Interview: “Let’s use all benefits that technology offers us,” Branko Milikic, CEO of WolkAbout
What motivated you to start a business in the IoT domain?
After I had finished my Software Engineering studies, I entered the field of IT, where I have been for over 25 years. Four years ago, I had a problem with high bills for electricity and heating in my house, and I was unsuccessful in finding a quality sensor system on the market which would help me in saving money. Since I was a CEO of a software development company at the time, I asked my employees if they could develop our own sensor. They said: “Let us try,” and so it all began. In short, I decided to come up with something that would help me in my home, and at the same time, it was the beginning of my new company.
How would you define the Internet of Things?
“Let’s take advantage of all the good stuff from the world of computing in our everyday life” could be the definition. If we want to benefit from the connectivity and speed of the modern era, we should connect all things around us to the Internet. It is a difficult task that we should take responsibly. We should build a solid foundation which would enable us to develop a high-quality and reliable solution.
How do people perceive the Internet of Things?
IoT is a new industry, and people are afraid of new things. However, I’m sure that in the end, it will bring positive changes not only to the companies but everyday life as well. IoT is not just about reducing costs and saving money; it’s about new high-quality products that people wouldn’t have without the use of new technologies and IoT.
Why are people still skeptical?
My answer is based on the previous experience. I think people are often skeptical about costs. They don’t believe they will have enough benefits from the IoT solutions to repay their costs, so they won’t be able to withstand what they have initially invested. It is true that now the costs of IoT solutions are higher than revenues, but from my experience, I know that people, who actually use IoT solutions, see its potential and know that their investment will pay off. Sensors are becoming cheaper every day, technology is getting faster, so I’m sure that we’re heading in the right direction.
Where do companies usually make mistakes?
They often try to find the cheapest route. It is not a strategy that brings the best results.
What is the first step a company should take?
Innovativeness is a success for me per se. Whether you want to modernize a traditional business or introduce the IoT solution to the most modern enterprise, you must have an innovative approach. I don’t think that companies specialized in IoT can sell innovation. Innovation must be present in the businesses interested in IoT, and IoT companies should be there only to enable the technical realization.
Can you be more specific?
For example, cities that want to provide a better quality of life for their citizens through better transportation, water or heating systems, should have a clear idea what they want and how they want it, and then they should connect with the IoT industry and see if it’s feasible. I’m sure that this is the basis of the proper relationship between the organizations and the IoT companies that will lead, sooner or later, to success. It would be wrong for anyone to expect the IoT company to do all the work and to bring the innovative approach.
Do you think there is a real value for companies in showing an active interest in the IoT?
Of course, back in the past, it was easier. In London, for example, some bookstores are operating for over 100 years. I doubt that any new business would last on the market for so long. The lives of enterprises are becoming increasingly shorter, so you must do something more. If you want to survive on the market, you should be fast and offer added value. You must be innovative to keep the market share and withstand the competition.
What is there yet to come in the world of the Internet of Things?
We’ll see! IoT is an industry in its infancy. I have recently spoken with the CIO of Lufthansa, a company which has introduced a lot of IoT solutions during the last few years. He asked me if I consider myself being an expert on the IoT. I said I don’t. He said the same thing too, although both of us have five or more years’ experience in this field. No one knows the future of the IoT and where exactly it is going, but we surely know, undoubtedly, that the experience solely will bring greater accuracy and better results. We need to think about IoT and experiment with it. It’s not just about money; it’s about finding innovation. Who knows, maybe it is closer than we think.
Which businesses are already having success with the IoT?
Last year we witnessed IoT boom in the consumer industry. Fridges have displays connected with smartphones, which send messages that there’s no more beer. This is just the beginning, which will move us forward. I am deliberately talking about the consumer market because the industry is still reluctant to the IoT. History confirms that the industry is usually the last area in which technological innovations are widely accepted, but eventually – when it happens – it will be a huge boom.
(c) istockphoto.com/ nikada | MATJAZ SLANIC