Interview: Texas Instrument’s Gil Reiter

We’re always looking to our partners and peers to learn more about industry trends and where they see the Internet of Things going. We recently recorded a great conversation with Gil Reiter, Director of Strategic Marketing for the Internet of Things at Texas Instruments (TI). Gil shared some great insights with us, including where he sees the IoT having the most impact and what he deems to be the biggest barriers to IoT adoption. We’re eager to catch up with Gil and the TI team at Xperience this week. Hopefully we’ll see you there!

  Q: Where do you see the Internet of Things (IoT) and its technologies creating the most impact? How do you see the IoT creating value and changing the way companies do business?

A: As we all know, the IoT touches and impacts everything! Texas Instruments (TI) is particularly interested in the IoT because it impacts all the markets its customers are in – everywhere from automotive, industrial and consumer. For TI, we think the biggest impact will be in the industrial market. Right now you see a lot of the IoT in homes where consumers are willing to experiment with the technology (at least the early adopters). The real impact is going to happen in the industrial sector – mainly factory automation. Today, factories have very conservative systems that have closed-loop management systems. Because manufacturing processes must be highly reliable and consistent, manufacturing firms are very slow to adopt IoT technologies into their flow for fear it could negatively impact their operations.

The IoT in the industrial sector is still being developed. The way we see the IoT getting into factory automation is through back channels. These channels will work in parallel with the real-time, highly reliable, automated systems and the IoT will overlay this, supervising the maintenance of the manufacturing lines. The value of the IoT for manufacturing is going to come from increased efficiency, predictive maintenance, flow capacity and more. It will really drive improvements in every aspect of the manufacturing business.  In the long run, this is where the IoT will have the most impact.

Q: Gartner forecasts that 25 billion devices will be connected by 2020, do you agree with this level of growth? If not, what do you see as the biggest barriers of adoption of the Internet of Things?

A: Nobody knows what the eventual number will be, but we do know the IoT is big and it doesn’t matter how big it gets, there are still barriers to adoption. The biggest barrier is also the largest risk – security. In fact, if there’s one thing that I lose sleep over, it’s the potential impact of security breaches and security problems. Security is a cross-industry problem. Lots of devices being built now have less-than-adequate security.  If enough of us in the industry get security wrong and there are enough publicized security breaches, it will impact the entire industry. People will be scared and think the industry is not mature enough; essentially, that it’s too risky. Customers need to understand the security implications of connected devices.

The other major barrier is interoperability.  It’s hard to get the true value of these connected devices if they don’t communicate with each other. There are competing standards and the industry hasn’t converged around the leaders yet.  It’s the VHS versus Beta battle of the 1970s and 1980s all over again and we all know it took a while until the industry converged on VHS.  It’s not only the device manufacturers – some customers just prefer to wait.

To combat this from a hardware perspective, TI is integrating security into the silicon to make it more complete.  We believe security can be done at the component level. Putting this together relies on the equipment manufacturer, using security capabilities provided by hardware and software vendors and giving customers an end-to-end solution.  One example of this is secure over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates.  In the past, silicon may have had an encryption block.  If the customer wanted to encrypt a firmware update of a file coming over the air, the customer needed to supply a software solution that used the encryption in the silicon.  But the implementation fell on the equipment vendor.

Q: How do you see the company-customer relationship changing with the rise of connected devices? What will be the most significant changes companies have will have to initiate in order to serve these new connected products and customer needs?

A: On the consumer side of things, the biggest impact the IoT has on the customer relationship is that it allows companies, particularly OEM or hardware manufacturers, to stay in touch with customers post-purchase. Your refrigerator will help you shop for groceries. On the industrial side, the relationships will be within the enterprises. Along with this, companies will have to learn how to leverage big data. They will have to start learning customers’ habits and needs and adapt to these insights, which will require companies maintaining and managing data as they go.

Q: In order to move IoT forward, where do you think most of the education needs to happen? How does the education required differ between companies and consumers?

A: We previously discussed the lack of education on standards and security.  In addition, there is a need for education around the value of big data and analytics, especially with traditional industries like manufacturing. Customers that are ahead and engaged with the IoT already understand the value of having this additional data; they see the opportunities.  Much of the industry still doesn’t see the benefit of capturing big data and what you can do with it; the magnitude: preventative maintenance, forecasting and predictions. This is where most of the education is focused now, but a lot more needs to be done.


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