IoT and Industrial IoT have distinct differences and similarities that impact how they are talked about and how they are used. Understanding these can help you better navigate the evolving landscape of connected devices. In this episode, Inside Sales Representative Holly Dickson discusses how IIoT builds upon the foundations of IoT to extend its capabilities to industrial environments.
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Carson: Welcome back to our Link Labs podcast, Get Linked. I'm your host, Carson Garner. We've got a great episode for you today. My guest today is Holly Dixon, who is our inside sales representative here at Link Labs. And today on our episode, we're going to be discussing the differences and the similarities of IoT and IIoT. Holly, thank you so much for joining me today. And welcome to the Get Linked podcast.
Holly: Thanks for having me. I am very excited about being on my first ever podcast.
Carson: Yeah, we have so many first ever podcast guests and it's so fun to have these guys that haven't really ever done something like this and to see them do it is so fun to see. But before we get started, could you tell us a little bit more about yourself? I know you've had a really interesting life. You've lived in a couple different countries. So could you tell us a little bit more about yourself and then your experience in the IoT industry?
Holly: Yeah, absolutely. So I've been with Link Labs for coming up on three years now and prior to that, I was teaching English as a foreign language in South Korea. So I was there for about eight years and then I moved back here in 2020. So that was a great experience. I loved every minute of it and got to, you know, really experience a lot of different subjects, get knowledge on a lot of different subjects through that.
Carson: What was your favorite subject to teach?
Holly: Oh man. I liked the ones that were more about society, but we had everything from, you know, science to art, history, to even politics. So it was a little bit of everything completely random. It felt like some days.
Carson: So from that, what led you to working at Link Labs and the IoT industry, how did you go from teaching to doing this?
Holly: Yeah, well, I kind of think of my role at Link Labs as essentially an educational role because I'm inside sales representative. So a lot of the conversations I'm having with people, it's their first exposure to IoT and asset tracking specifically. So, you know, my role is to educate them about what it is that Link Labs does, you know, what information we need from them about solution development. So I think that the skill set in teaching carries over very well into my role at Link Labs.
Carson: Wow, that is awesome. I've never thought about that, but that's so cool. Do you think that you would ever go back to teaching if you had the opportunity? You know, like that kind of teaching.
Holly: That's a good question. I loved it because it was more like forming a relationship with the students and having just daily interactions and being able to talk about any subject. Like it was so cool and neat. So. Maybe. However, it's not very lucrative. It's more about the reward of relationships. But I definitely love it.
Carson: My wife's a teacher and she loves it. She teaches first grade. So yeah, it's definitely a good reward. So the inner internet of things commonly known as IOT refers to the devices with capability to communicate with other devices through the internet. What are some ways that, you know, this technology is commonly used?
Holly: Yeah, so actually, when I started at Link Labs, I thought, “I've never heard of IoT before, what is that?”
Carson: Me too, me too.
Holly: But then, as I got the explanation of, ok, it's the internet of things, this is what it is, I was like, wait a second, that sounds familiar. And I actually had taught a couple of lessons in a technology class in Korea on the internet of things. And I learned new things there that I had never heard of before, really learning about some cool developments in technology, everything from health monitoring apps that are integrated with your wearable devices, a refrigerator that tracks what's getting low in stock and orders more groceries for you, to the retail stores that were able to track consumer interactions with products and use that data to build more effective displays and sell more product. It's really amazing what we can do and just understand and implement with just a few data points. But obviously I think of IoT as being consumer-based as well as business-based, but usually when we think of it in our daily lives, obviously think of Alexa and smart home devices, controlling the temperature or turning lights on and off and playing music just by using voice commands or, I have a really great example my car actually has an application that you can do the remote start which is perfect. One time my husband actually locked the keys in the car and we were able to avert a call to the locksmith just by being able to unlock the door. That was fantastic
Carson: It's really amazing. You know, the things that IoT can do for people is just so crazy and there are so many different, you know, use cases for individuals. But you mentioned restocking refrigerators. I don't know if you know this. I talked about this with Ben Webb in one of our previous episodes. But the first use case of IoT were college students who were just looking to track, you know, a Coca-Cola vending machine across campus. That way they could, you know, know how many Coca-Cola cans were in stock at that time so that they didn't have to walk over there to find out that there were no Coke cans in the machine. Right? So, you know, with all of that technology, obviously a few things have changed since then. How would you say that IoT technology has evolved over these past few years?
Holly: I would say that beyond just technology development, I think the prevalence of IoT is really an incredible difference from when it got started. Because today, just about every individual who has access to the internet has touched IoT in some form or another. So even if you don't use some form of smart home automation, it's likely that you see it at work or that the products that you consume were created or delivered with the help of IoT solutions.
Carson: Yeah, and with the vending machine example that I brought up and that you've brought up, they're all consumer-focused types of use cases, but when used at an industrial level, IoT is called IIoT. How has IIoT been used at an industrial level to help businesses with their operations?
Holly: Yeah, businesses have pretty much forever been trying to automate as much as possible to minimize downtime and maximize productivity. So, IIoT adds more and more digitization and machine intelligence to that and really reduces the risk of human error, which when you're looking at industrial applications, is magnified tenfold. And IIoT really spans such a wide range of use cases. So, one example would be tracking whether or where a work order is and how long it's been at a particular station and what the average time that the process at that station takes, what's causing a variance in that time, and then how can we preemptively mitigate those downtimes. Another example would be automating the clock-in and clock-out processes, maybe even tracking time on task or identifying where individual workers are during an emergency event. A lot of companies use IoT solutions to keep track of their finished goods or raw materials inventory, and that allows them to stay on top of procurement. So many industries saw the impact of this firsthand during the COVID pandemic, and some companies realized, hey, we are on top of this, we're good to go. And others realized, maybe we need to augment what we're doing with some type of IoT solution.
Carson: And we've established that, you know, it's used in the industrial setting for large-scale business-oriented purposes. How does the use of IoT affect a worker's experience and their ability to effectively complete the job? I know you've talked about, you know, the clocking in process and that's more like how it would affect the upper levels of the business, but like for an entry-level employee, how would it affect them?
Holly: I would say it's hard to cover all of the aspects of that because there are so many different use cases. So, I'll just touch on a couple of key points for that. Really, I think one of the important ones would be the focus and productivity. By automating as much as possible with the IoT technology, workers will be able to focus more on the tasks that they're doing instead of inputting a lot of information or making sure that every little update has been made in the system. And then the other one that I see really as a big one is confidence and peace of mind. So not worrying about putting in that information and not worrying that there's user error. And maybe not at the individual workstation level of inputting things, but a little higher up on that food chain, so to speak, or management chain, being able to trust the data that you are given is correct. And then using that data to make business decisions is going to be really important at all levels of the business.
Carson: Absolutely. So providing your employees with a sense of ease, a sense of trust, it all kind of comes full circle to building a good business. If you want to learn more about Link Labs, about what we can do, reach out to Holly, reach out to myself, we can get you connected with the right person. But an element of IoT that they both share is that they often prioritize some form of automation. What do you think the appeal of automated technology is on both the consumer and the commercial level? Do you think that it's the same for both or do you think that is somewhat different between the two?
Holly: So I think it is pretty similar between the two. I think the biggest appeal for both is really convenience and time-saving, along with that aspect of reassurance that everything is correct and that there's no human error or you're not forgetting something. Not having to do everything manually means that you won't accidentally forget something and you have more time and energy to focus on the things that are really important and that need your attention. But while the appeal is the same, you know, generally for both the consumer and at the commercial level, it is so much more critical for industrial applications. And it's such a bigger scale, right, with so much more complexity and moving parts. So when things start to get that big and that complex, automating as much as possible starts to become an absolute necessity.
Carson: Yeah, and I wanted to ask you, there are a lot of companies that, you know, they have extremely valuable equipment that's extremely expensive, and it can cost them a lot just to lose one piece. What can Link Labs do or what can an asset tracking or IoT platform do for a company that is losing a massive amount of equipment that is super expensive?
Holly: Yeah, so many different use cases just within that. And like you said, sometimes it's about the value of the equipment, but sometimes it's about the downtime of when your employees can't find that particular piece that they need to work on a specific work order, and then they're wasting time walking around your facility looking for it. So it's not that it's lost forever necessarily, but you're bleeding money by just having it not available to your team members. But providing that information of where things are, wherever they may be, wherever they go, whether that's within your facility or out over the road, whether it's being rented to customers or somebody walking off with it, that is something that Link Labs can give you eyes into where your assets are at all times. So whether that's for a recovery issue or preventing you from paying out a bunch of money to replace equipment that you just put in a corner somewhere, that's a big peace of mind. And it's also really preventing you from real-time business loss.
Carson: Yeah, and when I think about the downtime aspect, you know, my mind, I can't help but think of healthcare. I know that we're at Link Labs. We specifically target manufacturing and logistics operations, but a form of logistics operations is healthcare. And you know, how critical it is for nurses, for doctors, to know where their equipment is, to help their patients at the right time. So, you know, that's just one extremely useful use case that can be taken out of this. So another question for you is, IoT and IIoT, are they using both the same or similar technologies? Is there any difference between how these technologies are designed or utilized by the different operations?
Holly: Yeah, that's a great question. I think that when it comes to IoT specifically, it becomes more important to start syncing your technologies as much as possible. I think for consumer IoT solutions, a lot of times that tends to be, we try to get everything all on one device, but then we have all these different devices. And for an individual user, maybe it's not too much of an issue, but because of the greater complexity for commercial solutions and all the different moving parts, streamlining starts to become much more important, right? You can't have 10 different puzzle pieces for the same solution that don't talk to each other or don't feed into the same control system or dashboard for consumption. I talked to a company the other day and they said that they have three different solutions performing essentially the same function in the company, but they're used by the different departments. And really, that's not sustainable or efficient long-term. So really streamlining your information and the technology itself is really important.
Carson: Yeah, yeah. And what would you say is the most significant contribution of IoT or IIoT? And what does that say about why and how we use the technology?
Holly: So I have a bit of a hot take here. This may not be the most significant impact yet, but I think that sustainability is a really critical area that IoT can help with. So while I think that we still have a long way to go with this and maybe not everybody prioritizes it, I think that IoT and IIoT are really on the way to leading us to becoming more energy and resource efficient. So whether that's as an individual consumer, I'm using an app to automate and reduce the use of energy through the lights or temperature control, or as a corporation, I'm tracking my raw materials and finished goods inventory, then I can tightly control both my product and cash flow and prevent unnecessary waste. I think that IoT is really leading us to a future that's both more productive and more sustainable.
Carson: 100%. And I know we had a podcast on advancing sustainability and technology together, and we talked about it a little bit in the Ben Web episode as well, but what we're doing here at Link Labs specifically is really helping the environment and preventing a lot of things from happening with waste management and all these different areas in manufacturing and logistics operations. And it's just so exciting to see because I think that's going to be something important, you know, you already see now. Every company is really pushing for a sustainable environment because it's necessary. And I think that's the future for Link Labs, helping companies remain sustainable, remain compliant, remain all of these different things that they need to protect the environment. So that's awesome. I love that. What would you say is the future of Link Labs? I know you talked about sustainability. But what do you see for the future of Link Labs and our products and where we're headed?
Holly: I think that as Link Labs grows as a company, we're really going to be able to add on additional use cases. Like I know right now we've focused primarily on "Where is my asset?" But I know even today we're adding, "How is my asset?" and "What is my asset doing?" I think that we can continue to add in more additional use cases as the demand for IoT grows. And that will allow us to really streamline our offerings and make everything a little bit more user-friendly and a little bit easier to customize to every individual application that's out there without developing a whole new suite of solutions.
Carson: Yeah, and so if you were to say one thing to a business person who is watching this podcast right now, who needs asset tracking, who needs IIoT technology to manage their devices, sustainability, whatever it is, what would you say to them?
Holly: I think that Link Labs would provide a realistic expectation for what we can do for you. That I think is one of the things that I value about working for Link Labs is that we have conversations every day where we say, "Okay, this is what we can do today. This is what we can realistically do within the next six to nine months. And this is a maybe thing." So, you know, reach out and have that conversation with us because, you know, as much as we can, we'll try to make something work for you. If we can't, we will tell you that we can't do that. We don't want to waste anybody's time, and we want to make the best possible solution for all of our customers. So, reach out and have those conversations with us and see what we can do for you. And if it's something that we're not currently doing, it's something that we're going to try to help you do, right? So we have that flexibility and we're able to help whatever use case is out there and needs asset tracking. So I think the future is bright for Link Labs. I don't know about you.
Carson: Absolutely. I think it's very exciting to be working at a company like this that is so flexible, with all the different use cases that we can speak to and work with. So it's really fantastic. If you are one of those people who are watching this episode right now, don't hesitate to reach out to us or visit our website. We have so many different pieces of collateral on our website. And we already have so many existing different use cases, pieces of collateral, even if it's not your specific use case, you know, read that and then reach out to somebody and we can, you know, cater our solution to help you with your needs. But Holly, thank you so much for joining me. It was such a pleasure having you. Could tell our listeners one way that they could contact you if they have any questions about our website or about sales in general.
Holly: Yeah, absolutely. You can reach out to me directly via phone or email or just submit a contact or demo request form on our website, and that will make it to me, and I will reach out and schedule some time with you.
Carson: Yep! Thank you so much for joining, Holly.
Carson: Thank you 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 company 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 subscribe to all of our social media platforms on 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.