Season 1, Episode 5
CES 19 Stephen Taylor of WISER Systems
WISER Systems attended CES in 2018 and they are back in 2019 with their Real-time asset tracking in any environment.
Joining Janet Kennedy on the podcast is Stephen Taylor, Communications Director of WISER Systems
About This Episode
Announcer: 00:00 You’re listening to Trade Show Live! On the Road, featuring conversations with the people who bring trade shows to life, including attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, and trade show, industry thought leaders. We attend trade shows around the country and a wide variety of industries from healthcare consumer products and everything in between. The podcast is a production of The Trade Show Manager, a trade show consulting firm, and now let’s go on the road with Trade Show Live.
Janet: 00:27 Welcome to Trade Show Live! On the Road. This podcast is a production of the trade show manager and features an in depth look at the people, companies, and organizations that bring trade shows to life. In January 2019, we are headed to CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, with an amazing group of startups and business leaders will be in Eureka Park and displaying some of the best new ideas coming from the startup community in North Carolina and one of those happens to be why their systems. They joined us for our CES startup pavilion in 2018 and our back for more at CES with me, his director of communications, Stephen Taylor. Stephen, welcome to the podcast.
Stephen: 01:13 Thank you, Janet. I’m so happy to have Wiser back again. It validates that CES is viable even for a smaller startup and when I say smaller startup, we know that CES takes over the whole of Las Vegas and we’re in a place called Eureka Park, which is where all the startup activity is and it’s incredibly exciting, but there are 800 booths there, so the fact that you guys went last year and were able to make an impact in this arena is really impressive to me.
Janet: 01:45 Now. You weren’t actually at the show last year, but we’ll be this year, but as you were back managing the social media and a lot of the live communications, what was it like for you? What? What were you sensing about the energy and the activity at the booth?
Stephen: 02:00 Well, the first thing I noticed for sure was that just by virtue of being listed as an exhibitor at CES, we experienced a huge spike in web traffic, so I was monitoring that at home. We had more than 100 percent additional web traffic to what we expected for that month, which was amazing. And then seeing on social media, the amount of buzz we got there was also kind of very, really energizing and exciting. So even though I didn’t get to talk face to face with new prospects, new potential customers, it was evident really quickly that we were getting some traction with something.
Janet: 02:40 Oh, that is exciting. Now you are of all the companies that we took last year, probably the one most vested in social media and communications and in really embracing the idea that you were going to CES. And thank you very much for that. as a social media person, I’m very pleased to see that and you are also doing it again this year. I appreciate that. But I’d love to talk a little bit more about last year. so you said your web traffic was up and you really feel it was because you were listed in the CES directory as an attendee. Did you see that before you even got to the show? Or was it a result during and after the show?
Stephen: 03:18 Well, we saw both. Well, are really all three before, during and after. We knew before that we already were getting some traffic specifically from the CES website and then during the show we saw a big boost after the show that continued for maybe maybe as much as a week or two while we did follow ups to people we’d met and things like that. So it really was from December when we first started tracking this through to the end of January, almost a few weeks after the show.
Janet: 03:51 And how does that compare to other shows that you’ve attended? Because you are one of the organizations in the Startup pavilion, the North Carolina’s Startup Pavilion who did attend previous trade shows. You had been going to some trade shows. So kind of compare the two situations.
Stephen: 04:09 Trade shows are our main way of identifying leads and meeting potential customers and potential partners. So that’s a big part of our marketing plan and I think it’s fair to say we’ve never gone to a show where we didn’t meet some potential customer or find some kind of benefit, in our sales process or our partnership process. But what was really unique about CES was, well, a, the size, it was five times as big as any show I had gone to, and then the breadth of different customers. A lot of the other shows are really specific, like manufacturing technology or Internet of things software. but from CES we had people coming to us from all kinds of verticals, a bunch of really different and disparate industries. and so that was, that was really cool because we’re a kind of a technology kind of an industry agnostic system. And so we can, we can work in a lot of different verticals and it’s hard to find a show where you can find people in so many different different industries.
Janet: 05:17 Oh, excellent point about CES. I do think that that’s something that folks should realize is that while it’s referred to as the consumer electronic show, what it really is, is the cool new idea show. And there are all kinds of people. They’re looking for cool new ideas.
Stephen: 05:32 And we had consumers who saw something cool about our technology, but a lot of other businesses as well, a lot of professional groups that we crossed paths with their. So , it definitely is a gathering point for all kinds of technology organizations.
Janet: 05:49 I think people who are not familiar with Wiser might want to know a little bit more about what you do. So can you describe what the Wiser System is?
Stephen: 05:58 So Wiser Systems as a company, we deliver real time asset location and tracking in pretty much any environment. What we deliver to customers is a system of software and hardware components to create a wireless mesh. And then within that Mesh you can track our small asset tracking tags which you can affix to pretty much any physical asset. So a lot of companies, when they say asset tracking or management, they mean like digital inventories. We mean we’re literally finding physical things and then showing you digitally where they are in a physical space. . So that’s really what we do it how you use the data, how our end customers use the data varies quite a bit. Well, we really focus on is giving a system that can quantify the motion and the location and the movement histories of all these different physical assets.
Janet: 06:56 No, I can see a lot of applications for this, whether it is tracking high value items that you don’t want to lose to internal issues as well as just being much more efficient about finding things in the warehouse.
Stephen: 07:12 We see also quite a variety of use cases. Some people that track kind of low value assets but that are really useful. For instance, something that could be that doesn’t cost a lot of money but could be dangerous if it’s left out or just could expire if it’s left out. Then we have other people who who take the approach well we have really valuable things. Valuable pieces were manufacturing. A lot of our consumer kind of angles would be high value assets in the home, like laptops, safety boxes in jewelry, whatever it is that you want to know where it’s located. All kinds of use cases that way.
Speaker 2: 07:51 Now with Consumer Electronics Show a lot of the things in Eureka Park, which is the startup part of cds, they’re just about ready for consumers, so are you actually ready to go on the shelf in stores? Will it always be purchased directly from wise your systems?
Stephen: 08:10 That’s a good question and that’s one of the future will tell. We’ve talked about a few different ways how this might go forward. Our bread and butter has really been selling this to businesses B-to-B sales model. Putting this in the hands of companies that can use it, but one of our big advantages as a system is it’s extremely easy to use. It’s really easy to set up. You don’t have to permanently install any infrastructure, you just deploy the devices and start running the software. It’s really a matter of moments to get it going. So again, I don’t know if this is going to be on shelves for consumers soon, but if it were, I think a lot of people could use it pretty quickly.
Janet: 08:54 I was at CES last year when you were demonstrating, and I have to say that the interactive live nature of your demo was really drawing a lot of attention, not the least of which, because you had a little mascot helping you out.
Stephen: 09:09 Yes. Wisely. The Hour, which I wish I could demonstrate through a podcast, but, this was one of Dr. Rideout our CEO’s ideas was rather than just tracking our little tags that look pretty boring as they’re intended to be unobtrusive and just be useful, she puts this tag on a stuffed owl. It’s about a foot tall and we’ll carry it around the show. And so people can see wisely the owl moving around. And then if they walk by our screen, they can see a colorful, kind of heat map of, where has the Owl, how long has it stayed there? And all of that. And we have found this kind of a approach of demonstrating the technology to work in virtually every show we’ve gone to. It does interest people to see, well, why are you walking around with an owl and what is that about? And so we move on Dr Rideout’s part.
Janet: 10:03 Absolutely. Well, you know, and it’s, it’s interesting because there are definitely products that have a lot of buzz, you know, people who were doing things with robots and drones that got a lot of attention, but there’s a ton of things at CES that are more, you have to visualize what is happening and you have to kind of picture in your own head what the value is because it is more technology behind the scenes. So by using wisely, you were able to immediately draw attention to yourselves and yet not be obtrusive to the booths right next to you, the partners with the North Carolina Startup pavilion or the booths that you are walking through and around. It was you were just passing through and yet all eyes were on you. It was a very, very cool way to demonstrate your product quickly and easily. Well done.
Stephen: 10:53 Well thank you. Thank you for that. We’re excited to do that again in just a few weeks now.
Janet: 10:58 Well, now that you’re heading to CES and you were doing live social media from back in Raleigh, North Carolina, do you have any different ideas of how you’re going to approach your activity at CES because now you’re on the floor talking to customers too?
Stephen: 11:15 Yes. This will be a different experience for me for sure. Since I haven’t gone to this show before and also we’re. We’re going to be demonstrating some some things that we haven’t shown at CES. We haven’t shown it other shows before, so it’s going to require a lot of preparation. We’ve been spending a lot of time internally scheduling out meetings with companies we want to see with people we want to see there at the show, planning out our social media content so that you know, we’re not trying to come up with it on the fly while we’re there. I imagine we’ll have a couple long and busy days there with the moving pretty fast paced. Especially from what I hear from my colleagues who went last year when we’re really busy just talking to people on the floor.
Janet: 12:01 I will say that your bowl of chocolate also drew a lot of people, many of them just wanted chocolate and, and I think your team might have lived on chocolate. I think they might’ve lived on it for three days.
Stephen: 12:16 Oh, that is the trade show way. Sometimes that’s been the case that other shows that I’ve attended as well.
Janet: 12:22 So the Wiser system is one that I think is really unique because you actually do it in real time and it isn’t about last positioning. Right. So, the interesting thing is you can actually watch the items moving around as opposed to other systems aren’t that in the moment? Correct.
Stephen: 12:45 That’s right. I think a lot of, a lot of us probably assume this is kind of a common thing, you know, if you, if you watch a spy movie and you see some operative goes into an enemy base and their boss can see exactly where they are in real time or, something like that, that’s really hard to do no matter how much we see that in the media. This is a really rare technology that hasn’t really come to fruition and a lot of markets yet, but that is what we do rather than like a bar coding system or passive RFID where you have to manually scan and see where the item was at this time. We are showing where it is right now and doing it in inch level coordinates instead of just the proximity to the last weekend or anything like that. So it is unique for sure.
Janet: 13:32 Well, I’m. One of the ways that we watched it being set up is you actually use your technology to an essence, create a tracking zone. So obviously working with a manufacturing plant that’s pretty straight forward. You got a big giant square box and you’re putting these capture devices. I’m here’s the layman’s explanation of your system, but you’re basically putting these data collection points around to define the area. How large an area can you actually define for your system?
Stephen: 14:06 Well, theoretically there’s not a limit on that. The biggest areas we’ve done have been multi-hanger aerospace complexes and so those have been few hundred thousand square feet, all told. A lot of our areas are smaller, but all you have to do to grow that area is add a few antennas, a few points in the mesh as it were, and you can continue expanding again theoretically to no limit.
Janet: 14:33 Oh, that’s fascinating. So it’s really pretty straightforward and it just means mounting one of your antennas on something just a little above hand reach so they can’t be pulled down. Or does it matter how high they are?
Stephen: 14:46 Depending on what you’re tracking, the height will make a difference and it’s a lot of times it’s easier, especially if you can set them up high, high on the wall or above head level. Then you know there’ll be less interference with crowds walking by or obstacles moving around. Like in our industrial applications, we try to set them up fairly high just so that we don’t have forklift’s driving in front of the antenna and obscuring it or potentially knocking it down or you know, or whatnot. But there’s a lot of ways you can do that. You can do them lower and still get some, some good tracking results as well. In our office building, we can’t put them very high because we have a normal size ceiling and that works fine as well.
Janet: 15:27 Oh, that’s interesting. At CES, of course you’re in a giant trade show, so you could go pretty high up in, in the Sands. The exhibition hall is very tall, so if I recall correctly, your team was grabbing one of those tall bar stools in walking around to fix them before the show opened. And honestly nobody even noticed they were there. They just blended into the background.
Stephen: 15:51 They are pretty unobtrusive, like you mentioned before with the demo. The hardware itself is like that too because it’s really small and it’s lightweight and again, they’re, they’re not permanent. We don’t have to tear up a wall to put these in which, which is one of the things that makes the system so useful that we can deploy it. And then if we want to move it takes a matter of moments to do that.
Janet: 16:13 So speaking of deploying it, if you were to sign a new customer that had a really big warehouse system, how long would it take for you to get the system set up and would you be doing it yourselves or would you have the client do it?
Stephen: 16:27 We’ve done some of some of both. I guess typically one of our engineers will go on site to start that process and at the very least we’ll teach some of their tech people, either it or if they have integration engineers, one of our engineers will teach them kind of how this goes, how to optimize the system. But we’ve had people go and do that themselves after getting some training from us all. A lot of times how long it takes will just depend on if they roll out the whole space, the whole facility at once. A lot of our customers end up doing small zones first, you know, we’ll just do this part of the hanger first or we’ll just do this part of the warehouse initially and then we’ll add points as we go so we can optimize in stages rather than trying to troubleshoot all at once and that seems to work pretty well in all the cases so far.
Janet: 17:17 So in the case of a warehouse where you’re just dealing with say boxes, what is the little item like that you are attaching to I guess the box?
Stephen: 17:27 So the the items are tracker tags. You can think of this as kind of like a little key fob. It’s an inch long, maybe an inch and a half in the shape that we usually deliver them to customers. And you can attach this with the key chain with a zip tie. We’ve had people put Velcro tabs on them so they can stick them off and on quickly. You can affect some other, you know, if you’re. If you’re in a hurry, you can just tape them and fix them that way or even Superglue them. But then it might be hard to get off when you do want to move it, and most of our customers do it in a way that like the antennas is going to be flexible where they can put it on, take it off again. So again, a key chain, Velcro, or something like that. Sometimes they’ll put them in pouches, you know, a lot of boxes have packing pouches on the outside for paperwork. And our tags are small enough that a lot of times that’s fine just to slip on into those pouches
Janet: 18:19 And from a constant point of somebody inadvertently shipped it with the tag, it’s no big loss?
Stephen: 18:25 Well, the, it’ll be a bigger loss depending on how many tags, how many tags they have. I guess the tags are more expensive than something like passive RFID, you know, or bar codes where you know, you’re talking a matter of sense with the tags were talking more in order of dollars in scores of dollars. If you buy them in bulk, that will go down. But if you just bought one or two, that’ll be a little more pricey.
Speaker 2: 18:51 All right, so keep track of your tags.
Speaker 3: 18:54 The good. The good thing is as long as they’re within your Mesh, you know where the tags are and some of our customers are using our data to create alert systems where they know, oh, this tag is not allowed to. We put room, so let me know if this tag does go out of it specified area and then they have a bread crumb trail, you know, they’re Hansel and Gretel to follow. Exactly to where it was.
Janet: 19:19 Oh, that’s fascinating. Okay, well I know you said you were going to preview some new things at the show. I’m not going to make you tell me about them now. I’ll let. I’ll let Elaine tell that story in her podcast, but is it going to be similar in that it’s very interactive?
Stephen: 19:35 Yes. What are our demos that we’re going to be doing next month are going to be really similar to what we did last year, so we’ll definitely have wisely. The owl will will still be tracking other objects. Other tags in real time will allow people to come up and move them themselves and see how they work. Interaction is definitely going to be part of that demonstration, but we hope what we’re showing will be actually a little more accessible in some ways than what we’ve been able to show before.
Janet: 20:10 Oh, I like that idea. People definitely want to really get their hands on things if they can. So I think that’ll be good.
Speaker 3: 20:17 But again, I haven’t been to CES, but from what I hear, that’s one of the coolest things for people who just go to the show. It’s like you said, Janet, to try out the coolest new check to see how it works, to play with it a little bit, see if this is something for them. And so we’re, we’re hoping we can give everybody who comes to our booth, a real sample of that to experience the system, see what they could do with it. Think about how they could apply it. Because again, it’s such a flexible technology and we’ve come up with dozens if not hundreds of use cases ourselves. But we almost always get new ideas when we go to these shows, so we’re hoping that’ll happen again, that people will come up and try it out, try the system, move the owl around, and then come up with some of their own ideas of where this might be useful.
Janet: 21:05 Oh, excellent. Alright. So those of you who are attending CES, you can find Wiser Systems in the North Carolina Startup pavilion there. Booth number is 51847. We’re in Eureka Park, which is in the Sands Exhibition Hall. We are across the street from Singapore. So that might help you find us a little bit easier since you will be coming in with a Wiser System in order to do that. So we look forward to having you there. Again, Steven, I really appreciate all the social media support you have given the North Carolina Startup Pavilion in the past. Why don’t you tell folks where to find Wiser systems in social media?
Stephen: 21:50 Wiser Systems is most active on LinkedIn and Twitter. You can find us on those. We’re also on YouTube. If you use Crunchbase, which I know is not technically a social media, but a lot of people use it the same way they use Linkedin. Those are our main platforms. Again, Twitter, Linkedin, Crunchbase and YouTube. We’re always, always happy to see new visitors on our website. Wiser systems.com.
Janet: 22:18 All right, well we will definitely see people in person and just a few weeks and Steve and I look forward to talking with you again during CES 2019.
Stephen: 22:28 Thank you Janet. I’m looking forward to it as well.
Announcer: 22:31 Thanks for listening to Trade Show Live! On the Road, a production of The trade Show Manager, a trade show consulting firm. If you need innovative programs to engage attendees and exhibitors and sponsors, custom research or new solutions for your trade show, contact The Trade Show Manager on our website, thetradeshowmanager.com.
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