IoT exists to make the lives of its users easier. However, that usefulness might not always be apparent at first glance, inspiring some interesting use cases of connective technology. Host Carson Garner is joined by Benjamin Webb as they review and discuss a series of unique IoT use cases. What do these technologies get right? What do these technologies get wrong? And do they really deliver on their promise of easing our everyday lives?
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Carson: Welcome back to our Link Labs podcast, Get Linked. I'm your host, Carson Garner, and we got a great episode for you today. My guest today is Benjamin Webb, who is an account manager here at Link Labs. Benjamin has actually had the ability to experience a lot of unique IoT technology use cases first hand. Now, I will say that this episode is going to be a lot different than the episodes of the past, but I wanted to bring Ben on here to, you know, teach us a little bit more about the unique IoT technology use cases, as well as to learn more about Ben and his professional experience. So Ben, this should definitely be a very interesting podcast episode, as well as, I don't think that there's a guest that we could have on the podcast that could do this episode justice like you will. So thanks for joining me and welcome to the Get Linked podcast.
Ben: Yeah, thanks. Thanks for having me here. Carson
Carson: Anytime. Before we dive into these unique use cases, could you tell our listeners a little bit of how you got involved in the IoT industry?
Ben: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. So a couple of years ago I was actually transitioning from maintaining aircraft as an A&P mechanic and I was kind of looking for a new career trajectory. My twin brother used to work here at the company and he says, Hey, we're hiring, you want to come work? And so I applied, got hired, and I've been fascinated with the technology and the people whom I work.
Carson: So you actually got hired by your brother. He was the one that helped bring you into this world of IoT.
Ben: He brought me in. He didn't hire me, but yes, he brought me in.
Carson: He actually brought me in to.
Ben: Yes. Yes, he did. He brought in a lot of people.
Carson: Yeah. So that's, that's interesting. How would you say you've enjoyed your experience in the IoT industry so far?
Ben: It's been eye opening, actually. When Isaac, my twin, used to discuss the business and the use cases, it was, it was kind of bizarre to me, to be quite honest. I was like, why would you want to track these sort of technologies? But since I've come in, the amount of use cases that this technology is used in, apart from our company alone, is just astronomical. There are lots and lots of companies that use this sort of technology and it's pretty incredible.
Carson: And guess who we just had on the podcast is our last as our last guest, Jason Whitfield. So two Texans in a row. In our last podcast, all we could hear was just roosters crowing in the back and I could hear horses galloping so hopefully we won't have that same problem with you, right?
Ben: No, no, no. All of my chickens are at least 100ft from me, so they're a good football throw away.
Carson: Yeah. So I was doing some research for this episode and for an upcoming episode, and I came across the first use of IoT being used for college students who were just looking to save some time and have some efficiency. They used IoT to determine how many Coca-Cola cans were in a vending machine instead of walking across, you know, the whole campus, only to find that the machines were empty. Today, I want to dive into some more interesting use cases of IoT. But staying on that college theme, a lot of colleges are using IoT to help students save time on laundry. They're calling it cyber laundry from what I've seen. Did your college have that?
Ben: Yeah, yeah, actually they did. So I think there are two types of, like smart washer and dryers and we're kind of want to talk about both of them. So, you know, both the trade school that I went to, to become an AP mechanic, and then my first apartment as a newlywed couple, we had a communal washer and dryer. And these were smart washer and dryers so you could check and see what the availability was. You could check and see when your loads are going to be finished. You could charge them directly from your phone. It's actually really, really unique and it saves you a lot of time because we'd have to walk quite a ways to get to the washer and dryer. But I think the best smart washer and dryer out there on the market is every few weeks I would come home to see my family and I'd bring with me my dirty load of laundry. I swear I'd leave it on the ground when I walked in the door. By the time I left the next day to go back to college, all my clothes were clean, washed and folded right there in the bin. I don't know what magic occurred. Something to do with my mom, but you know that is probably the best smart washer and dryer right there. You don't even have to worry about it. You just come home, put it on the ground, and then, you know, the next day they're all folded and washed for you.
Carson: You still wish you had it in your in your house now?
Ben: I still wish still wish I had it. It would be so much easier. Yeah. My mom doesn't quite appreciate it as a married man coming home with my dirty laundry. So.
Carson: So I think a lot of colleges are hoping that this new system of smart wired washers and dryers will instill a bit of efficiency, especially with, you know, it being college. And a lot of college students struggle with efficiency. I know I struggled with keeping up with all my tasks and all the extracurricular things I had to do. So one other interesting thing that I read about this is that users can reserve washing machines through that. Did you see that in your experience? You can, you know, virtually reserve like a washing machine or dryer?
Ben: No, no, I've never seen that. That that sounds, uh, almost infuriating. It's like if you want to reserve it, be down there with your dirty laundry or clean laundry. Um, no, I've never heard of that. That's interesting.
Carson: Just imagine being able to pull up your phone in college and reserving a washing machine or dryer. I know that like, I would go into the washer room and there would never be a washing machine or dryer ready. So I would have to wait an hour, come back down, and there would be one ready. So that would be such an awesome feature to have.
Ben: Definitely. Yeah. Yeah, that would be that would be really neat. It would save you a bunch of time.
Carson: Yeah. So another IoT use case that I read about was beverage monitoring in restaurants. An IoT solution was created to help restaurants monitor their inventory levels. They could be alerted when they were low on beverage types and even analyze what drinks went through the most so they could choose, you know, what drinks were the most popular or anything of that realm. What do you think about this? Have you had any experience with this?
Ben: You know, as most high school students, I worked in the service industry. I worked at McDonald's. I worked at Dairy Queen, you know, during high school. So, yeah, I definitely think there is you know low hanging fruit and beneficial to the actual users. Yeah. But I think on the same note, there are a bunch of use cases that can be made for not just the restaurant specific, but for the supplier specific. You know, if your supplier knows how much soda you're going through, you know, per week, they could not only have historical data, but they can start using predictive analysis to determine how much soda you will need on the same topic. Have you ever been to the hotels with like the permanently mounted soap dispensers like what Marriott has has. They have their permanently mounted.
Carson: Oh yeah, yeah. Reusable.
Ben: I can't tell you how many times I've been in a hotel room with those permanently mounted dispensers and one of them is empty, whether it's a body wash, the shampoo or conditioner. I'm a male, so I only use one of them to do my entire body. Right. But, you know, if you have these soap dispensers that are empty, you know, if you had a simple IoT technology that could sense when they need to be refilled on a on a hotel, on a service level, it's extremely beneficial to your, you know, to your patrons who are staying in the hotel. But then to all the people who are providing you that service. So, you know, Georgia Pacific, they're a large dispenser. They provide a lot of the soap for many of these hotels. If they had that sort of technology to know how much soap you're using, you know, on a weekly basis, a monthly basis, they could easily predict how much soap that they would need to produce on any given year. So they're not wasting resources. It's a great, great technology.
Carson: I wasn't even thinking about that. Wow, That is a unique use case. See, this is why we have you on the podcast. But to go back to the beverages, what do you think? What do you think in regards to data and how much data is going to be accrued for that? Do you think that that'd be difficult to manage?
Ben: Um, I don't I don't think so. So, you know, there's been a lot of hustle and bustle about the newest 6G and then 7G networks that are coming out there. A lot of these IoT systems, the data packages that they're sending via the cloud or cell, it's very small. It's very, you know, cheap. It doesn't cost a lot of money. I guess it just depends on, you know, your update rates and then also how technologically it gets your advanced to see what data you're trying to pull from it. If you're pulling daily, you know, from your Coke machines, that's not a loT of information. If you're pulling weekly, that's that's not a lot of information. You don't need a second by second. You know, where are my levels at?
Carson: Yeah. Yeah. Well, that reminds me, since we're talking about the food and beverages, did you hear about the smart egg tray? Apparently it tells you when your eggs are going bad. Now, I don't know if I'd benefit from that because me and my wife, we don't really eat eggs that much, but for, like milk or something like that, that would be extremely beneficial. I know they have expiration dates, but sometimes they still spoil before the expiration date. So what do you think about that?
Ben: Yeah. I feel like you can just put smart in front of anything nowadays. Um, I mean, most most of these smart devices are really just connected devices, just connected to something else within your environment to to alert you. Yeah. Um, as far as like the, the smart egg tray is concerned, I think I actually have one. It's called my nose. You know, you open up the fridge if you smell something bad or dying in there. It's my sister in law's meal that she dropped off for us. Or it's rotten eggs, Right? So I feel like these these are, you know, over the top, your know, if my eggs are dead or if my eggs are bad.
Carson: How would that work? Monitoring egg trays.
Ben: Yeah. So. So the monitoring egg trays, most of them are just proximity based solutions. So, you know, if there's an egg on it in the in the slot, it detects that there's something there. So you could put a ball there. It's like, oh, an egg's there, but the egg's been there for a while. You know, if it's been there for longer than 21 days, it's probably not good. Depending on what, you know, what sort of eggs you you buy or you collect. So, yeah, it could definitely be beneficial. Um, we eat a lot of eggs in our family. We've got chickens and depending on chickens, you know, chicken eggs that you grabbed directly from the hen don't even need to be refrigerated. So there are a lot of other factors I think are involved for these smart devices. I just think they're over the top sometimes.
Carson: Yeah. Do you think that monitoring a dumpster would be, you know, the same principle as monitoring an asset or monitoring, you know, an egg tray? Is it the same asset, the same principle?
Ben: Yeah, I definitely think it has the same principle. Obviously very different return on investments if you're trying to track your eggs versus a dumpster. Um, but yeah, I think that you can have a tremendous amount of return. If you know that the state the location of these dumpsters, you can save you a lot of time. And depending on the analytics that you have, you can even coordinate a map view that is the most efficient for your drivers. Know if there are only seven dumpsters, then you pick up and not the normal 24 or 28. Then they could save a lot of time by saying, hey, hit it in this fashion and you can be back here two hours early or three hours early. So I think that, you know, collecting trash does have some environmental effects on it, right? If your one or your two ton diesel is driving down the road and you don't need to drive down certain roads, especially some of these other roads, you know, neighborhood roads to pick up these trash cans, then it can save you a lot of gas and a lot less fumes. Continuing to talk about, you know, the environmental efforts that this technology can kind of prove. People have taken technology into nature. Actually.
Carson: Let me guess, smart nature.
Ben: Close, smart forests. Yeah, smart forests. So there's a system out there in Romania that basically has these digital guardians that are equipped with acoustic sensors in forests to monitor any illegal logging that may be occurring within these protected forests. You know, in the national parks or state parks. So they have these acoustic sensors or what we could say, you know, microphones every, you know, one kilometer or so covering about three square square kilometers of forest per device. And if it starts to hear, you know, the similar sounds, such as, chainsaws or cars moving in areas where there aren't supposed to be cars, you can prevent that. You know, that illegal logging. So it's a really, really neat solution that do these.
Carson: Do you think that it could have you know, we're talking about the environment and how it can affect the environment in a positive way. Do you think that it could benefit some type of forest fire prevention?
Ben: Yeah! I think there is a possible use case for that. I mean, look at what Apple's doing. You know, their phones, they have these detection devices that can take fires or glass breaking of somebody's penetrating your house. That's a very real use case that people could have to monitor. You know, you can every time you go to a state park or national park, it has, you know, forest or whatever. You often see the the fire towers. Right. And those are completely almost done away with with these sort of solutions to protect our forests. So that's a very, very good use case that could be used today.
Carson: For sure. So let's bring in a little bit closer to home. Let's get serious here. So as you know, at Link Labs, we are an IoT technology company and we have been an IoT technology company since our origin. But early on when the company first started, we used our technology to, you know, improve efficiencies to help companies. But also we used our technology to monitor pregnant cows. And what do you know about that? And how do you feel about that?
Ben: Yeah, that's a very unique use case for those unaware. We had this use case where we would monitor, you know, mother cows or mama cows, nurse cows as they're getting ready to give birth. If you've ever raised cows, you'll realize that they roam and knowing when those cows give birth so you can tend to the little calf can be a really important thing for farmers. Yeah, so we would have a temperature and humidity probe placed inside the cow and then when it sensed a rise in temperature and as it's, you know, getting ready to give birth, you have a lot of fluids that are coming out. It would sense the humidity change. Then it would send an alert to the in this case, there were students performing research. It would send the alert and they would know that the cow has given birth. Um, there were some, you know, initial issues. I mean, imagine a place that's, you know hot, warm, and sticky. You know, you think of southern Florida, right? And that's where it was. And so there was definitely some hurdles that had to be overcome because basically the environment they were trying to watch for is basically an all year round environment for Floridians and South Florida.
Carson: Why isn't Link Lab still helping with that particular use case?
Ben: You know, for the above reason, you know, that we struggled with trying to differentiate between a cows body temperature and humidity versus the outside temperature and humidity as well. And then also just kind of the the change change in trajectory. We are an IoT technology company, but we are moving towards more of the real time location systems and and, you know, understanding the the environments and don't think that there was a a positive ROI on those use cases.
Carson: So why didn't you use our technology to monitor your pregnant cows?
Ben: Well, I've actually never had a pregnant cow. I've raised quite a few cows. I've never raised a pregnant cow. There is actually a story. So the neighbors to the to the south of me, they have around, I don't know, maybe 300 acres or so. And and this gentleman, he raises hundreds of cows. He used to have over a thousand something chickens that he would actually provide the local grocery stores with eggs. Fresh eggs. Yeah. But I remember him putting out a reward to help find his one of his pregnant heifers because he was supposed to be giving birth and he was really worried about her. Um, and we end up finding her. Unfortunately, she was dead. She was. She got caught in some ravine. Yeah. And she had given birth. And so there was like, a partial, you know, baby calf there.
Carson: Ben you are putting me through a whirlwind of emotions during this podcast from laughing to sad. I don't know how to feel right now.
Ben: No, but I mean, this is this is why our technology could provide a very real use case, right? If you're monitoring, those cows, and he had a location and he knew when he gave birth, he could have reacted instead of putting out a reward for this lost cow that he had. And, you know, as we're traipsing across his property, we came across it, albeit too late. So, yeah, our technology can definitely be very beneficial on the farm. Um, you know, actually use our solution to you know track different animals on my property because I live in Texas and I and I love Texas. Texas is the greatest state in the union. And if you haven't heard me say already, um, but I actually, you know, we offer the the super tags, so here's a really interesting use case. So my father in law and mother in law, they have this this dog and it's a new dog. Their other dog. I don't know where he went. These are all outside dogs so he has a very predictive schedule. He'll be here like on Tuesday nights and Thursday nights and maybe Saturday or Sunday or something like that. But the rest of the week he's just gone and we have no idea where he goes. But he always comes back to get some food and he'll leave for the day and he'll come back. We live out in the country on 60 acres. The people behind us have, you know, hundreds of acres and there's just a lot of forests and, you know, country land around us. So I put a tracker on him to to see where he went. And this dog, man, this dog, like, never stopped. He was just moving all over miles and miles. He would travel. And so we knew he would love to go visit with like the neighbors behind us who live like a couple hundred acres because they've got a dog as well. And they like to play around with one another. It was really, really interesting to like set these geofences to see how long he was on these different properties and when he came back.
Carson: Which SuperTag device did you use?
Ben: I use the super tag pro in that instance. So I didn't have the rechargeable super tag and the super tag plus was just too large. There was no way I could really attach it to him.
Carson: How did you attach it to him?
Ben: I just tied wraps around his collar. Just add some zip ties around it so that right up here on the on the back of his neck. If you if you ever get if you ever get a chance, I'll bring my super tag with me next time we see each other. But it's pretty nasty. I mean, he got sprayed by a skunk while he's out like traipsing, you know, across the the countryside. So when I got it back, I was like, oh, my goodness, this smell awful. I used bleach and alcohol. I've tried tomato sauce to get that smell off of the the super tag still has a little bit of rank on it.
Carson: Yeah I'm excited to get mine. I have one coming in the mail and I'm going to try it out as well. I know I can't do all of that in North Carolina, but I can try to do something interesting with it.
Ben: You know, I've got a great use case you can do Carson okay.
Carson: Yeah, we'll talk about that. All right. Tell me. I was going to say we could talk about it after the podcast, but.
Ben: No, no, no. This is good. Beneficial for you and maybe millions of other husbands out there. Take the SuperTag. Place it in your wife's car. And then draw geofences around your, you know, your local targets and your local Costcos. So you can tell how often your wife is doing something that she shouldn't be doing. Right. And it can save you a ton of money. Okay.
Carson: Yeah. I'm gonna have to put it around our shopping centers and that'll be my whole geofence. Oh, man. So are there any other unique use cases that you'd like to mention? I know that you have experienced some, so I'm just opening the floor to if you have any others.
Ben: Um, so some of the unique use cases that that I've seen, are you talking about professionally or personally?
Carson: I would say professionally, yeah.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. You know, some of the unique use cases that I've seen would be tracking some radioactive devices. So we work with a organization that tracks these radioactive devices because obviously you don't want something that's radioactive to go missing. It's like a big no no. Right. There are tags that go with these devices. So when they're, you know, out of borders or around the US, they always have an eye on where these devices are. That's one particularly just unique use case, right? It's still just tracking technology, but it's something that has very real outcomes and benefits.
Carson: Yeah, great. I think now we need to take it in and be serious about it. What do you think Link Labs or why do you think Link Labs is unique and stands out in the IoT world? You know, we specifically target manufacturing and logistics operations, but why... and all the use cases in between, you know, loss prevention, waste, prevention, all types of, you know, things in manufacturing and logistics. But why would you say that Link Labs stands out amongst all the other asset tracking IoT providers?
Ben: Well, there are lots of ways that I could list. I think I'll start off with, with how whenever you have an IoT technology solution, you have to determine the asset has to determine where it's at, right? So it has to have, determine where it's at. And then once it determines where it's at and has to be to take that data and communicate it so you can see where it's at. And then any other data along with that, whether that's, you know, temperature or humidity, etcetera. Right. And then the back end can take the data and they can kind of sparse it and present it in a way that's usable to you in your situation. The really fundamental thing about Link Labs that makes our technology unique and separate from others would be how we how we find that data. So like with an outdoor solution, we don't just use GPS is a power pig, it consumes better. And in some use cases it's not really needed. It's not as accurate as other use cases. We have clients come to us or prospects who come to us all the time and they mention that we need to know where our assets are at all the time. So we're tracking train parts that go from, you know, New York to California, or we're tracking things that go from Washington to Florida, and we need to know where it is at all times. Yeah. And in reality, those companies actually don't need to know within ten feet where that asset is. If it's traveling from Washington to Florida, knowing, you know, within a quarter mile could be beneficial information. And so we're able to use the technology to provide them with the data that they need and still get the battery life. So we have very smart technology within the indoor solution. We use some, you know, proprietary technologies to communicate and to find your asset. I think of a proximity based solution right within a hospital. Nurses and biomed technicians need to know where their assets are, but they don't need to know where in a room, you know, if it's three feet from from a wall and it's, you know, two feet off the ground, they just need to know which hospital room it is. So we have the unique ability to understand what our clients need, what data they need, and then provide that to them. And so it's able to get them at a lower cost. And since we're in the business of providing them the data, we're not in the battery business, we're not in the tag business. So we don't have proprietary tags, we don't have proprietary batteries that our clients must use. And there's a lot of other solutions that say, Hey, you can buy our solution. It's great. We can get you all this data and even if it's cheaper initially. From then on out. Any time you need to replace items, you have to buy their proprietary items. You have to buy their tags, you have to buy their batteries, and they make a killing off of it. For us because our system is is able to adapt to a lot of other tags. We can fit the tags in the form factors in the battery life that you need. Yeah. So those are some of the unique differentiators about our company.
Carson: And every time I ask that question, I think the number one thing that's brought up is our ability to cater our solution to give you the best battery life that we can possibly give you. Because I think that's a big thing for companies. I mean, every, you know, client that I've talked to has tried to find the best way to save battery life. And they say that other asset tracking tags aren't giving them that battery life that they need. And so, yeah, I think that is absolutely a great response. That is, you know, what sets us apart and a massive IoT market. So, you know thank you so much for being here. I know some of these IoT solutions, they might sound a little bit silly, but some are actually extremely helpful, like we've we've shown today. And that's the whole point of creating these technology solutions to make time consuming everyday tasks just a little bit easier for the end user. And I think that it is one of the driving factors for our company here at Link Labs. We want to see your manufacturing logistics operations be made efficient, productive and overall we just want to see your company succeed. So Ben, thank you so much for joining me. And if you could tell our listeners just a few ways that they could get in contact with you if they have any questions or concerns.
Ben: Yeah. So, you know, first you can I would highly recommend visiting our website. There's a lot of great resources there, whether that's the white papers or just the breakdown of the different use cases that we're already working in that could be pertinent to your company or you can reach out to me directly. It's just my first and last name at link-labs.com. Or you can also find me on LinkedIn. Send me a message there if you're interested in tracking whatever assets you might have and we'll try to get you connected with the best product solutions from what we offer to meet that need. Yeah.
Carson: Thank you so much, Ben, for joining.
Ben: All right. Thanks, Carson.
Carson: Thank you guys so much for listening to our episode this week. Link Labs is a leading innovator in all things Internet of Things. Link Labs offers an asset tracking solution that uses technology to improve companies efficiencies. If you want to learn more about link labs and asset tracking and all the many benefits that we can provide to your company, visit our website at link labs.com and be sure to follow us on all of our social media platforms at Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and of course subscribe to this podcast for more episodes to come in the future. We look forward to seeing you next time. And as always, thank you so much for listening in.