Why One Size Doesn’t Fit All In IoT

IoT Leaders with Nick Earle, CEO of Eseye and Nassia Skoulikariti, Founder of Apiro Data and Director of IoT at Mobile Ecosystem Forum

IoT isn’t competitive in the same way other industries are. It’s more important for different companies to work in partnership than go up against one another.

Nassia Skoulikariti, Founder of Apiro Data and Director of IoT at Mobile Ecosystem Forum, is an expert in all things IoT. Nassia knows that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to IoT. Different businesses work together to fit every customer’s unique needs, which creates a mindset of partnership rather than competition. In this episode, Nassia explained to Nick how she ended up in IoT, the challenges of international roaming data, and why you should look at IoT security holistically. 

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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:
Hello and welcome to the IoT Leaders podcast with me, your host Nick Earle, the CEO of Eseye. Now in this week’s episode, we have a very lively episode with a very interesting lady who’s Greek, and she’s called Nassia Skoulikariti. And that name actually you’ll find features in the first part of podcast when we talk about the difficulties in pronouncing that. Is a very, very nice lady and talks about how she got into IoT. She’s actually involved in three separate companies, all around giving advice to different people in the IoT ecosystem of what’s needed to make IoT success. And I think we get pretty practical pretty quickly in terms of three big issues roaming and what’s needed to truly make it work for people. Which is, in all these areas of areas that she gives consulting on roaming hardware and why it really is important in IoT and what you need to do about it.

Nick Earle:
And then the third one, which sort of puts a bow around everything, which is how you need a partner that understands these issues to be able to take you on the journey from where you are to a successful implementation. So Nassia is very, very active in the IoT ecosystem as you’ll hear, been doing this for many, many years and understands it really well. And I think there’s so many issues in IoT that she is probably going to be very busy going forward. And a little of a spoiler alert, we also have a bizarre conversation about a virtual cat in this, which makes an appearance in the podcast in a very strange way, I have to say. So with all of that, I hope you enjoy this. Let me hand you over to my podcast with Nassia and I need to make sure I get her name right, Skoulikariti, who talks about what she’s doing and everything to do with IoT, plus the virtual cat. Enjoy. So Nassia, welcome to the IoT Leaders podcast.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Happy to be here, Nick. It’s a pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.

Nick Earle:
Well, I saw you on the guest list and wanted to talk to you for things that we were about to get into, but the first challenge I had was your name. So I’m going to really go out on a limb and I’m going to say that my guess this week is Nassia Skoulikariti, now, how did I do?

Nassia Skoulikariti:
You did very good. And actually you used the perfect Greek pronunciation because many of you would guess that Skoulikariti is a Greek name, very Greek name, however people struggle, and they have been struggling for a long time to pronounce my name. And I’ll tell you a funny story, Nick, if I may?

Nick Earle:
Good. Absolutely.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
One of my former VPs in the previous life, when I was working for Colt many years ago, he was trying to figure out a way to remember my name. And when you pronounce my name with an English accent, it sounds like Schoolkarate or Schoolkarete, so he thought that if he came up with, if you think of school of karate and you put it all together, you come up with Schoolkarate, it’s very close to Nassia’s name, Nassia Skoulikariti. So it’s-

Nick Earle:
You know what? The problem you’ve told me that is like, I can never get that out of my head now. So you now-

Nassia Skoulikariti:
It’s something that I’ve used ever since as well, because you did perfect to say my name-

Nick Earle:
Okay,

Nassia Skoulikariti:
… with it’s proper pronunciation.

Nick Earle:
Now, unfortunately, it’s all gone because all I can think of is that you run a school of karate, but anyway, listen, you don’t run a school of karate.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
No.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Not yet.

Nick Earle:
Not yet. Well, I was going to say not yet because you are involved in a lot of stuff, so I wouldn’t put it past you to be involved in this, but when I was looking at your CD and your LinkedIn, there’s three separate companies that all around IoT that really led to us having this conversation today. There was a founder and CEO of a company called Apiro Data, an IoT director for the Mobile Ecosystem Forum, which industry body, and then the VP of IoT at global telco consult. So that’s three, all connected with IoT, but three very different things. So maybe just to get us going, could you sort of unpack those a little bit for our listeners and viewers just so that we can actually see all the different areas of IoT going on?

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Certainly, certainly. So I have what I call portfolio career in many ways. I don’t know if that has anything to do with me being in Gemini and liking variety, so I’ll take one element and we can get into it. Apiro Data, which is a company which has started about a bit over three years ago with the aim to make IoT services and solutions easier to deploy and monetize and concentrating on the the telcos particularly. And that’s because I come for many, many years being in telco, 27 years ago I started in the telcos and the rest is history. I’m not going to bore you with the stories there yet. Maybe that would be a different podcast altogether. So that’s Apiro Data data. Then this year I’ve been involved with MEF, Mobile Ecosystem Forum. I am heading the IoT section.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
That means that because MEF is a non for profit association for the mobile ecosystem. And historically, they’d be doing a lot around the messaging and SMS and RCS, but they also have an area for the internet of things. And that’s what I took over to manage. And that involves doing things such as running the monthly working groups for the members where we discuss different areas and challenges that they’re facing at IoT, doing webinars specific to IoT and events. We are actually to have an event coming in July for digital transformation and the first day will be all things IoT.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
So this is what I do for MEF and I’m also involved as you very well mentioned with GTC or Global Telco Consult. They’re very well known in the industry for making messaging in the telco easy and for people to be able to deploy messaging services. So recently, they decided to add the IoT element and layers, a new pillar to the services that they offer under consultancy. And that’s where I come into the picture. I am setting up the pillar for GTC. That means all things consultancy on the operational side, products, the working flows and everything that’s involved around that.

Nick Earle:
So just for clarity, when you say they get involved in the messaging, you mean the positioning, the marketing messaging, or the SMS?

Nassia Skoulikariti:
The SMS side. So-

Nick Earle:
Okay. The technical-

Nassia Skoulikariti:
… a lot of the work that GTC does is enabling companies to get into the SMS. So creating an SMS gateway because they also play in the telco sphere. There could be a voice provided that wants to add messaging SMS, especially what we call in industry A2P SMS, which is the application to Parson. So they would set up advice, advice how to set up the gateways, how to set up the system. They also do network penetration test to avoid fraud, and to make sure that the network providers are not taking for a ride from the not well wishers in the industry. And IoT is the newest service that the company is offering.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
So they will be advising mobile operators and telcos that have IoT services that want to optimize them internally. And that is how to set up the organization to work with IoT, where the missing people, how to find resources, what it makes sense operationally. And also, if they don’t have IoT, help them connect the ecosystem. So we’ll be coming to you Nick and say, “Hey, Nick, this company is getting into IoT. They need to partner in order to provide services.”

Nick Earle:
Right. So we’re going to get into all of that. And back to our opening, I actually, I don’t know how you do three jobs and there’s no way you would have time to run a-

Nassia Skoulikariti:
I tell you, I had my birthday on Sunday and this is for the gift that my cat got me. I don’t know if you can see it.

Nick Earle:
Your cat, did you say your cat got you a gift?

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Yeah, yeah. My cat got me a gift and it’s the one-

Nick Earle:
Well, those of us who aren’t watching this on video, maybe could describe what your-

Nassia Skoulikariti:
So my-

Nick Earle:
… very talented cat managed to buy you.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Yes, my cat, which by the way is also my virtual assistant. I try to bring fun in my work in every way that I can. So if somebody is booking a meeting with me, I use an AI tool, big inautomation-

Nassia Skoulikariti:
… and tools.

Nick Earle:
They’re very popular.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
So I made my cat. So Benny, who’s my cat’s name will send you a message and email say this is the times the Nassia is free. And I get a message from Benny telling me this person booked the meeting with you.

Nick Earle:
Hold on. I have to time out. I was following you, I think you’re saying you have a virtual assistant, which is named after your physical cat.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
No, I actually made my cat to put her to work.

Nick Earle:
No, no, you can’t. A cat cannot work, but where are we going?

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Exactly. Well, we can embed sensors, right?

Nick Earle:
So it’s virtual? Okay.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Yeah.

Nick Earle:
But anyway, let’s get back. So you had your birthday and you were about to describe what your cat-

Nassia Skoulikariti:
So she got me this little pop hero and it’s a figurine of wonder woman to just sort of thank me for taking care of her well and everything else that I do. So you ask me how to do everything. This is what my family thinks, including my cat.

Nick Earle:
Do you know, we have so many strange stories and good stories that pop out of these podcasts. We were talking before we hit the record button, I never know where we’re going to go. And it’s always such great stories. And then when I talk to people afterwards, they often remember the stories more than they remember the content but, I guess, that’s-

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Exactly.

Nick Earle:
So let’s drag it back away-

Nassia Skoulikariti:
To IoT.

Nick Earle:
… to IoT. Well, actually, no to you. So we sort of know where you’ve ended up and I want to talk about you’re advising people, you’re sharing committees. You’re advising the operators. You’re seeing what people’s problems are with IoT. We’re going to get into all of that. But what about, how did you get into this? It’s an interesting place you’ve ended up, you talked about more than 20 years in the industry and whatever, but what’s your story about how Nassia ended up doing this?

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Doing IoT. Well, it’s a personal, I would say, driver that got me into IoT per se, before I even knew that IoT existed many years ago. I was still doing telco and messaging and voice. But at the time, my late dad, he passed away last year, but he started to lose his memory and he would disappear and would have to find out, make sure that we didn’t lose him for good. So in the back of my head, loving technology and loving gadgets, I have that passion of mine trying to test and find new gadgets and all that. I was starting to figure out a way that will make his life easier. Now, life easier. It was a little bit selfish as well from that perspective, because I didn’t want to be here in London when my dad was in Greece and worry about where he is and what he’s doing, or my mom have the additional stress.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
And we’re talking about many years ago now. We’re talking about eight to nine years ago where the wearables for the elderly, they weren’t as good as they are now, or they weren’t even on the foreground to have this discussion. So I was talking to people and say, “I want to find, and I want to create a sensor or even a watch or something that it’s not intrusive.” So I know where my dad is at all times. I couldn’t chip them if I could, I would, but I couldn’t at the time. So that’s where my interest in IoT started from.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
I started digging and understanding more because I knew about machine to machine. I just hadn’t put together the human element. And that’s where a lot of the challenges and the pains, the problems that we’re trying to solve. So it really came out of a problem that I had to solve for my own family. So to ensure that we have peace of mind knowing that my dad, when he leave the house, if he loses his memory, he doesn’t know where he’s at, we will be able to check on the phone or check on the screen and know that he’s at that location we can go find him.

Nick Earle:
So I think you’re the third guest on the podcast series who’ve actually got into IoT for that exact same reason. You’re probably not aware, but the two other guests who both, I think, were in this sort of care business now actually took that and actually said, “I’m going to solve that problem for that specific sector.” But it is interesting how many people got into IoT because they saw the potential of the technology to solve problems and in particular, health. The other thing that struck me is when you said about if I could chip him, I would, but you couldn’t. I remember about 10 years ago when I was back in my Cisco days, I was giving a speech. I got asked a question, I think, and on stage, I think it was, and somebody said about implanting a chip.

Nick Earle:
I was traveling back and forth to America because I was doing a global role for Cisco based in the UK. And I was traveling back and forth every two weeks. Literally back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And I just thought it was a pain in the butt, the passport, I didn’t have global entry at that point. And I just said on stage, “Well, look, if someone… I would hold my hand up and volunteer for a chip. And you could put it behind my ear and you could put my passport on it.” And it was before Apple Pay and I could pay for things. You could have my medical records where I found myself in a different country, you could have all my medical records and people said, “Nobody had ever do that. Why would you ever do that? Privacy and whatever.”

Nick Earle:
And I said, “Well, it seems pretty crazy carrying a piece of paper called a passport around with you.” It hasn’t really changes in how many years? Couple of hundred or more, I guess. And we are not there yet. We’re not implanting these things on a mass scale, but with wearables, we are getting a lot closer and I haven’t used a credit card now, physical piece of plastic for over two years because everything’s on the phone.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Exactly.

Nick Earle:
And you can do it with your watch. I think we are getting there, but as we both know in telco and in IoT in particular, progress is slow.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Very.

Nick Earle:
It is always slower than you think. We’ve been at this pre-IoT was M2M people say, “Well, pre-M2M, it was SCADA, we’ve been at it for a long, long time. So you advise people, operators, I guess, end users working committees. So let’s see if we can get to some of the big issues that you see ongoing at the moment. Now you mentioned, if we can start, if we may, with MEF, the Mobile Ecosystem Forum, have a series of meetings. And I think you, in fact, by the time this thing gets broadcast, I think this meeting will be over. But I think the next meeting that you have is on roaming and maybe you could just describe why is roaming the subject and what’s your take on where we are right now on roaming? Because it’s a big issue.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
It’s enormous.

Nick Earle:
And it’s a big issue for the industry and a lot of people don’t understand it. Don’t think they need to understand it. And then they suddenly have to, when it comes to IoT.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Well, it’s an enormous topic. And it’s one that is not as broadly discussed if you are not within the industry and you’re facing the pains. There was based on what we do at MEF, a report that came out and the majority of the enterprise is a big chunk of them. They have no plans of changing this year, next year, what they’re going to do on the roaming side, that immediately led me to think, do they understand when they deploying connected services, connected products that they don’t stay stationary in one country, one area. And they have to roam that the connectivity that they use to transport the data from that connected device could be roaming in another country if that device is-

Nick Earle:
Absolutely.

Nick Earle:
Especially if they want to make a global SKU, single SKU manufacturer wants to sell around the world.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Exactly, exactly.

Nick Earle:
They’re not like people, when I went to America, I came back. So I could do short term roaming off Vodafone when I was in the U.S. But these products go to America and stay in America.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
They stay for a long period.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Mm-hmm. And initially, as you know, when IoT products came out and we are using data connectivity, especially now we’re talking about mobile data connectivity, there wasn’t even a different product that was called IoT data connectivity.

Nick Earle:
Yes, that’s correct.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Device manufacturers would use any SIM with data and test the products. Then the operator saw, there’s something to this with IoT, let’s create a product because it has to have different pricing. And there is a lot more complicated and so on and so forth. Then they created the IoT data specific connectivity systems that are being used for the connected devices. Now, if you are within a country is fine, but when you are roaming, it’s very involved. And originally there were no barriers. A device could roam for, there was no time limit.

Nick Earle:
There was no… No one was looking at the data.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
No restriction.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Exactly. Because we didn’t have as many devices and it wasn’t so much data consumed people and it wasn’t on the forefront of the mind. However, now several countries, U.S. included, they don’t allow what is called permanent roaming. So roaming in a particular country indefinitely, they only allow your short period till you switch to another service or you switch to a different network provider and so on and so forth. And that is where the problems come for the enterprises themselves and creates additional complications for the network providers is because all of a sudden your device could stop working. You lose connectivity. So what do you do?

Nassia Skoulikariti:
And that’s a huge problem because something that you suppose as an enterprise, that it will be connected is no longer. And unless you work with a provider who’s looked at this and has made provisions that it doesn’t matter if you are going to be in the UK or you’re going to be in the U.S., you’re going to continue getting the services as we explain them to you. It’s a big thing.

Nick Earle:
I always find it, I don’t know what you think, Nassia, it’s almost like it’s the emperors clothes in my experience and I’ve been more than 30 years in the industry. Let me just leave it there. I won’t say how many more for quite a few more than 30 years. But anyway, I found in my career that many times, particularly when there’s a technology transition or an industry disruption or something, there was something that was accepted as conventional wisdom that suddenly people said the emperor’s got no clothes or yes, but, and at first people say, “No, no, no, no, no. Don’t worry about that.” And then suddenly people say, “It is.” And then suddenly whoosh people say I have to solve it. And to me, one of the core things on IoT is this roaming, which as you rightly say, most people, obviously, you’re aware of it, what we do.

Nick Earle:
We solve that issue through distributed localization plus roaming. But the reason we built that is because when we said to people, “Well, what about roaming?” And we’re 14 years old as a company, people would say, “I don’t worry about that. When I talk to the operator, they don’t tell me to worry about that.” And yet, as you say, in 800 companies. They have roaming agreements with hundreds of others. So it’s a many to many, I don’t know, many the combinations there is factor whatever, but tens of thousands of roaming agreements. And if you go to these big shows like Mobile World Congress, there’s a whole hall in the European version in Barcelona with people. I was always amazed. It’s like a dating agency, all these operators meeting each other on speed dating to agree roaming agreements.

Nick Earle:
There’s a whole industry. And it’s set on quotas and the quotas can change and people’s policies can change. And it just needs one person to say, “You’ve exceeded your quota.” And suddenly bang. And we know, and users have no idea in advance. We’ve seen devices that have been issued with four hour notification of termination of agreements.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Four hours. They don’t have enough time.

Nick Earle:
What can you do in four hours?

Nassia Skoulikariti:
It takes days if not, months to change and get anything with any of the operators, unfortunately, keep going. Four hours is nothing.

Nick Earle:
You have to switch this thing.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
That’s it.

Nick Earle:
.. you have to switch the device, which is, let’s say $200. If you have 5,000 devices, 5,000 times $200. So one of the central pillars of IoT is the consumer voice roaming model, doesn’t scale. And that’s a really big issue, isn’t it? Because the moment you say that it’s not like that model is going to change because roaming agreements, this is the financial component as well, isn’t there? That whoever takes the connection, if they roam onto somebody else, they give a small percentage of what they collect. So data prices are coming down, which means the pressure on accepting roaming is actually getting bigger and bigger and bigger. So this is not like there’s suddenly going to change and everyone’s suddenly going to start roaming on everybody else. Quite the opposite. This is a huge issue, isn’t it?

Nassia Skoulikariti:
It is. And there’s a good reason. If we look at it from the operator perspective from one minute is for them having a vast amount of devices on their networks, utilizing their resources, taking so much of the resources without, they don’t see much in terms of payment per se.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
It’s very small.

Nick Earle:
… about 20%. And if it’s narrow band or whatever, it’s 20% of percent does not pay for the dedicated infrastructure.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
It does not pay for them to grow their infrastructure either because in the past two years, because with what happened with COVID and everything, their infrastructure, we saw what happened. They had to scramble around to grow and rebuild in many ways to allow us all to be connected and stay connected. So multiply that exponentially with IoT devices, the resources that are needed to support the IoT infrastructure, the IoT connected devices is immense and it costs a lot. So if you’re an operator and you’re looking at it, you’re like, “I’m going to take care of my own first because this is what I’m going to see my return on investment, the fastest, and then I’m going to deal with everything else.”

Nassia Skoulikariti:
And as you well said, is the prices when it comes to connectivity are getting, they’ve been commoditized. It’s a commodity now. When we are talking about connectivity from now, I’m switching back to the enterprise side of things. When I’m, as an enterprise, I will be looking and say, “I want my device to work. I don’t care how it works. I shouldn’t, I should understand a bit more, but I want you Mr. IoT provider or Mrs. IoT provider to help me get my device working.” So for me, it’s a feature that you need to offer me the connectivity along with everything else.

Nick Earle:
Ubiquitous and not let me worry about it. And regular listeners to this podcast will have heard me talk about our philosophy, which we know is different. And actually we haven’t found anybody else who has approached this, because we’ve always said from day one, it isn’t going to work. And I just think it’s inevitable. The things that we talked about are only going to get worse, that the amount of money being shared is lower. The infrastructure costs are higher. People costs are higher to run the infrastructure. The roaming agreements will break more and more and more in the house of cards. So we like to call what we have just to explain it in the context. And also a little bit of shameless advertising, of course, but is basically like a Star Alliance model where we said, “Look, it’s never going to work. So what if we could just federate distribute the connectivity from a single SIM, but distribute in a way where it localizes on as many networks as possible.”

Nick Earle:
Then you use roaming as info. And then if you have your own SM-SR or, or the remote SIM provisioning capability, abstracted and being agnostic in the cloud, you can actually provide it as a feature, as you say, and the operators are then getting localized connections, not through their roaming agreement. So they’re very, very happy. And the user is getting less risk on deployment because you’re not getting any kicked off because you’re localizing, but that’s a very different architectural model. And we believe it’s the only model that can work the sort of Star Alliance type model because a lot of people are saying, “Don’t worry. We can do roaming. And with eSIMS we can change the profile, but you’ve got this underlying, it feels like eggshells or house of cards or whatever.” All these roaming agreements, tens and tens of thousands of roaming agreements, which at any time can go into, no, we’ve exceeded the quota. You need to move.

Nick Earle:
It’s very much built from the industry out, isn’t it? It’s not built the enterprise in. Roaming, I can see why this is your big subject. If I can move for MEF and for the operators, and it’s something the industry has to solve in order to enable interoperability for the user. Can I move to another area? Because I think that in part of your work and I don’t know which one of the three companies you talk about working with operators, what about the, another Empress close issue, if you like, which is, I think people, we think, and I’d be interested in your view. People have not even thought about, we talked about roaming and it’s education. What do you mean roaming? And we spend a lot of time educating.

Nick Earle:
Another big area where we spend time educating is hardware. So what we find is that people say to us, “I just need a SIM.” And we say, “Well, I’d like to see your device. What’s the modem? What’s the firmware settings. What’s the interaction between the modem and the SIM? How do we do battery life management?” And they say, “No, no, no, no. I just need a SIM because I just want to put the SIM in the device.” And we always say, “No, no, no, it doesn’t work like that in IoT, it’s much more complicated than putting a SIM in a device.” Do you see the subject of, and most people thought that we’ve seen the back of hardware because now with cloud, the applications are in the cloud and you just don’t have… They don’t nothing about hardware. They don’t want to know anything about hardware. They don’t want to know anything about roaming. What’s your view on this subject? Does that come up as well?

Nassia Skoulikariti:
It comes up, especially not so much on the connectivity side of things, but more on the security side of things. Which I think those two are very much related really. So I’ve had talks from the hardware vendors and also companies who need hardware. So I’ve seen it from both sides of the story, if you wish. So the hardware vendors, the ones who make the actual census, they struggle to understand from their perspective that they need to engage on the connectivity side and the other elements of the IoT ecosystem early on, because they’re all connected and interrelated and they have to work and function very well together in order to provide know the added element of security.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
At the same time, because there’s no standards or regulations as of yet, or the ones that are adhered on. We have a lot of older devices that don’t adhere to what we now would call standards and the firmware are not updated. The security element is, I would say, very, very weak. And those are the devices that create the risk with the millions of devices. There’s many devices that are not secure. They don’t have the right connectivity and they don’t have the right security. So there is a lot of education that you mentioned that needs to happen on the hardware side of things, both for those who make the hardware, but also those who use, buy and use the hardware.

Nick Earle:
I think what you’ve raised there is two separate issues and they’re both really important. I like to deal with each of them individually, if I may, one of the first points you made, there was the hardware is really important when it comes to IoT and the hardware, people who make the sensors or make the, I guess, the modules as well, modem/modules, they need to actually do more to think about the connectivity upfront, as opposed to saying, “Well, I just make it. It goes down the line, the supply chain, somebody else thinks about the connectivity.” Because what we find, we bought a hardware company specifically that we get engaged with hardware and every one of our customers that we have, it’s one of the most valuable things that we do actually.

Nick Earle:
But what we basically then have to go back to say, “Well, look at your firmware settings in your mode. We need to do that.” And it’s because the industry isn’t engaging with it upfront. Now, of course, with iSIM and that we’re in discussions with several companies around this, but with iSIM that there is hope on the horizon because the SIM will eventually disappear physical SIM and it will become firmware inside the circuitry silicon layer of either the chip set or the module. At that point, you will get pre-integration of connectivity capabilities being produced by the supply chain, either at the chip set and/or at the module level.

Nick Earle:
So I think the industry will get there with iSIM. But as of right now, none of the module guys really worry about the connectivity, because they just say, “Look, I’m in the business to sell modules. I’m not in the business to solve connectivity.” So I think the industry, I’m hoping the iSIM issue solves that. But you also mentioned security and the challenge, of course, with secure, well, multiple challenges, what a subject, but definitely the threat surface is exponentially growing. So it’s a huge issue. And there are billions of attacks on IoT devices. People lose incredible data, they lose their jobs, but it’s interesting, isn’t it? That the traditional way we in the IT industry, one of the ways we in the IT industry have solved that is by putting an agent of some sort on the device.

Nick Earle:
If you have a Microsoft PC you know what it is, if you have an iPhone you know what it is, you know the target architecture. So you can create an agent that goes on that target architecture, because it’s fixed. The problem with IoT devices is the proliferation. The concept of designing an agent for everybody’s devices is just physically impossible. I have to use AI anomaly detection behavior techniques, because you can’t create specific software for the device.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
And the security historically, when we look at it, it was the responsibility of IoT, right? And when we’re talking about IoT, you’ve got the operational side and before a company wouldn’t think of dealing with security on the operational there, it was just let me secure my border. Let me secure my devices. But what IoT is, IT and oT built together. I’m saying something that everybody knows, but when we’re looking at security, the security has to be looked at it more holistically and more broader and not as siloed anymore.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
We talk a lot about securing by design. And what that means is from the inception of when a hardware device is built all the way through the whole ecosystem. Because when we designing an IoT system, we look at the entire stack. So you can just secure by design the device. You have to secure by design all the elements. And that also I would add, I would say, connectivity by design. And I would say all kinds of things about design.

Nick Earle:
And everything has to be brought forward, built in as opposed to add it on is what you’re saying?

Nassia Skoulikariti:
And that’s where a lot of the problems that we’re having, the challenges that we’re having within the industry are coming from today is because things are being retrofitted. Everything is an afterthought instead of looking and taking care of it from the beginning. Even if we, okay, I’m going to put a little bit side note there, it’s impossible to capture everything. You’re always going to have to make some changes in the future and make in different iterations. But the more we spend time thinking of the design and understanding what building across the ecosystem, the easier our life will become when we deploy. And we’re trying to accelerate the growth within IoT. So security is immense and everybody, one of the… it’s top of mind for companies for enterprises wanted to adopt IoT.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Is just what they’re looking for is based on the research that MEF did last year to over 475 enterprises is they’re looking for somebody and security was on the top 10, but non surprisingly, to me at least it wasn’t a surprise, that they’re looking for somebody that can help them accommodate the entire end-to-end deployment of IoT. And this is, there is a good reason for that is because they don’t have the internal knowhow. They might not have the time. And also they want to ensure that the device element is there and is taking care. Somebody understands and working with the connectivity providers and they’re working and collaborating together, working with the platform and the analytics and so on and so forth. And that was one of the biggest things we’re looking for end-to-end managed services when it comes to IoT.

Nick Earle:
And that’s probably the third and probably final, big subject that we got time for on this podcast, which is this idea of IoT is not a DIY set of components in the way that people think it is. And you actually need a partner that can take you from the idea through to implementation and be your guide. That’s why I always explain people, why have you got that strange balloon for those of you, why you got that balloon behind your head? Do you like balloons? No. Well, but the idea, at least our branding is you need someone who understands all these issues to be your guide, the idea guide on the balloon and lots of images around guiding and giving advice, trusted advisor. You have to have a professional services capability. You have to have a hardware design capability.

Nick Earle:
You have to have a connectivity capability, you have to be agnostic and it’s right the way through to implementation. It reminds me of, I also on these podcasts end up talking about, well, when back in the day, it reminds me back in the day. The IT industry in frankly, the ’80s and the ’90s was components and the people who, the system integrators and the value added resellers and the people who aggregated it all together and made it happen. The big companies did a lot themselves, but then they found that they were recruiting so many people as the amount of technology increased exponentially and all the solutions weren’t designed to interact with each other. And then you’ve ultimately, you got cloud where people say, “Well, let me, I’ll just take care of it and I’ll sell you a service.”

Nick Earle:
And I think IoT has to go that route because it is so complicated. Yes, you need an advisor. You need to tell people stop. I know you want to abide devices, put SIMs in them and deploy them. But these are the reasons why it’s not going to work, the security, the hardware, the firmware, the connectivity in, it’s a strange sales process because you spend the first hour of the meeting telling people, these are all the problems you are going to face. And people often say, “Well, other companies I talk to just tell me it’s a SIM and this is the price of data and click here and it’ll arrive tomorrow morning.”

Nick Earle:
And I say, “Yeah, but you do realize it won’t work because these are industry issues.” We’re taking an industry that wasn’t designed for IoT. It was designed for consumer, but you mentioned SMS. And it was designed for consumer voice. And roaming was designed for people who went abroad and came back again pretty shortly. And hardware was sort of designed by hardware companies and the iPhones. The phones were designed by phone companies and all that certification and the tight coupling of the hardware software was done. In IoT, it’s not like that. It’s a series of… It’s like buying cars with a components arrive from multiple companies and are dumped on your driveway.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Like a kit car.

Nick Earle:
A kit car.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
You have to put it together yourself.

Nick Earle:
You have to put it together yourselves. And actually, then you suddenly realize after a while, why did I do this? But that is where we are. I think there is hope. I think global operator agnostic switching is key. eUICC is a standard is key. iSIM is ultimately going to make the hardware a thing. As you say, it has to drop down to the silicon layer. It has to. And then on the security side, the idea of agent, well, certainly we believe agentless security. We partnered with Armis who I believe are the leading company in the Gartner MQ magic quadrant.

Nick Earle:
But the idea of there’s so many different hardware proliferations that you have to use AI tools to look at behavior and spot anomaly behavior. You can’t put a piece of software on, it’s one component of the design of services, but the idea of monitoring and saying unusual behavior, because you just can’t say here’s a software update. Symantec does deploy it to my IoT devices because they’ve all got different operating systems, firm, modems, chips, sensors. It’s very fragmented, isn’t it?

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Extremely. And I think-

Nick Earle:
Keeps us all busy.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Very much so. And I think the whole ecosystem is getting closer, but it’s still fragmented and siloed, irrespective of which layer we’re looking at and to use my cliques. And I love my cliques is like one size doesn’t fit all. It’s especially true with IoT, but it’s also very important is the partnerships because we’re looking, historically, at least on the telco industry. And it’s been changing with when we are getting into CPaaS and Omnichannel, but historically it’s like, we are working together. We sign roaming agreements, but you’re also competing for the same customer, the same minute, the same SMS message. And now the same data and selling SIMS, right?

Nassia Skoulikariti:
But for IoT, it’s not the competition really. It’s like working together to provide an ecosystem to build it because there isn’t one company even if you look at the big hyperscalers, they don’t own all the elements. It’s the partnerships that really, that they’re-

Nick Earle:
That’s right.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
… selling to the customer. So it’s through those partnerships and putting these elements together to ensure that the customer is getting that one size. So for the particular, for the end-to-end interaction, because the customer, the end user, they just want their device. They just want the cog, whatever that is to work. They don’t want to have to worry.

Nick Earle:
Because they want the data, they want the business outcome and they want to… and the final comment, they want the ability to turn products into experiences and, by using data, to create new experiences. And they want to not be disrupted by people who get there ahead of them. A lot of the case studies that we talk about are the people who have made it through the maze with a lot of handhold, but they have created amazing vending machines. They’ve created amazing medical devices. They’ve done amazing thing with smart meters. They’ve amazing tracking devices, but when you do get through, they gain market share. Everything that has power will be connected. It’s not a debate. It’s not an if, it’s when.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
It’s inevitable.

Nick Earle:
It’s inevitable. And I think that the part of the business that you are in, the part of business that we’re in, and as you rightly say, and everybody else, we need to work together more. So we just say, you know what, we’re going to work together as an ecosystem. And we’re going to do this and we’ll handle all that complexity between ourselves, but we’ve for too many years exposed the complexity and the proprietary silos and the components to the industry. And as a result of which IoT adoption has been held back, we’ve been talking about this for-

Nassia Skoulikariti:
For a long time. We haven’t lived up to the hype. There is a good reason for that. I personally believe is because ourselves, we didn’t know where it’s going to go. We were testing the waters per se. And part of what we’re doing as an industry is to keep educating, a lot of what I do is providing education-

Nick Earle:
So you built a career around it?

Nassia Skoulikariti:
It’s necessary.

Nick Earle:
Instead of the karate school, you’ve actually found that this is an IoT school.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Exactly, it’s IoT school instead.

Nick Earle:
I don’t think you’re ever going to get to do that. There’s such a demand and there is enormous hope because the people are some amazing, that’s why we produce IoT Leaders podcast to highlight the issues, but also to highlight the successes. So we have about 50:50 in terms of podcasts of people who are one of the issues like this, but also education. But also about 50% of the podcasts are people who have taken hand holding. They’ve taken a service. They’re all our customers, of course, which our podcast and they’ve actually implemented amazing things. And they are really doing well. Every person we bring on board, they want to talk about it, because they’re doing so well.

Nick Earle:
But we are just, I think, in Jeffrey Moore’s words, “We feel like we’re just crossing the chasm now.” It feels like the early days of open systems or the early days of cloud or the early days of mobile phones. It feels like it’s starting to move and COVID has helped because it’s put a focus on cost reduction and getting more differentiating products. Downturns, bizarrely help technology adoption curves, don’t they?

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Very much so. I think, like you said, we had to wait for the hype to die down. So something else games and become hype. Nowadays, we’re talking about a lot about the metaverse, but us at the IoT world, we know that we’ve been there with digital twins and we can imagine what can happen when you take digital twins to the metaverse and all this different conversation for a different time.

Nick Earle:
I did a podcast with a leader of IoT that’s with the global leader of IoT, for Microsoft on digital twins and the metaverse, that’s a whole new subject on a different point on the hype cycle.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Exactly.

Nick Earle:
We want to solve some basic issues first around devices and connectivity and getting customers deployed and producing IoT devices that just work when you switch them on. And then I think maybe at some point you’ll be running a fourth company, which is the metaverse digital twin company or something.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
You never know.

Nick Earle:
You’re always-

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Never know what happens. One thing that I don’t want is to wake up one morning and say, what if? I try to avoid that.

Nick Earle:
No. Well, I think your virtual assistant, your cat, he can say-

Nick Earle:
What did you say the name of the cat?

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Benny.

Nick Earle:
Benny. I think Benny’s going to be very, very busy because there’s huge demand for your services and this is an area that’s going to keep us all busy for quite a long time. So listen, let’s leave it there. We could talk for a long, long time.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Very much so.

Nick Earle:
But really enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing a lot of information with us, a lot of thoughts, lot of background, your personal story, and really practical view, I think on where we are and what we need to do to actually deliver on the roadmap for IoT. So I just want to thank you for this Nassia, thanks for agreeing to be-

Nassia Skoulikariti:
My pleasure.

Nick Earle:
… a guest on IoT Leaders podcast. So for our listeners and viewers, thank you for listening to this episode with me your host, Nick Earle, CEO of Eseye, and you can find a lot of our, all the previous podcasts and a lot of the information that we talked about, it’s all on our website at eseye.com. Which, quick advertorial has recently had a, this week in fact, as we are recording this, a major revamp around a new offering called Infinity, which I’ll just leave it there.

Nick Earle:
But the Eseye website has been just completely revamped with a lot of content videos, tutorials, help case studies around many of the issues that we’ve talked about on this episode and indeed the previous ones. And I’m sure the future ones. So. Again, Nassia, thank you very much for being a guest.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
My pleasure, Nick.

Nick Earle:
We’re going to be working together a lot going forward and thank you to our listeners. And I look forward to talking to you again on the next episode. Thank you.

Nassia Skoulikariti:
Take care.

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.

Outro:
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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