FreeWave CEO Featured on MIT’s Connected Things Video Series

Kirk Byles sat down (virtually) with Mark Thirman, Chair of MITs Connected Things Conference for a candid conversation.

FreeWave CEO Kirk Byles was recently featured on MIT’s Connected Things virtual interview series. He discussed the past, present, and future of IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) and edge computing and why stability is critical in an unstable world.

Mark (00:04):

Hi, everyone. Welcome to our latest recording. This is in support of the MIT Connected Things event we were to hold it in March of this year, of 2020. It had been postponed as you know, and ultimately canceled. Part of our goal with this series of videos is to really keep the conversation going. And what I’ve been doing a little bit is reaching back to some of our very popular prior speakers from prior events. So one of those speakers is here with me today and I’ll have him introduce himself in a second.

Mark (00:39):

But if you’d look at the MIT Connected Things page you’ll note that in 2019, we had a very interesting point-counterpoint panel called Clash of the Titans. And the premise for this particular panel, and Kirk was on one side and Chris [inaudible 00:00:57] Wolff then of Dell was on the other. It was this tension between traditional IoT vendors and the IT or the PC, traditional PC vendors entering the IoT market. And we were interested in exploring how the approaches are similar or different. And Kirk was on the traditional vendor side. So with that, Kirk, why don’t you introduce yourself and tell me what company you work for and a little bit of the company history, please?

Kirk Byles (01:28):

Sure. So Kirk Byles, I’m the CEO of FreeWave Technologies. We’re a medium-sized industrial communications edge compute company out of Boulder, Colorado. We’ve been around for 27 years and we really got our momentum in the discreet radio market, particularly in the narrow band radio space. So proprietary technology, not standard space in any way people would think of wi-fi or even cellular to some degree. So we were out selling these discreet radios in various frequencies to oil and gas companies, government, utilities, water/wastewater, ag, anywhere you could imagine remote sites that needed some sort of connectivity, typically connecting to a SCADA system of some sort and doing polling data.

Kirk Byles (02:30):

So you could imagine if you’ve got a hundred well sites in a square mile, it would say, “Well site number one, give me all your data.” We would traffic that data. And that’s where we really grew up for 24 years of our history. That’s all we did, was build discrete radios at different frequencies and sell them to literally tens of thousands of customers, customers around the globe.

Kirk Byles (03:00):

And back in 2016, we made a decision to get into the edge computing space. And that decision really came out of a lot of discussions on the competitive landscape for discrete radios. How cellular was getting into these remote areas and people wanted Bluetooth and wi-fi and [LoRa 00:03:31] came out and then there’s satellites. And we could see the market was starting to shrink as more and more competition came into these really remote areas. So getting into the edge side of things made perfect sense. So we went about making our new platform, the Zum platform with an edge computer on board every radio.

Mark (03:54):

Not the Zoom that we’re on though.

Kirk Byles (03:56):

No. Z-U, the proper Zum, Z-U-M. So, we went out to do that and it was in concept a great idea. And we had a couple of stumbles along the way as most people do when they’re pivoting their company. But what we did find out is we brought a lot of understanding to the industrial space. And that was when Chris Wolff and I were talking, Dell knew the enterprise very well and what the edge needed for the enterprise. But the edge piece didn’t really seem to move quite as well. Or as quickly as the industrial piece. Folks there were looking to optimize their remote sites. People cost a ton of money to go look at these things. If something goes wrong, they got to run service people out there and so forth and so on. So the more they could do with edge computing, the more efficient they could be. And so we took that tactic. What could we provide for our customers on the edge?

Mark (05:06):

So, Kirk, I’ll interject, at the time of the conference I noted as did the moderator, our friend, Frank Gillett, that on the Dell side, you might have a pretty heavy footprint and expensive $1,300-$1,400 big honkin router. And I’m not saying anything disparaging about Dell or their approach. But it was interesting to see that their approach was roll in this big, industrialized, again, relatively expensive router when folks on the IoT side, and I don’t know what the comparable cost was of the ZumLink at that point, but was in the several hundred dollar range, typically, at least that’s what I observed. Is that still true?

Kirk Byles (05:50):

Absolutely. So we still sell the edge computer for just a few hundred bucks. And I think where you were going with this is on the industrial side, what people that haven’t really played in that arena before don’t quite understand is the power limitations that are out there at the edge and the need to be very low power. It’s hot and cold, beyond, you’re not sitting in an air conditioned box or closet. Mostly you’re sitting in a NEMA enclosure that may have ventilation, but no fans are running.

Kirk Byles (06:30):

So for us, when it came time to go out and do these things, we knew our customers wanted a C1D2 classification, which is high temperature ratings. It won’t blow up things if there’s gas in the air. That type of stuff. And that was really to our advantage. And then the next step along that cycle was to really start understanding what the applications were that were hitting home first.

Kirk Byles (07:02):

And it really became pretty obvious to just about everybody in the industry that MQTT protocol was really that way everybody wanted to go get off all these proprietary systems, Modbus, Modbus RTU, whoever else’s protocols and get to more of a standard space so they could put everything into the cloud. So, we started going around and that was our first real effort working in an ecosystem with a company called Inductive Automation. And particularly with a company called Cirrus Link, which was owned by Arlen Nipper, one of the co-creators of MQTT.

Mark (07:50):

Oh, wow.

Kirk Byles (07:50):

Yeah. He was an old customer of ours way back, 20 plus years back, he deployed a bunch of FreeWave radios with the Williams network up in Wyoming, Williams gas. So when we started getting into this, we reached out to him and he was just great. He told us what we needed to do, how we needed to do it, helped us image software for our edge computers and really got us going in the right direction with a lot of introductions, excuse me, of a number of other folks that were building edge software.

Kirk Byles (08:30):

And that was really the catalyst for understanding what we were providing, what may have been lacking on our hardware, where the direction of the industries were going. And over the period of the last, I’d say, two and a half to three years now, man, it’s moving fast. We’ve got about two dozen ecosystem partners that provide different platforms, different applications, protocol, conversions, you name it. Just about anything anybody needs. Currently we have some partner that we can work with to help them out.

Mark (09:14):

So it’s fair to say that where FreeWave hits the standards, it’s starting at the MQTT level. Because one of the things, when we’ve talked previously, 27 years ago, there were no standards. You just, blasting bits in whatever way you wanted to over the air. Now we’re starting to get from, over-the-air standards. You’re starting to look at NB-IoT, Cat M, Cat M1, all the flavors of 5G that are coming out. Which I’ll ask you in a second what FreeWave’s strategy is to embrace the radio standards, if at all. Because a lot of people are just going private networking. And there’s also this notion of 5G private networks, which again is an interesting thing. But so you’re looking at, from the data layer, I guess, from MQTT, that’s where you’re hitting the standard. You’re still pulling back the bits over your proprietary radio network. How does that play out? Are people embracing that? Are they indifferent? Are they looking to get you on a specific standard from the radio side at all?

Kirk Byles (10:26):

So there’s two questions in there. I’ll answer how is it playing out. MQTT has really been an eye opener for folks using these narrow band networks. Again, most people, like you and I, we’re sitting on a wi-fi network to our home router. That’s probably providing fiber like speeds. Well, I’m on a DSL router up here in the mountains. But I’m getting 16 [megs 00:10:54], where 10 years ago I was on a satellite hookup and got 155K. That’s not uncommon still for these narrow band radios, 155 kilobits, 256 kilobits is pretty standard.

Kirk Byles (11:14):

And so when you start looking at what MQTT could do, you could save 70% to 80% of your bandwidth by just converting over. So a number of entities were faced with a real conundrum. Do we upgrade our entire networks to get more bandwidth out of them, because we need more bandwidth? Or is there a cheaper way to do it? Can we just convert the protocol and put some edge computers out here and be able to get more bandwidth over the network?

Kirk Byles (11:47):

So to your question, how has it been received? It’s been well received. A lot of brownfield opportunities have popped up. Certainly greenfield is out there as well, but less so in this day and age. And it seems to be that is where everybody is going in the industrial space. There’s no point in using somebody’s proprietary protocols anymore and having to deal with being locked into a singular vendor along the way.

Mark (12:17):

And also, given the application. And that’s what I think a lot of people forget about. The IoT applications sometimes they’re tiny little bits of data that need to come up over a period of time, as you said, using the well example, is the thing leaking or not? Are you just checking that it’s there? You said you’re polling various wellhead one, wellhead two, everyone there? Everyone okay? It’s all right? It’s all right.

Kirk Byles (12:47):

[inaudible 00:12:47] and with MQTT that polling becomes subscriber. So if nothing changes, nothing gets passed over the air. If something changes, they pass that data. But it gets passed immediately instead of waiting for that timing [inaudible 00:00:13:03].

Mark (13:04):

It’s like an alarm state like, “Oh crap, the thing’s leaking.”

Kirk Byles (13:07):

Right. Pressure drops 20%, and then on top of that, not only is it informing, but now the applications will say, “Okay, pressure dropped. I’m the edge computer. I am going to turn up the pressure to make sure it stays in that sweet zone. And I’m going to let you know that I’ve done that without anybody being involved.”

Mark (13:33):

So that’s really getting into the gist of the conference this year that we were to have, which is all around AI and ML. This is where you’re doing some basic machine learning and you’re taking an alarm state and you’re performing a prescribed, a predefined action if an alarm state occurs. So pressure drops, the temperature drops, turn up the heat, if water leaks, turn off the valve. We can go through all those if broken, then do this scenarios.

Kirk Byles (14:05):

And it’s gotten even more, heading into… Well, I’ll back up a bit. Because you mentioned some of the standard space communications. So being a proprietary radio manufacturer for years, we didn’t do anything of the sort, we dabbled in a cellular bridge for a while, but we’ve now since moved forward pretty fast. So you’ll see coming out here in Q3, Q4, our next platform that will have wi-fi, Bluetooth on board with a SIM card in our second version, the one in Q4.

Mark (14:48):

Excellent.

Kirk Byles (14:49):

Being able to load that on. We won’t provision ourselves, we’ll go through a third party for provisioning, so people can pick and choose what they want to do. But we we’ve come to the understanding that the communication layer, you shouldn’t have to choose between one or the other. If you want an edge computer with 5G, Bluetooth and [LoRa 00:15:16], we’re ready to do that [crosstalk 00:15:18].

Mark (15:18):

Yeah. As a vendor, your answer is basically yes.

Kirk Byles (15:21):

Yes.

Mark (15:21):

Do you have this? Yes.

Kirk Byles (15:23):

Right. And if someone just wants to discrete radio network, we’re still going to be in the business of building radios along the way and adding them to our edge computers. We just want to give everybody whatever communication means they want, they should be able to purchase from us.

Mark (15:39):

Excellent. Excellent.

Kirk Byles (15:39):

So that’s the direction we’re going. And we see that should be fully, the whole suite of product should be fulfilled in 2021. And then we’ll just be spending most of our time developing software and applications and working on our own software platform in the cloud.

Mark (16:01):

So speaking of software, I mentioned this notion of, again, some analytics and some machine learning and some AI, are you supporting those functions through partnerships? And can you highlight one or two?

Kirk Byles (16:16):

Yeah. Currently, we’re doing that through partnerships. And I’ll state clearly, we just launched our own FreeWave Edge platform that does some rudimentary SCADA type metering and see it on your phone, in the cloud and all that stuff. But we’re partnering with AWS on a number of things and using their Greengrass Toolkits. So anybody that’s been working on Greengrass, we’re certified, I think we have-

Mark (16:45):

That’s excellent.

Kirk Byles (16:46):

… 12 different products in the Amazon marketplace that are certified. We’re working with folks like Inductive Automation and their SCADA type software. AUTOSOL with some of their protocol conversions. Gosh, there are some others. I’m blanking here. Wonderware everybody knows. That’s just sort of a standard. And the list goes on, some smaller vendors, but you can go to our website and look at who we’re working with out there and see what we’re doing.

Kirk Byles (17:20):

But what is really more interesting is, at least to me, is we took this time to understand what others are doing and where the market is going and made a very conscious decision to slow down, jumping into the software world, until we really had a much better handle on what we could do, couldn’t do, where we wanted to go. And like I said, just launching just a month ago our new Edge software platform is our first foray into that. And then you’ll start seeing over the next… Four, about four to five months, some additional applications coming out that we’ve developed ourselves, trying to stay a bit ahead of the curve on what we’re seeing people do.

Kirk Byles (18:09):

And on the AI and machine learning piece, we done that as well. We partnered with a company called chooch.ai, to learn more of what they’re doing. And another company, boulder.ai and learning a lot along the way, and building some solutions around our edge compute radios and artificial intelligence to go out into these remote areas and offer what we call our onsite solution. And that really, instead of sending full motion video back, or trying to send full motion video, we’re really just taking an analytics look at what is happening and providing some detail of either warnings or just updates to the tune of, there’s a, again, I hate using the oil and gas thing, but it’s a good one in the sense that you have flare stacks out there, if you’re driving through Texas or anywhere, at night you see all the flames coming up.

Kirk Byles (19:17):

There’s a lot of regulation about how long you can flare and what can be done. And with AI, you can track all of that in real time and provide records. So you don’t have to pay fines to the EPA. You can prove that you’re meeting the guidelines for what is going on.

Mark (19:38):

So, that’s interesting. Let me take a snapshot of that. So every time the thing flares, you’ve got a date and timestamp.

Kirk Byles (19:45):

Yeah.

Mark (19:46):

And you store that, just that frame, date and timestamp, put it away, send it off. But the rest of the time, when there’s nothing coming out, you’re not sending that. So you’re not streaming full motion, 60 frames per second, HD video of a stack, that’s got nothing going on in it? That makes perfect sense.

Kirk Byles (20:05):

Right. So, literally it just says, it’s flaring at this point, takes off. Then if you add a sensor into the mix, you can actually get particles per-

Mark (20:18):

Per whatever.

Kirk Byles (20:19):

… whatever that are coming out of the stack. So you can actually combine the two and say, “We flared for an hour and a half and we only blew this much methane into the air or whatever carbon into the air. So we met the guidelines. Don’t fine us.” Versus, “Hey, we don’t know what’s happening out here. So we’re just going to pay the fine. And it’s part of our budget.”

Kirk Byles (20:45):

There’s actually a really good example. We were working with a gas company down in Southwest Colorado, a pretty small company, but part of the budget was $800,000 a year in fines. They knew that was what typically they were going to get fine, because they didn’t have the data to show the EPA that they weren’t polluting. So they just paid the fine and it was part of their business.

Mark (21:13):

Cost of doing business. Right.

Kirk Byles (21:14):

Yeah. And for just a, I think, in the end, they put our equipment out there for, call it a hundred grand or something, and a onetime cost to them and some maintenance over the years. But I mean, think of the savings. They no longer have that $800,000 line item on their balance sheet. So they can put that to the bottom line of their business and-

Mark (21:36):

That’s interesting.

Kirk Byles (21:37):

… they know exactly what’s going on out there.

Mark (21:39):

Years ago, I used to do a presentation on the benefits of IoT and MTM. And one of the, I think, four or five pillars was really around regulatory compliance. So this use case that you’ve just described is a very, I mean, it’s a very succinct way to illustrate that. I mean, you’ve got regulatory compliance and then you’ve got the proof points that you’re able to offer up. And Oh, by the way, you might, if you’re harnessing any predictive or prescriptive software tools, you can maybe predict when the thing’s going to, when this old [inaudible 00:22:18] will going to blow and understand that a little bit better and maybe even diminish that.

Kirk Byles (22:23):

So you hit the nail right on the head. So right now we’re working with some partners internally to effectively try and predict if this well site starts pumping faster, what happens to all the other well sites? And can you take a hundred well sites that are in the same area and start looking at different scenarios, so you can actually optimize the entire field and have that being done through AI and machine learning? So over time they can say, “Oh, this one’s going to, the pressure is going to fall. But the overall field is going to raise production by 1.5%. So let’s not worry about that falling 20 pounds per square inch, because it’s actually better for the overall field as far as production goes.”

Kirk Byles (23:20):

Currently, you don’t really see anybody managing a field in that manner. It’s sort of hit and miss, turn this on, turn that on. But now that you can throw big data into the cloud and start tweaking it up and let some of these algorithms play with it. I foresee within a year or two, most of these areas, people are not going to be touching a thing. They’re just going to let the algorithms run the machinery and the production will go that much, increase steadily over time. As you know, oil wells and gas wells, the first year is usually the most productive, then it starts to fall off dramatically. If you can somehow keep those things running at a higher level of efficiency, all the more profits for the companies.

Mark (24:10):

So the casualty here is the dude that drives around in the F-150 between the various well sites and can listen to it and can tell you, “This thing’s cavitating a little differently. This one’s going to blow at any minute now.” So that’s the guy that’s going to get his retirement.

Kirk Byles (24:33):

It’s certainly, I think about that too and you worry about it, but I think it’s really creating a different breed of service personnel. Because you’re always going to have to go out and service these things, you have to do the wrench turning and that stuff. Now it’s going to be someone that probably understands computers really well and sensors very well. And they’ll have to go out there and not just, like you say, listen to it and go with their gut, “What needs to happen here?”

Mark (25:09):

Old [Bessie’s 00:25:10] going to blow.

Kirk Byles (25:10):

Right. And you probably won’t need as many people out in the field, but like everything, I think you’re all of a sudden, you’re going to see more people going into oil and gas, but they’re going to be computer scientists.

Mark (25:26):

And the guy you’re sending out in the F-150. And again, I’m not trying to make any sort of humorous reference to somebody losing their work. But maybe that guy is now coming into this scenario with all of the information in hand, maybe his iPad has, here’s all the wellhead specifications, so he can be efficient and go to whichever site that he’s needed at. And he knows what the issue is and what the history is. So he’s just coming in prepared.

Kirk Byles (25:56):

And you’re exactly right. You’re right. And you have the health maintenance going on anywhere out there. So you can actually say, “Well, we feel like a ball bearing is ready to go here. So let’s go to that place, make sure we fix that. This one is running just fine. So we can skip that one this month.” But overall, I think you’re going to see just a different way of doing things and more jobs will come out of it because of the efficiencies that are going to continue to strive for. It’s just going to change the way people look at things and what they’re studying along the way and how they go about doing that maintenance. Yeah, the guys are going to probably have a lot more at their fingertips than they ever had in the past and be able to make better decisions when they do have [inaudible 00:26:43] service.

Mark (26:44):

Which is, I think, a cool thing. And that’s what we’re hoping. So in terms of, we have a few minutes left, I want to pivot slightly. We’re recording this in late July. COVID has been around for five months. I’ve been working in my home for a while. You’re actually off in your mountain house, as I’m aware, totally quarantining from your family and your workers. So, roughly, first of all, how many people work for FreeWave, rough number?

Kirk Byles (27:21):

Right around 85.

Mark (27:22):

Okay. So you’re the CEO of an 85 person company, you’re off in the mountains. You’ve got other folks often in different parts of the country. What’s it like managing during the COVID crisis where you can’t really see customers or partners, where you’ve got teams that are off some working at home, some working maybe I’m assuming live, you still have to have somebody hands on building a thing. How’s that all working and what are your strategies?

Kirk Byles (27:52):

Well, luckily for us, knock on wood, all that, nobody’s had COVID at FreeWave.

Mark (27:58):

That’s great.

Kirk Byles (28:00):

And it’s gone very well. We were, much like so many companies, we were traditionalists in the sense that we liked everybody in the office. We hired local, engineers were there and we manufacture everything in our Boulder facility. So, it was a busy little place. And I remember it was March 13th, a Friday the 13th.

Mark (28:27):

There you go.

Kirk Byles (28:28):

At noon. Things were just getting so wacky I just declared, “We’re working from home, everybody. Pack up your stuff. Don’t come back on Monday, except the people in manufacturing.” And we put our plan together like everybody else. Manufacturing which stay separated out, they’d stay in one part of the building. Basically told people they couldn’t come to the office unless they had their manager’s approval. Not gloves, masks, hand sanitizers, so forth and so on, stay spread out if you’re going to be in the office.

Kirk Byles (29:06):

And for the few first couple of months, we had a few engineers that were in there a fair bit. Because we just had to get some test equipment out, and their home offices weren’t really supplied to do what we needed them to do. But now, everybody, basically we’ve just said, “Go in and take your computers off the desk, take whatever you need, inventory it.” So we got a list of who has what, in case someone needs the test equipment that Gary has or whatever. And that’s been going very well.

Kirk Byles (29:40):

And we’ve also really started to over communicate in a sense, each senior leader provides a weekly like, “Okay, we did this, this week. Next week, this is what I expect you, you and you to do, pass that onto your folks.” And productivity has actually really started to go way up.

Mark (30:06):

Interesting.

Kirk Byles (30:07):

And I think it’s… If you’re working from home, you’re less distracted. You’re not getting in a car, spending an hour in traffic. You’re not having the talks around the water cooler, leaving for lunch, all those things. Which are all great about working together. But now that we’re primarily an engineering company, these gentlemen and ladies are, if they want to work at midnight, they’re working at midnight. If they want to work at 6:00 AM, they work at 6:00 AM. And they get their stuff done. So I’m really, really been pleasantly surprised how well we’ve done on the engineering side.

Kirk Byles (30:47):

And then on the rest of the administrative side, as well as the sales side, they’ve been kicking along quite well. Our sales team, we’ve always been known as a high touch sales team, get out in front of the customer, go visit them, take them out for dinner, drink, whatever. And all of a sudden, none of that was happening. So we started-

Mark (31:09):

We can’t really do that now.

Kirk Byles (31:10):

… [crosstalk 00:31:10] deal. Yeah. We started to do a real matrix type driven, “You’re going to talk to, you’re going to do no less than three webinars a day. You’re going to talk to at least 20 people in the day.” And-

Mark (31:29):

A little freeze up there. Yep.

Kirk Byles (31:36):

So again, they’ve been very, very productive as well. And we see that every day with tracking new customers.

Mark (31:48):

As a CEO. I mean, you’ve got, you’re watching the bottom line, your T&E budget has got to be the best you’ve ever had in 27 years.

Kirk Byles (31:58):

It truly is.

Mark (32:02):

And you’re freezing up a little bit here on us.

Kirk Byles (32:04):

[inaudible 00:32:04] budget again.

Mark (32:04):

Yeah.

Kirk Byles (32:05):

Yeah.

Mark (32:06):

Yeah. Just repeat your answer because you froze up for a second.

Kirk Byles (32:08):

Oh yeah. Our T&E has dropped completely. And I don’t know that it’ll ever come back again to the tune that we were before. It’s just the day and age has shown. We can do just fine or working from home.

Mark (32:23):

Yeah. And there are a lot of, in the business press, there’s a lot about the future of work. And I think what COVID is taught us is that we don’t all need to be together in expensive offices. Again, you’ve got the positive aspect that you noted around when it’s time to go to work, you just go to work. You’re not sitting in the car for the hour each way. You’ve got all the environmental positive impacts of not having hundreds and hundreds and thousands of people on the road. I guess they were saying in LA you could see the mountains, something we haven’t been able to see. Also they had an increase, I guess, in LA of speeding tickets because people could actually drive fast for the first time. And few of them did it, but that’s a different problem for a different broadcast, as they say.

Kirk Byles (33:09):

See, it’s a funny thing. I’ve got a good friend in Dallas and she mentioned to me something I hadn’t thought about being a bald guy. I mean, I get up in the morning, I take a shower and put on my clothes and I’m out the door. It takes me five minutes, maybe 10 on the outside. She would take an hour every morning to get ready, maybe more, and now she’s working from home, she doesn’t have that. So you think about that, two hours, she’d drive an hour to work, take an hour to get ready in the morning. So two hours are shot, that’s just productivity for her. And now she said, she’s still up at the same time. She’s just right at work and going right at it.

Mark (33:46):

Yeah. I think it’s been interesting. And I think time will tell, in terms of the impact, but you’ve had a distributed team. To me, the biggest impact was the one we talked about, which would be the customer, or high touch customer stuff. And customers are all adapting as well. So I guess what we should do is close with final shots. So, this year in many ways, as I was saying before we started recording, is either an ink stain or some sort of stain on the, it’s a coffee stain on the desk blotter, in terms of just our ability to be out and around and at conferences, at trade events and all of that. And we’re starting to look at the back half of 2020. My question to you is what does 2021 look like for you? Everything from the work style to product availability, to any marketing milestones you want to talk about.

Kirk Byles (34:49):

For sure. Well, as far as the working environment, we declared we’re a work from home business now. We just said, “You know what? We’re never going back to what it was before. If you want to work in the office, feel free. You can come in every other week, wear a mask or just work from home.” Nobody showed up. So 2021, I don’t see anything changing there. We will give people the ability to go in the office if they want, but we’re a work from home.

Kirk Byles (35:21):

Certainly we want 2020 to be over with, but it’s really been an exciting year for us. We’ve shored up all of our legacy products. We’re launching new products. We launched our first software platform ever. And that’s just what’s going to basically catapult us into 2021, where our roadmap is looking incredibly robust on the hardware and the software side.

Kirk Byles (35:47):

So being a 27 year old company doing this pivot, it has not been easy. That’s for sure. But I really think 2021 is the year that we’re going to see all of our efforts really paying off and hopefully business gets back to some level of normalcy.

Mark (36:10):

Everybody hates that the N word, which is normal, new normal.

Kirk Byles (36:13):

Right. [crosstalk 00:36:13] we took that double whammy, oil and gas is a big part of our business, and that just collapsed before COVID. And then COVID hit. We pulled back our forecast for the year, like everybody else, but we’re really starting to see things picking up again, which is really nice for us. Because we’re not a nice to have, we’re a must have type product for people. So that folks are spending some money again is great. And we’ll be able to offer our customers 10 more products by the middle of 2021, at least, software and hardware. And that’s something FreeWave hasn’t done very well over the last 10 years is getting new products out the door. So I’m really excited about that.

Mark (37:01):

Well, that’s excellent. My observation, just very quickly, from my end is, and I’m very well acquainted with you and FreeWave just for others that are watching this. But yes, the startup and emerging technology world is very, very exciting. And I think we’re all exposed to players like this. What I find rare is a 27 year old company that can point to 27 years of customer relationships, solving problems in the IoT world. IoT didn’t just spring up six weeks ago, it’s been around for a long, long time. The term IoT is attributed back to the MIT Media Lab in 1999. So the terminology’s been around, but as you said, SCADA and other connected systems have been around for a long, long time on different sorts of networks.

Mark (37:51):

So I think it’s very interesting to find a player with a level of stability in the technology space. So I think buyers, enterprise CIOs, people that are operating, obviously, oil wells and all the other vertical businesses, will find that sort of thing appealing. Stability is a very big deal in an unstable world. So, I think it makes sense.

Mark (38:14):

So with that, Kirk, I want to thank you for your time today. Thank you for your interest not only in the Connected Things conference that you were at in 2019, but contributing today to the 2020 conference, I’m sure we’ll be hearing from you as well in the 2021 timeframe. So again, on behalf of the entire team at the MIT Enterprise Forum, I really want to thank you.

Kirk Byles (38:37):

Thank you, Mark. I appreciate you having me on.

Mark (38:40):

It’s a lot of fun. All right. Thanks.

 

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