Software and services veteran Ashish Agrawal has joined Ayla Networks as Senior Vice President of Engineering, overseeing our end-to-end IoT device, mobile, and cloud engineering efforts.
We caught up with Ashish to hear more about where he’s been and where he plans to steer Ayla’s IoT engineering efforts in the future.
Tell us about your background
I joined Ayla from Flipkart, an e-commerce company based in Bangalore, India, where I headed up the engineering for Flipkart’s customer shopping experience. That included the mobile site and apps, the desktop site, search and discovery platform, recommendations and personalization, as well as the merchandising & advertising and ordering platforms such as cart, checkout, payments, and order-management systems.
Prior to Flipkart, I was a long-time software and technology leader at Amazon, and I also served as Chief Technology Officer at two companies: Sirqul in Seattle and Micromax Informatics in India.
Why did you decide to come to Ayla?
Ayla has a strong presence in all three aspects needed for IoT solutions: device, cloud, and mobile app. Ayla has a good embedded story at the chips and software layer of IoT devices; leadership in IoT cloud technologies, where the IoT insights come from that make this area so valuable; and lots of experience at the mobile SDK level. Putting it all together, the opportunity to join a company at the forefront in all three areas is very exciting.
What are some of the major technology and engineering challenges that need to be addressed for the IoT to really flourish?
At the device level, at least 50% of products don’t connect to the internet — and connectivity is key to customer adoption of the IoT. Easy and seamless connection between devices plays a big role in the user experience. Consumers simply won’t open four different apps to control four different devices. They want an integrated connectivity experience.
At the same time, connectivity does not equal intelligence. Devices can be connected but not intelligent.
For instance, half of connected devices out there do not connect to the cloud. Without cloud connectivity, there’s no way to apply data science to the IoT data to start gaining insights into how IoT devices are performing or to transform these insights into better future products, improved approaches to services and support, new offerings to consumers, or any of the other potential benefits of the IoT. Plus, cloud connectivity is what enables connected devices to tap into IoT platform advantages such as automatic support for new protocols or capabilities, from security updates to voice control.
Of course, security and privacy remain an important challenge.
We need to demonstrate the value of any new IoT technologies or approaches we come up with, always with an eye for how to make each technology more seamless and more intelligent. I want to enhance the engineering culture at Ayla so that we’re always experimenting to see what works. I want to discover ways to apply a hackathon approach to our IoT engineering efforts.
What do you see as some big trends in IoT, and how does Ayla’s approach fit into those trends?
Big data will continue to be huge, pun intended! The amount of data collected from IoT devices helps determine the intelligence that can be derived from those devices. And as everyone now knows, the ability to gain real business value from the IoT depends on being able to extract and use the IoT data generated by connected products.
Big data also relates directly to the design of the Ayla IoT platform and our customers’ ability to monetize their IoT solutions. The beauty of the Ayla platform being horizontal — as opposed to focused on any specific IoT market — is that the platform supports lots of use cases and a more diverse set of data and devices. Ayla’s horizontal, end-to-end, and device-agnostic approach provides tremendous opportunities to tie things together, easily.
Ayla began by providing a ‘glue’ layer between IoT devices and the cloud, and next we’re focusing on linking IoT data more directly to business value. That includes ways to find and analyze patterns in the IoT big data for things like service intelligence: predicting when a device or a part will fail, or anticipating and automating service and support activities.
In other words, our goal is to continue making it easier for companies building their IoT solutions on the Ayla platform to innovate, leverage big data, and make their solutions meaningful for their end customers.
What are some of the other advantages of the Ayla platform that you’d like to highlight?
Ayla customers don’t need to write custom code to make their connected products work on the Ayla IoT platform, no matter what kind of products they make.
The Ayla IoT platform is extremely configurable and flexible. The approach is analogous to cloud services infrastructure. Ayla builds the IoT connectivity layer to support any kind of IoT device or application, just as AWS or other public cloud providers support everything from business-critical enterprise applications to Netflix.
Because Ayla handles the ‘keeping up with new and evolving technologies’ issue at the platform level, our customers don’t need to have a crystal ball to predict which IoT technology bandwagons to support, or to expend their own engineering resources to incorporate each new security patch or tie into each new protocol as it emerges. Instead, Ayla customers can put their full effort into making their products — whatever they are — the best and most competitively positioned as they can.
Where do you see the IoT headed in the future?
The IoT is just getting started, and the ‘connected things’ journey is still in its infancy. Long term, we’ll have connected everything, including in our homes and workplaces. Right now, the connectivity is still in pieces, but the potential to have a full operating system (OS) for IoT ‘things’ is huge.
As the IoT continues to evolve, ecosystems and partnerships will take on greater importance. No one company can do everything. Strong ecosystems enable companies to build value-added services on top of the underlying data system. An IoT OS like the one Ayla is building will offer crucial support for building out these ecosystems.