Smart cities are nice, but what about smart communities?
By focusing on people who live in cities, the same technology could be used to transform public spaces and improve daily lives. For instance, warnings could be sent to oncoming vehicles about pedestrians in the crosswalk. Or pedestrians could be alerted to vehicles approaching at high speed. Parents could even have peace of mind knowing their local park is protected with real-time monitoring.
With the right technology partner, there are so many opportunities to make communities safer, smarter, and more connected. In this podcast, we explore what a smart community encompasses, the benefits for both citizens and cities, and the technology partnerships that go into making this all possible.
Our Guest: IntelliSite
Our guests this episode are Ken Mills, Chief Executive Officer for global AI and IoT technology provider IntelliSite, and Justin Christiansen, General Manager of IoT Platform & Solution Sales at Intel®.
At IntelliSite, Ken focuses on delivering safer, smarter, and more connected solutions to communities through AI and IoT technology. He is also CEO for EPIC IO Technologies, the partner company of IntelliSite.
At Intel, Justin and his team focus on enabling technology to scale across multiple verticals. He joined Intel in 2005 and was the Director of Strategy Business Development before joining the company’s sales and marketing group.
Ken and Justin answer our questions about:
- (2:47) Smart communities versus smart cities
- (4:48) What a smart community philosophy looks like in practice
- (7:13) Where AI and IoT fit together in smart spaces
- (9:48) Smart community use cases and trends
- (14:06) How to provide valuable data to the community
- (17:00) Technology evolutions making smart spaces possible
- (24:15) IntelliSite’s Safer, Smarter, Connected Communities as a Service
- (28:49) What communities should look for in a technology partner
- (31:00) Smart-space considerations for 2022
To learn more about creating smart spaces for communities, read Building Smart Spaces for Communities. For the latest innovations from IntelliSite, follow them on Twitter at @IntelliSiteIoT and on LinkedIn at IntelliSiteIoT.
This podcast was edited by Christina Cardoza, Senior Editor for insight.tech.
Kenton Williston: Welcome to the IoT Chat, where we explore the trends that matter for consultants, systems integrators, and enterprises. I’m Kenton Williston, the Editor-in-Chief of insight.tech. Every episode we talk to a leading expert about the latest developments in the Internet of Things. Today I’m talking about the idea of smart communities with Ken Mills, CEO of IntelliSite, and Justin Christiansen, the General Manager of IoT Platform & Solution Sales at Intel®.
We often hear about the term smart cities, but what this fails to encompass is the community living in those cities. The benefits of technology aren’t limited to governments. No! Smart connectivity can transform public spaces in ways that deeply improve the everyday lives of citizens. In this podcast, we’ll explore what a smart community really means, the benefits for both citizens and cities, and the technology partnerships that go into making this all possible.
But first, let me introduce our guests.
So, Ken, I’d like to welcome you to the podcast.
Ken Mills: Thank you for having me.
Kenton Williston: And, can you tell me about IntelliSite, and what your role is there?
Ken Mills: IntelliSite is an AI, IoT company, and I am the CEO of IntelliSite, as well as of EPIC IO, the parent company. IntelliSite focuses on delivering outcomes based on AI technology and IoT technology brought together, often referred to as AIoT. We focus on computer vision, sensor data, and sensor fusion between video and traditional sensor data, bring it together for meaningful outcomes for our customers.
Kenton Williston: Yeah. Spent a little time on your website and it’s very interesting, the range of work you’re doing. I’m looking forward to digging into that a little bit deeper, but first I also want to welcome Justin to the program.
Justin Christiansen: Thank you for having me.
Kenton Williston: Tell me a little bit about your role at Intel.
Justin Christiansen: I’m in our IoT sales organization, and my team’s focused on platforms and solutions, which really means enabling technology that can scale across multiple verticals. We focus on things like video technology, display-and-payment technology, ruggedized devices, and robotics. I mean, we’ve got to focus on AI software enablement as well.
Kenton Williston: Right. Well, it’s great to have both of you here. And I’m looking to hearing from each of you individually, and beyond that how Intel and IntelliSite are working together. And I’d like to start that conversation with you, Ken, by talking about your philosophy. So, again, like I said, I spent some time on your website, and really interesting point of view on video. And one of the things that really stood out to me is the way that your company’s talking about smart communities, instead of just smart cities. So, can you tell me what is the difference in your mind between these two, and why does it matter?
Ken Mills: It’s a great pull that you found from the website. And it’s definitely something that we focus on, and it actually started at my time at Dell, when I led the business around computer vision, and safety and security, and worked with Intel there as well. We would meet with different constituents from counties, states, towns, campuses, stadiums, all these different organizations. And when you talk to them about being a smart city, or a digital city, or a safe city, they often cannot relate directly because they’re not often a city, right? They might be a state agency, they might be a county, they might be a small community, they might be a campus.
So, we felt that it made much more sense to approach the market from a community perspective, where it’s much more inclusive to all the different types of users and constituents we might be talking to around our technology, right? Because it’s a community of people that often are coming together to solve a solution around making their communities safer, making the community smarter, or even providing more of a connected community so constituents could have access to services that are necessary to operate day-to-day.
Kenton Williston: Yeah, I love that. And I totally hear what you’re saying there: it’s easy as a gearhead myself to get really excited about all the technology and cool new bells and whistles that come out all the time. But at the end of the day, what we’re really trying to do here is serve humans and make humans’ lives better. And I really like the idea that you’re putting forward here about thinking of communities not just from a practical standpoint of, “Hey, maybe you’re not a city per se.” But also just the, “Hey, at the end of the day, this is about helping people have better lives.” I think that’s great. And, I’d really be interested in hearing a practical example of what that means. And one that has come up in my preparation for this podcast, some work you did with the city of Riverbank, California. So, I’d love to hear how your philosophy informed that work, and what exactly that work was in the first place.
Ken Mills: It’s a great example. And there’s a number of other good ones, but the city of Riverbank is a great partner, a great community that is a city that’s also part of a set of other cities, a part of their county, where we’re working with the county and all the cities in that county to deliver same or similar services around safer, smarter, more connected communities as a service, which is the SCaaS offering that you referenced earlier, and what led us to partner with that city. And it’s very common that we get these types of requests, and I equate it to, we all were kids at one point, or have kids, or both hopefully, and we’ve built or played with Legos or at least all seen Legos, one way or another. And they seem like a great idea, right? And most people equate technology to a set of building blocks or a set of Legos that you put together and get your desired outcome.
But most small cities, or even big cities for that matter, but most communities do not want to build Legos. They want to order a pizza. They want the whole thing delivered to them, hot, ready to eat, and tasty, and not have to worry about how it was put together or have the responsibility of putting it together. They want it just delivered, ready to go. And we found that most cities, when they think about IoT, or they think about AI, or they think about how do they do both of those things, they’re not ready to build the Lego pieces and worry about: Did they put it together right? Did they follow all the directions? Do they have the right skills? Do they have the right time? Or even where to start. They want to know that when they decide on a project and they decide to spend their critical assets of time and money, that they’re going to get the outcome that they really expected when they started the project.
And so, by delivering it as a service, we’re able to partner with communities to ensure that they get the pizza, and they’re not left with a bunch of Legos that they don’t know how to put together.
Kenton Williston: Yeah, that totally makes sense to me. And, Justin, I’d love to hear from you. I’m betting that this experience is something that you have shared in your work with partners and customers, that there is a trend towards really wanting a more complete solution. So, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the larger trends you’re seeing in that regard in smart spaces. And, for that matter, some of the key technologies that Ken’s already introduced, such as AI, and IoT, and how this all fits together.
Justin Christiansen: Sure. I think Ken did an excellent job of talking about some of the benefits, the simplicity, and the pizza analogy. Safety is certainly one of the key focus areas of customers as they deploy smart city. But also smart spaces technology. So you can think through things like stadiums, theme parks, cruise ships, and it’s not just a focus on safety, it’s about giving a better experience, whether that’s to citizens or customers. Personalizing those experiences. It’s more than just being able to do public safety, but I think public safety is at the heart of what our customers are interested in.
As you mentioned, the adoption of AI really enables our customers to improve their business operations and customer experience with technology in areas like the retail environment, providing more seamless checkout experiences, or making sure that shelves are fully stocked. As well as, with COVID, the integration of robotics into those experiences to minimize person-to-person interaction. And what we see in smart spaces is increasingly interaction between those robots, the people, whether that’s, again, in a warehouse or a restaurant, to provide a better experience, a safer experience. And that’s true across all smart spaces.
Kenton Williston: Yeah. That makes sense, and I agree. And it’s been very interesting. I think one of the things that has been fascinating to me, about especially the impact of the pandemic, is how many of these technological changes are making that leap from the stuff that I’m interested in as a professional and as, like I said, a geek, to things I’m directly experiencing in my own life.
I went to get a booster shot the other day. And there in the city offices were all these kinds of technologies we’re talking about. Cameras making sure things weren’t too crowded, a temperature check station, which was powered by a video camera—you look in the screen and it evaluates you to see if you’re healthy or not. I think we’re all getting to have our firsthand experience, like you said, even about the sporting venues, of these technologies having a really meaningful impact on our day-to-day lives. So, Ken, I want to come back to you a little bit, again, reflecting on your experience with Riverbank and other customers. Can you lay out some of the use cases you’ve worked with, and what some of the important trends are that you’re seeing?
Ken Mills: Yeah, great question. And some of the use cases we’re seeing are smart and safe intersections, right? So, as people are out and about more than ever, people and communities are really looking to ensure that the crosswalks are safe, and reducing pedestrian fatalities down to zero in a concept called Vision Zero. We partner with communities to really help them accomplish their Vision Zero goals. And Vision Zero is a concept around reducing pedestrian fatalities down to zero—pretty noble concept. And there’s a lot of different ways you could do that, with better street marking, better lighting, traffic intelligence for the actual traffic lights themselves. There’s lots of ways that that can be accomplished.
But video technology is also a great tool for these communities to improve on their intersection crosswalk safety—to understand how their crosswalks are being utilized to potentially warn oncoming vehicles that someone’s actually in the crosswalk and to be more aware. Or to use AI to warn someone who’s in the crosswalk that a vehicle might be approaching at a high rate of speed, and they need to be aware that that person may not be paying attention, may not stop in time, so that both sides of the equation of the relationship there can be adjusted to prevent a fatality, which ruins two lives at the very least. And it’s one of those things that communities are looking at across the board, right? And there’s ways that you can do that with AI technology and edge computing, leveraging Intel chipsets and OpenVINO tool sets to really improve that process, and oftentimes reduce the cost of deploying those technologies and getting those results all together.
Another example where we’re using some of the same technology is at smarter and safer parks. Your parks are now becoming the town center of a lot of communities. Park utilization is at an all-time high. People are not interested in being at home, and they’re not interested in being in a crowded shopping center as much as they used to be. And people want to go spend more time outside, more time in parks. My family is a great example of that. We spend a lot more time in parks than we ever have before. So ensuring that those parks are safe and accessible and really are providing the tools and services necessary for all the constituents to be able to use is really critical for communities to really provide the primary service of being a safe and smarter community to live. So we’re seeing a lot of use cases around safer and smarter parks, for example.
And one specific one that cracks me up is for the dog lovers out there. If you’ve ever been to a dog park after it’s rained, or where maybe the sprinklers were on too long and it was a little bit too wet, your dog is a mess, you’re a mess, the park gets destroyed, and it can cost the city thousands of dollars to repair that torn-up grass, and the dog park gets shut down. And everybody loses.
But, using edge-computing IoT sensors, you can analyze the soil moisture levels and even soil quality, and understand better the irrigation or fertilization rates and get all kinds of great data. But very simply put, you can know if it’s too wet to open, and you can send a Facebook message or a Twitter message, or all the above and say, “Hey, the dog park is closed today because it’s too wet.” And then, as soon as the moisture levels drop down, you could fire off a message that says, “The dog park’s open.” And you save the city thousands of dollars, reduce people’s frustration, ensure that the park was open for as much as it possibly could be, right? So everybody wins. So, that’s a great example of where edge technology can be brought together to really provide real citizen value.
Kenton Williston: Yeah. I love that example. That’s great. I have a Scottish Terrier, and boy, oh boy, let me tell you, anything messy at all in the outside world, she’s just a little mop. I love the idea of reducing my cleanup work a lot. That would be a big plus for me.
Ken Mills: Simple problem, simple solution, profound impact.
Kenton Williston: Exactly. Exactly. So, one of the things that’s coming to mind as I’m hearing you talk about the diversity of these use cases and the diversity of the organizations that you’re working with—you’ve got a lot of complexity on both ends. So how are you bringing all of this really valuable data into a place where those users can understand it, act on it, share it with their community?
Ken Mills: It goes back to the pizza analogy, right? Communities want to buy pizzas, not Legos. And by providing an end-to-end solution or a whole product for our customers, through our Deep Insights set of solutions, we can deliver it all together, right? So you can take your IoT data, your computer vision data, your time series data, and other sensor data, bring it together, analyze it, provide real insights from that data.
And then use our rules engine to then determine what you do with that insight. Do you just keep it and report on it for historical purposes or trend analysis? Do you act on it and generate an event or response, like the dog park example I gave you? Or do you tie it into a third-party tool, like ServiceNow, to create a ticket that says, “Hey, the park shouldn’t be this wet at this time. We didn’t have rain in the last 24 hours. So we must have a sprinkler system issue.” So I’m going to enter a ServiceNow ticket request to our irrigation department, and they’re going to go out and fix it, maybe proactively, maybe quicker than they would normally. And automate that process and understand how to do that, right?
So, it’s gathering the data through connectivity. It’s ingesting that data through our Deep Insights platform. It’s enriching that data through our AI stack. And then delivering insights to the customers to ultimately get the outcome that they would like. We call it our CIEIO framework. So if you’re an “Old MacDonald had a farm” fan, EIEIO, you’ll never forget it, right? CIEIO is the concept that we believe really helps customers deliver on the outcomes that they want.
And it all begins with connecting the data, ingesting that data, enriching the data, getting insights from that data, and ultimately delivering the outcome. And we’re seeing that not only across community use cases, but smart spaces, as Justin referred to, or even a new technology solution that we’ve entered into around biosecurity, where we’re using edge AI and IoT and the robots that you mentioned earlier to bring together a robotic solution to provide food sanitation and safety measures, to not only make sure that we kill things like salmonella or E. coli or listeria, but that we can also look at improving the shelf life of the food itself, so that it can be delivered to farther places without having to worry about high spoilage rates, and ultimately deliver lower cost, both to the shopper as well as to the producer.
Kenton Williston: So, Justin, hearing all of these really interesting examples from Ken is making me wonder, as a technology provider, Intel is doing a lot of work to power these applications. And I should pause here to note that this podcast and the larger insight.tech program are produced by Intel. So, I’m interested, from Intel’s perspective, what you see happening under the hood, as it were, with the evolution of technologies to make all these advances possible. So one of the things, for example, Ken mentioned earlier was OpenVINO. And of course, you have all this great silicon. So, what are the sorts of things that, from your perspective, have been really critical to moving this all forward?
Justin Christiansen: One of the key trends that Ken highlighted that I think has really played our strength and helped us understand how we can support customers better in IoT deployments, and specifically around AI, is that ability to take multiple different data points. You think through the early IoT deployments that we were involved in over the past 5 or 10 years, it was often specialized equipment, specialized software being deployed to drive a specific outcome. And often that was utilizing some accelerator technology that provided the best performance for a single workload, but wasn’t capable of aggregating all of the different workloads that Ken talked about. And what we’ve found is that customers don’t want to deploy different IT devices for every outcome they’re trying to drive from a software perspective. They want the ability to run it all on the same IT device, if possible.
And so we’ve invested in software-optimization tools to make that easier to do, to provide better performance on our technology. We’ve invested in features such as Intel® DL Boost, that we’ve included in the CPU, that provide much better performance on an AI workload. And we’ve made it easier for developers to use the CPU, the integrated graphics, or accelerator technology, all under that framework. And that drives a lot of benefits to our collective customers with the IntelliSite team, because they’re able to use less expensive infrastructure. They’re able to invest in less IT equipment to drive multiple use cases. One of the things Ken and I have talked about a lot recently is the global supply chain challenges. It’s not just harder to find your favorite food or clothes, it’s also difficult for companies to find their favorite technology. And so having the ability to run those applications on easy-to-find, or existing IT infrastructure you already have has proved critical as well.
Kenton Williston: The point you made about supply chains is something that’s been coming up in a lot of recent podcasts. And I think one of the benefits Intel offers is having this very standardized, IT-friendly form, which means that, to your point, rather than having to go get a bunch of different hardware, which not only is expensive but at the moment can be difficult to even accomplish, you can do everything on a unified platform that just makes everything a whole lot easier. So, while we’re talking about how great Intel is, Ken, I’ll let you continue the theme here. And I’d like to hear what your rationale is for using Intel-based technology. And, more broadly, how you’ve benefited from working with Intel.
Ken Mills: I think Justin hit a lot of the high points, right? I mean, having the flexibility as a business owner to choose which platform is the right platform for my customer needs is super important. I mean, if we’re honest, customers really don’t care about which inferencing platform is purchased and which AI model we deploy. They ultimately want an outcome, they want a solution. And having Intel as a partner allows us to find the most compatible solution, the most flexible solution. And oftentimes, to the supply chain comment that Justin made, the most available solution to meet the customer’s timeline and need, so that we can ensure they get what they ultimately need, which is a meaningful outcome that they can make business decisions on and really rely on.
So, we’ve seen this with our ability to deploy all the way to the edge at a smart and safe park, as we’ve mentioned. We’ve seen it all the way in a big data center for a major stadium project, or a big multitenant project, or in the cloud, or a combination of all three, with some of our customers. And even in a solution like the robot for biosecurity, as I’ve mentioned, we have edge inferencing taking in IoT data, as well as doing deep learning analysis of the data coming from those IoT sensors to determine how to deploy the ionization platform from the robot. That’s all driven by edge computing, right? So, many different form factors, many different needs from a customer perspective, many different timeframes, timelines, and expectations that have to be met. And having the flexibility in the portfolio options, as a business owner and a business leader, that Intel provides gives me the confidence that when the customer asks a question, our first answer can be, “Yes.”
Kenton Williston: Yeah, I love that. And one of the other things I heard you mention that I think is very important is the evolution of how computing is done from the perspective of where the compute infrastructure physically lives. There’s been a lot of discussion over the last few years about cloud computing. And I think there’s a very important role for cloud computing and data center deployments, like in the stadiums you mentioned. But also use cases where edge computing, i.e., putting the hardware very, very close to the sensor is very, very close to the space you’re monitoring. I think that’s becoming increasingly important, particularly as the growth of AI is just going everywhere, right? You just need a lot of computing horsepower to be able to do things like execute machine vision algorithms. So, Justin, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on where you see this balance between the edge versus the cloud data center, all these things going for public spaces, and what are the things end customers might want to keep in mind as these computing models are evolving?
Justin Christiansen: It’s an interesting question. And I feel like we often talk about the cloud or the edge. And it really is the cloud and the edge. What we’ve seen from our partners and our customer is they want the ability to be able to provide their customers with the service that their customers want. Sometimes that requires an edge deployment. But sometimes it’s best served from a cost or capacity perspective in the cloud. And oftentimes we see portions of the pizza, if you will, as Ken has called it, but that full solution, that are optimized for the edge for things like latency, or for applications that require a lot of memory, but they’re still integrated with portions of the application running in the cloud or dashboarding running in the cloud. And the reality is we need to be able to provide both to our partners, because they have to provide both to their customers. I think it really just depends on the workload that you’re running, the outcome you’re trying to drive, and the ROI associated with the type of deployment you’re looking at from an edge or cloud perspective.
Kenton Williston: One of the interesting things you mentioned there was about the dashboarding, and all these concepts from the cloud world of doing things as a service. And, Ken, you mentioned the as-a-service model that you’re offering now. And I’d love to hear a little bit more about what that is exactly, and why you’re taking your offerings in that direction.
Ken Mills: You can get coffee-as-a-service from Panera, right? You can sign up for a taco-as-a-service from Taco Bell. There are as-a-service options all around us. Being able to predicatively lock your cost in, and know what it’s going to be, and know what you’re going to get for that cost, and then also getting the benefit of having a company continue to innovate and provide additional features and functionality to you as they become available within that fixed cost is very appealing to both sides of that equation, right? Me, as a business owner I have fixed revenue that I can count on that allows me to invest further in our technology, further in our automation and AI and IoT sensor data and dashboards and all the things that we do, because I know that I have customers that are paying me for that service, and it really motivates me to continue to invest. And those customers get the benefit of that by getting the best product at all times, every time that they need it.
And a great example of that, we had a customer recently where we deployed the solution a handful of months ago, and we’d done some significant additions to features, and UI changes, and added some additional functionality that we thought was really useful to them. So we set up a call and walked them through some of the things that we’re doing and asked if they would like us to turn those features on or set those up for them. And they said, “Oh, I didn’t know you guys could do that.” And we explained to them, “Yep, it’s part of your as-a-service. You’re paying us for the latest, greatest functionality that we develop as a service. So as we make them available to other customers, they’re also available to you.” And you could just see the customer light up, like, “Oh yeah, this totally makes sense. I’m really glad we did that, because now I get these features that I don’t have to go back and get additional funding for, because they’re available and they’re already built into our as-a-service agreement.”
So, we’re very excited about that model. And we’re very excited to have the capital internally to be able to fund that model, right? Because as a business owner you have to prefund all that development, prefund the hardware that goes into these projects, on the promise that it will be paid for over time. And so having that ability and having the financial backing of our investors and our broader company gives us that flexibility to provide that service to our customers. We’re very excited about it, as you could tell.
Kenton Williston: Yeah, absolutely. And that does strike me as being a pretty—and I hate to use this word because it’s overused, but—revolutionary shift in thinking about how to do things like public safety, right? Because those have always been things where you needed another person, you needed another camera, you needed another whatever it was to scale things up, or to do anything differently. And what you’re putting forward is a very different way of looking at things, where it’s like, “Hey, you’ve got this incredibly powerful, capable hardware, and this connection to this dashboard that can be updated. And we can just deploy something new when we come up with something new.” And I think that really opens up a whole new world of possibilities.
Ken Mills: Absolutely. It’s giving the communities access to the best technology when it’s available, and knowing they have a fixed cost of getting that technology. So it really is a whole new way for them to consume technology and ensure that they’re never left behind, which is often the case for public sector, public safety customers is that they don’t often get the latest, greatest opportunities in technologies. And by providing it to our smart and safe community as a service, we’re able to ensure that they are always at the leading edge, or as leading edge as they want to be without having to worry about going back and getting additional budget approval for that functionality. So it’s a great opportunity for them. It’s a great opportunity for us, and we’re very excited to have it. And we see it taking off in many areas across the country, and even outside the US for that matter.
Kenton Williston: Yeah, absolutely. And, again, one of the things I really like about this model is you don’t have to be in LA, or New York, or London to get this stuff. Like you said earlier, you’ve got customers that are much smaller communities or groups of communities that are trying to work together. And it means that they can get the same amazing technology that’s happening in those huge metro areas of millions and millions of people.
Ken Mills: That’s right.
Kenton Williston: So, Justin, this all brings a question to mind for me about what these communities should be looking for in a partner. We’re hearing a lot of things that are pretty interesting and I think unique in IntelliSite’s approach. And I’m wondering what criteria you think are needed in the technology partner to enable successful ventures into smart and safe spaces. And, maybe even more broadly, what if anything communities might want to think about in terms of not just their immediate partner, but the ecosystem that’s behind that partner.
Justin Christiansen: I think there’s a lot to consider. The technology piece we’re focused on, because we’re a technology company. But really when we look at what it takes to provide these types of outcomes to end customers, it really is a large group of partners. So I think the IntelliSite team’s been an amazing ISV partner for Intel. We have channel partners. There’s a lot of systems integrators to deploy this equipment, they tend to be hyper-regionalized. So engaging with the person who’s deploying that video equipment in your favorite city or town in your favorite state, or, again, around the world in different countries, also with partners who can help us co-market, co-sell.
So I know Ken came from Dell. I think Dell’s been an amazing partner, in not only building the technology that we’ve talked about that can provide great outcomes for our customers, but also in co-marketing, co-selling. So it really does take a community of technology vendors, installers. And, at the end of the day, we all are focused on solving the end-customers’ business challenges. And, again, we’ve talked about some of those in smart spaces, but it really scales across all businesses, and the outcomes that technology can drive things to AI is quite vast.
Kenton Williston: Yeah, absolutely. So, we’re getting near to the end of our time together. So I want to give some open-form time to each of you. Because there’s, like you said Justin, so many different things to consider here. And just an open-ended question—and, Ken, I’ll give you the first go at this—if there’s anything else we haven’t covered yet that you think is really critical for the communities you’re serving to consider as we go into 2022?
Ken Mills: This is a great question. And one we can spend a lot of time on by itself. So I’ll try to keep it concise. I think the biggest thing that communities of all sizes—whether you’re a major metropolitan, NFL-type city, or you’re a small, five-thousand citizen, with just a couple schools community, it doesn’t matter—it’s important for all communities of all sizes to really look at the whole solution, and really make sure that they’re not getting locked into proprietary, niche-point solutions that are very limited in their scope and ability to really impact change or bring value to the community. And to really look at solutions that are open and flexible, and allow for dynamic innovation and change that is necessary over a life cycle of any technology project.
And what I’ve seen over and over again in my 20-plus years working with communities at levels is that often the easy button can be the most costly. And it’s important to really explore and evaluate the options that are out there to ensure that you’re getting the whole solution and really what you need to solve, or bring as much value to the community as possible.
Kenton Williston: Yeah, absolutely. Justin, anything you’d like to add to that? And one of the things that I’m thinking about here as a possible consideration for 2022 is just the idea of sustainability. I think that has really risen to the top of many communities’ concerns. So, I’m wondering how sustainability fits into this larger picture of having smarter, safer, connected communities.
Justin Christiansen: Yeah. So, you hit on a few interesting points, Kenton. Just to build on what Ken said, from a technology standpoint, the scalability of the technology you’re deploying is incredibly important, right? What we often find is a customer wants to deploy something at a relatively small scale to see if it works. And if it does work, they quickly want to scale it to something much larger. And I would also add the ability to be flexible in terms of what your technology can provide for you over time. We don’t know what applications or use cases a customer may want to have a year or two down the road, but we want to provide technology that’s capable of serving them after they’ve purchased it. And we talked earlier about smart spaces and the impact that COVID has had with robotics. If you had told me two years ago that I would actually desire to be in a restaurant that had relatively few people and was being served by a robot, I would’ve thought you were crazy, right? That’s actually a somewhat desirable state today.
So I think that flexibility to be able to support new use cases, especially as we see such a rapid transition in how we interact in our daily lives. You mentioned sustainability. Sustainability and ethics, the ethical use of AI, I would say, are two topics that come up in almost every discussion we have now. And there are areas where we’re focused on how can we enable better outcomes from a sustainability perspective? And how can we also do that to the extent that we can, ensuring that there’s an ethical use of that AI technology when it’s deployed?
Kenton Williston: I know this is something we’ve talked about in some of our prior podcasts looking at video technology. If you’re doing facial recognition, how do you make sure that data is secure and you’re not violating people’s privacy? Or, that you don’t have technology that’s racially biased, or any other biases like that? And that’s a very important set of considerations. Again, it’s looping back to what we talked about at the beginning of this podcast—when everything’s said and done, you’re really trying to make human lives better. So you want to make sure the technology ultimately serves that goal. With that, then I’ll just say, Ken, thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate you joining us.
Ken Mills: Yes, sir. Thank you guys.
Kenton Williston: And, Justin, I’d like to thank you as well. Really appreciate your time.
Justin Christiansen: Thank you, Kenton.
Kenton Williston: And thanks to our listeners for joining us. To keep up with the latest from IntelliSite, follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn at IntelliSiteIoT.
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This transcript has been edited by Erin Noble, proofreader.