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Gain Your Edge is a twice-monthly podcast on all things IT. This week’s podcast focuses on the Internet of Things. Plus, we get an extra bonus – a report from the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show. With our guest, Shanee Birch, we explore the implications and applications of the Internet of Things. From smart controls and sensors to home automation and system interfaces, we discuss IoT applications available right now, utilizing connected devices to make our home lives and work lives more efficient. We also take a look at what’s on the horizon and what’s next for the Internet of Things.
Shanee mentioned the following resources during our podcast, and they are presented below for your reference:
Additional Resources & Article References
When Things Start to Think by Neil Gershenfeld
Digital Wisdom: Thought Leadership for a Connected World by Shelly Palmer
Fitbit Blaze – review by The Verge
Amazon Echo – review by CNet
Products from Nest
Frontier Secure solutions for the Connected Home or Business
SBA.gov – the US Small Business Administration
TheVerge.com and “First Click” daily e-newsletter from The Verge
Shelly Palmer tech blog
Contact Info for Guest Expert:
Shanee Birch – LinkedIn
Send your feedback, comments and questions to BusinessEdge@Frontier.com
Announcer: Welcome to Gain Your Edge, the podcast created for IT professionals, business owners, and leaders looking to sharpen their edge over the competition. Our ever perceptive host Skip Lineberg introduces you to industry top leaders. Listen and learn from their insights as Skip gets inside the minds of our guest gurus, revealing new ideas, opportunities, and insightful updates for you. It’s all sponsored by Frontier Business Edge, your edge in success. Now, here’s our host, Skip Lineberg.
Skip: Welcome to Gain Your Edge, a monthly podcast on all things IT. I’m your host, Skip Lineberg, Senior Marketing Manager with Frontier Communications. Our goal with Gain Your Edge podcast is to help your business gain an edge over your competition. We scan the information space for trends and burgeoning technologies to identify the most opportune applications of IT for your business. Each month we connect you with guest gurus, who share insights and expertise through their first-hand experience. This week’s topic is the internet of things. As you know, rapid advances in technology are changing the way we live, work, and play every single day. Technological innovations that were complete science-fiction only a few decades ago are now sitting on our bedside tables, and the Technological Wild West is about to get a whole lot wilder. Joining me today is our guest, Shanee Birch, Senior Manager of Product Marketing with Frontier Secure. Shanee, I understand that you recently attended the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Shanee: Yes, this was actually my 10th year.
Skip: Oh wow, terrific. Many folks in our audience have been clamoring for a podcast on highlights from CES. So before we go into depth on our main topic, the Internet of Things, I’d love it if you would share some highlights from CES with me and with our audience. What did you see this year at the show, and what amazed you?
Shanee: Well, I have to say, this is probably one of the most exciting shows. Although, I feel like every year we really say that, so it just really shows the advancements that take place in such a short time period. This year we had over 177,000 people walking through the halls, so again, a record-breaker. And then from a company perspective, there are roughly 3,600 companies represented at the show, and there was a record of 500 new startups present out of that number. So, again, very, very exciting, and just a lot of enthusiasm, and a lot of people wanting to know more about what’s going on in the tech arena. You know, the areas of this is anything from health care, agriculture, transportation, manufacturing, and then even entertainment. So we saw things like robotics, sensors, 3D printing, even virtual and augmented reality were like the big, big conversations, and of course you’ve got your tech automotive, wearables and beyond, really.
Skip: Yeah, cool. From some of the things that I read about CES, I saw tons of buzz about drones, but I’m sure there was way more than that, and you touched on that, but what else stood out to you this year?
Shanee: Well, I have to say, I was really impressed with the Dish’s Hopper 3. It actually supports seven TVs, which is a big seller in my home, and allows a single user to watch up to four HD channels at once, and so for me personally, that was a definite stand out. Fitbit had their next-generation health and fitness wearable called the Blaze, and then oddly enough, the 3D printing, that’s still, even after last year’s show, continues to have incredible growth areas, especially in the medical application arena. They talked about showing two-dimensional x-rays and CT scans, and giving them a third dimension, and doctors are actually practicing on these before they go into complicated surgeries. And then other things, like Marathon Laundry, which actually allows you to wash and dry your clothes without removing them, if you can imagine.
Skip: Wow. That sounds good for our household. So there’s a myriad of technology, all kinds of amazing things, but did you come away with the sense of any one technology that’s converging or trending?
Shanee: Well I’ll tell you, it’s more about interoperability. That’s really the next development phase, and of course, along with voice command has, so, everything from Crock-Pots to cars are getting into IOT connected space.
Skip: Yeah. Okay, perfect segway. I really appreciate you taking a minute or two to share those observations from CES with us.
Shanee: My pleasure. I’m happy to do it.
Skip: Well now, let’s switch gears into this fascinating topic, The Internet of Things. It’s somewhat of an odd phrase. When I think about it, my mind first gravitates towards the contrast between things and people. For most of its history, the internet has been connecting people with people, and people with information. Sure, machines too, but, you know, I’d say those machine connections were historically between mainframe computers of old and more recently between servers. So today, we’re seeing the internet evolve into a web that connects sensors, and controllers, and appliances, as you mentioned, and many other IT-enabled devices. Truly an internet of things. Shanee, is this a good place to start as we look at the internet of things from a high conceptual level?
Shanee: Well I think so, and you know, oddly enough, we could go back to the 1800s and really, kind of, start talking about conceptions, an internet of things, but in more modern times, if we look at the mid 90s, there was a device called the Warecam, and it actually was the first camera that was connected to the world wide web. Now, mind you, this is after a coffeepot camera was actually launched online in the UK from the University of Cambridge campus. But you know, a lot of people credit the IOT phrasing to be first coined by a guy from Proctor & Gamble, named Kevin Ashton. He actually put it in a presentation, and that presentation was focused on the new idea of RFID being used in Proctor & Gamble’s supply chain. But then, around that same time frame, we’ve got Neil Gershenfeld, he was part of the MIT Media Lab, and he wrote a book that published, was published around the same time, and it spoke about the smart things. The book was called, “When Things Start To Think”, definitely recommend it for your listeners. And then, in 2000, of course, LG announced the consumer product offering for the first internet refrigerator, which I’m so sad to say, I still don’t have in my own home.
Skip: So you made a book recommendation, let’s just go over that again, can you give us the title again, Shanee?
Shanee: Sure. It’s called “When Things Start To Think”, by Neil Gershenfeld.
Skip: Okay. For our listeners, we’ll put a link to that book, an Amazon link, and any other relevant information in our show notes section of our podcast. So Shanee, what are some shining applications of the internet of things?
Shanee: Well, I think Nest has done a really great job of showing us a suite of devices, whether it’s their thermostat, or a camera, or even most recently, their smoke and CO2 detectors. But then we’ve also got the health monitors, like the Fitbits of the world. And my personal favorite, Amazon Echo, which is actually a voice command hub.
Skip: Okay, cool. So I’m gonna imagine you have one of those, tell us a little about how you use it.
Shanee: I could not live without my Amazon Echo, I have to say. The main voice command code, if you will is Alexa, and so I can ask Alexa to do a myriad of things, from turning on my room lights, to controlling my Nest Thermostat. She can help me with the timer as I bake a cake, add a grocery list together for me, visually and verbally, and then I can visually see that list when I go to the grocery store by pulling up the app. And of course, in through Amazon feature, I can actually trigger the delivery of those items if I choose, with a simple command. It’s kind of scary.
Skip: Wow, it’s amazing. So Alexa sounds like a combination between a concierge and a maid.
Shanee: There you go.
Skip: Yeah. The IT realm of connected devices is one where innovation is just exploding from what I’ve learned with regard to the internet of things. Let’s focus for a moment or two on the notion of connected devices. What constitutes a connected device, Shanee?
Shanee: Well I think the paramount piece is that it’s wireless, and it’s connected to the internet, and then from there, you’ve got several applications that can talk to other objects, or obviously, even interface with people and pets, so, but I think the main component is you’ve got to have that internet connection in order to really utilize that remote control aspect, and then data aggregation down the road.
Skip: Okay, makes sense. With all of these connected devices, aren’t they collecting and sending tons of data? Is most of this data stored in the Cloud, Shanee?
Shanee: Yes, it is stored in the Cloud. And actually that aggregation of data in the Cloud is really the most efficient management. Not only from a storage and security aspect, but also in presenting that data back to the end user, to make it meaningful, so that they can make decisions and take action that’s appropriate. So companies with name recognition have their reputation on the hook, and they’re taking privacy and security very seriously. They can’t ignore it, and they’re not ignoring it, and it’s only gonna get better as we go on with time.
Skip: Awesome. Hey, we’re gonna take a short break before we continue with this intriguing discussion on the internet of things.
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Skip: Welcome back. My guest today is Shanee Birch, Senior Manager of Product Marketing with Frontier Secure. And we’re talking about the Internet of Things. The majority of our podcast listeners, of course, are business leaders, some are small business owners, other are IT managers, or knowledge workers. Shanee, can you talk for a minute about a business application where a connected device can help a small business owner or an office manager gain an advantage?
Shanee: So what I think is most exciting about the Internet of Things in the realm of business is the popularity of the wi-fi camera, and really the flexibility that it allows a lot of small business customers. As an example, they can monitor activity in their business, but it also can be a tool to review data, and even post on the internet as a way to connect with customers. I know for myself, one of my favorite pizza places in Texas uses a drop cam, and they allow customers to see what’s happening in the restaurant, and see how busy it might be. So the camera really allows the owner to observe the video that could be triggered by activity or voice, but also allows them to choose what action they want to take, or not at all. Especially in the realm of if the business is open or not. But I also think the Internet of Things adds an efficiency and real-time operations for businesses, so a lot of retailers use those point-to-sell scanners, and having those wirelessly throughout the store can allow a business owner to connect with their customers in a more expedient fashion, increasing customer experience, and perhaps even allowing for more purchases over a given period of time. So really, any remote control over the space will allow a small business customer to save time and money in the long run.
Skip: Absolutely. But you know, you had me a pizza. I love pizza. What’s your favorite pie, Shanee?
Shanee: Oh my goodness, I’m pretty basic, I don’t know that it has any, like, grilled chicken, or I mean a pulled pork if you’re really hankerin’ for some beef, a few mushrooms, and sprinkle it with some basil, I’m happy.
Skip: Nice, nice. Do you make any at home?
Shanee: That would be negative.
Skip: No, okay. I love the barbeque chicken pizza or the pulled pork barbeque pizza, and we do experiment a little at home with making some pies.
Skip: But I’ll usually use a pre-made crust when I do that. I’m not into the making my own dough and handmade the crust sort of thing.
Shanee: Well that’s what it’s there for.
Skip: That’s right.
Shanee: Using efficiency.
Skip: Back to efficiency. Okay, so, we’re talking about the business side of things, and I can really see how the Internet of Things can be helpful for a business to be more efficient, to spot problems more quickly, to be more responsive, so that’s definitely advantageous for business owners. But you know, everyone in our audience is a consumer too, we all have our home lives and our households, and if we can manage those more efficiently, you know, it gives me the ability to buy a few extra hours a week, right?
Skip: Well, as we transition into the consumer side of the Internet of Things, our discussion turns towards very interesting topics, like home automation. The first thing that comes to mind for me, and the first example of home automation that I discovered was the Nest Thermostat, which enabled a homeowner to control the home thermostat from a far via a smartphone or web interface.
Shanee: I agree, I mean, Nest has really made their name in the IOT space, and not only with the thermostat, but again with the camera as well as their smoke and CO2 detector. You know, home automation is really a huge growth area, and we’re looking at things from garage door automation, front door automation, irrigation, heck, even pet feeders. I mean, it’s really all about remote control, and then of course, coupled with aggregated data that consumers can actually act upon, or again, if they choose, not act at all.
Skip: Right, right. Well, Shanee, beyond the things you just mentioned, I’d love it if you could just share some of your perspectives about how those applications are helping people, how they’re changing lives, and what’s really gaining traction in the home automation space.
Shanee: Yeah, devices are clearly converging. You know, smart things are talking to one another, and the idea of a single hub to allow that is really the next frontier, no pun intended. And of course, we add the voice command controls onto that, well, Jetsons, here we are.
Skip: Right, right.
Shanee: And you know, there’s some interesting statistics about the number of devices that are going to be in our homes, I’ve seen things say as many as 17 wi-fi devices can be expected in the average household, just within the next 4 to 5 years, so, and that would be all of those being connected to the internet, having a huge home presence of internet access as well, and having that wireless coverage in every area of a business or home is absolutely essential. So you know wi-fi range extenders I think are a bit of the unsung hero of the internet world, certainly something that I want to focus on as an area of business for our company. And so, a range extender really allows the most out of your data speed to be accessed from endless wi-fi devices, no matter what part of the home or office that you’re in. That’s really the end goal.
Skip: That makes a lot of sense, Shanee. Wonderful information, I appreciate that. What’s next? What’s out there on the bleeding edge? How and where will we see additional impact on our everyday lives?
Shanee: Well, I think your imagination is what you can just use to run wild. Again, we’re seeing home appliances, we talked about refrigerators, we’ve talked about washers and dryers, even your car is getting into this space, and going back to Amazon Echo, Ford had a huge announcement, talking about their sync application, and their car actually talking to Amazon Echo, so allowing the customer to as soon as they get into a proximity of their home, that that sync system would talk to Echo, and make sure the thermostat was up to the desireable temperature, you know, for that particular consumer. So it’s really this convergence of multi-devices, talking with one another, having all that aggregated data provided to a consumer, and again, provided to them in a way that makes sense. They can actually take away something good or some actual behavior that they may want to employ in their everyday life.
Skip: Yeah, that’s pretty cool, really, when you think about it, and think about connecting your car with your home, because most of us start to think about our homes when we’re commuting back from work, and so, what’s a very convenient way for us to access the home automation would be to have it available on a vehicle interface, right?
Shanee: Exactly, and you know, really, that’s another exciting area that, what’s going to evolve beyond our smartphones, and almost everyone on the planet really had that device, but is that the right, “Remote control apparatus, ” you know, for the individual. Especially as you get into a home, or you get into a business where there’s going to be multiple people. So that’s an exciting area to really, stay tune on, to see what’s coming from the manufacturers in the next couple years.
Skip: Yeah, how do we control it, and who has that control, right?
Skip: I can see that being very important. Shanee, I want to turn our focus a little bit to resources and I know this is a topic that’s so cutting edge, and so fascinating for many. I wonder if you would share some resources with us, and what I mean by that is, just talk a little bit about what you read or study to stay up-to-date on the Internet of Things?
Shanee: Well, I think one of the best things about internet, news and information is that it can be pushed to you, so, theverge.com, V-E-R-G-E is actually one of the primary, you know, news information feeds that I get pushed to me on a daily basis. And it really covers the gammet, from what’s happening in big Fortune 500 companies, down to more of the tech space that I’m looking at. And then there’s another blog area that I like to focus a lot of my research on, specifically for the Internet of Things, and that’s by Shelly Palmer. He actually also wrote a book not long ago called “Digital Wisdom”, another definite read for your listeners that are interested in learning more about the Internet of Things, and this whole digital space that we’re creating. But, you know, it’s interesting too, because I think there’s a lot of great websites out there for small businesses, sometimes they’re underutilized, for instance, sba.gov, obviously that’s the US small business administration’s website, but I really feel like they have a lot of great information, especially as it talks about setting yourself up for success in the digital world, whether it be your own privacy and security, a concern, or just again, how to engage with your consumers. Bloomberg.com/technology also has great information on big tech news, and then of course, one of my personal favorites, just for general information, I think is the entrepreneur.com site.
Skip: Cool. For our listeners, you can find links to the resources that Shanee mentioned in the show notes section of our podcast. Shanee, please tell us a little more about your role in Product Marketing with Frontier Secure. And I’d love to hear what we can expect to see from your company.
Shanee: Well, I’ll tell you again, this is a really exciting time for Frontier Communications, and this whole area of the Internet of Things, and connected home, and connected biz portfolios that we’re focused on, is an exciting time, not only for the company, but also for our customers. We love hearing their insights and ideas, and so a lot of our product development and working with leading-edge providers, designing the right applications, is actually driven directly from the customers. Case in point, you know, looking for a camera for a small business to use that actually allows them to decide upon looking at footage if they want to call 911, or call the neighbor down the street, or even set an audible alarm off. So, that was certainly something that we heard loud and clear from the small business sector, that they wanted to have us investigate, and offer as a solution. Also mentioned the wi-fi range extender, Frontier Secure is gonna be launching this year our own branded wi-fi network device. Again, allowing for every aspect of your data pipe to be available in your home or in your office. And really allowing all of the wi-fi devices, whether it be a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, or any other consumer goals we’ve talked about, allowing you full access to those.
Skip: Shanee, you’ve covered a lot of great information, and shared a lot of wonderful insights with us, but I wonder if there’s anything else that’s on your mind, any other insights that you’d like to share with business owners, with our audience, anything else we haven’t covered?
Shanee: Yeah, I think one important takeaway here is that businesses can really learn from what IOT brings to the consumer, and they can adopt that customer experience model, even if they aren’t in the business of smart things. I mean, regular engagement of consumers, at their convenience given, and allowing them access to data that they can use to make decisions that can bring, you know, everyday efficiency and cost savings to their lives, I think that’s invaluable in today’s relationship between consumers and a business.
Skip: Very valuable, indeed. Okay, before we break, I have a personal question for you. Outside of work, and away from the IT world, and aside from pizza, what’s your favorite way to spend a relaxing Saturday? Tell us a little about your hobbies and how you like to enjoy your downtime.
Shanee: Well, the good part of being in Texas is we’re close to Mexico. I’m a huge scuba diver fan, actually. I got my advanced certification in 2009, and I love the presence of mind that scuba diving brings to you. So even if I’m not diving, I’m usually going off to dive shows, I’m reading Dive Magazine, I’m looking at blog sites to plan out my next trip.
Skip: That’s fascinating, I love it. Well, you shared tons of useful information with us today, so thanks again for joining us, Shanee.
Shanee: Thank you, Skip. I appreciate the time.
Skip: Well, that’s all the time we have today. Download this podcast and share it with your friends and colleagues. You can find it at frontier.com/gainyouredge, or you can find it in the iTunes podcast library. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, I invite you to subscribe to our podcast through the podcast app, or your favorite content aggregator. When you subscribe you won’t miss a single episode. We have a years worth of Gain Your Edge content available for you to listen, learn, and enjoy. So for more information on Frontier Secure, and their range of products and solutions, check out frontiersecure.com. That’s ftrsecure.com. You can stay connected with Frontier Secure on Facebook and on Twitter, via @frontiersecure. Please join me, Skip Lineberg, next time, on Gain Your Edge. Until then, I hope you have a really great week.