The technology company has opened its new division with plans to provide intelligence around Internet of Things data for end users and solution providers.
April 18, 2023
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Internet of Things (IoT) technology company Wiliot has opened a new Data Division that the company hopes will provide support for businesses that capture large volumes of data from their Wiliot-based IoT solutions. The company plans to employ 50 experts within the division by the end of this year. The division will strive to make ambient IoT intelligence more generally available and digestible, according to Steve Statler, Wiliot’s chief marketing officer, and it will be led by Thaddeus Segura, the company’s VP of data products and algorithms.
The work being done consists of developing data products, such as code and templates for IoT deployment playbooks, which third-party solution providers will use to build their solutions. Those companies will pay Wiliot for use of the Wiliot Cloud platform, while the Data Division content will be publicly accessible. The idea stemmed from the large volumes of information collected during Wiliot deployments. “Our customers don’t want to have a mass of low-level data,” Statler says. “They want to know when they need to do something, like putting a pallet of temperature-sensitive food away in a freezer.” Thus, the Data Division will write the code that turns packet data into events and higher-level information, such as a product’s carbon footprint.
Since its founding in 2017, Wiliot has been producing what it calls ambient IoT technology. Its devices include IoT Pixels (sticker-sized tags) that harvest ambient energy from IoT devices (known as bridges), then forward data that can include temperature and pressure, via Bluetooth to Wi-Fi access points and smartphones. The resulting location and conditions data is managed on the Wiliot Cloud, and the company’s products are being used in manufacturing, retail and healthcare environments (see Wiliot Unveils Passive Bluetooth Sensor, Wiliot Expands BLE Sensor Solution with Platform, V2 Chips, Wiliot Builds Partnership Program for Passive BLE Sensors and Wiliot Launches Ambient IoT Innovation Kit).
Increasingly, the company has found that large amounts of data resulting from IoT systems have offered opportunities and challenges for solution users. “When we give raw data to a customer, and they try to replicate it on their own, it’s just a massive learning curve,” Segura says. “It’s too much for them to take on.” Wiliot has been working on using data science, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to capture, manage and better leverage the information being captured.
Enabling Third-Party IoT Solutions
“In the past, with barcodes and RFID, you saw data when an associate tapped or scanned [a tag],” Segura says. However, he notes, the real-time data captured from Wiliot’s tags means a constant stream of location and temperature data to the cloud. “We knew we had to reduce it to events and triggers of actions to unlock the value.” That led to investigating how analytics, AI and ML could provide some of that value.
Wiliot provides a technology platform designed to enable third-party providers to build specific end-user solutions. That means Wiliot’s data is being integrated into the third-party companies’ dashboards and warehouse-management systems (WMS). Wiliot’s goal with the Data Division is to capture the level of data that is traditionally accomplished by a solutions provider, Statler explains. “But we intend to open-source a lot of what Thaddeus’s team are building above the core Wiliot platform,” he states, “so that others can adapt it and create their own products and services.”
Segura came from a background in supply chain modernization, in which he was introduced to Wiliot. “After having met 100 startups and peeking under the curtains,” he recalls, “I felt familiar immediately with Wiliot.” He adds, “I wanted to be a part of it.” Statler says Wiliot plans to leverage Segura’s retailer perspective knowledge to build solutions that retailers and other customers can use.
The team is separated into research, analyst and product teams. The research arm will consist of algorithm developers from physics backgrounds, who will take raw data and turn it into intelligible information. “All of the raw information coming off the tag and other metadata is turned into something small we can manage,” Segura says. The analysts team will then take that data and examine it for insights that are aimed at satisfying customer needs.
“These are the people that will go to the store and stock a shelf to understand what it looks like and what we actually need,” Segura says, “… and be able to actually take these raw packets, which still may be in the order of 50,000 per tag, and turn it into something that actually would trigger an action,” in order to extract business value. Product teams will help users understand appropriate products for their application.
Projects Currently Underway
The Data Division is working on multiple projects for retailers, e-commerce providers, postal services and airlines, Statler reports. “We are getting the data equivalent of a full body x-ray into the businesses of some of the largest customers in the world,” he adds. Initially, Segura says, the division will support companies using the technology for inventory management, food safety and a few unrelated priorities throughout the next two years. Some projects may include measuring and analyzing carbon footprints in real time, so that users could more immediately take action based on the data. This could include changing supply chain methods or addressing carbon emission in real time.
In the long term, the division plans to go much further with the data, Segura says. “We have experimented with different chemicals that could see gasses as they were emitted,” he states, “and measure the impact of capacitance on the actual tag.” Some environmental conditions could affect the capacitance in a way that could be detected during data transmission, which would identify key issues related not just to temperature or humidity levels, but also to the presence of airborne gasses or pathogens. “Imagine if we had sensors everywhere that had the capacitance changes as COVID was in the area. That would have been a game changer. We could have put up a billion tags and actually seen in real time where the virus was at a microscopic level.”
At present, Segura notes, there are no sensors that can accomplish that level of wireless data collection. “I know that sounds like science fiction,” he says, “… but the technology exists that I think we can get there in 10 years. And that’s the stuff that gets me really excited.” The next two years will be supply chain and retail use case-focused, he reports. The division may next look into agriculture applications, collecting and analyzing information such as moisture levels in soil to identify if a field is being overwatered, for example. Fresh food brands and other companies could then share that data with consumers to indicate the responsible farming practices that were used.
Untapped Users of IoT Technology
Part of Wiliot’s goal is to make IoT technology and its related data available to a broader audience. Until now, Statler says, IoT technologies have tended to address “expensive things,” as opposed to all things. That is due to the technology’s cost, he explains, including expensive readers and tags, for connecting objects like cars, containers and appliances to the Internet.
“The future is connecting everything that is inside the expensive things,” Statler says. Passive RFID provides only snapshots of data, he notes, when a tag is within range of an interrogator. Better data management and the technology’s relatively low cost, Statler adds, will mean that information about clothing, food, medicine and parts of a person’s home will all be available online in real time.
“We see the opportunity to tackle some of our biggest challenges,” Statler says, by making IoT data more readily available and intelligible. That includes addressing climate change issues, supply chains, productivity and crime. “It will take an ecosystem. First, we have to show the value, not just the vision. That is what Thaddeus and his team are doing.”
- The large amounts of data resulting from real-time streaming from Wiliot tags has inspired the company to open its Data Division to create codes and playbooks to make sense of the collected information.
- Retailers as among the first companies leveraging the division’s efforts that guide their use of the data to drive efficiency and reduce carbon footprints.