Sharing a vision for a more connected world with AWS IoT
AWS IoT VP, Yasser Alsaied, talks IoT strategy, commitment, and outlook
The future of the Internet of Things (IoT) has been a topic of ongoing discussion and speculation. With implications for IoT hyperscalers, vendors, and customers alike, the landscape is rapidly evolving. To shed light on this topic, I spoke with Yasser Alsaied, vice president of IoT at Amazon Web Services (AWS). In this blog, we explore Yasser’s insights into the future of IoT technologies, strategies, and industry growth, and how they will impact the IoT ecosystem.
Yasser, thank you for agreeing to share your insights with us today, can you start by telling us a little about your role at AWS and experience in IoT?
In total, I have about 32 years of experience in the tech and IoT industry. I joined AWS in 2021 as a vice president of IoT. I lead the AWS IoT business which covers Robotics, Industrial, Automotive, Consumer, Public Sector and Commercial segments. Our services are among the highest connected IoT services globally and continue to grow in the fields of digital twins, smart cities, and connected vehicles. Before joining AWS, I was with Qualcomm as their vice president of IoT as well. During my time at Qualcomm, I held several leadership roles, covering the launch of Qualcomm’s first wireless local-area network (WLAN) chip for mobile phones, Qualcomm Innovation Center, and Code Aurora Foundation to solve legal and operational issues around the open source software release. During my last four years at Qualcomm, I managed their IoT ecosystem and led the strategy to scale IoT chipsets, including key technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), computer vision drones, robotics, and 5G. Prior to Qualcomm, I developed software for military applications, working with the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, and Coleman Aerospace.
Having been engaged since the early days of IoT, what are your thoughts on the current IoT industry shifts and what does this mean for customers and service providers?
As the IoT industry evolves, we continue to see very strong IoT interest and adoption from our customers. We don’t anticipate IoT growth will slow down any time soon. However, it is clear that the role of IoT hyperscalers is changing, and in large part this is tied to an industry shift towards verticalized solutions instead of IoT as a horizontal offering. This shift is in the best interest of customers because they never come to us asking for IoT directly. Instead, they come to us seeking specific business outcomes and for help determining how they can leverage technology to monitor, control, and optimize their business processes to get those outcomes. What this shift means for cloud and IoT software providers is they must put IoT into context for customers’ unique vertical challenges by offering industry-focused solutions and partners that drive business value based on their customer’s in-house skillset, IT scale requirements, and use cases.
How does the changing role of cloud and IoT software providers impact what you are doing at AWS?
At AWS, we’ve made the consumer-centric vertical approach the north star of our IoT strategy. To better serve our customers, we’ve verticalized our IoT and AI services that are optimized to deliver accelerated outcomes for segment-specific use cases. For instance, AWS IoT SiteWise and AWS IoT TwinMaker services were built to support Industrial IoT customers with collecting, organizing, and analyzing industrial data, as well as creating digital twins of real-world industrial environments. AWS IoT FleetWise supports our automotive and connected vehicle customers. We also work with vertically-focused partners that use these services to build solutions for our customers. In principle, our IoT products, sales, and support resources have been restructured to align with key customer industries, allowing us to be more customer obsessed and streamlined in our ability to address customer needs and challenges.
Why are verticalized solutions and partners so important for AWS and its customers?
Some customers starting out with IoT struggle with moving from proof of concept to production, scaling, and adding all of the services they need. There are so many elements that need to come together in a workload, and customers aren’t concerned with which services are included and how they are integrated. Instead, they just want industry-focused solutions that are contextualized to their unique challenges, and are easy to manage, adapt, expand, and scale. So, a critical piece of our IoT strategy is focused on our verticalized AWS and Partner Solutions that provide ready-to-deploy code and configurations and customizable architectural guidance for specific use cases. Our approach always begins with understanding the customer’s unique vision and challenges, such as improving yields, or fleet management. We work backwards from there, devising a solution that makes sense for their specific needs. Using our reliable and scalable cloud and more than 200 services covering AI, machine learning, analytics, compute, networking, and storage, we enable solutions that bring all the right elements together. When it requires something new, built on top of these offerings, we leverage our partner network to create solutions that are tailored to the individual customer, but also benefit others in the same industry. This service formula can be replicated worldwide, expediting the process.
Another key initiative for us is to continue to grow, and work with, our AWS Partner Network (APN), because we understand it’s critical for our customers to have access to different types of partners that can fill skill gaps, meet scale requirements, and specialize in vertical use cases. The APN offers many types of partners: Independent Software Vendors (ISV), Systems Integrators (SI), hardware vendors, and distributors who can help with various stages of IoT design cycle. ISV partners provide pre-built software solutions that can be integrated on top of our IoT services and platform to enhance their capabilities and functionalities. When customers need customization to fit their exact requirements, they can work with a highly specialized SI to help them to bring together different systems and technologies to create a cohesive solution, without having to invest in new internal engineering resource.
Beyond verticalization, what does the future hold for IoT at AWS? Where are you placing your big bets?
There has been a lot of speculation on what we will do next, and I can say that we remain fully committed to continuously innovating and making it easier and more cost effective for customers to realize IoT solutions. In the two years since I joined AWS, we’ve launched new purpose-built services such as AWS IoT FleetWise, AWS IoT ExpressLink, AWS IoT TwinMaker, and AWS IoT RoboRunner. Our qualified device catalog repository has grown to over 800 partner devices. We’ve announced price reductions to drive cost efficiencies and rolled out over 50 IoT feature updates, including the recently announced AWS IoT Core for Amazon Sidewalk, which deepens the integration between AWS IoT Core and Amazon Sidewalk. We aren’t slowing down. We will continue to double down on IoT because it’s an indispensable component of how we solve customer problems and help them scale. Use cases like Industry 4.0 require data to be managed and processed at scale and in a reliable and secure manner. The data is already there, but without IoT, it’s locked inside siloed factories and plants. IoT facilitates connectivity and unlocks the data that make smart factories a reality. IoT is an essential part of the digitization story – whether it is 5G, Wi-Fi 7, LPWAN, or other technologies.
Furthermore, our commitment to making IoT solutions more accessible ties directly into our continued efforts to expand our hybrid cloud and edge computing capabilities. By extending our AWS infrastructure, services, application programming interfaces (APIs), and tools to edge locations like on-premises data centers, 5G towers, and smart factories, we are able to provide all the benefits of the cloud for workloads that require low latency, data residency, local data processing, or complex application interdependencies. Today, AWS offers IoT services like AWS IoT SiteWise Edge and AWS IoT Greengrass that act as edge gateways, making it easy to collect, process, and monitor equipment data on-premises, as well as bring intelligence to edge devices. AWS is also developing functionalities to make deploying applications at the edge easier, accelerating time to value for customers and converting customer CapEx to OpEx.
Why is IoT critical to the success of Amazon?
Many of Amazon’s core business areas, such as warehouse operations, fulfillment centers, transportation, logistics, stores, and devices are directly supported by AWS IoT services. We are our own customer— and we’re customer-obsessed—so it has to be the best. Through our extensive customer base, including Amazon, the technology has been pressure tested against reliability and scale. We are greater together and fueled by Amazon’s core operating needs and innovation DNA.
For example, IoT plays a major role in the retail logistics and purchasing process. Globally, Amazon has more than 300 operations facilities powered by IoT and edge devices like their 750K+ robotic drive units. This scale supports the 1.6M packages that go through their fulfillment centers every day. Automation and robotics are a big part of this equation, and these technologies require real-time control, inspection, and maintenance to keep Amazon’s supply chain running like clockwork. With AWS IoT, Amazon can capture and process telemetry data that helps operators monitor their operations, stay on top of critical maintenance schedules, and ensure all packages are delivered on time.
Amazon also operates a large fleet of trucks that pick up packages all over the country. In the past, at various Amazon Fulfillment Centers, there would be long lines of drivers waiting to check in and find out which bay they’re assigned to. But with AWS IoT, and specifically purpose-built AWS IoT service, Amazon Kinesis Video Streams, we’re able to streamline their check-in and check-out process. Now, drivers are able to automatically check in and see where to go on their mobile application. This has saved 775,000 hours for the drivers and carriers across North America in 2022 alone. Then, Amazon has the Amazon Flex application, which coordinates in-field package delivery for Amazon’s delivery personnel. Flex sends and receives data to dozens of back-end services through AWS IoT, adding up to 22K transactions per second to coordinate package deliveries. Lastly, as you shop for goods at physical retail locations, many Amazon and third-party stores use Just Walk Out technology to skip the checkout line entirely. To enter the store, customers can use the Amazon Shopping App, Amazon One, or a credit card, just pick up the goods they want to purchase and leave, making it much easier and faster when you’re on the go. I’ve experienced this myself, and I’m fascinated with how easy it is. Just Walk Out technology leverages Kinesis Video Streams to stream videos from in-store cameras to AWS, in order to run cutting-edge computer vision algorithms that let shoppers enter a store, grab what they want, and get going.
Being our own customer also comes with its own set of challenges. The massive scale at which Amazon operates globally has made it very critical for AWS IoT to support devices, telemetry data streams, and security at a similar scale. Our own deployments continue to bring new learnings that help make our offering more robust, efficient, and cost effective for customers to benefit from.
What are some of the industries that benefit from AWS IoT?
Over the last decade, IoT has grown from an aspirational technology into a core differentiator that businesses are using to solve problems and drive value through revenue generation, operational improvements, and innovation. For consumer, we work with many Original Equipment Manufacturer and Original Design Manufacturer companies with connected devices. They’re able to quickly build secure products, connect devices, and support scalability and reliability. One example is Rachio, which uses AWS IoT to securely connect its devices with cloud applications and other devices. AWS IoT also gave Rachio a seamless onramp to additional AWS services, such as AWS Elastic Beanstalk to deploy and manage its website, web apps, and API infrastructure. Most recently, Rachio began using Amazon Alexa Skills Kit to enable voice commands for the second-generation version of the Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller. With AWS IoT’s security capabilities, Rachio reduced development costs by 40% and no longer needs to worry about managing availability and scalability.
In industrial and manufacturing, we work with customers to improve process performance and productivity, inventory tracking, operations management, and safety. One example is how our customer, Coca-Cola İçecek (CCI), used AWS IoT to digitize their shop floor and manufacturing processes to create a complete digital twin solution that scaled to all 26 of its bottling plants. In two months, they built an advanced digital analytics solution for their line sanitation process using AWS IoT SiteWise and AWS IoT Greengrass. Through this, they improved process efficiency and environmental sustainability, which enabled them to save 20% on energy and 9% on water annually.
In public sector, smart cities, and transportation, customers are using IoT to improve operations, logistics, support the tactical edge, and manage traffic and public safety. In commercial and smart buildings, customers are looking to improve retail experiences and improve the sustainability of buildings. Lastly, in Robotics, customers are using IoT services to capture data from robots to help build new applications, optimize automation, and drive efficiency. For connected vehicles, IoT helps customers to manage vehicle data that improves machine learning models and in-cabin experiences. For example, WirelessCar is working with AWS IoT to manage its vehicle fleets at scale without having to manage infrastructure, which lets them connect millions of vehicles to the cloud.
What IoT trends should we anticipate as we move into the next phase?
I believe IoT will become a universal business expectation rather than an exception. Many businesses and industries will continue to invest in IoT because it provides business and operational value. We are consistently seeing new customer segments, like the retail industry, unlock the value of IoT. Customers are trying to formulate a unified experience that traverses easily between online and offline, resulting in the convergence with mobile, social media, and IoT that can serve wherever and whenever they desire. We also see a growing need for more simplistic IoT-centric tools. It’s critical to make these tools more accessible for companies to innovate and leverage them, and easier to enter industries as the adoption of IoT technologies continues to grow. For example, tools like AWS IoT Core Device Advisor help developers validate IoT devices for reliable and secure connectivity with AWS. They can identify device software issues such as being unable to reconnect and get detailed logs to troubleshoot issues during development and testing cycles.
Lastly, customers are broadening their sustainability initiatives to go beyond emission reduction to create smart environments (i.e. cities, buildings, factories), leveraging IoT to monitor energy performance, reduce waste, and align facility operations with occupancy trends. One great example of this is how Yara collaborated with us to build an efficient and sustainable, Digital Production Platform (DPP) for the farming industry. This DPP is a key enabler to digitize their production system across 28 production sites, 122 production units, and two mines. The DPP detects, collects, and runs sophisticated analytics on production data linked to productivity, reliability, environment, safety, quality, and innovation, using AWS IoT SiteWise, AWS IoT Greengrass, AWS IoT Core, AWS IoT Analytics, and Amazon SageMaker. This solution has helped Yara to predict product quality and composition, improve balancing of the site utilities and detect when machines need repair or maintenance to keep production at optimal efficiency levels.
Yasser, thank you again for giving us an exclusive look into the into the future of IoT at AWS. It’s clear that AWS remains deeply invested in IoT solutions to meet the unique needs of our customers, including Amazon.
To learn more about AWS IoT services and capabilities, please visit our website.