Simon Chudoba: "Beginning with IoT has never been easier"
29 November 2017
The Internet of Things (IoT) moves the world of technology, like the concept of cloud a few years ago. Those who are familiar with the IoT probably know the IQRF Alliance from the Czech Republic. Its CEO, Simon Chudoba, sees the greatest potential of Internet stuff in deployment to industrial production. "Rather than smart refrigerators, we are dealing with smart turbines in power stations," says Mr. Chudoba.
You can't really escape the Internet of Things these days. What is the potential of IoT?
The IoT range is very wide. A major topic is currently the industry. In my opinion, the industry is going to be a leading area which will push the Internet of Things forward. We are already seeing that smart devices and sensors are being implemented in places where they were not previously considered. Perhaps because the installation of data cabling in production halls is logistically demanding and expensive. Just imagine how you would install the communication cables to each machine in a hall of several thousand square meters ...? Therefore, wireless technology opens up various options how to make production effective by using the Internet of Things.
What exactly do you mean?
Manufacturers of machines and various devices can, for example, collect data from current traffic and respond immediately to them. Maybe to send a technician to repair the machine before it breaks down. Through the Internet of Things, they can afford to track machines, improve them during a long period of time, and move from a sale to a rental model.
Is there a clear and comprehensible explanation of the term Internet of Things?
I do not know, but I will try. As an Internet of Things, we mean devices that we can connect to the Internet. But this is not the only requirement. To make devices smart, you need to be able to process the data that a device is transmitting and to take some action based on them. Maybe turning on the lights. Or run the heater. The smart household, which is mentioned a lot when talking about IoT, is in fact only one type of use. The Internet of Things is now more about smart cities, smart buildings and Industry 4.0. Public lighting, parking, and traffic management are typical uses of IoT in the smart city. Thanks to the Internet of Things, we can control a traffic and divert it in case of degraded air quality and so on. This is just a few examples of what you can do with the Internet of Things. Opportunities for implementation are many and it always depends on the specific application.
A layman might have thought about why communication of smart devices needs special networks? Why not use Wi-Fi?
This is a very good question. Wi-Fi network protocol is widespread and popular. While Wi-Fi networks are built on a large amount of data and a small number of devices, IoT networks are exactly the opposite. With Wi-Fi, we can typically watch a video stream at home, but the problem is when we try to do it for example at a conference with hundreds of people. You know it - the network collapses. On the other hand, the Czech IoT technology - IQRF can handle a significantly lower data volume than the video mentioned but will connect ten thousand devices together in one place. All without failures or communication problems.
Ten thousand devices sound quite unimaginable, is there any realized project with thousands of devices?
Sure, and not one. The public lighting system in Israel, for example. Public lighting is currently controlled by the IQRF in many cities and has more than forty thousand lights in total. In Scotland, more than ten thousand sensors are deployed. They monitor the situation along the railroad and protect human lives from possible landslides on rails.
What are the benefits of the IQRF over competing and possibly more familiar Sigfox or LoRa?
LoRa and Sigfox are technologies designed to collect data over a relatively large distance in star topology - there is direct communication between the device and the gate. While the IQRF focuses on local autonomous control in the MESH topology, each device acts as a "forwarder" of messages for others. Bidirectional communication allows not only to collect data from sensors but also to control entire groups of devices such as lights, motors, relays, etc. Thanks to the MESH topology, the IQRF technology is also very durable and reliable - even in so demanding operations as power plants and industrial halls where deployment of LPWAN technologies would never be taken into an account due to a wireless interference. For example, in the Slovakian thermal power plant Nováky, they control 500 infrared heaters with a power of almost 2 MW through the IQRF network, thus ensuring the defrosting of coal wagons and a stable supply of electricity to the city of Prievidza.
It is also sympathetic that the IQRF is a technology of Czech origin ...
And its operation is free! Which is also not a habit in the IoT area. The IQRF can be deployed without any additional fees for coverage or network operation. It can also operate with batteries. Thanks to a local control, it is also cloud-independent, so the data can stay right in the location of a network. This feature is very valuable for representatives of industry, where data often must not leave the production area at all.
You have mentioned foreign projects so far, can we even come across the IQRF somewhere in the Czech Republic?
The IQRF monitors about 23,000 vehicles a day at 40 different locations in Prague, for example. The IQRF monitors the air quality at the Technical High School Smíchov. One of the Prague parking facilities for the disabled is also controlled by our technology. And in Brno, the IQRF controls the lighting system of the famous Red Church. As you can see, members of the IQRF Alliance have been implementing IoT projects for many years. Even before the IoT was known.
What led you to the idea of establishing an alliance?
We have seen that each company must implement each project from A to Z. Develop its own device, gateway, cloud, back-end, front-end, mobile application, sell the solution and provide maintenance. This approach is very inefficient because everyone cannot do everything. Our vision is that every company will focus on what it does best and give its product, solution or service to other members of the alliance, especially to integrators. They are able to combine individual devices into functional units and to offer a comprehensive solution to the customer. This cannot be achieved by the close cooperation of many companies from different fields. That's why we founded the IQRF Alliance. I am very glad to say that our alliance is growing very dynamically today, and the cooperation of members on various projects is also moving rapidly.
So how does such an "alliance" project look like?
Imagine - based on media massage - the owners of office buildings want to stay up-to-date and take the advantage of the Internet of Things too. They ask for some IoT solutions, communicate with the integrator, but they do not have a clear idea. However, the integrator lacks a product portfolio that he could integrate and offer it to the customer. Moreover, the manufacturers do not know what to produce, and there is a stalemate. The Alliance provides a communication platform so that integrators can directly contact the producer and work on the products that are really needed. Everyone will benefit from mutual co-operation.
Who are the members of the IQRF Alliance?
The whole project is growing organically from the Czech Republic, for example, I can mention the operators of the datacenter Master Internet, O2 or the Faculty of Information Technology of the Czech Technical University in Prague and others. But we also operate internationally. We have members from Taiwan, India, from all over the Europe and from the United States. So, if a Czech company is interested in foreign contracts, it is quite possible that its product through cooperation in the alliance will get to the opposite hemisphere. Beginning with IoT has never been easier than today.
What do you mean?
The situation radically changed compared to 2013, when we launched the alliance. Today IoT Starter Kit is available to experience how simple it is to breathe life into IoT projects. MasterAPP company from Brno improved it the perfection, it developed a mobile application for control of the whole kit. Integrators can build an IoT solution within a few days and offer it to their customer in just a few weeks. IoT is really that dynamic thanks to pilot projects today!
This is why the IQRF Alliance was founded?
Exactly, integrators should guide the manufacturers what to produce, test pilot projects and understand that a smaller pilot solution can lead to "the right" product. So, if I should say what the Internet of Things is really about these days – it is about pilot projects. It is about being able to quickly, cheaply and flexibly build a pilot project. And that it is possible to do it all right here from the Czech Republic.