Mark Lowe | Pinacl | IP Expo 2018

Avatar Sam Dynamou | 29/10/2018

Mark Lowe, Business Development manager of Pinacl has joined us at IP Expo 2018 to talk about how IoT is enhancing Pinacl’s development strategy. Hosted by David Terrar and Steve Denby

David: So our first one is Mark Lowe from Pinacl. Please introduce yourself and your company.

Mark: Morning, Mark Lowe, business development director for Pinacl Solutions, we’re an SME systems integrator.

David: Excellent. So, where do you think that the biggest growth for Pinacl’s going to come in the next 12 months?

Mark: We did a management bio three and a half years ago now and I think since then we’ve had a successful year on year growth and I think really to maintain that going forward, there’s probably about three areas were going to be looking at particular interest. One of them is for us, to manage network infrastructure all things IP, Wi-Fi which is pretty much our sort of experience and heritage. A tactical one for us this next 12 months is going to be the local full fibre network program being rolled out by DCMs for full fibre. And then really the strategic push for us is going to be the continuing area of IoT, Internet of things, and obviously how that helps some of our customers with their digital transformation journeys.

Steve: Okay, how do you think the digital transformation buzz is going to affect IoT in a big way.

Mark: I think IoT is being recognized as disruptive and innovative. We like to think that plays to Pinacl’s strength, that’s what we are. But a transformational solution if you would, is now really encompassing multiple teams, departments, parts of another company. So to really put a true solution forward, you really start to bring people together, different teams to craft, I think, the right solution that clearly meets the business need, along with a solid business case return on investment. I think IoT as well, we now have to be careful about it not to be too generalistic, it means many different things to many different people.

David: Yeah, ask anyone here and you would probably get a different definition for everyone.

Mark: Yeah indeed, and on our journey, we’ve been doing this journey for a while now, and we’ve come across a whole plethora of suppliers, products and solutions. And I think it’s fair to say that many of those don’t actually deliver what they say they will, so I think there’s an element of consideration around IoT. I think people need to be wary of people’s true capabilities, products, reliability and accuracy. We’ve endured a pretty painful journey at times but it’s been immensely powerful as a learning curve for us. And I think it’s one that clearly when we talk to our customers, we can share that learning and it helps them go forward. And I think that the last area is, the continuing evolution of solutions is going to happen, especially around transformation and IoT. I think from our perspective we’ve got a very robust and established social housing solution using IoT and even over the last 12 months now, we’re finding ourselves talking to social care and health organisation’s which was never our intention when we set out on this journey, but it’s the naturally evolving one for us. So it’s interesting to say the least.

David: Maybe tell us a bit more about the social care solution or the other Solutions. We should be expecting from the clinical Center.

Mark: Yeah, I think going forward, we’re certainly going to continue the development of our social housing solution. It’s already out there. It’s established. It’s been running on a number of organizations now. Certainly going to continue the development of the application and the analytics behind all of that. I think for us as well we’ve got a pretty decent credibility around the public sector. So we work with a lot of local authorities and councils, and I think smart cities, smart places, councils are looking to technology now to try and tackle some of these age-old challenges. Such as problems in lighting, traffic, pollution, the environment, housing all of these areas.

David: Now, you’ve got solutions that plug into all those areas.

Mark: Absolutely. Yes, and I think our most recent one is based on that evolution of IoT for us. We just recently launched a social care solution with a new partner of ours, Karantis360, which is very much targeting the solid domiciliary care at the moment, but it’s a strong devolving solution for us and one that we’re very keen to promote.

Steve: So you’re adding value from your experience and putting it in these things together and building it into things people consume.

Mark: Yeah, and going back to that capability or credibility statement I said,  we’ve absolutely got these solutions running now, we’ve got data, we can do live demos of the solutions so I think when we talk about it to customers now, a lot of them are pleasantly surprised how far down the line we are compared to a lot of other people, and that maybe it goes back to some of the hype that we hear around IoT. Scratch beneath the surface of some and it’s maybe not as established as they claim to be, but absolutely yeah, we’re out there doing these solutions for real with real testimonies to back us up, which is great.

Steve: So would you say we’re on that kind of that initial curve, with that in mind as the first in the industry with some of the clients we’re talking to, what do you think the future holds and what’s the next stage going to look like once they get past that kind of initial nervousness?

Mark: I think a lot of people with IoT look at things; proof of concepts and pilots, and we’ve been a strong supporter of that, you know, we accept that that’s a challenge people are not going to just make a leap of faith in a significant way.

David: True for most emerging technology.

Mark: Absolutely. So we’ve been on that journey with the customers we’re helping as much as we can. We’ve made significant investments already along the way which allows us to show proof of concepts and pilots. We don’t need the big order initially. Clearly, we’re seeing that evolve, proof of concept with nice clearly defined success criteria leads onto an evolution anyway.

David: Have you had to reorganize yourselves a bit to kind of tackle the market in that way with proof of concept.

Mark: Yeah, we shifted our focus probably two years ago, myself and our technical director have been pretty much spearheading Pinacl’s portfolio and strategy around IoT and digital transformation. So yeah, it’s been a fantastic journey together.

David: So anything else, you know, what are the next IoT things that we can actually see? kind of real life on the ground interesting things rather than stuff for the future.

Mark: They’re coming from everywhere these solutions. That’s the great thing, the innovation of it. There are solutions coming out all the time. You know, we did a smart city solution with Newport in South Wales and one of the first cases we put out there was road temperature sensors trying, you know, to help the sort of winter maintenance teams. Another data reference for should they grit or not? I think in fairness just IoT in general, it’s just all about growth. I think every stat you may see or hear says it’s a growing trend, you’ve got people proclaiming that really the internet of things now is going to have the greatest impact on society since the first digital revolution. And Pinacl for one, we’re very much looking forward to being and continuing to be in the forefront of that revolution.

David: So I’d argue that it’s one of the components, and I think there are other things like artificial intelligence and blockchain that happening simultaneously, but you’re right. There’s no doubt, that’s a set of emerging technologies, which is actually kind of, I mean, my organisation talks about this whole stuff like a digital enterprise wave. But I think things like IoT and AI are kind of turning that wave into a tsunami. There’s an awful lot of change our customers having to deal with very very quickly.

Mark: Correct, and I think it’s coming. I think we all recognize that but it’s just helping customers along that journey is a powerful and good thing to do, which obviously that’s what we’ve done today.

Steve: Obviously, the two things we’ve just been talking about, IoT, and then the analytic side of it, they are crucially important. It all comes down to data at the end of the day doesn’t it?. How are you handling that with some of your clients?  Are they ready for that conversation about where you going to put your data? How much of it do you keep? How do you analyze it do you sell it? Don’t sell it? You know that kind of stuff?

Mark: I think the greatest impact we’ve had you know is as a managed infrastructure networking heritage organization everything IP. That’s where we’ve come from, but actually, that journey we’ve been on particually around IoT when you actually talk to that end customer and the real benefit of IoT, you could bring it all the way back to that interface, that application. Data is data, it’s power is how it’s presented, how people can interact with it and I think with sensor technology now we’re seeing more and more data becoming real time. So they log into a dashboard, they can see all of their IoT solutions in one place. They can click into them. They look and look at what they are, what the situation is, right this minute. They can look back at the last day. The last week, the last month, the last year even and I think using data then with that combined of analytics and AI looking back’s great but so is the trending and the predictions that you can do with that data. You know housing predicting damp and mould, you know air quality, predicting the impact that it’s having and how long it takes to dissipate. Which elements of air quality the most prevalent in a particular area. All at the click of a button and I think that’s where we’ve seen it. So we found ourselves doing more and more with applications than we have with the network if you would.

David: Which is the way it should be, and obviously the fact that you’re sensing and collecting all of that data that we never dreamed that you could collect so quickly. It’s going to trigger new ideas and new applications.

Mark: Yeah, it’s brilliant. And it’s great our dashboard, our interface, our application that we’ve developed very much. It’s simple, but that’s a good thing when we show customers, they don’t want anything overly complicated. Simple’s better sometimes, but what’s great about it is that our dashboard, since we launched it sort of two years ago nearly, it’s evolution has been direct customer feedback. Not us sat in an office thinking we know better. It’s customers telling us, can it do this? We would like to do that. And that’s been a great support and development aid for us.

Steve: I think it’s one of those Industries where that is going to be the case isn’t it, you know, it’s being driven by need because there’s so many people out there talking about this. They’ve got part of the solution. So as people start to put these together and forward-thinking customers doing the same with the help of people like yourselves . It’s a whole new industry of people growing, isn’t it? Maybe analytics alone is going to be a whole new set of jobs and revenue streams for certain people.

Mark: Yeah, that’s certainly what we’re hoping for.

David: Have you had a chance to look around the show yet or not yet?

Mark: This is my first entry into the into IP Expo. So no, I’m gonna have a look around to see what’s going on.

David: And have you guys got to stand here today?

Mark: Not this time no, we’re hoping to have one this time next year.

David: So you’re just getting around and soaking up stuff to see.

Mark: Yeah. Absolutely.

Steve: Excellent, good stuff. Anything you’ll be looking for in particular here today. Anything outside of IoT?  What else is going on in the industry?

Mark: Yeah, I think just generally picking up on the themes you know, this is what’s good about these places. It’s almost trying to go out there find something I didn’t know about. So rather than things that I do know about, I’ll try and find something I don’t know about. Really trying to keep my learning up to date as much as I possibly can.

Steve: So it’s a task and a half, isn’t it?

Mark: Yeah, my brains not big enough to do all that. That’s for sure.

Steve: How do you deal in Pinacl? How do you keep up to speed on all the IT stuff, it’s exploding at the moment? Do You have somebody in charge of that thing?

Mark: So yeah, I mean, it’s a combined effort, you know, we’ve got technical we’ve got commercial. We’ve got marketing and it’s great. You know, we’re at an SME, you know, we’re turning over, you know as a group it turned over 18 million last year, but that agility for us is everybody’s going towards a common goal. So everybody will drop an email out to someone say oh I came across this. What do we think, and that’s really how we do it. So we just have as many feet out there as we can and as a company, there’s so many people who are interested in technology. They’re our biggest army that we have. 

David: Mark, Thanks for coming and telling us your story. It’s been great fun talking to you.

Mark: Thank you.

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