Branko Milikic is the Founder and CEO of WolkAbout Technology, a company focused on the development of product and tools which enable the building of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. We* spent an inspiring afternoon with him during one of his visits to Brno.
What motivated you to start a business in the IoT domain?
Four years ago, I had a problem with high electricity and heating bills in my home, and I couldn’t find a quality sensor system that would help me with my energy savings. Since I was a CEO of a software development company at the time, I asked my colleagues if we could develop our own solution. It all began with their answer “Let us try”. In a nutshell, I decided to come up with something that would help me in my home, and it turned into my new company.
How would you define the Internet of Things?
“Let’s take all the good stuff from the computing world and use it in our everyday life” could be the definition. Connecting all things around us to the Internet enables us to benefit from data processing power and speed of the modern era. It is a difficult task that we should take responsibly.
How do people perceive the Internet of Things?
IoT is a new industry, and people are usually afraid of new things. However, I am sure that ultimately 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 the IoT.
Why are people still sceptical?
Based on my previous experience, people are often sceptical about costs and benefits. 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 the initial investment. It is true that now the costs of IoT solutions are higher than revenues, but I’ve noticed that people who 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 modernise 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 specialised in IoT can sell the innovation. The innovation itself should rather be present in the companies interested in introducing the IoT. The IoT companies should be there only to enable the technical realisation.
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. Only after that they should connect with the IoT industry and see if their idea is feasible. I’m sure that this is the basis of a proper relationship between the organisations and the IoT companies. This type of relationship will, sooner or later, lead to success. It would be wrong for anyone to expect that the IoT company should do all the work and bring the innovative approach.
Do you think there is a real value for companies in showing an active interest in the IoT?
Of course. It was easier back in the past. In London, for example, some bookstores have been operating for over one hundred years. I doubt that any new business would last for so long, given the fierce competition. The lives of enterprises are becoming increasingly shorter, so they are forced to 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 Internet of Things?
IoT is the 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 an expert in the IoT field. I replied 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 it is heading, but we undoubtedly know that the experience solely will bring greater accuracy and better results. We need to experiment with IoT. It’s not just about profit; it’s about finding innovation.
Which businesses are already having success with the IoT?
Last year we witnessed an IoT boom in the consumer industry. Now you can buy a lot of stuff connected to smartphones, with apps notifying people what’s going on. And this is just the beginning. I am deliberately talking about the consumer market because the industry is still reluctant to the IoT. History proves that the industry is usually the last area in which technological innovations are widely accepted, but eventually – when it happens – it’s going to be a huge thing.