Wendy, as Chief Marketing Officer, you’ve led the overall rebranding of Echelon. Tell us about the process.
Toth: We recently turned our company resources entirely toward the very compelling industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) market. The most visible outcome of that strategy change was to sell our grid business to S&T AG, which we announced on October 1 of this year. The sale will allow us to singularly focus on the IIoT market, rather than splitting our efforts between two markets, as we did before. We can now target our product portfolio and our entire brand on the IIoT.
The second most visible outcome of that strategy was that we acquired an outdoor lighting company called Lumewave. The acquisition brings some interesting new products into our portfolio, mainly RF and wireless products that we didn’t have. Also, we now have Lumewave’s manufacturers' reps in the United States that expands our sales channel. So today, we are able to offer customers outdoor lighting solutions for both wired and wireless capabilities and reach the North American market as well as the international market, into which we have been selling for some time.
When did you start the rebranding process?
Toth: It started in the fall of 2013 when we announced our IzoT platform, designed to accelerate the adoption of the IIoT. We released beta versions of our IzoT multi-protocol stack for the ARM architecture with example reference implementations for the popular Raspberry Pi development platform.
Then, in early 2014, we created an evaluation kit targeted at developers who are creating, testing and deploying devices and control applications for the IIoT. This IzoT-in-a-Box evaluation kit includes evaluation boards based on the FT 6050 System-on-Chip (SoC), a router to connect the FT-based device network to Ethernet, development tools to develop devices and applications on the boards, and software to commission and manage the device network.
Is the Industrial Internet of Things market new to Echelon?
Toth: Not at all. Our DNA and our core competencies have always been in the IIoT space, or what we used to call “control networking.” But when you add a little dash of IP and a little dash of cloud, control networking 2.0 becomes the Internet of Things. There are a couple of markets that we've played historically in, that are really strong, and that are emerging. You'll see Echelon’s roots in building automation, in lighting and in transportation end-to-end, that type of thing.
What’s happening in the outdoor lighting space?
Toth: The fastest-growing market segment in the IIoT is outdoor lighting on campuses: university campuses, schools, hospital campuses, corporate campuses, malls, shopping areas and so on. Lumewave has done a very good job of understanding and creating products for those markets. Some of Lumewave’s notable deployments are with the University of California campuses in Davis, Irvine, and Santa Barbara. California State University at Fullerton is another one. The City of San Francisco has quite a few deployments of Lumewave products, as does the VacaValley Hospital in California.
Will the building-automation market take off for Echelon with this new IIoT direction?
Toth: We think so. As you know, Echelon has had tremendous success over the years in building automation with our control networking systems supporting the LonWorks protocol. In the past 12 months, what you have seen is our shift from single-protocol support to the multiprotocol IzoT system, which is truly an enablement platform. The building automation market is looking for ways to bridge the disparate protocols on their legacy devices with today’s IP protocols. Platforms like our IzoT help building owners gracefully migrate both legacy devices and new devices into the IIoT. And our multiprotocol environment vastly reduces the R&D investments our OEMs need to make to support LonWorks, BACnet, and other protocols used in building automation.
Does Echelon compete with GE and Cisco, companies that also talk about the Industrial IoT?
Toth: We see ourselves as complementary to enabling the vision that GE and Cisco and other companies are putting out there.
Think of Echelon as sitting in the devices at the edge of the network. We talk a lot about small data being turned into big data, which is another area that you'll hear GE talk a lot about. Without small data, there is no big data. That small data is coming from the field bus devices that are at the edge of the network.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this interview where Toth describes the marketing changes that are part of rebranding Echelon.