How IoT Solves the Final Mile Problem

IoT Leaders with Nick Earle, CEO of Eseye and Jono Doyle, Product Manager at BT Final Mile.

How is IoT transforming supply chains and logistics? Jono Doyle, Product Manager at BT Final Mile, speaks with Nick about how the company is using IoT to solve the “Final Mile Problem.” 

Using a UK based network of IoT enabled intelligent lockers, they ensure engineers get the right parts at the right time and in the right place. This ensures that engineers are closer than ever to the specific parts they need, spending less time on the road and more time focused on delivering customer service.

Join us as we discuss:

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Transcript

Intro:
You’re listening to IoT Leaders, a podcast from Eseye that shares real IoT stories from the field about digital transformation swings and misses, lessons learned and innovation strategies that work. In each episode, you’ll hear our conversations with top digitization leaders on how IoT is changing the world for the better. Let IoT Leaders be your guide to IoT digital transformation and innovation. Let’s get into the show.

Nick Earle:
So Jono, welcome to the IoT Leaders podcast.

Jono Doyle:
Thanks Nick, it’s good to be here.

Nick Earle:
Okay, we’re going to talk about supply chain and logistics and a pretty innovative IoT solution here. And it’s an area that, certainly from my perspective, we didn’t really think too much about. It’s not the most obvious area for IoT. But it actually is really innovative and has got a great ROI, essentially. It’s a very clear business benefit and it’s in the area of supply chain and logistics. So you work now for BT, British Telecom, Final Mile. We’ll get into how you ended up in BT Final Mile, because that’s an interesting story in itself. But first of all, as a way of context for the listeners and indeed the viewers who watch it on the video option, could you just talk a little bit about BT Final Mile and what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what problem you solve?

Jono Doyle:
Yeah. So I guess I need to describe what a BT Final Mile is and do what Final Mile is, and it’s almost exactly what it is. It’s the Final Mile of the logistics problem. So it’s about getting the goods, the parcels, the packages, whatever it is, to the person who needs it, when and where they need it. So often we’re quite good in logistics at getting stuff to somewhere and having lots of stuff there and people coming there and getting it. But oftentimes that’s really far away. It’s a hub, they call them hubs, it’s quite a popular term. And basically what that means is people need to go to these places. And obviously that creates a bit of bottleneck and journeys for people that don’t particularly need them. So Final Mile is about that final mile of delivery. So not just getting to the hub, but after that, how do we get to the person? So that’s what the final mile is. And quite similar, BT Final Mile is a solution to that problem. For me, it’s the solution, it seems to be the best one as far as I’m concerned.

Nick Earle:
And these people, it sounds a little bit like Amazon. But there’s a specific group of people, it’s not as I understand it, it’s not Mrs. Smith waiting in the house for a parcel and has to drive to a hub to pick up a parcel from Amazon. That’s not what we were talking about is it?

Jono Doyle:
No, it’s not. I guess it’s similar, it’s the B2P problem. So it’s what the businesses face. So particularly engineering field services. So these people who go around installing your modems, your gas meters, going up telegraph poles. These people who actually, they also need stuff. They’re not just ordering things off Amazon or eBay and getting them delivered. They’re ordering things normally off their own business or from somewhere. And they still need to get that stuff. But obviously it’s quite important for them, where us at home when we buy something online, we’re somewhat okay with it being dropped next door, to the old lady down the end of the street. In a business setting, that’s not really acceptable. We can’t say, “Oh it’s with Mrs. Smith down the road, we’ll go pick it up in a couple of days.”

Nick Earle:
Your new smart gas meter.

Jono Doyle:
Yeah.

Nick Earle:
Really didn’t appreciate carrying it into her house because it’s heavy. So we’re talking about field service engineers, which is a pretty broad category of people. Because you’ve already said it, BT don’t do gas meters. So straight away you can see that what you’re talking about is field service engineers in general. Yes some of them might be BT putting a new router into your house or coming to do something to your house and getting the parts, which we’ll go into. But this is an industry issue for anybody who has a field service team. It’s a generic industry problem and opportunity, isn’t it?

Jono Doyle:
Yeah, for everyone from the car breakdown guys to, as I said, the guys who go up telegraph poles, people who look after fleet vehicles. All these sort of people require parts and they can’t have them delivered to their homes. They don’t have the time to be going into the local post office with their little red card and saying “Here, I’ve got a parcel, here’s my ID. Can I get that now?” They don’t have that time.

Nick Earle:
Do you have 36 gas meters in the back? So this is a broad industry solution, because a lot of companies, arguably anyone who sells things to businesses have field maintenance, field support teams. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry and those teams need spare parts. They need access to products, as you say, it’s not the Amazon model. So the field service engineer doesn’t get an Amazon delivery, Amazon Prime at 7:00 AM with all of the parts. So presumably they have to go and collect them somehow, they have to get them. And they have to… I guess they’re spending a lot of time doing that, which is what’s at the heart of this. So maybe just to start off with, how does the industry in general solve the issue of getting products and parts to field service engineers?

Jono Doyle:
Yeah, so the solutions that exist that aren’t our IoT product, there’s a couple of them out there. Some of them are quite strange. And I was quite shocked when I learned about them. The simple ones are what we call PODOs, pick up, drop off. So that’s similar to what you would see as if you were going to a Royal Mail office to pick up your parcel. It’s a more an industry standard, they go into their warehouse and go to the desk at the warehouse and says, “Can I have my 10 gas meters please?” And the guy goes off, grabs 10 gas meters from the back and give it to him. So there’s that solution, which obviously causes its own problems.

Nick Earle:
Well, especially I would imagine, especially if 30 people all arrive at one time.

Jono Doyle:
Yeah, well that’s the thing. All these people are starting, all these engineers are starting at the same time. They’re all starting at half seven, eight o’clock in the morning. So they’re all meeting there half seven, eight o’clock in the morning. And that obviously means you’ve got 30 engineers, some poor person behind a desk having to collect all these-

Nick Earle:
The poor guy behind the desk has got to get 30 cast iron, gas meters.

Jono Doyle:
Exactly and-

Nick Earle:
For 30 engineers.

Jono Doyle:
And these engineers are people. So their friends show up, they’re going to stop and have a chat. They’re not going to rush away to work either. So they’re the sort of problems with that. And also these PODO locations, these hopes aren’t always in a convenient location for engineers to get to. A lot of times they require driving through a town to the other side of town, around to an industrial state. Maybe that doesn’t really fit in with their day and their schedule.
The other solutions then are literally, what we’ve seen was having a room in a building and they just go in, their stuff has been dropped there the night before with everyone’s else’s stuff. But if they’ve ordered a brand new pack of spanners, because theirs is old and rusty. And they’re like, “Well, I need some new ones.” They order them, but then their mate John shows up five minutes before them. And he is like, “Oh they’re nice and shiny, I’ll have them for myself.” And takes them. It can result in things people’s tools going missing, going walkabouts. And then someone not getting their gas meter or smart meter installed because the tools have gone missing.

Nick Earle:
And I think we could all identify with that, because these supply chain issues are often covered up, shall we say, to the consumer. All the consumer knows is that you got a delivery slot of the engineer’s coming to fix fridge or install… Whatever. And they’ll be there in the morning or the afternoon. You’re looking to get that level of granularity. And then you find that they don’t show and it’s very frustrating. And of course, one of the reasons they don’t show is because, and I guess a pretty common reason actually, is because the parts were either the spanners, as you say, were either chosen by the guy who got through the door first, or the parts were just not there, or the delays in the supply chain mean that they just couldn’t get to job number seven. They only got six done that day and therefore they didn’t show up.
So this is an enormous problem, the distribution of physical goods for supply chain engineers. So that’s what we’re talking about.

Jono Doyle:
It is yeah.

Nick Earle:
And no one’s really cracked it. And none of the consumer delivery companies are in this business. They’re into B2C, you’re solving a B2B problem. So let’s start off by now going back in time, because you actually were part of the company that BT acquired to solve this problem, which I believe was called Pelipod. So first of all, let’s talk about Jono, so give me the brief history of Jono because I believe you went from university to Pelipod?

Jono Doyle:
Yeah.

Nick Earle:
Which was the company that was started with an idea to solve this, is that right?

Jono Doyle:
Yeah, that’s exactly what happened, yeah. I graduated in product design in Ireland and pretty much when I finished that it was during the end of the crash, the economic crash, which I feel like we’ve had many now.
And for me really-

Nick Earle:
The financial crash, are you talking about the 2008?

Jono Doyle:
Yeah, the financial 2008 crash, yeah.

Nick Earle:
Some of us are a little bit older to remember a couple before that, but we’ll move on.

Jono Doyle:
Yeah. So for me, my options were a little bit limited in Ireland at the time. So I started looking at jobs abroad. I was young, so I saw this job advertised. I think it was on one of the websites for jobs that are around. Applied for it and got a call off Mark, who was one of the founding members of Pelipod, saying to come over to London for an interview. Chuffed with myself, I booked my flights, arranged a time, all sorted to meet them probably around midday or afternoon in Heathrow for an interview. But it gets to, I think 1:00 AM, 2:00 AM, some ridiculously early. And I get a call, this is back when good customer service existed for airlines, a call from the airline saying my flight’s been canceled. And basically they gave me the option to get on an earlier fight, like 3:00 AM or something in the morning. So I have to go, wake up my dad, give him a good old shake and say, “Here, you need to drop me to the airport now.”

Nick Earle:
This story about solving global supply chain problems all comes down to you shaking your dad awake at-

Jono Doyle:
3:00 AM.

Nick Earle:
At 3:00 AM to get you to go for the first flight out of Dublin or wherever.

Jono Doyle:
Yeah, out of Dublin, into Heathrow, yeah. And from there then obviously a long wait in the airport then to meet the guys, doing my interview prep.

Nick Earle:
You got the job.

Jono Doyle:
I got a job. Yeah I didn’t scare them off. I had a thicker Irish accent then than I do now. So it didn’t scare them off.

Nick Earle:
I wasn’t going to mention anything. All right so listen, you were early, the first engineer on board, is that right?

Jono Doyle:
Yeah, the rest of the people were weren’t really engineers. They were, Carl whose idea it was, I guess he knew systems, he was very IT based guy. And the rest were a similar background, or just management background. So I was the first engineer, but I was a product designer, I wasn’t really an engineer.

Nick Earle:
So you found yourself with… Well first of all, owing your dad a favor because you shook him awake at that time in the morning to drive to the airport. But you got the job and you found yourself in a startup called Pelipod, which was not exactly directly related to the degree that you did. But then a lot of us are in the similar sort of situation. So this is just around the time of the crash, so we can date it to 2008, 2009 or something like that guess?

Jono Doyle:
Yeah well it was the end of the crash, so it was in the early teens.

Nick Earle:
Oh, okay.

Jono Doyle:
Yeah.

Nick Earle:
And what was Pelipod idea? What was the big idea?

Jono Doyle:
Well then it was a B2C solution. That was what we thought it was going to be and where our focus was. So it was to create, still a final mile solution, but maybe something more similar to what your listeners will know, like your Amazon Lockers, stuff like this. This was something that sits outside your front door and essentially someone comes along with your parcel. It was very specifically, you could generate codes, you go onto our website, you’d click, I want to generate a code from my locker. You put that into your actual address line. So then when your delivery man, your Amazon man comes around, he’ll see Pelipod 1, 2, 3, 4, types it into this locker box thing outside your door, opens it up, drops the parcel and closes it.
It takes a picture of what’s in there and sends you a text message saying, your-

Nick Earle:
Parcel’s been delivered.

Jono Doyle:
Parcel’s been delivered from Amazon and it’s been open and closed at this time. And then if someone comes along, your son comes along, opens up the box with his code, because he’ll have a unique code if you have chosen to give him one, and decides he likes your parcel and takes it, it will say, it has been opened by in my case, Jono, he’s taken your new phone for himself and closed it. And you’ll know that because obviously you got back home and it’s been taken, you can see who’s opened it last and it was your son.

Nick Earle:
It’s interesting Jono, how that market has now evolved. Because with the benefit of hindsight, we can look back and say the B2C market was just taken by two innovations by Amazon, shameless plug, both of which powered by Eseye connectivity on a global basis. But one is the Amazon Lockers, which aren’t outside your front door, but are not far away. The bright yellow banks of lockers, same concept. But it’s actually somewhere you go to drop in, drop off, pick up a drop off. And secondly, it’s just starting in the US now, but it’s key for business where people can actually have access, if you give them a door, or a gate, or a warehouse store or whatever, the Amazon Prime driver can, can actually get access without you going there to open it when the van turns up. So Amazon are just completely automating that. So at some point there must have been a pivot. So you got acquired by BT, what year did you get acquired?

Jono Doyle:
Trying to think now. I think it was 2017, but I think the conversation had started in about 2016, around that time.

Nick Earle:
So you pivoted to B2B, the whole field service engineer. Was that as a result of the BT acquisition or were you pivoting anyway?

Jono Doyle:
I think we were pivoting anyway. We had certainly realized how difficult it was in the B2C market. There was no way we were ever going to be able to contend with the big players, like Amazon really in that space. It’s very difficult to go into that and say, “Hey, I’m taking these guys on.” So it required some level of change and yeah, we discovered through conversations with people going to shows and trying to sell it, that yeah, same problem exists for businesses, for the B2B world. And particularly the field service engineers. And I know BT at the time had just started looking at a solution. They were trying to find the solution to their supply chain problems.

Nick Earle:
They had a problem, they’ve got a huge field engineering force. So they had a big strategic company with their own problem. They were looking for a solution anyway, right?

Jono Doyle:
Yeah. They were looking for a solution anyway. And other large companies like EDF use their supply chain as well. So it was a massive problem and a massive cost to their business. So it was just right timing really. We-

Nick Earle:
It’s true for, a lot of companies are in completely different business to the one they started off in originally. They often don’t tell the story, but something happened either winning a customer or a competitor came in and just said, we’re screwed here. But actually, you know what, if we turn it 90 degrees to the left, paint it red instead of green, actually we solve a different problem. And that’s a defendable hill because people aren’t looking in that direction, which is exactly what you did. So what now, at BT Final Mile, been in there since, I guess four or five years and now it’s a pretty well established solution out there. You’ve got quite a few customer. So how many customers have you got and how does it work?

Jono Doyle:
To be honest, I have no idea how many customers we’ve got. There seems to be a new email I get every week saying

Nick Earle:
I knew the answer. I did a bit of research and yes I do do research of the podcast guest. I believe I’m right in saying that you have about 1,900, so let’s call it 2000. Oh no, they were sites weren’t they?

Jono Doyle:
Yeah, so there are a lot of sites at BTO, a lot. The way I like to think about it, if you ever hear about when you’re in a big city and they say you’re never four feet away from a rat. Well, you’re never more than 15 minutes away from a BT site.

Nick Earle:
Yeah. I’m just glad you’re an engineer, not your marketing job. I think we’ve got your general drift.

Jono Doyle:
There’s a lot of sites. We’re on probably over 1,900 sites now. And we’ve got about… I’d say just over 5,000 Pelipod lockers specifically on those sites.

Nick Earle:
Okay so 5,000, all right. We’ll leave the rodents behind. So we’ve got 5,000 and they’re being used by multiple companies. So how does it work?

Jono Doyle:
Yeah. So this is beauty of the IoT solution, it’s quite simple, certainly for, I guess the engineers and for the customers to use. Essentially there’s two ways they can do it. They can either have pin code for an engineer and that’s their locker that they go to every day or they can have a one time use code that works more towards the parcels and the actual goods going into the locker. So if we talk the pin code solution, it’s one of probably the most common ones that they like to use, is a locker gets assigned to an engineer or a group of engineers, two or three of them might share a locker if the customer wants to save money that way, they can do it that way. And deliveries get put in there by us, we do the deliveries as well as part of the service we offer. And then-

Nick Earle:
Pause there sorry, because I always probe on the business model. You just said something you’re about to move on, because I think it’s going to come back to where you’re likely to go or could go in the future. You not only are installing the lockers and offering the service, as a revenue stream for BT, but you are actually offering the logistics. You’re becoming a logistics company in itself. You just said that you’re actually offering to put your customer, the company’s products into your lockers.

Jono Doyle:
Yeah we do, pick up from their locations and drop it to the Pelipod lockers, we offer that service for them and the returns as well, we go there and pick up whatever-

Nick Earle:
You’re becoming a stop shop. It was a locker, it’s now a logistics company.

Jono Doyle:
Yeah it is. And it makes it a lot easier for the customer. They don’t have to shop around and do different people for all different parts of their supply chain. They can just come to us and we’ll solve the problem for them. So yeah, where was I? The pin codes.

Nick Earle:
Yeah, you were saying the two ways, I apologize.

Jono Doyle:
That’s all right.

Nick Earle:
The most common is the pin code.

Jono Doyle:
The pin code solution. And that’s really, so if you were an individual engineer, you’d have a pin code and that’s your locker and you can always access that locker with that pin code. Until someone says, you’re not having access to that locker anymore. So essentially what happens is we drop the goods off and they’ll say, pick up your goods whenever you want. And they’ll just go to the locker, they know their pin code, it’ll be on a piece of paper someone’s giving them at some point, or in an email from their line manager. They’ll access the locker every morning, every second morning, whenever they need to pick up their goods and drop them off. And we’ll have an agreement where we’ll all go out and we’ll empty the locker every Friday or something like that, just so that they know that’s the day their returns gets picked up.
And that solution’s quite good where they want to have engineers sharing lockers and just have an engineer who just has to remember his one pin code, that’s it. It makes it quite simple for them. The other option is, the option I like to be honest, this is what we call one time use codes. And essentially that’s more assigned to the parcel that goes in there. Because what happens is you get the delivery driver coming out and he has a unique code. He opens the locker, he drops the box in and closes it. And it says that parcel has been dropped off. We know that because the guy’s used that code and that can trigger an email, a text, phone call, whatever it is, out to the engineer that says your parcel, your smart meter has been dropped off into this locker at this location. Here’s your unique code, go pick it up.
Therefore, when they go and they use now their unique code, that is one time use and open and close it, it will say engineer A has picked up his smart meter at this time. So that individual smart meter is now tracked in that window.

Nick Earle:
Okay. So you’ve now got down to tracking of an item, and all of this is, it’s implicit, but we should probably make it explicit. It’s using cellular obviously.

Jono Doyle:
Yep.

Nick Earle:
You guys need a hundred percent coverage because it’s no good if you’ve got 90% coverage of 10% of the lockers can’t be opened. So you need a SIM, which gives you the capability, which gives you the maximum connectivity because you want to be able to put these lockers, well banks of lockers actually, in any locations, very similar to what Amazon asked for actually. Which is presumably one of the reasons why you chose Eseye for the solution.

Jono Doyle:
It is. And yeah, these lockers do end up in the strangest locations I’ll tell you that. We have ones up beside basically what’s a cow shed up on a hill on the side of Scotland. And they work, and they work perfectly and engineers do go up and use them. And we’ve got ones in the cities, and some that we are a bit surprised that they do work, because they’re under often telephone exchanges, but they still manage to work.

Nick Earle:
Five yards from a rat, or five yards from a cow is what you meant.

Jono Doyle:
Yeah. So working no matter what livestock’s around, yes.

Nick Earle:
Yeah, but the serious point is that mobile network operators as regular listeners to this podcast know, that we never failed to mention it. But we all know that if you put a proprietary SIM in the device, it works great until it doesn’t and you can’t swap. Or if you’re a locker, you can’t move five yards to the left to get a signal. So you’ve got to have basically a hundred percent for every location.

Jono Doyle:
Yeah. Our lockers-

Nick Earle:
Or your business case and your brand goes to hell because people’s can’t either open them or they can’t retrieve their parcels.

Jono Doyle:
Yeah, we wouldn’t be able to operate if we went to our customers and said, “You’ll be able to open it half the time.” That just doesn’t work. The engineers, the businesses, need to know that they can go and get into their locker when they need to get into their locker. Because at the end of the day, there’s a business cost to someone not being able to deliver their service. And there’s a human cost to someone not getting their job done. There’s engineers who’ll be out driving later than they should, when they should be at home, doing homework with their kids. There’s a real cost

Nick Earle:
Brand and that’s one of the things that we found is that, when people are looking at the use case for IoT, it’s obviously to justify a project, to get the budget allocated, it’s often very difficult for people. Because this concept of, well how on earth do I get a business outcome return on an IoT project? And one of the most common ways of doing it saying, well what does every 1% of non connectivity do to your business? It’s cost, time, brand, customer satisfaction, all those. And that’s actually where the ROI is, from our perspective, because we offer the highest percentage. But then what people then start doing, and that’s where we’re going to go now is, they implement one way initially. Now, in your case, you did B2C and then you pivoted to B2B, you got acquired.
Now you’re scaling B2B. You’ve gone to different customers, not just BT, but EDF, the power distribution company, other types of customers. So you’re becoming a logistics… A B2B version of Amazon Lockers actually. But now you’re also becoming a logistics company to actually put stuff in lockers and take it out again. And then you started going into a very interesting area, which is, you’re now starting to get more granularity of data around individual items that are within lockers.

Jono Doyle:
Yep.

Nick Earle:
And that raises a very interesting possibility, which I’d like to explore a little bit. Which is, are you actually a physical product company anymore? Or are you becoming an information company? In other words, what do you think the potential is here to actually start doing more than just have information about the customer’s products when they’re in one location? I mean, these products come out of the lockers and then they move. And so there’s tracking possibilities and various things. So what are your thoughts around that area?

Jono Doyle:
Yeah, so its logistics and it’s all about things moving, not sitting there in lockers and obviously it becomes quite important to know where everything’s moving at once. So right now, we’re in very much snapshot mode. As a whole industry, we know it’s in a hub, it’s in a van, it’s dropped off, and there’s all this space-

Nick Earle:
A few data points, but a lot of gap in between.

Jono Doyle:
There’s all this space in between that, there’s absolutely no visibility of what’s going on. If something happened to the parcel, it’s like, well it was in the van, but where was the van? Was it parked? Okay we can tell that much, was the door open? Was it on the shelf it was supposed to be on? Did he take it off the shelf at any point and put it somewhere he wasn’t supposed to? There’s all these, and you can say that for pretty much everything from ships, to planes, to in the warehouses. And if you think about the sheer amount of goods moving around all this time and basically all these asks moving around, you want to be able to see it in one go, that’s where every single thing is.
So you know where anything that goes missing, what happens. Because it’s about what goes wrong really isn’t it? Because when things do go wrong, when things do go missing, that’s the points that you don’t actually see where the problem is. It doesn’t go missing when he’s handing it to the person at the end of the line. That’s not where it goes missing. It goes missing in the vans, when it’s in transit, on the ships, on the planes, in the warehouses, that’s where it goes missing. Where you presume, oh it’s been stamped in, but it’s never been stamped out. So it’s all about that sort of asset tracking. And you can see and grow that further on. So if you could always see where something was for everything, you can start to redo and rethink how you think supply chain logistics work. Because you can almost get rid of warehouses and get rid of-

Nick Earle:
That’s right.

Jono Doyle:
All these stock locations and holding stock and just have it always dynamically moving. And if you can see where everything is, you can redirect it yeah.

Nick Earle:
Excuse me. Yeah you’re right. In fact, a lot of the warehouses, I in a previous life dealt with Amazon before they introduced Amazon Prime and Amazon Lockers, just happened to know about them and they had these big distribution centers and then they had smaller ones outside cities and then they’d have even smaller ones. And now eventually they pushed it right away, final mile, right the way to the consumer basically. But they’ve optimized the supply chain and a lot of these buffering stocks, which can be 30% of the total products in the supply chain. A lot of the buffering was because of the inefficiencies in the supply chain. So if you can actually get better visibility almost real time, ultimately real time visibility by product, then actually you not only get data and visibility, but you actually save huge amounts of money because you don’t need the buffering stocks and the warehouses. And you actually get huge savings because you’ve got supply chain visibility. So it’s an enormous prize. Can you talk about how you might be able to do that?

Jono Doyle:
Not really.

Nick Earle:
I didn’t think you could.

Jono Doyle:
I can obviously imagine how that would work. It would go on to, it’s assets, packages, totes and stuff will have to become smart to do that. These individual units that you are transporting, because right now what they are are just labels with barcodes on them. And it requires someone to scan them and someone to scan them at the other end. That doesn’t work for asset tracking. That’s just the snapshots. What we need is I suppose those totes or packages, or even items themselves to become the IoT products.

Nick Earle:
And I know there’s, for competitive reasons, even if you are planning on going this direction you’re not going to talk on my podcast about it.
It’s not that you don’t know it, it’s that you don’t want to talk about it, and I get that. But yeah absolutely, the products themselves have to have a smart label of some sort on them with some form of power. Because what you really want is the products to actually say, “I’m here, I’m here.” Because a lot of people have tried to solve it, just putting a lot of sensors and scanners all around the place. But you’ve still got all these gaps. And as you said, when they’re on a ship or when they’re on a plane, it’s obviously a little difficult. There isn’t any cellular signal. But with 5G and what’s going to happen on narrow band, and mesh networks, the ability to actually track millions, if not billions of things, almost all the time. Not quite all the time, but almost all the time, is going to revolutionize supply chain.
So let’s skip over what solution you might be implementing. But if and when you get this ability to do that, it seems to me that you are morphing again as a company, into another type of company. You’re becoming a company who has better information about where a customer’s products are, than the customer themselves have information. So therefore you can sell something new called information about where your products are.

Jono Doyle:
Yes.

Nick Earle:
And that’s a pretty exciting prospect for you, isn’t it?

Jono Doyle:
Yeah it is. You become almost like a management consultant to some extent, going in and telling them how to do things. Because you end up knowing more about their business than maybe they do, or least an aspect of it, which will be their supply chain. And coming in and saying, “Well, if you start doing things differently, you can run your business this way and become more efficient.”

Nick Earle:
Yeah, I can see from the way that you’re running it compared to the industry norms for other customers in your vertical. You are efficient here, but not efficient here. Therefore this is the opportunity for you and we can help you.

Jono Doyle:
Yeah, I suppose that last line is the important one isn’t it?

Nick Earle:
Yeah, we can help you, normally means for a price. But yeah, you’re either becoming like a management consultant or you’re partnering with management consultants or global system integrators. But because you have the data, and we have several customers who are doing that. I’ve talked about them on the podcast before. So Brambles who own the CHEP brand, which are the containers and pallets, but they have got tens of millions of devices, which are the blue pallets that you see in Costco have a battery powered device molded inside the plastic. Issue there as the battery life management, but they know where the products are within Costco, if you like. Another customer of ours is in the US, customer again called Link Labs, and Link Labs are doing this tracking at a more granular level, in the sense of, you know these plastic containers like Ocado, where they drop your shopping off?

Jono Doyle:
Yeah, the trays, yeah.

Nick Earle:
Yeah. And they’re the ones that go down the conveyor belts in the factory, so it’s the same. And then it gets loaded into a van and then it gets dropped off to the customer. So it’s the same product. So if you put a tracker on that, you are getting continuous visibility. The issue is that people tend to keep those plastic crates because they’re quite useful, for kids toys, or just quite useful. So just tracking those, it’s not so much tracking the devices, it’s actually tracking the container. So there are, a lot of companies are trying to do this. I think one of the advantages that you’ve got is that you’ve got the customers more directly than other companies. You’ve already got the field service force using your lockers anyway, you’re already embedded in their job in their business process. So there’s some natural extensions for you just to go a little bit wider, a little bit sideways and solve a few more of those issues. So it’s going to be very interesting to watch your progress.

Jono Doyle:
Yeah. It’s a small step by step, we’ll do this next and this, to get to this final picture where we are the knowing all being of their supply chain really, yeah.

Nick Earle:
There’s a phrase, again in the US is, “his is not your grandfather’s Oldsmobile.” Which perhaps might not mean too much for people outside the US. But Oldsmobile was seen as being a really old fashioned car and suddenly it was marketed as “Wow, what happened?” Transformation. And I only mention that because, if you think about the story we just told, and then you have to say, this is BT that we’re talking about. You wouldn’t associate BT, fixed line telecom company, wouldn’t naturally associate them with supply chain logistics, managed services around product information, supply chain optimization. So it’s a very innovative story. It’s a great story of acquiring a startup and then turning it into a service. And then using that service to actually create a whole new set of capabilities away from the core business of the parent company.

Jono Doyle:
Yep, and-

Nick Earle:
It doesn’t-

Jono Doyle:
We’re not a telecoms provider, that’s not what we do.

Nick Earle:
Yeah, doesn’t rely on the broadband to customer’s house.

Jono Doyle:
Yeah. We’ve made that decision that we don’t use wifi. We could have obviously said quite early on in Pelipod when it was a box outside someone’s house “Oh we’ll make it with wifi.” But we didn’t. Even in BT, we kept that off. We’re not using wifi.

Nick Earle:
We’re most certainly as Eseye, glad you made that decision that way.

Jono Doyle:
Well I think it works better doesn’t it?

Nick Earle:
But it does work better, because you know what happens if you… It’s like the Bosch mowers, people say, “Why does the Bosch robotic mower not use wifi?” Well A, when it gets more than 25 foot away from your router if it grinds to a halt. But B, what happens when your wifi goes down or you change the password, you then lose your products. And so it’s great, it’s free, but you can’t rely on it. And so cellular is always the one that people use as the fallback option. Same for alarm panels.
Listen, this is a really great story. It seems to me that it’s something perhaps we could visit even again in the future, because you are gradually, as I said, expanding your capabilities across the supply chain piece by piece. From the field sales force of the customers that you already have. And got within BT, you’ve got your own field sales, field service force, which is huge. But now with customers like EDF and others, you’re adding new customers. So it’d be interesting to watch your progress in this area, particularly getting down to tracking individual items, which is a huge opportunity.

Jono Doyle:
Yeah I’m pretty excited for the future of BT Final Mile. Given where I started in the company and what it was back then, and literally I started and we didn’t even have an office. I think my first day was plugging the cables into the walls for the computers. To now, and what we’ve got in the future. So I think in another eight years, what will BT Final Mile look like then? Will there still be lockers on site? Probably not, it’ll probably be a different sort of company altogether with the changes.

Nick Earle:
Yeah, I think we all will be. I’ve got one final question for you before I let you go. I assume you go home still regularly back to Ireland. And so since that day, have you ever had a phone call again from the airline where you had to race to the airport? And in other words, have you had to shake your dad awake to get you to the airport or are those days behind you?

Jono Doyle:
They’re well gone. I’ve definitely had flights canceled on me, but not a phone call to tell me beforehand.

Nick Earle:
Yeah. As you said, those days when the airline customer service was good. That’s another problem which we’re still searching for the IoT use case that solves that one. That’s probably more of a financial problem. Great, that’s a really nice story and both on a personal level and also from a business point of view and the added bonus of rats and cows as well, which always makes it…

Jono Doyle:
Yeah, a little bit of entertainment there.

Nick Earle:
Yeah. Okay, so Jono, thanks very much. Thanks for being my guest this week. And for our listeners, you’ve been listening to the IoT Leaders podcast with me, your host, Nick Earle, the CEO of Eseye. And I hope you have enjoyed this episode and we look forward to bringing you another episode shortly with another very interesting customer. In the meantime, have a great day, thank you very much.

Outro:
Thanks for tuning in to IoT Leaders. A podcast brought to you by Eseye, our team delivers innovative global IoT cellular connectivity solutions that just work. Helping our customers deploy differentiated experiences and disrupt their markets. Learn more at eseye.com.
You’ve been listening to IoT Leaders featuring digitization leadership on the front lines of IoT. Our vision for this podcast is to be your guide to IoT and digital disruption. Helping you to plot the right route to success. We hope today’s lessons, stories, strategies, and insights have changed your vision of IoT. Let us know how we’re doing by subscribing, rating, reviewing and recommending us. Thanks for listening, until next time.

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