For the Internet of Things (IoT), the vast majority of hype which gets bandied about is with regards to the sheer number of devices being connected. An article from McKinsey put this number at 127 new devices every second. Yet peel back the first layer of the onion and you get to the connectivity aspect itself, vital in its own right.
Meet 1oT. The company, a provider of cellular connectivity for IoT device makers, is based out of Estonia. The European country has various advanced emerging technology initiatives in place, not least its feted e-Estonia digital society, so it is no surprise that a thriving tech ecosystem exists.
1oT aims to solve the connectivity problem for providers across a global base, saving headaches with separate carriers, SIM cards, and device configurations. Ahead of IoT Tech Expo Global in London later this month, where 1oT is exhibiting, IoT News spoke with Märt Kroodo, CEO and founder of 1oT, around the company’s goals, the roadmap for IoT technologies, and where telcos stand in this new outlook.
IoT News: Hi Märt.Tell us briefly about your career to date and how you came to found 1oT?
Märt Kroodo: I got a Master’s degree in finance from the University of Portsmouth in the UK. Afterward, I kicked off my career in the field of stock analysis, but this got boring after about three years, and I moved over to Ernst & Young. There I focused on consulting with companies on fundraising and M&A activities.
One of the first clients happened to be Click & Grow, an Estonian startup developing urban farming technology. They were in search of another investor, which I failed to find as a consultant, but I decided to join the startup as a team member to finish the job.
During my time at Click & Grow, we moved our headquarters to the US and joined Y Combinator, the world’s most acknowledged startup accelerator that has helped push Dropbox and Airbnb to the market. Additionally, we moved our production to China and raised another 2 million dollars for the company.
One of the investors in Click & Grow was Mobi Solutions, an Estonian company that has launched many services built on top of telecoms, such as Fortumo & Messente. Soon after leaving Click & Grow, I sat down with Mobi Solutions and decided to found 1oT.
IoT: What role does 1oT fill in the market which no other company can provide?
MK: We are a truly independent connectivity provider and the market leader in providing a full eSIM experience for startups & SMEs. There is no other independent eSIM provider that gives a transparent self-service platform, where the client can control their eSIM and compare the pricing of different telecoms. We like to think of it as a telecom “Tinder”. Also, we take great pride in supporting clients with hardware related questions, which at the current stage of eSIM infrastructure is crucial for successful deployments.
IoT: Tell me about 1oT’s usage of eSIM technology as part of the company’s business case? What have prospective customers been saying?
MK: From both prospective or paying customers, we are only hearing positive feedback about our use of eSIM (eUICC) technology. Who wouldn’t enjoy having full flexibility to swap carrier deal over-the-air without the need to change SIM card inside the device? Firstly, prospective customers can be certain of global coverage and reasonable data prices no matter the region. Secondly, they can send their devices to hard-to-access areas because all the management happens over-the-air.
This offers peace of mind that only a few large enterprises have had the luxury to enjoy before. That is also the reason why we became the market leader in providing connectivity to e-scooter sharing companies throughout the world. They needed a quick and scalable solution for getting connectivity to avoid negotiations with different telecoms, different SIM cards & configurations and one flexible service for their global deployments.
Companies today are not buying MBs and GBs from telecoms – they want the full package, from a self-service subscription management platform, flexibility in pricing, to hardware support
IoT: Where do telcos/operators fit in this landscape going forward – as a chunk of their business case has traditionally been in IP, arrangements with infrastructure providers, etc?
MK: From the telco’s perspective, 1oT is bundling smaller IoT and M2M companies together to bring their traffic to telecoms. In this sense, we are considered as a sales channel for telecoms, particularly in the IoT vertical as we have developed very IoT specific product offerings that none of the telecoms can match. Independent middlemen like 1oT are even more crucial in the eSIM world and the market needs non-biased players that integrate many telecoms under one service and therefore we provide value that telecoms cannot offer with their eSIM services alone.
Today, companies are not buying MBs and GBs from telecoms. They want the full package from a self-service subscription management platform, flexibility in pricing and commitments, to competent hardware support.
IoT: Aside from interoperability – what other factors have to be considered before IoT technologies truly become mainstream in your opinion and why?
MK: In the most basic terms, we are trying to make sense of the connectivity world for our customers. Almost all of our customers who used other telecom services before coming to us say that they don’t understand why it all was made to be so complicated.
We are solving the fundamental issue of the IoT market – connectivity. There are 750 telecoms and 1250 virtual telecoms on the market. Additionally, there are multiple GSMA licensed cellular technologies and unlicensed technologies to choose from. Plus, if you only focus on cellular technology, there are countries with permanent roaming restrictions. To complicate matters even more, newcomers like NB-IoT & Cat-M1 are not mature enough due to the lack of roaming agreements.
Our number one goal is to help IoT device makers and service providers with connectivity so that they can focus on their core business. That’s improving the product, supporting their customers, and scaling to new markets, not spending time in contract negotiations with telecoms.
IoT: What role does Estonia have to play as a potential European powerhouse for emerging technology implementation (e.g. IoT connectivity, e-Estonia digital society) in your opinion?
MK: Estonia has been a frontrunner in the early adoption of new technologies and innovative tech solutions. As the telecommunications industry has traditionally been driven by large multinational telecom groups, there has been a lack of innovative and agile companies that have entered the market. We see 1oT as a key example of what the Estonian startup mindset can achieve in this industry as we are bridging the gap between smaller innovative tech companies and the larger telecommunications industry as a whole. At the end of the day, Estonia has already disrupted telecommunication with Skype (it was built in Estonia) and we see that 1oT can do the same with the connectivity side of the telecom world.
Also, there have been many other industries where Estonia has become well known as a European powerhouse, namely software development, and we see this trend expanding into other industries, such as telecommunications and IoT, that may have suffered from new ideas not being able to enter the market as quickly as they should to react to demand.
IoT: What are you looking forward to most at the IoT Tech Expo next month and what are you hoping to gain from the event?
MK: First and foremost, I’m hoping to see new surprising IoT use cases. Secondly, our team is eager to talk to IoT startups who are about to scale their business globally. The crazier idea, the better. Hearing all those plans are strongly driving our team as well. That rapid growth stage is one of the most exciting periods for any company. And it’s exciting to be part of those journeys and support them with their connectivity needs with 1oT’s complete eSIM solution.
Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this? Attend the IoT Tech Expo World Series events with upcoming shows in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.