On this episode of the IoT For All Podcast, Chief of Product Engineering at IoT.nxt, André Jacobs, joins the podcast to discuss the importance of IoT integration. André and Ryan begin the podcast by talking about what IoT.nxt does, the Virtual Raptor gateway, and the IoT landscape in Africa. André then discusses the role of integration in IoT, how it has evolved, and why it’s a critical factor in the success of an IoT deployment. At the end of the podcast, they discuss IoT challenges and advise companies looking to integrate IoT into their business.
André Jacobs is the Chief of Product Engineering at IoT.nxt, where he is responsible for the vision and development execution of the company’s global software and hardware products. He was one of the first employees to join IoT.nxt in the early start-up phase when the company was established in late 2015. He currently manages several teams across several disciplines responsible for developing a comprehensive IoT suite of software products and hardware devices. André has a background in software development and extensive product development knowledge and has worked closely with hundreds of businesses to design, develop, and implement complex, enterprise mission-critical software systems since 1995.
Interested in connecting with André? Reach out to him on Linkedin!
IoT.nxt was founded in late 2015 and established its head office in Pretoria, South Africa. Since then, the company has achieved phenomenal growth in its customer base, financial results, and employee numbers. It opened its first international office in The Netherlands in 2017, set up operations in the USA late in 2018, and since 2020 has also operated in the UK. IoT.nxt is considered a leader in the South African IoT industry and has been listed in leading technology media as one of the top five companies in Africa to watch in 2018. Telecom giant Vodacom – which in turn is owned by Vodafone – bought a majority stake in IoT.nxt in May 2019, which has accelerated its global expansion. The IoT.nxt team is committed to demystifying the Internet of Things and developing innovative solutions that offer their customers opportunities to implement ground-breaking strategies to drive business value and grow ROI.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
0(1:26) Introduction to André Jacobs
(02:20) Introduction to IoT.nxt
(03:05) What is Virtual Raptor?
(05:26) Are there specific use cases IoT.nxt focuses on?
(06:58) IoT landscape in Africa
(08:35) How integration plays a role in success of IoT deployments
(10:59) How IoT integration has evolved
(12:41) Challenges of implementing IoT solutions
(13:50) How to approach security with IoT integration
(15:37) Advice for companies looking to integrate an IoT Solution
– [Voice Over] You are listening to the IoT For All Media Network.
– [Ryan] Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All Podcast. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon and on today’s episode, we have André Jacobs the Chief of Product Engineering at IoT.nxt. They are a company out of South Africa that is focused on demystifying the Internet of Things and have developed innovative solutions to offer customers opportunities to implement groundbreaking strategies to drive business value and grow return on investment across the board. We have a great conversation. We talk a lot about integration within IoT. We talk about why it’s the key to success in IoT. Also, how have integration capabilities evolved? And also the challenges that their companies face, when it comes to integrations and bringing in IoT solutions into their business, whether it’s fear of replacing devices whether it’s the educational component, resource constraints, security, you name it, we get into it but all in all great conversation really recommend to listen to this entire episode. But before we get this episode, if any of you out the there are looking to enter the fast growing and profitable IoT market but don’t know where to start, check out our sponsor. Leverege, Leverege’s IoT solutions development platform provides everything you need to create turn-key IoT products that you can white label and resell under your own brand. To learn more, go to iotchangeseverything.com That’s iotchangeseverything.com and without further ado please enjoy this episode of the IoT For All Podcast. Welcome André to the IoT For All Podcast. Thanks for being here this week.
– [André] Thanks for having me, Ryan.
– [Ryan] Yeah, it’s fantastic to have you all the way from Johannesburg. Enjoying a nice summer day while we’re here in the, in the winter cold. So I appreciate you taking the time. Let’s start off by having you give a quick introduction about yourself, your background experience things you think would be relevant for audience to get a better sense of who they’re listening to.
– [André] Yeah. Thanks. And thanks again for having me. My name is André Jacobs. I’m the chief of product engineering at IoT.nxt. I’ve got a very much a software development background been in that for many, many years. I’ve joined IoT.nxt, pretty much in the early startup phase about six years ago now at the end of 2015. And yeah, it’s been an exciting, exciting journey for me and the company to date.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. So let’s talk a little bit about IoT.nxt and what you all do. What the overall focus is, you were involved in the IoT global awards for Virtual Raptor. I’d love to hear a little bit more about that. And then we can dive into kind of the meat of the conversation.
– [André] Sure. Our company is focused on hardware and software development specifically in the internet think space. So we provide quite comprehensive set of products. We’ve got hardware products, software firmware and we pretty much play in all the layers of IoT. So if you think of edge all the way up to cloud and hosting and data and insights.
– [Ryan] Okay, fantastic. And on the Virtual Raptor side talk a little bit about that.
– [André] Yeah. So Virtual Raptor is a relative new product in our space. Maybe the best way to describe Virtual Raptor is to kind of explain how it came about and why we have this product. So we started getting involved in some large IoT deployments where we have thousands of gateways and many more thousands, literally hundreds of thousands of devices connected to these gateways. And they’re all streaming telemetry into a single point in our cloud platform. And it pretty much became obvious that, maybe this isn’t always sustainable, especially if you take a look at all the load it’d be processing Just for that one specific use case that I’m thinking of. We are processing between three to four billion telemetry package every month. So another pin point was that customers didn’t feel quite comfortable breaking out from gateways to the cloud for security reasons. So they would prefer to keep that all in their own network and putting in place things like DPMs and DMCs wasn’t really ideal creating a single point of failure. So what we did is, we came about with Virtual Raptor and initially the idea was to just connect virtual devices, not wired devices. And get that into our platform. But we quickly realized that this is an ideal solution for connecting all our gateways, our own gateways as well and streaming all that information through. So yeah, now we deploy virtual raptor on premises with our customers within their network. So it’s safe and secure. So it’s advice to gateway to virtual raptors is nice and secure on the customer’s network. And then they break out from there and then, just managing the security from there is much easier than controlling is from thousands of gateways.
– [Ryan] Yeah. Fantastic. That’s really interesting. And how long has the product been around for?
– [André] We pretty much launched it last year. So it’s been in development a little bit longer. And we have been running a few, close beaters but it’s generally available since last year.
– [Ryan] And so out of curiosity, being a company down in South Africa, do you all have any specific use cases or kind of target audiences that you are focused on? I’m also just generally curious what the perception is like when you speak with companies being a company in South Africa that’s focused in IoT and kind of how that is usually handled or perceived I guess, which I’m sure is a little bit different than some of the other guests that I’ve spoken to. And I’d love to hear a little bit more about kind of how that works?
– [André] Sure. Yeah. We’re not just South Africa based anymore. In 2019, we, we opened an office in Europe as well as one in the USA. We are servicing Africa, basically many many countries in Africa as well as Europe as well as Northern Americas. Yeah. Look, it is sometimes a bit challenging when you are South African based and not coming from the well known countries that technology is typically known for, but, winning awards help. And we’ve been winning quite a few. We are be being recognized by bigger companies like Gartner for some of our products. And yeah, it’ been a tough journey early on but as we gain traction and we deliver more and more projects, it becomes easier to to show for what we have and use that as a springboard.
– [Ryan] Tell me about the kind of the IoT industry landscape kind of what’s going on in Africa in general. Like that’s not a conversation that I get to have a lot about kind of what the landscape looks like what the adoption is like? What are the focus, use cases, things like that. what have you seen as really unique and special about IoT in South Africa?
– [André] Yeah. I guess each region within Africa sort of has its own flavor. South Africa is quite open to adopting new technology, which has served us well. We do play in like I said, other kind countries within Africa, like Botswana, Mozambique, Kenya, Egypt, Tanzania. There’s quite a few number of countries where we’re involved, but each one has its own culture and way of going about things. We obviously have some more I would say industrial use cases here than maybe some of the other countries. Because we have mining here which is a very good one to work on. We’re quite quite strong in mining in South Africa. So that’s a national space for us. But having a platform, we play in many, many industries, smart spaces, , security, automotive, telco, oil, and gas. There’s really no, really end or constraint in terms of how we approach things.
– [Ryan] That’s fantastic. One of the topics I wanted to bring up and this kind of ties into listing out those different areas of focus for you all, is around integrations within IoT. So anytime an IoT solution is brought into to a company there’s usually some level of integration with existing business systems and the way they do things. And I wanted to hear from you all, on the experience side, what you all have seen as far as how integrations are really playing a role in the success of IoT deployments? And we can dive a little bit further after that.
– [André] It’s actually an interesting topic. That’s how the company started. So we very early on realized that, it’s not just us, it’s everybody basically struggling with that, especially that edge integration component. So the company was built on a product called Raptor, Raptors are our edge technology. And we actually have a patent called SDDI which is Software Defined Device Integration which allows us to repurpose a single port into whatever we need, basically. To give you an example, we could use a USB port and repurpose that for ISPC or IS2P2, whatever we needed, basically. And that’s how the company was built. We built at bottom up. I know many IoT companies started top down hosting something. And then going from there, we really started at the edge and that’s how we built our success up. So integration for us is still key. We still feel that we have an excuse to burn an edge on our competitors in that space. Because of the string for raptor. Yeah. So it’s something that’s getting easier now and again, with newer devices, but I think a string flies with us in terms of legacy devices. So we do prevent people from having to have to rip and replace the existing investment. So if you look at something, especially in like in a mining industry where some of these devices are many millions of dollars of equipment and they’ve got a life span of 20-30 years. It’s not ideal to try and replace any of that.
– [Ryan] Right. Right. That makes a lot of sense. And talk to me a little bit about kind of how integrations have evolved over the years that you’ve been kind of in this space. Doesn’t have necessarily be specific to your company but just generally what you’ve seen of how IoT has evolved to help integrations be more seamless, be easier, be something that it’s just kind of table stakes when it comes to building something that is success when it comes to IoT.
– [André] Yeah, sure. I mean, early on the idea of having to integrate into something was maybe not that well accepted. When we do approach suppliers and customers now with the idea of integration, it’s they’re more open to it. So sometimes they didn’t want to share the secret source of how to actually integrate with some of these devices. So at least from that point of view, it’s a different mindset. And we do get access to equipment to be able to integrate. You see your basic patterns evolving. I mean, protocols are pretty standard. There’s many of them, but it’s pretty standard across certain types of devices, groups of devices. So I guess once you’ve got protocol down then creating a specific device integration as a device driver, is easier. And as you expand your set or your library of integrations, it becomes easier when you get to the next customer, you can reuse a lot of the existing and then the gap is smaller to integrate. So yeah, it’s making it the speed to implementation easier.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. And tell me a little bit about the overall challenges to implementation. So you know, when you or other companies kind of engage with a client about integrating their current processes system devices, you name it into a new solution. What are the biggest challenges that usually are present and how do you kind of approach overcoming them?
– [André] I guess it’s the typical topics in IoT things like cost, security, different mindsets. So it’s getting customers on board on this journey, convincing them it’s possible. That IoT does provide something different. It’s not a skater implementation. It is something more. And convincing them by well sometime going through many workshops to prove that we have the technology and we have the security and they can come with us on this journey.
– [Ryan] Talk to me a little bit about security there. You mentioned it on the security side when it comes to integration what’s important to be thinking about, how is that kind of approached? A lot of listeners out there, probably wondering when if I want to adopt IoT and I want to integrate with my systems okay, it seems like that’s becoming more seamless every day. But on the security side how is that being taken into account, when you’re integrating, legacy systems, devices you name it in with a new solution. Where does security kind of fit in? And how is that kind of approached?
– [André] Yeah. Security is very front of mind in every implementation. So you do have the layers that you can secure quite well and those layers are generally more exposed to attacks because they might be hosted in clouds where they are accessible. I guess the simplest form of security is just not to expose say a gateway to the internet. So keep it away from possible detect surfaces. A lot of devices don’t have any security. So it’s just not possible to secure that device. If you don’t add some sort of bump in the wire, which is typically some sort of form of gateway. So you have a little bit of unsecured connection between the actual device and the gateway but then you just focus on securing your gateway. Making sure that software that runs on the gateway and operating system is not accessible and the preferably not exposed that to the internet. But if you have to, then the looking at those layers as well, making sure you all secured.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Last question I have before we wrap up here is around, for our listeners who are trying to better understand how they can prepare for adoption when it comes to integrations, when it comes to security I guess maybe focus on integration here for a second. What advice do you have for them on how they can kind of prepare and plan for the necessary pieces that are gonna be required when they engage with a company like yours? Is there something they can be doing or thinking early on to help future proof things that they’re doing or help plan the compatibility that’s certain things are gonna have as they move forward and potentially explore adopting IoT?
– [André] Yeah, I guess future proof is a very important bit. Look for suppliers that could provide you with that future proofing. Look for somebody that can use preferably the existing devices that you already have within your environment. It’s not necessary to replace everything. It is quite expensive to do that but where you do have to a augment, look for suitable devices that that could provide you with the specific information in your use case.
– [Ryan] Okay, great. Well, this has been a conversation that we’ve definitely needed to have with, for our audience around integrations, how security kind of plays into it. It’s something that is top of mind for a lot of people, but it’s not most common thing that our experts that we’ve had on the show before have been talking about. So I really appreciate you taking the time today to kind dive into not only what you all have going on at IoT.nxt, but at the same time, the integration side how important it is, the impact it has on success overall and also how you’re all approaching it. I think this has been, been a great conversation for audience to really understand what’s going on. So thanks again for your time.
– [André] Thanks for having me, Ryan. It was interesting conversation. Appreciate It.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. The last thing I do wanna do though before you leave is for our audience to learn more about your company and kind of everything going on there what’s the best way to kind of stay in the know, stay up to date, contact, follow up, all that kind of good stuff?
– [André] Well, I think best is to get in contact with us, go to our website, www.iotnxt.com and yeah. Get in touch with us. We always quite happy to engage with new customers and partners. We’ve got an extensive partner network as well globally. So yeah, just reach out to us.
– [Ryan] And any new things on the horizon that we should be on the look out for?
– [André] We’ve got a jam packed roadmap always exciting. We’re actually busy, refreshing our what we call our version three with version four technology. And making it much more user friendly, customers are becoming accustomed to very slick consumer apps. So we are looking into bringing that to business as well.
– [Ryan] Fantastic. Well André, this has been a great conversation again like I’ve already said, I appreciate your time and look forward to getting this out to our audience.
– [André] Thanks. Appreciate your time.
– [Ryan] Hi, everyone. Thanks again for watching that episode of the IoT For All Podcast. If you enjoyed the episode please click the thumbs up button, subscribe to our channel and be sure to hit the bell notification. So you get the latest episodes as soon as it become available. Other than that, thanks again for watching. And we’ll see you next time.