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Meshed, an IoT Evolution Expo Gold Sponsor, is Empowering Smarter Cities and Industries with Sustainable IoT Solutions

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Smart installations powered by the Internet of Things — home environments, networks, meters, grids, and much more — are made possible by the innovation-inclined teams behind the scenes. They enable personal conveniences and full-blown industrial solutions alike to become realized through continual connectivity advancements in IoT.

One such team can be found at Meshed, a LoRaWAN IoT network provider that enables smart communities through future-forward IoT offerings.

Ahead of this year's IoT Evolution Expo (taking place from February 13-15 at the Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida), we got the chance to speak with Catherine Caruana-McManus, co-founder and Director of Sales and Strategy at Meshed (who works alongside Paul McManus, fellow co-founder and General Manager of IoT Solutions at Meshed). The IoT solutions provider is a Gold sponsor at this year's expo, and we were able to speak with Catherine about a great many smart community-centric topics ahead of the event next month.

(Notably, in addition to sponsoring, Meshed's Catherine Caruana-McManus and Paul McManus will be speaking alongside OXIT CEO Josh Cox in an IoT Evolution Expo panel conversation taking place on Tuesday, February 13. The session will cover how using LoRaWAN to connect smart cities has enabled communities to gather valuable data and develop smart IoT applications that better enable community services and support the infrastructure necessary to gather necessary data.)

Below details our in-depth IoT conversation:

What recent news or innovations in your products or services would you like to share?

We have recently launched our unique “out of the box” Smart Cities & Industrial IoT solutions for North American markets after servicing Australia and Southeast Asian customers over the last eight years.

The Meshed IoT Solution is a fully managed offering designed to provide industries and cities with real-time datasets for critical use cases.

The three solutions we are now offering for the U.S. include:

Meshed Smart Cities Starter Kit

Despite the proliferation of smart cities solutions by thousands of vendors over the past 10 years or so, cities are still struggling with how to simply and securely implement accurate and scalable IoT solutions that can address their real-time data pain points.

Meshed has uniquely solved this challenge by assembling a powerful, fully managed kit using LoRaWAN with all the foundational building blocks of a Smart City Solution. In short, the city gets the data they need and Meshed looks after the technology. The Meshed Smart Cities Starter Kit includes access to a LoRaWAN Network Server (with the option of using both private and/or public access connectivity models), a range of popular smart city and asset management sensors, a cloud-based data reporting tools and ongoing technical support.

nCounter Pedestrian Counting Solution

Currently, cities often lack sufficient data on existing pedestrian movements or behaviors to fully understand how public spaces and assets are being used for maintenance, safety, environmental and economic development purposes.

Typical assets addressed by Meshed's people-counting solution include, major buildings, sporting fields, public transportation, parks, community events and tourism hotspots. While there are other digital “people-counting” technologies available out there (such as public Wi-Fi, video/camera analytics, and object sensing), these techniques tend to have high infrastructure costs, require a ton of power, and rely on IP networks, which are increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks.

To solve this problem, Meshed designed and built a low-power, non-camera based, people-counting solution which utilizes a combination of smartphone, WIFI and LoRaWAN communications technologies to provide 24/7 people-counting data, suitable for both indoor and outdoor placements.

Industrial IoT Kit

Expanding from the Smart Cities Starter Kit, we're introducing our Industrial IoT Kit, a plug-and-play solution for real-time equipment and machinery monitoring, enhancing efficiency, and enabling predictive maintenance and intelligent asset management in the U.S. and beyond.

The kit includes a selection of preconfigured industrial grade sensors supported by an enterprise grade managed LoRaWAN network, cloud hosted dashboard, data integrations and technical support. 

What is the greatest value proposition for IoT today?

Catherine Carauna-McManus

Personally, I believe it is the ability for people who are responsible for day-to-day operations and asset maintenance to be able to do a lot more with a lot less. With remote asset monitoring, significant cost reductions and safety outcomes can be realized. For example, with COVID-19 we saw a huge surge in calls from city managers who wanted to use our solutions for them to monitor public places, toilets, bins and queues. (This was so they could then improve the hygiene of their public places while not putting their staff in harm's way.)

What key trends are impacting the IoT industry today and what opportunities are they creating?

A couple of key trends we are seeing now are:

  1. Convergence of IT with OT – In the industrial and operations/asset management sector, reliability engineers are now collaborating with traditional IT. This is a really good move, as it is enabling the organizations to view their smart operations more holistically. It is breaking down the data siloes within organizations as real-time data feeds are informing not just SCADA, but also digital twins, GIS, AI/BI, ERP etc. 
     
  2. Convergence of IoT with AI – With eight years’ experience in deploying LoRaWAN networks and tens of thousands of sensors, we now have the amazing opportunity to apply machine learning (ML) and AI across these data sets to better advise our customers on what they can expect with their deployment. From a customer perspective, they are able to use great tools (such as ChatGPT) to help them with better defining their requirements across best-of-breed practices in security, data management and integrations, network protocols etc. 

How are those trends shaping your products/services?

Recently, we have done a complete review of the current and future functionalities of our cloud hosted dashboard, which our customers use for sensor metadata as well as payload results. We see significant opportunities to enhance the features and functionality of this critical tool using ML across multiple sensor datasets to refine implementations as well as single out the most useful sensor metrics and parameters. 

Opportunities are often accompanied by challenges. What are the biggest challenges businesses face in IoT deployments, and how are you helping solve those challenges?

IoT is still seen as many, many parts to put together (e.g. sensors, networks, applications, data integrations, and data platforms/visualisations). As well as real-time data sets are being generated but they are not being effectively used due to lack of awareness of the value and/or the inability to seamlessly integrate with existing business systems.

Back in 2018, we saw this challenge as a significant opportunity and created the world’s first “out of the box” Smart Cities Starter Kit using LoRaWAN. The kit includes pre-configured gateways, sensors, a cloud hosted dashboard, technical support, uptime SLAs and data integrations to customer systems. We went from having five cities to now more than 70 starting their IoT journey with the Meshed Managed solution, many of which have scaled significantly in terms of network coverage as well as use cases.

Additionally (back in 2021), we created the Industrial IoT Starter Kit using the same principles and this has helped us to push into the mining and manufacturing sectors. 

One trend we are seeing is that product companies are now offering services thanks to IoT. How has managed services impacted your offerings?

From our "Meshed Day 1", Meshed IoT has provided real-to-life solutions. We were the first systems integrator globally to provide this new "plug-and-play smart cities solution" which included hardware, network, data visualisations and integrations (with the benefits of also providing technical support and SLAs on uptime and performance).

IoT has matured significantly over the past five years, and focusing on the outcome of what the real-time data will achieve is more important than trying to sell a specific sensor or network. We can now offer 100+ IoT solutions across the categories of smart cities, intelligent asset management and environmental monitoring. 

The customer, the way we see it, is not interested in what the sensors do or the technical differences between different cellular or LPWANS. Customers and/or the Demand Side just want to solve a problem and a realistic outcome. For example:

  • What is the current state of their assets/performance metrics in order predict end-of-life failure?
  • What power or water consumption is required to run their plant/operations?
  • How often do they need to empty the street bins?
  • How often are the playgrounds used in public parks and places?
  • How many people attended (or have waitied/are waiting for) a particular town hall event? 

Like all industries, the IoT industry has been having its share of supply chain issues. What adjustments have you made and how has it changed your business?

Over the past two years, we have greatly diversified our LoRaWAN device supply chain. We have also been able to work with valued suppliers in providing forward order estimates so that when we place order we are prioritized. 

eSIM and the SGP .32 eUICC standard are being offered, but adoption has been slow. Are you taking advantage of this ability? How is it changing or will it change your procedures on bootstrapping an IoT device in the field?

These protocols are not quite as relevant to our business, as we us RF LoRaWAN. A benefit of LoRaWAN is that the sensors do not have SIMs – the customer doesn’t pay for a carrier plan.

However, eSIMs are just the next generation of remote configuration of cellular devices, and I suspect that they will provide benefits of remote provisioning as well as saving precious space.

Furthermore, our devices are pre-configured before they are sent to site. We can successfully undertake remote configurations, despite the very small payloads of LoRaWAN sensors. The sensors (as soon as they are installed) will report to the dashboard, hence the customer doesn’t have to worry about installation at all.

We are a long way away from 6G, but the general trends are in line with the expectation that hybrid networks (using private, public, LoRa, Wi-Fi) are the future. How are you using multiple networks in your IoT implementation?

Meshed has been working with hybrid networks since 2016.We were the first LoRaWAN provider in Australia to deploy public access (a.k.a. free to connect) IoT networks and our networks now cover all major metro and regional populations.These networks are running in conjunction with cellular and satellite networks. Despite the hype around 5G, there are still many parts of a site/port/plant/city that cannot get connectivity to a sensor using cellular technologies.This is where RF is complimentary, as it can provide that last mile of connectivity and the data can be easily integrated into the customers IoT platform.

Artificial Intelligence is being developed for all sorts of analysis. AI with IoT is often discerning information from sensor data. What innovations do you expect to see as a result of AI with IoT and how does it change workflows?

With many years' worth of experience in deploying LoRaWAN networks and tens of thousands of sensors, we now have the amazing opportunity to apply (as previously mentioned) ML and AI across these data sets to better advise our customers on what they can expect with their deployment. This will enable more efficient processes as well as enable reliability engineers greater graduality as to how their plant is performing and equip their teams with 24/7 data. 

From a customer perspective, they are able to use great tools like ChatGPT to help them with better defining their requirements across best-of-breed practices in security, data management and integrations, network protocols, etc. 

Data quality is more vital than ever. What role does your company play in managing, securing and utilizing data generated by IoT devices?

Meshed uses global best practices in data management and security. We have an excellent reporting tool, one which enables us to see the status of sensors 24/7 and we make this tool available to our customers. We are always seeking to improve our processes and are able to provide in country data sovereignty as required. 

Please share a success story or two about how your IoT products/solutions have helped customers navigate challenges and turn them into opportunities.

Smart Cities Case Studies

Region-Wide LoRaWAN Networks: Meshed has accrued experience in deploying large-scale LoRaWAN networks. This has been demonstrated with the Smart Shires network in Victoria, which (combined with adjacent networks) is one of the largest contiguous LoRaWAN networks in Australia.

Smart Places: For the city of Melbourne, Meshed deployed a LoRaWAN solution for street benches, playground and parks. By utilizing real-time data generated from a low-cost sensor, the city was able to see their newly installed “smart bench," which was used 5.8 times more than the older traditional street bench.

People Counting: Meshed has deployed hundreds of nCounter devices across Australia and Southeast Asia for cities and municipalities (ranging from monitoring of public parks to major tourism locations). nCounter is also being used in Singapore Government Housing & Development Board projects to monitor utilization of communal spaces for their residential properties including aged care housing.

Industrial IoT Case Studies

Major Steel Manufacturer:

Meshed has designed and implemented private managed LoRaWAN networks across all Bluescope’s operations in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and the U.S. and we have an ongoing role in network expansion and IoT device supply. The LoRaWAN networks support a wide range of applications, including vibration, temperature, level and pressure monitoring, trending and triggering of alerts and alarms.

Colin Robertson, Digital Transformation Manager – Asset Management with BlueScope ASP has stated:

“We didn't have an understanding of LoRaWAN, so we had to rely heavily on Meshed. Now, whenever we want to bring a device onto the network, they preconfigure it and send it to us ready to connect. That's been a real benefit to us, in terms of getting the acceptance of the technology. It almost becomes plug and play."

Robertson added, “We see LoRaWAN having huge potential for our business. It's been proven here at Port Kembla, and we’ve proved it works in Western Port, as well. Our experienced maintenance and operations people always like to know more about their plants, and LoRaWAN has allowed us to fill some of these gaps.”

“And based on the success of LoRaWAN, our applications continue to grow,” he concluded. "We’re moving all our water meters around the Port Kembla site to LoRaWAN. So instead of someone (on a near-monthly basis) going around the site and taking readings, we've now got 130 water meters transmitting that data."

As an IoT company, what is the hardest part of getting your message out?

Meshed is a very small company in size, so we have to compete with major telcos and SIs. Issues include lack of reach, marketing budget and profile. However, once we get in front of the customer, our success rate to conversion is extremely high. We are hoping to raise our profile by attending major U.S. conferences and expos like IoT Evolution Expo 2024, as well as leverage speaking engagements at global events to seek new prospects. We heavily rely on LinkedIn, as well. 

Where do you see the IoT space in a few years? Where do you see change or evolution or widespread success (or failure)?

  • Future Adoption: We predict there will be wider-spread adoption of managed private networks, and key to that in our industry is aligning with best practice security and data management.
     
  • Interoperability: Unfortunately, the industry is still not always comfortable with interoperability, as each vendor is trying to push their respective technologies. This has to change, as there are significant opportunities if we work together instead of competing and adopt standardization. 
     
  • Impacts of AI and ML – a.k.a. by using the real-time data that has already been collected to inform implementations (as well as improve the quality of the sensors, their metrics and parameters).
     
  • Connectivity: We have to get cellular (LTE and NB-IoT) and 5G solutions working in concert with LoRaWAN, as they are complimentary. I am really excited about the potential of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite communications; however, pricing is still a major issue. 

What are you most looking forward to at IoT Evolution Expo 2024?

We are most looking forward to networking and meeting key individuals in the U.S. IoT industry, as well as showcasing solutions and finding new partners for these solutions. (We'd also like to find U.S.-based sensor suppliers, and we'd like to show the U.S. just how smart and future-forward an Australian IoT company can be!)

Also, there's a lot of synergy-centric opportunities to explore in the U.S., particularly in smart cities, as well as in mining, infrastructure and agriculture sectors.

(We even happen to have some very cute giveaways of Australian animals – koalas and kangaroos, specifically, for those that come to our booth. We will be wearing our authentic Akubra Hats to stand out!)

What is your session and why is it a must-attend at IoT Evolution Expo 2024?

My topic on February 13 is:

The Industrial IoT Conundrum

Industrial IoT applications often involve complex connectivity problems such as remote locations, device mobility, electrical interference, etc. This session will explore how remote asset management and real-time data acquisition can be achieved by leveraging LoRaWAN as complimentary to established cellular, satellite and control systems. With success stories of how industries are achieving great results via IoT. 

This session is a must-see, as I’ll showcase global case studies demonstrating how IoT and intelligent asset management practices are revolutionizing vital industries such as mining, transport, ports, manufacturing and infrastructure. (With valuable insights on lessons learned across our eight years of IoT implementations.)

Moreover, Paul McManus will be speaking on the topic of:

Enabling a Smart Community.

Using LoRaWAN to connect a smart city has enabled communities to gather information, develop applications and enable cities to better maintain their services. This session looks at the ways cities, citizens and travellers benefit from enabling the infrastructure for data gathering. 

Attendees are sure to be impressed with the range of use cases that Meshed has undertaken (with over 70 cities to date, as well as the unique business model we use that is disrupting the major telcos).

Why are you participating at IoT Evolution Expo 2024 and what are you highlighting at your booth?

We are proud Gold sponsors of the event because we see this as the peak business and industry IoT event in North America! We hope industry leaders will come to our Booth #271 to see live demonstrations of real-time data sets across smart cities, asset management and environmental monitoring.




Edited by Alex Passett
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