Brian Cerchio, Losant: On fully tapping the IoT’s potential

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IoT News caught up with Brian Cerchio, Director of Solutions at Losant, to discuss how enterprises can fully tap the IoT’s potential.

One of the first examples of the IoT was in the early 80s when students from Carnegie Mellon University’s computer science department connected a Coke machine so people could track whether drinks were available and how cold they are.

The capabilities of connected devices – including Coke machines – have come a long way since those early days. We asked Cerchio what is driving the renewed excitement around the IoT and what is enabling businesses to generate significant value from connected devices.

“The product was always there as far as the hardware device was, but where the big value is is what you can do with that data coming from that device,” says Cerchio. “How do you add value to a customer that does above and beyond the physical product itself?”

“The traditional model was always preventative maintenance where let’s say you have a technician come out every six months or every year and they check and see what’s going on and what’s happening—that’s always very reactive.

“With connected products, the value is being really proactive and understanding what’s going on before you get your technicians out there and before you’ll have that data and knowledge of what’s going on with the devices.”

Cerchio goes on to explain how all of this real-time data can be used to improve the devices for efficiency and maximise the value derived from them.

Losant’s enterprise IoT platform is low-code and designed to quickly help teams build real-time solutions. We asked Cerchio how important he thinks low-code is to getting enterprises started on their IoT journeys.

Cerchio tells us that low-code is a big help for a lot of companies that don’t have existing software development departments and don’t want to invest in building one.

“The low-code approach makes it much easier for business development, business intelligence folks to understand and get defined data pretty quickly versus having to spend a lot of investment to get any information out of it.

“Lowering that barrier of entry is the biggest value-add there.”

With many low-code platforms, the simplicity and accessibility they provide is a bitter exchange for the flexibility and capabilities of more code-heavy alternatives. We asked Cerchio how Losant strikes a balance.

“That’s a big thing—with our local environment, we enable you to get in with a low barrier of entry but we don’t restrict flexibility. We’ve got even custom nodes that are you know you can write your own full JavaScript doing everything behind – Python notebooks and all the kind of data analytics if you want to really dive deep – but it’s not a requirement.

“We kind of give you the ability to get in easy and early but the flexibility of expanding if you want to go really deep and dive into it.”

The degree of flexibility offered by Losant is seen as a key differentiator from rival platforms and it’s not just in terms of code.

“We are pretty data agnostic as far as data ingress in and out, we don’t really care where it’s coming from where it’s going—we can really work with anything. And, through our flexibility, that kind of gives us a great value-add there.

“But we have so many already custom-built, first-class integrations. You typically don’t have to, but if you do need something we’re going to work and make sure it’s there for you.”

Losant is sponsoring this year’s IoT Tech Expo North America. Brandon Cannaday, the company’s co-founder and CPO, will be speaking at the event and hosting a session titled “Thinking beyond the factory – Understanding IoT’s untapped potential”.

We knew Cerchio wouldn’t want to steal the limelight from Cannaday but wanted to get his thoughts on how enterprises can fully tap the IoT’s potential.

“First, look at what the core crux problem is. I see a lot of customers that will come in and think there’s some sort of issue they have and it’s usually coming from a product manager or something from the top-down.

“Where I think there’s value is coming in and talking with the actual end-users themselves and looking at not what we think the problem is, but actually the problems on the ground.

Edge computing is making somewhat of a resurgence thanks to increased adoption of the IoT and advancements in areas like AI. We asked Cerchio what role edge computing plays in unlocking value from the IoT.

“A huge role. What we see a lot of with the IoT is constricted devices as far as not just network capabilities but also maybe the actual power of the hardware itself and cost restrictions.

“Being able to do things on the edge first off really cuts down our connectivity. A lot of times you’ve got IoT devices out in very weird areas with maybe spotty cell coverage where even cell coverage may be expensive.

“The more you can do on the edge and then pass it up to the cloud saves a ton of money not just in bandwidth but also on time and processing capabilities through the actual solution itself.”

Cerchio has worked on many IoT projects pretty much end-to-end. We asked what case study he’d put forward as a great example of a successful real-world IoT deployment.

“One good use-case we can start with here is in the industrial space. We’ve worked with a large manufacturer of industrial devices and compression systems and, you know, at least $50,000-$100,000 machines that have a lifespan of 20-30 years so clearly we want to understand what’s going on with them for a long lifespan.

“When I talked earlier about that traditional preventative maintenance role versus being proactive and understanding trends? Let’s say we have a motor that started seeing amperage draw going above this kind of threshold that we knew probably within six months there’s going to be an issue—or with this timing belt, whatever it would be.

“That’s really where I think the biggest value is; being able to be much more proactive.”

You can watch our full interview with Brian Cerchio below:

(Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash)

Want to learn more about the IoT from industry leaders? Check out IoT Tech Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London.

Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

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