Sahir Sait has been on the job as Ayla’s Vice President, Product, for a few months. Now is a perfect time to check in with him about his views on Ayla’s portfolio of IoT platform products and his plans for their future development.
Let’s start out with some background. What did you do before joining Ayla?
I’ve been fortunate to have a pretty varied and interesting work background. My most recent position before joining Ayla was at Google, where I drove the technical and operational strategy of Google’s mobile ad products.
Earlier in my career, I was responsible for the enterprise device management product line for consumer electronics company Pace, which was acquired by ARRIS. I also served as a Principal Consultant and Deployment Manager for Alcatel-Lucent, building customer experience solutions for large telecommunications providers.
Just before joining Google, I co-founded Closet.ly, a startup aimed at disrupting the self-storage industry. We used technology to improve the customer experience while offering an innovative pricing model designed to improve storage efficiency.
What drew you to work at Ayla?
First is my love of all things IoT. I am a connected-product junkie, from building my own product using Arduino, to investing in a couple of IoT startups. I am excited by the prospect of what widespread connectivity can do for families, communities, and companies.
Second is the great company culture. My time at Pace overlapped with some alums who are now Aylian executives. Notably, that included Jonathan Cobb, currently Ayla’s COO. Jon and I had kept in touch, and he reached out to me after he’d been at Ayla for a few months to encourage me to take a serious look at the company. After meeting with the team, I quickly realized that Ayla is a terrific company with amazing people and enormous potential.
How would you describe Ayla’s product philosophy, and do you plan to change it in any way?
Ayla’s product philosophy is essentially the same now as when the company was founded. Our goal has been to connect any device to any application, and while we continue to expand and evolve, our core vision has not changed.
That product philosophy rests on a few pillars, including:
- A horizontal platform that’s agnostic at multiple levels, including with respect to the device type, protocols, applications, and services it supports
- Platform features that work seamlessly across Ayla’s edge, cloud, and applications, so that customers get value out of the box—instead of needing to write and maintain code to create a solution that works.
- A focus on configuration rather than customization, so that our customers can create differentiated products without needing to build custom features for each new connected solution.
- The ability to get connected products and services to market significantly faster than other alternatives, while creating an amazing user experience.
The core Ayla platform is, quite simply, the strongest, most scalable device virtualization and management platform out there.
You call it a ‘device virtualization and management’ platform rather than an ‘IoT’ platform, which is what Ayla has been calling it up until now. Why the switch in terminology?
That’s a great question, and an important one, too. The term “IoT platform” is rather vague, and could mean many things from an IoT edge platform to an IoT analytics platform and everything in between. To really understand Ayla’s platform, it’s important to look at our areas of strength and the value we provide our customers.
The hallmarks of the Ayla platform are its edge connectivity products and robust cloud management features along with its stability, security, and scale. It’s the strongest solution for getting value from connected devices. The magic of the Ayla platform is that it can take essentially any device, connect and virtualize it in the cloud, and make it easy to manage the device and the data it generates.
Ayla leadership realized that the same technology platform that’s found so much success with IoT and smart home customers can also be applied to other types of customers, such as telco operators, cellular service providers, and utilities. Because the Ayla platform is device- and transport-agnostic, it can just as easily virtualize and manage utility meters, connected garbage trucks, or set-top boxes as it does consumer IoT products.
What are some of the benefits to service providers of using the Ayla platform?
Telcos need a more modern architecture that can handle the scale as well as the variety of devices and services that they want to manage. Right now, a given service provider might have five separate platforms it’s trying to coordinate, which is a nightmare.
Ayla can provide a unifying platform that lets telcos and service providers take full advantage of the new world of device connectivity, securely and at scale.
What are some examples of how cellular operators might use the Ayla platform?
With low-power, wide-area cellular technologies such as NB-IoT and CAT-M1 slated to drive massive adoption of IoT in the coming years, operators can leverage Ayla’s platform and ecosystem to create end-to-end solutions like energy management using smart meters, or farm optimization using soil moisture sensors, to scalably monetize beyond connectivity.
The point is that cellular service providers are able to charge a premium for these solutions, generating whole new revenue streams and improving average revenue per user (ARPU).
Ayla isn’t a huge company. How can it possibly support customers in all these different market areas?
Luckily, we don’t have to! Thanks to the ecosystem growing around the Ayla platform, we can leverage partners throughout the ecosystem to provide the aspects that we don’t deliver ourselves. Again, that’s the beauty of the Ayla platform: It’s an end-to-end platform handling everything to do with device virtualization and management, then we can plug in whatever else is needed to create complete as well as specialized solutions.
Ayla recently announced customer care and dealer support portals as well as consulting services. How do these announcements fit into the company’s product strategy?
One of the important transformations that we help our customers make is to realize that in the new connected world, the whole concept of ‘product’ is changing dramatically. Think about it. With a traditional product, once you bought and installed it, that was pretty much the end of your relationship with the manufacturer or dealer, apart from maybe repairs or warranty services.
With a connected product, your relationship with the product maker is just beginning when you complete the purchase. As we’ve heard over and over, the real value of connectivity lies in the data generated by connected devices—and what can be done with that data. Makers and sellers of connected products have both the opportunity and the obligation to establish relationships with their customers that extend throughout a product’s entire lifetime.
As a result, they need to think, act, and structure their entire businesses to become more like service companies than product makers.
And that means that Ayla, too, needs to evolve our offerings to reflect this identity shift among our customers. It’s a natural extension of our technology platform to offer value-added applications—and the customer care and dealer portals are the first example of such applications—plus professional services. In the future, look for us to continue adding more applications and professional services to our ‘product’ portfolio.
Remember, it’s all part of that fundamental pillar of the Ayla platform to drive desired business outcomes for our customers. Stay tuned, because the Ayla product philosophy is just beginning to blossom.