IVCA Profile: Don DeLoach, President & CEO of Infobright, Explains the ‘Internet of Things’ and Its Impact on the Future of Technology

IVCA Profile: Don DeLoach, President & CEO of Infobright, Explains the ‘Internet of Things’ and Its Impact on the Future of Technology

The “Internet of Things” [IoT] is one of those atmospheric terms that sounds vague, especially in the sense of the word “things.” But it is a legitimate technological ideology, and it is beginning to gain traction both as an actionable reality and potential for investment. Chicago has been a cutting edge leader in promoting IoT innovations, and has both an Internet of Things Council AND an upcoming Summit on November 16th and 17th, 2015. Don DeLoach, President & CEO of Infobright – which is a data analytics platform for the Internet of Things – explains it all for us in this IVCA profile.
 
IVCA: What is the definition of the Internet of Things? How did that term evolve?
 
Don DeLoach: The Internet of Things is the whole notion of connecting physical things together over the internet. The whole element of ‘machine to machine’ has been around for a long time, but since that point the whole idea of using the internet as the backbone for enabling information in the physical world has evolved.
 
And it has evolved to the point – that coupled with the reduction in price and increase on sophistication of sensor technology, and the reduction of price for the increase of power in communications technology – that it has enabled the application of interaction with devices so we can understand the state of those devices or machines in ways that can inform us with a whole new set of applications. Basically, it’s the wiring of physical things into the internet so you can have much more information, and corresponding applications.
 
IVCA: Who or where did the actual term originate from?
 
The actual term ‘The Internet of Things’ was coined by Kevin Ashton, a British entrepreneur who is affiliated with the Auto-ID Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT]. Interestingly enough, in the last four or five years, there have been a lot of companies who have been marketing variations on this theme. Cisco has ‘The Internet of Everything’, Ericsson has ‘The Networked Society,’ and there are all kinds of variations, which all are coalescing around the term The Internet of Things.
 
IVCA: What is the origin of the Internet of Things [IoT] Council in Chicago – who was involved in the formation, how was it put together and what is the goal of the committee?
 
DeLoach: I’m on the board of the Illinois Technology Association [ITA]. About three years ago I proposed that the Internet of Things was about to become a huge deal, and as a technology-based organization we needed to get behind it to really get out in front. Our way of moving that along was to put together a summit regarding the Internet of Things two years ago, which was a big success. We repeated it last year, and it sold out. We actually had more applications than spaces for the event.
 
After that, Fred Hoch – the CEO of the ITA – felt that the momentum of the last two years dictated that we should get serious about this and form an ongoing initiative. I agreed to head that up, and approached Brenna Berman – who is the CIO of the City of Chicago – to co-chair this Internet of Things Council, and between us we brought in sixteen other council members. Our goal was to embrace the Internet of Things for the Midwest, from both a city standpoint and a commercial relationship standpoint.
 
IVCA: What advantages do you foresee with such a council?
 
DeLoach: We can approach Midwest interactions with this from several different levels. The most obvious is increased job growth and economic benefits. But beyond that it’s about enhancing the quality of life and about helping companies and municipalities be more successful by tapping into this technology. There are already some models for this elsewhere in the world, but this is the first we have seen in North America.
 
IVCA: Since the formation, what has been accomplished by the IoT Council?
 
DeLoach: Once we’ve made the announcement of the formation in spring of this year, we’ve had about 60 different organizations come forward, wanting to be involved. We formed five subcommittees under the umbrella of the council – Inventory, Branding, Capital, Talent and Policy committees. The first three were formed in the initial organization in the spring.
 
The Inventory Committee takes stock of where we are today, such as how many IoT companies are out there, and what they are doing. The Branding Committee is a showcase committee, for example creating videos that show what is going on in the Midwest. They’ve published six videos so far, and now are on pace for one a week. The Capital Committee is focused on driving capital into the Midwest and beyond – it’s about driving capital into the Internet of Things and anchoring it in Chicago. That committee will be a prime mover in the second day of the IoT Summit, on November 17th.
 
IVCA: What about the subcommittees formed in the summer?
 
DeLoach: Purely from the standpoint of the number of people who wanted to get involved, we had the ability to extend, so we formed the Talent Committee, which focused on cultivating and recruiting the right type of IoT talent, and what can we do to realize that within the high level technology universities around the country. And finally there is our Policy Committee, which takes a look at what policies are now in place, or what could potentially be in place, to encourage public and private organizations to engage in and utilize the Internet of Things. In six months, we’ve gained some pretty good traction.
 
IVCA: What are some examples of established or mature companies or organizations using IoT, and how can other enterprises understand how they can use it?
 
DeLoach: I will give you a joint public-private example. There is an initiative called the Array of Things [AoT] that has been formed at the Urban Center for Computation and Data of the Computation Institute, a joint initiative of Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago. This includes other partnerships such as Northern Illinois University, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, DePaul University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Purdue University, University of Notre Dame, Arizona State University, the Santa Fe Institute, University College London, Clemson University, and the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia. Technical advice and support comes from a growing number of industry partners including Cisco, Microsoft, Schneider Electric, Intel, Qualcomm, Motorola Solutions, and Zebra Technologies. The Array of Things is an open source hardware configuration, coupled with open source software that you can download now.
 
The idea is that lunchbox size units are mounted on light poles around the city, and they can go several years without having to be physically updated. They collect data about street traffic, the environment and other metrics – fourteen in all. All this data will be available to everyone, and will be analyzed to understand what other information can be derived from the data. It can be everything from correlating crime statistics, analyzing pedestrian traffic, organizing weather data and much more. It basically is an example of leveraging this type of data that is being collected en masse, and providing a door to analyze it for a variety of different applications.
 
In a nutshell, it’s about decoupling the ingestion of the information from the utilization of the information. And because it is open source, it’s a toolkit that can be used by anybody. Universities, municipalities and other entities could – at a very low cost – adopt this and put it in motion.
 
IVCA: How can early stage investors get involved in IoT technologies?
 
DeLoach: For the venture investor, there is so much potential in the Internet of Things, probably the greatest technology wave since the internet itself. For the early stage investors, it’s best to get out front with some of these young IT companies, and determine within their investment profile if they’re adopting the Internet of Things. There are going to be a lot of them acting on that opportunity.
 
IVCA: What about Private Equity investors, who are involved in more mature companies?
 
DeLoach: For Private Equity investors, it’s about leveraging what the Internet of Things represents for changing the game. For example, there may be a large scale company that is generating cash, but is not as efficient or aggressive as they could be. They might be able to change their trajectory by adopting newer technologies that could enhance their business models, or extend into new models using the Internet of Things.
 
IVCA: What can an attendee expect from this year's Internet of Things Summit in Chicago, and what site can they reference for more information regarding the event?
 
DeLoach: It is a two day event, beginning on November 16th. The first day is a series of panels and presentations, covering a broad overview of the status and direction of the Internet of Things, up to and including investment opportunities. The second day is more of a traditional capital conference, where there will be a number of private and public companies talking about their own status and direction for presentation for investors, as well as just a number of companies attending for capital focus and networking opportunities.
 
For more information about the Internet of Things Council, click www.illinoistech.org/iot-council. For more information about the Internet of Things Summit, November 16th and 17th, 2015, click www.illinoistech.org/iot-summit.