The Digital Supply Chain podcast

Scalable, Affordable, Supply Chain Visibility - A Chat With Wirepas CEO Teppo Hemiä

September 27, 2021 Tom Raftery / Teppo Hemia Season 1 Episode 164
The Digital Supply Chain podcast
Scalable, Affordable, Supply Chain Visibility - A Chat With Wirepas CEO Teppo Hemiä
Show Notes Transcript

Supply chain visibility is an urgent requirement for businesses all over the world the world. New technologies are arriving to help fill that gap, but solutions need to be affordable, and scalable, which is where Wirepas comes in.

Wirepas makes large scale Enterprise IoT solutions that are cheap and reliable. To learn more I invited Wirepas' CEO Teppo Hamiä to come on the podcast to tell us all about it.

We had a truly fascinating conversation about IoT and connectivity and, as is often the case, I learned loads, I hope you do too...

If you have any comments/suggestions or questions for the podcast - feel free to leave me a voice message over on my SpeakPipe page or just send it to me as a direct message on Twitter/LinkedIn. Audio messages will get played (unless you specifically ask me not to).

If you want to learn more about how to juggle sustainability and efficiency mandates while recovering from pandemic-induced disruptions, meeting growth targets, and preparing for an uncertain future, check out our Oxford Economics research report here.

And if you want to know more about any of SAP's Digital Supply Chain solutions, head on over to www.sap.com/digitalsupplychain, and if you liked this show, please don't forget to rate and/or review it. It makes a big difference to help new people discover it. Thanks.

And remember, stay healthy, stay safe, stay sane! 

Teppo Hemi:

We are not that much in domestic domain because they are the networks are quite small in a smart home environment, but where you really need a reliable, robust and large scale networks. That's where we are and where we are growing.

Tom Raftery:

Good morning, good afternoon or good evening wherever you are in the world. This is the digital supply chain podcast, the number one podcast focusing on the digitization of supply chain. And I'm your host, global Vice President at SAP. Tom Raftery. Hi, everyone. Welcome to the digital supply chain podcast. My name is Tom Raftery, with SAP. And with me on the podcast today I have my special guest, Teppo, Teppo. Would you like to introduce yourself?

Teppo Hemi:

Yes, thanks, Thomas, for having me. My name is Teppo Hemi. I'm the CEO of Wirepas. And we are in this IoT space in a connectivity domain. And it's great to be here discussing how that could play in in supply chains.

Tom Raftery:

Fantastic. And that will for people who are not aware of wire pass, could you tell us roughly what Wirepas is and what Wirepas does?

Teppo Hemi:

Yeah, so we are a kind of a creator of new way of building connectivity in the IoT market. And it's now very well recognized also in in the global standardization. So we are becoming part of 5g, the non cellular 5g. So it's a different concept versus what people have used to think of about 5g so so this doesn't require expensive infrastructure build up of base stations and so on. The main idea of our offering is that the DAX and, and sensors and even meters, whatever they are, no matter how small they are, they are access points, all of them and, and the devices by themselves brings the offering and coverage. And as a company, we are a software company, we license the software to our partners who can range from being OEMs or solution providers or system integrators. And they then build the solutions for different markets. We are playing in smart tracking especially which is kind of a directly related to supply chains. But we are also in smart buildings, smart factories, and and even smart metering.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, superbe. Why, why? Why is this important? Why Why did you chase this down? Why did you create wire pass? What what you know, what, what problem are you solving?

Teppo Hemi:

Yeah, so we believe that wire pass is the first wireless connectivity technology that is really built for IoT from the beginning, ground up. So you are seeing a lot of discussion about where you can use Bluetooth how you can apply Wi Fi and IoT. 5g has a super promise of solving everything. However, they are very good in what they were built for. So cellular technologies we all enjoy. I mean, it's a mightiest engineering work in this planet, and, and all the kudos for that. So So mobile phones are great. But trying to use something that was developed some for some other purpose in IoT, which is a different problem is not necessarily the most successful way. So what we have done is that we have taken this on limitless scale density. But most importantly, affordability in terms of how you deploy, how you use and how you manage this type of networks that are consisting of millions of tiny things.

Tom Raftery:

And you mentioned, you know, millions of tiny things and scalability. How do you how do you ensure that your solution can work with these millions of tiny things? How does that work?

Teppo Hemi:

Yeah, this guy knows about beef if you like is is it's decentralized operation. And and it means that the only way to make something super scalable is that the decisions and the way they operate is kind of a decided at local level at the device level. So there's no central point of management that tries to keep up the network because these are so tiny devices that you know, if you need to do end to end communication about how to optimize the network, even that communication for maintaining the network is taking too much of a bandwidth. So we have given kind of all the network management disease To the devices themselves, no matter how small tax they are, or sensors or so on, and how it works is that these tiny devices locally, together with the closest neighbors decide how they optimize the radio communication. So it consists of decisions like, on which channel they operate, how they build routing towards the closest gateways, they can even, you know, automatically adjust the output power only to reach the very neighbor, because that's super important for spectrum efficiency as an example. So when you're dealing with millions, and hopefully billions of these tiny things one day, you need to start to care about different things than you have used to care about when you happen, you know, looking long range and, and sometimes high bandwidth applications. So So we believe that it's all about taking the right design objectives from the beginning, and then you know, executing the wordstat vision. And that's what weiderpass is about.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, and most IoT devices are sending small amounts of information. So I assume it's optimized for small small data packets rather than large video, for example, output. And you mentioned as well, that lots of devices, is there. I mean, can can you hit up against the threshold? Is there a number of devices per square meter or per square kilometer, or whatever, that you could saturate it at? Or how does all that work out?

Teppo Hemi:

Yeah, so So first of all, indeed, this is this is a world which is now relatively small bandwidth, dynapac packets, scalp, even, you know, a few few times a day, but to be honest, actually, there's a more and more need for more frequent sample of location of condition and so on. So So the thing is that you never know exactly but but put it in the right category. This is not for video streaming, this is not for audio streaming, even all the audio good go. I mean, the modern codecs are very advanced, and compress a lot but, but it's more really to get these kind of assemble Vedas of different different in different use cases. And in terms of KPIs, you know, single network can grow up to 4 billion devices in a single mess. And that's also now in the standard. But on top of that, we are building mechanisms that you know, they can be network, roaming and visit other businesses, networks also, virtually, it really becomes unlimited. And, and as an example of the spectrum efficiency, we run in our normal regression test tests where, you know, more than 1000 radios are in the cube meter. Having bi directional communication without a single collision, which is totally impossible for things like RFID, or Bluetooth, p corner or so on. And when you try to manage fleet of something, let's say smart pallets, in service centers, they are all piled up. So it's a good example that temporarily and locally, you may really need extreme KPIs to have a coherent, you know, network.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, and, I mean, you've mentioned standards a couple of times, how are you playing, what kind of standards bodies and standards that are out there?

Teppo Hemi:

Yeah, and, you know, I, you're the overall is a complex world, you, you have so many different opportunities, it's diverse, recommended market, but our DNA is in the connectivity itself. So we are kind of horizontal player there. And there we did choose to partner with at the European telecommunications Standards Institute, and do together in in a working group called Dec 2020. In the radio, we created this new standard where wire pass is one of the main contributor and, and that is now also proposed for it water level to become part of 5g as I mentioned. So with that we can really enter, let's say, into a kind of a new promise new, I mean, it's like it's fraction of the cost what the 5g used to be, but it's still having the same robustness and reliability promise, because you need to fulfill the criterias that is built in in that process. So that's kind of the horizontal layer. But But then, to be able to commercialize these things you need to also You know, what are the real relevant standardization bodies more vertically and maybe closest to the supply chain is is where we are involved in this is our container Shipping Association, which is about connecting container sea containers. And we are mentioned there in the in the, in the in the military one of one of the keys key standards to be used. But it's still quite In the beginning I would say so, I would say that in the supply chain, of course RFID being in the market for so long that there is you know, many things aligned vertically and horizontally. So So we still need to you know, babybel road there, but thanks to the power of the of the network piece itself and now the traction that we are having, we look forward to work in different contexts, beyond this container level and go go also in areas where you know, you really go go for price points where you enable, you know, smaller and smaller materials and assets to be connected.

Tom Raftery:

Nice, nice. There are other connectivity standards around IoT to things like NB IoT and CIG Fox and the likes. How are you comparing with those?

Teppo Hemi:

Yeah, so the two two you mentioned are actually kind of in a category of cellular type if you like so so they have been built by investing in infrastructure of base stations and and then building the coverage which I think is the right thing for mobile phones now I'm not sure if it is the right thing for for in let's say mainly indoor or large scale flows of materials and then things like that. That being said, both have a role. I mean, narrowband IoT especially in the kind of for example track level track level fleet management m two M type of applications and for that reason we actually not seeing cellula competing with us actually it's symbiotic because consider like mobile gateway that is attached to a truck maybe it has even its own power source like like like solar panel we have a great partner mekomo for example, in Germany who does really really nice designs like that, and then when it's having weiderpass radio as well actually you know, everything that is designed inside the truck can be also then connected with a much more affordable way which is built on a commodity low cost Bluetooth chips and then our software and with you know any any scale and density. So, basically the way we look the world is that we see that that connectivity is around us everywhere. So you have everywhere in the world almost everywhere in the world why maybe everywhere I mean apart from mines that you know you have a satellite cellular and Wi Fi and Ethernet wherever you have you know somewhere close a IP connection you can establish what your past network because you know it's it's just taking that as a gateway and then it can expand you know not only in that one one place, but also through the supply chain. So, one one can be in in even in a mine If you start from there and then it can be you know where the raw materials are being manufactured. And then you go you know to the inland transportation to some you know mail houses of material then you go to the actual product factories and you know, wholesale and finally retail. So, you can easily build these chains of of coverage and actually when every you know, finish school for example, in that type of a use case is having a DAC every every DAC expands to cover it so that they actually bringing the cover is along with them. So instead of trying to build indoor coverage from the outdoors, which requires a long rains and high power, you actually do it inside those buildings by the devices who needs the connectivity they actually bring it by themselves and they can optimize the power or the fraction of of those long links that is required otherwise so so we actually looking our positioning as solving an important problem. But not necessarily competing. Many of the existing because they have the place if they have originally been built to solve a particular problem like Wi Fi for local data like bluetooth for accessories, like cellular from for mobile, which can be then gateways in in a fleet management so so it sets up just a question of if you have an IP connectivity close by. Now you have a super affordable way to connect me Yes

Tom Raftery:

and you've mentioned affordability a few times as well in the in the podcast Can you talk about you know, I'm not going to ask for specific pricing but you know, what kind of orders of magnitude of savings are we talking about for people?

Teppo Hemi:

Yeah so we we are naturally that's a great question because relatively how how big a difference we are making differs a little bit in different use cases and verticals but but nevertheless I would say that kind of one angle to that is that obviously connecting Something must be much more affordable than the value of that data. So if you're gone and that's kind of the grounding let's say rule to start with. And now when you don't need to pay anything for the data from the connectivity standpoint, our business model is such that we take one small royalty per per DAC or per device for its whole lifetime so the data is free. So actually, you you eliminate the whole subscription fee type of a cost at the OPEX from the model completely and then thanks to the software we actually make low cost commodity radios that are typically used for some some no short distance consumer use into a large scale industrial use because you know, in mesh fashion it becomes much more reliable and so on so the hardware cost is also lower. And maybe I take an example from other business one of our customers is the world's biggest ball bearing company acephala what they do is that they have created uptime condition monitoring platform that they can put sensor and attach them those to the motors and they can figure out that how they are doing and when they are going to break and you know, all those stuff and how they used to sell the platform is that you know up to now you were able to maybe connect 5% of your most critical motors many were wiring them or you know, putting cellular connection or so but now the affordability is at the level that there's no brainer to go all the way all the motors you have in the factory in all the conveyor conveyors in all the pumps and and you know, allegedly made motors and so on and that that that's the kind of disruption we are making if you like and and of course in if you then look the logistics overall, maybe the biggest granularity element is the sea container diverting or so so we all know that it cost a lot, that type of a piece. So So there you can match these and there's a lot of you know, stuff inside typically so they're they're matching the value of the cost of connecting to the value is easy but but going forward the next level is actually pretty soon then kind of this type of a smart palette type of you know use and there's also the circular economy needs. So people are requesting recyclable, recyclable materials and pallets and so on. And they are becoming much smarter than we are working for example with Fujitsu on on on, on on on those respects and, and and there the thing is that it enables connecting supply chains you can marriage you know the things that are on top of the pallet maybe in other means you can still have a bar goats, you know, you know, it doesn't need to solve everything. But when you fix the missing piece of connecting real time and continuously certain layer, you actually get a lot more visibility of the whole whole jail. And then the next level is actually the good that is in on top of the ballot. And you can and then as we know, there's probably 30 million sea containers in the world. And then there is maybe, I don't know, seven billions then billion pallets out of which are very tiny fraction still smart, but they are growing fast. And then there are you know, 10s of billions of shipments obviously, every year so so affordability obviously drives a bigger market also. And that makes the cost of these things better and better than the volumes are growing. Of course.

Tom Raftery:

Yeah. What are some interesting use cases you've seen?

Teppo Hemi:

We are although we kind of both put many things under the smart tracking category there are within that even quite many different things and maybe to mention a few so so one place where we have helped efficiency a lot is construction sites. Okay. We have for example boutique, the big big friends constructor, that you know, it gets better visibility of the You know of the material flows in the construction you know where the people are it's also helping on safety aspects maybe there's all alarms when you go to the areas institution not supposed to be and so on another example in the same place is wake up who has a very interesting use case so they connect the helmets of construction workers and our network also provides the location information so so without any wire infrastructure because there's not there is no in construction site you can actually be put pottery operated anchors while you build the building and though they then behave as a reference point for location and you know what the people are you can do count him count out kind of things you know we in which challenge they are how long but it's also a safety measure if you drop the helmet you may want to replace it because you know the production is not anymore there and and so on. And that's a great example because it may start from supply chain visibility or kind of that sort of a thing but then it easily expands to many other benefits menu when you get something connected you start to innovate so many other other things and now let's say a bit more recently and then it's not something we can we can go go in very detail but I'm super excited that we are working for example in data centers. So there are such problem for example that when when when these big big big guys have data centers have millions and 10s of millions of servers, it becomes a quite a quite a task to keep books where they are and you know when they are replaced and you know starting from manufacturing throughout the logistics and inside the racks and getting out of the racks and and finally dispose them but these are great examples that that type of a needs are sourced everywhere we just need a little bit more references and people start to figure out one one area that we believe being very important his general office and and the factory kind of an asset location information so that you if you have a like a big big engineering facilities quite often you don't know whether your skill or Scoble is aware where the kind of important tool or tools are and in hospitals they they they did a study that nurses can you know this is a crazy number nurses can you know up to 30 plus hours use a time on finding things per month and it's all away from you know taking good care of the basis so so again 40 choice they have good good partner of ours and unhappy track and and a few others so so there are a lot of examples

Tom Raftery:

and I mean if you're talking about putting tags and I know that you guys don't make the tags that that's that's licensed to others but if you're talking about putting tags and assets and things like that What kind of rough price are the tags coming in?

Teppo Hemi:

Yeah so we are talking about single digit dollars and let's say of course the long term ambitions are that they would be you know somewhere even sub three or so so so those are the levels that you know intelligent bees have sensor connectivity even over the update capabilities and that sort of thing then he was really talking about you know, massive scale but this being said RFID tag is much cheaper right? But what it requires is pretty expensive infrastructure. So so you need to have either manual reading or you need to have gates here and they are better granularity you want to know you know when they are passing the gate and so on or docking stations where you know, some density limitations may occur. The nice thing here is that the infrastructure cost is almost nothing right? So so so the cost trade offs are a little bit different but to make intelligent to to leave you know, that's the only way and and that's where we are playing we are not replacing RFID as such for the kind of use in many places but when you need continuous more accurate also location other type of information. Yeah, then this is a very viable solution.

Tom Raftery:

And what's your kind of go to market strategy? I mean, it can I go to your website and buy something weiderpass or get it on Amazon or is it through partners are how does all that work?

Teppo Hemi:

Yeah, so we are building that up while we speak and and we I mean, if you go now to our website, you can see almost 300 different type of products already using weiderpass or ranging different sensors. And gateways and and so on so that's one way to do that and then there are obviously a lot of solution providers who have the full systems already so so if you if you want to use weiderpass contact us or our website or just google via pass there are a lot of companies already offering offering services but at the same time we do work with our partners to standardize the use of of this technology and you know making it less fragmented and and that that is now possible as we have been you know now for a while in the market and with those good partners that we start to find the sweet spots where this is really applying and you know what type of use makes the most sense so so you can expect that of course this comes to play when you can go and buy them from Amazon's and others but this is really kind of an industry or market what we are looking here as you can as you can imagine from the use case point of view

Tom Raftery:

yeah yeah no totally totally and where to from here What are your plans for the next you know five years where do you see wire paths going and this kind of connectivity going

Teppo Hemi:

so i think i mean it's very interesting that what this pandemic is doing I mean right now in acute manner it's it's it's a pain because there is a lot of supply issues around the market and our customers are lacking components. But we all agree that what it does is that it it really accelerates the need for anything remote neural monitoring and observations and so forth. So we are very excited we we really think that this is solving the problem as I started that you know, the IoT industrial IoT especially so so we are not that much in domestic domain because they're the networks are quite small in the in the smart home environment but where you really need a reliable robust and large scale networks that's where we are and where we are growing we expect the coming years let's say quite a bit growth but but mapping all together the improvements of radios in terms of power consumption increase of capacity of small small batteries also our progressive development of getting lower and lower power you know more performance and features it's pretty impressive what you could do already in three four years five years and none already today but i mean it's it's something that the vision that you know the professors in the University have done better almost couple of decades ago had when they started to research this that you know, one day there is a time when you can sell for endless amount of sensors around you and and somehow in a magic they connect to each other and and take care of each other. So I think that vision is becoming true the cost of connecting go solo

Tom Raftery:

fantastic, fantastic. demo we're coming towards the end of the podcast now Is there anything that I have not asked that you wish I had or any topics we've not mentioned that you think it's important for people to be aware of?

Teppo Hemi:

Well, I think was a great great discussion and and good good coverage. So I think I again, only emphasize like you already know this, this this return on investment and affordability in this space. So so that's that's what is it all about? It's not only technology. But yeah, please follow us. We are proud of getting to the as a part of 5g, but, you know, we are not doing this alone. Our product alone doesn't do anything. It's a it's a piece of very good technology that we license, we are very happy to collaborate with partners and to make this as a benefit for for supply chains as well. But other other markets as well.

Tom Raftery:

Super Depo if people want to know more about yourself, or about wire paths, or any of the things we discussed today, where would you have me direct them.

Teppo Hemi:

So as we are now still getting out of the pandemic, obviously, conducting us to our online media is one way we start to now try also the events so nobody knows yet how well they plays out we are at sido for example, next week in Leon which is exactly related to this domain. So follow us in social media, LinkedIn, Twitter, our website and you will be you know updated on all the events and advancement advancements that we are doing. And we have a global organization so we have a presence in Australia, Korea, India, Europe, USA. So so I'm sure that you will find a local, local person to talk with

Tom Raftery:

Super super duper. That's been fantastic. Thanks a million for coming on the podcast today.

Teppo Hemi:

Thanks, Tom. It was a pleasure.

Tom Raftery:

Okay, we've come to the end of the show. Thanks everyone for listening. If you'd like to know more about digital supply chains, head on over to sa p.com slash digital supply chain or, or simply drop me an email to Tom raftery@sap.com. If you'd like to show, please don't forget to subscribe to it and your podcast application of choice to get new episodes as soon as they're published. Also, please don't forget to rate and review the podcast. It really does help new people to find the show. Thanks. Catch you all next time.