing a CIO’s data to travel on the carrier that best suits the journey.
Earle became CEO of Eseye in the summer of 2018; having been involved as an investor, his career has included major leadership roles at Cisco and HP. Two years prior to joining Eseye, Earle had been SVP Global Field Operations for Virgin Hyperloop, the much-vaunted new way to travel that both Virgin and Elon Musk of Tesla fame have invested in. Asked about moving from grand hyperloops to SIM technology, Earle says he still has a great deal of belief in the hyperloop offering, but the moment for the technology has possibly not arrived – yet. While eSIM technology has arrived.
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Nick spearheads Eseye and believes in connectivity that ‘just works’; that makes people’s lives and jobs easier; connectivity that’s invisible. He’s a visionary business leader with a distinguished career in technology spanning more than 30 years, spanning large corporations and dynamic start-ups and oscillating between start-ups and global IT, tech and transportation companies.
Previously, Nick led organisations and cross-company transformation programs for two $50B global corporations; Cisco where he ran the Cloud and Managed Services business as well as their Worldwide Field Services function, and Hewlett Packard where he ran the global Enterprise Marketing function and the internet transformation strategy.
This Insider Interview with Mark Chillingworth was originally published on IDG Connect.