A Smart Approach for Doing Firmware Right

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Nobody gets firmware right the first time. It’s a hard truth in the IoT space.

Many developers of smart products trip up at this step in their journey.

It’s not just the initial development that’s difficult either. As the product evolves, you need to constantly improve the experience—without breaking things in the process.

Alan Vardon, Director - Smart Home Division at Globe Electric, is well-versed in the trials and tribulations of firmware development, and he’s learned a few lessons along the way.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Transitioning an established company to the smart home space
  • The importance of initial and continuous testing with firmware
  • The challenges of working with firmware

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But was smart, you have such an amazingopportunity to communicate with your consumers when you owe it to them inyour company to continuously improve upon the experience you are listeningto over the Air Iot connected devices and the journey brought to you by vary in each episode. We have sharpunfiltered conversations with executives about their IOT journeys,the mistakes they made, the lessons they learned and what they wish they'dknown when they started welcome back to over the air iftconnected devices and the journey. My name is Ryan Prosser, CEO, very andtoday were joined by Alan Varden, director of the Smart Holm Division atGlobe. Electric we're going to be talking about best practices forleveraging product knowledge to enable and scale firmware, something near anddear to our heart, at very all, thanks for being on the show, thanks forhaving me so Alan, I know globe has been around forever. For those whodon't know. Can you give us a little background on on Global Electric, whichyou guys are all about? Yeah we're actually a closer a nine year oldcompany now based out of Montreal and Canada, and we're not at Tech Company,we're more of a lifestyle brand company and that's one of our vantages thatwe're got into smart. So we've done all this lighting and volved and stuffbefore, and then we leverage that into the smart on space just a few years ago.So we do a lot of like like pictures and like cool stuff, and is it fair tosay for somebody WHO's working in the smart home at a traditional established company likeglobe, I'm going to guess you live on airplanes to and from China or beforeOvid. Is that a fair statement yeah before the plague kind of shut us down?We were, we were visiting very often, I've been in a few short years. I'vebeen about ten times to China already and you get so much down when you goover there right just the face to face, but yeah we were living on planes goingto shows and China and it was it's fun you for it all but shut down. That'sright! Yeah I mean it's. The IT south, what is it South East China seems likethe center of gravity for Hardware...

Development, for it there's just nogetting away from it. So one of the things that I think is reallyfascinating about you guys is story. Is I guess it is this piece where you guysare really established so you've been in the market for a long time and youlook at over and over they teach you in business school. You know you don't seeany of like the railway manufacturers made the jump into making cars. Youknow you don't see these companies very rarely make the big leap into the nextbig thing, and yet here's make you know having some pretty phenomenal successin the smart home space. It's seeming like well position to blow up that. Iguess that outdated way of thinking. Can you talk about like what that'slooked like for you guys, I think a lot of people out there in the audience,maybe they're working for a really established company and they'rethinking to themselves all right. What does the Road Map look like for me to?You know, drag my established. Ninety year old company kicking and screaminginto the twenty first century what some of the challenges that you've faced?You know, how did you go about them? Give us world from an airplane of whatthat juries look like sure. Well, well, our advantage was well first, we dohave experience in these smart products on the non smart side right like LightBulls and pictures and electro products. We had decades of experience, so weknew how they work, but for the Smart Home Space We've been keeping iron onit for years before we jumped in so we detent, like I said: We'd go to Chinaand go to shows and we'd see that smart was creeping up, so we did our researchbeforehand. So we understood what the pitfalls would be of entering thatspace too early or too late. So we had some boxes that we need checked beforewe enter that space because tritill we're not a tech company right. So weneed to align ourselves with a partner that could help us with the cloudmanagement and the APP side which we did and then we just use what we use onthe non smart side to be successful and applied at the smart. So it wasn't adecision that was made lately so that really helped us and then, like I saidwe just all of our product development...

...experience and knowledge. We justapplied that too smart, so the one of the key takeaways. If I'm hearing youwrit, is if your company is going to enter the connected device face, youknow and you're coming from this very traditional background, jump in withboth feet or wait until you're ready it's or at least that's. What's workedfor you guys yeah, if you jump in if you jump without looking or you'regoing to get hurt, so especially with this type of space. It's very publicright, but you can't just put a product out there and gets a good bye. It's youwill get feedback from your consumers and if it's not done well, you anegative PEBA and it's going to hurt your brand. So that's why we were verycautious before entering. But when we did like, I said our main advantage asa company is that we we have a tremendous speech market. We don't taketwo years, a developer product we go all in and we understand that gettingto market first or or close to first is extremely important. So once we decidewe were in SMARTA, we pool our resources and then we got in, but wedid that background homework before entering the space, because it'sintimity right, if you mess it up, it can set your back. So I you that's agood call out. I left out a critical piece of the globe secret sauce priorto jumping in with both feet. One of the things you guys did really well waslike assessing the market place really looking at where the gaps were andsaying. Okay, we think we can nail this. Let's go hard: Let's go fast, let's getit right and no looking back, it's more accurate, characterization yeah exactlyand the APP stuff was new to us when we started, but now, like every othercategory we jumped into for years past we're gaining experience and we'regrowing our team on the outside as well. So I, like, I mentioned we partneredwith the right company to wanter APP and everything, but now we're learningand gaining that experience as well, so we're just better positioning ourselvesfor the next couple phases for smart, so, okay, this next question, I thinkfor folks out there and TV land that...

...have been a part of the journey fromyou know non smart products into smart. So they you know they're at atraditional company. Does his first launch you're, probably out thereasking you screaming at the radio right now ask him about firmware! Ask Iftlell see you know nobody gets this right. Initially talk about you guys asgerm, and we talked about APPS and apt development being somewhat new to yourcompany's culture. Will come back to that, but I want to talk about firm war.This is where a lot of people trip up it's hard. It's hard to do right. Ithink it's impossible to do perfectly. Can you talk about you guys as journeyhere so on? Our initial wants actually went very smooth, so it's kind of likea sports team right. You have a really good team. They face no adversityduring the regular season. Then playoff comes as an injury and they crumbleright. So I was kind of like that. In a sense we didn't grumble, but we didn'thave any real, firm or issues for quite a while and then when we experienced it,you know we had experience up in that point, that we were able to quicklyidentify and rectify it and as a company again we're not just some we'renot like a pop up company. We have a strong customer service present andteam, and we have tremend put tremendous value on customer service,so we dealt with it and it just added to our experience, but it was almost awake up call right because uptop point it was going so so well and we werethinking thing for granted. We were relaunching items and weren'tnecessarily taking the time to look at them like we did in the past, becausewe didn't assume we assumed it was going to be okay, and that was, I think.The major lesson is don't assume you cannot assume firm where if it's launchit's going to be okay or if you adjust something it's not going to breaksomething else. That's always the trouble right. You fix. One thing, youbreak three more things, so we learn a lesson relatively early. It wasn't right away,but it happened and since then we've been making sure that there's not justinitial testing. There is continuous testing on all of our products, so yougot somebody out there they're leaning forward in their chair following alongright now, maybe they haven't...

...considered from where as being asimportant as you know, what you're talking about, we certainly have very,I think, understand and know a thing or two about firm wore difficulties. Butwhat would you say to that person? How should they be thinking about firmware?So they got this great hardware, product they're, feeling great about it.You rain on their parade a little bit on firm war. What o some things thatthey need to be thinking about, that they probably aren't thinking aboutright now. Well, it's what the user interacts with right, that's theirgateway to the product. So you can have all these cool features and everything,but if it's impossible to figure out for the average consumer, it's going toleave a negative taste for them, so you got to make it as simple as possiblefor the average users honestly. Sometimes it really depends on themarket right we're for the mass market. So we have to make sure that there's alot of features, but it's easy to digest. So that's how we approach it,but that step one just make sure it's usable and step to is just keep an eyeon it like just make sure that you just don't leave it alone, because a lot oftimes you'll see companies they develop a product. They have this NEAT UIpackage and firm war for that product and then three years later, it's stillexactly the same thing but was smart. You have such an amazing opportunity tocommunicate with your consumers when you owe it to them in your company tocontinuously improve upon the experience right and when you're doingthat, you have to make sure you do your homework and make sure you don't breakthe thing as you're trying to approve it. Have you guys had any issues whereyou have like mass bricked things or you know, cause something to beunworkable at scale out of the field happens to everybody. What can youshare with a Soland Yeah? That was, I think, the major wakeup call for us. Soit was a repeat of an item that was doing well for us and there was a firmor update, but on the update it wouldn't allow for certain routers inthe market that we relatively knew to have the product pare to it. So westarted getting these. You know, complaints and questions and ticketsopen to their customer service team and we're scratching eat going well thatdoesn't make sense, and then we...

...eventually figured it out, and that wasreally our wake up call. But it did hurt us a bit at the time because itwas such a high volume skewers. It was a great product for us and we were ableto rectify it. But if, like I said, if we had almost like being too cockyright, they tick if we went back and really did more of that deep Di Test-and we would have caught it sooner. But in hindsight and glad it did happenbecause it shape our perspective moving forward. But that was part of ourlearning process and based on what I'm seeing it does seem to happen toeveryone even to the best of us in the biggest companies and you'll, see itall the time going, an Opson I up Titinia and now my camera doesn't workor up the in my APP and now all my groupings going on. My schedule isgoing so it happens all the time. But it's really what sets US apart andother bigger, better companies better, but bigger companies apart and othercompanies apart is the ability and the willingness to fix it. Some companiesjust don't right, we're in the kind of the will west right now of Smart Gore,there's so many companies doing so many products. You just you, don't knowright now, that's right! Speaking of like technically difficult things, youknow one of the things I always love to ask leaders on this show is thisconcept of you know the wrong side of impossible. So you know these technicalchallenges that you have to solve. No one else has solved them. Maybe theyhaven't tried, they haven't identified the opportunity they just couldn'twhatever the reason is you have to solve that in order to arrive at theother side and have something that's unique and valuable. Can you talk aboutwhat wrongside of impossible looked like for you guys at Globe? What didyou have to solve? What did that journey? Look like give us some color there yeah we had aproduct. Actually it's a flood cam. So it's a flood light with a camera andit's that top of products been on the market for what we had a lot of successup to that point with our lighting, which was R, GP and Tub White, so yougot a full spectrum of color which, on that type of product, wasn't in themarket. Yet so we thought okay, cool, that's relatively easy to add, but inhindsight it wasn't. There was a lot of debugging that had to go back and forth.You know there's a lot of details that went into it, but we eventually didfigure it out and it was really close...

...to the wire to so. We committed somestock to a customer and it was getting closer and closer to the delivery dateand we were still having issues so a camera would stop working or there'sthe camels, not con, be Cain with the light and the light was going on atrandom time. So it was a simple enough idea, but again we pool our resources.We focus in on fixing the problem. But again that was another lesson for us.It's to. We need to you. Can't again assume that adding something like thatfor a smart can be a simple fix, because you never know sometimes thattype of product is not the market for reason. Someone could not figure it out.So we're glad that we did. It did launch a few months ago actually- andit's been doing quite well for us right so far, we expected to do much muchbetter. As you know, the word gets out, but it's been a cool product for us anda good experience for so far. That's great- and you just said this, but thathas been a big win for you, guys right, that's a product, that's borne out. Youknow so we're turning the page now into two thousand and twenty two. What aresome things coming down the pipe at Globe in terms of how Globe is thinkingabout smart? How Globe is thinking about connected devices? How Globe isthinking about itself? Even you know with this the new growth theories thatcausing some introspection. What can you talk about? What we're going to seeis the years roll on from Glove Yeah so flow view smart as the future for usright like it's just going to continue to grow as more and more people areinvesting in smart homes and smart devices, it's just going to grow up.Until now we focus on the inside of the home. I think the focus for us in twothousand and twenty is going to be outside, so a lot landscape, lighting,more security lighting items, decored outdoor lighting items, holidaylighting items, so really the focus would be on the outside of the home andoverall, just continuing the improvement of the AP experience. Right,like I mentioned before, even though less they are light. Well, we've donequite well with it, and the Y is great we're just going to be adding more andmore features to it. So that's really our focus is you know improving uponwhat we've done and also looking at other area the homes that we haven'ttackled yet and adding to our overall...

...sort of in to make sure that, when auser investing low, they can invest all the way if they choose to for theirhome. What do you think would have a bigger impact if you could only turnone of these knobs to eleven? The other one has to stay where it's at price or features and functionality in the smartlight space. If you could, if globe could really just put one of those twothings on steroids, price bring prize way down through some break through oryou know, roll out some of the things you're talking about that's new anddifferent, unique in terms of functionality or offerings. Ideally itsboth. Don't give me both yeah, but you know for me: It'd be featuresbecause that's how you truly differentiate yourselves from everyoneelse right if you're looking at a standard, Ile Ball, it's price becauseyou're going to want to get that volume you want to. You sell it to thatcustomer. If it fails, they're going back right to buy another one, first,smart, if you make that investment, and you have a kickas experience with greatfeatures that continue, see, improve and you get new features through it.It's, I think, that's more valuable long term than maybe having a ball.That's two bucks cheaper than everyone else right, so you guys are big players in the space. Now you knowyou made play some really smart bets who out there in Iot land. Are youlooking at outside of Globe and that you think is doing good work bonuspoints? If this is, you know, somebody that maybe others haven't heard of like?Are there folks in adjacent spaces? Obviously not other lightingcompetitors with the globe is number one. That's it, but you know, as far asyou know, maybe in the switch space or maybe in a totally different space thatyou interact with personally who's, doing really good work in it connectedwhatever you're. Looking at and saying man, I got to tell more people aboutthis product of this company. There's a lot. It's I find there's very few likea globe that kind of focuses on almost everything. You'll have like a wise whodid an amazing job on their cameras...

...right. They came out of nowhere andthey had a really well priced indoor camera that dominated the market, andthen they just expanded slowly right they have bulbs. Now I believe that Ithink they have some scale they have plugs, so they did a good job. I think-and there I saw their site to like they look like they thought it out. Well,Phillips has been around forever, so I think they're the standard that a lotof companies look at because they were, I think, really first to market, butthose are or two I kind of look at. I think they've done a good job, the oldPhillips, Underdog Story. We don't hear that no, but that's cool wise, that's littleshut out for wise. So I'm just looking at like some of the key takeaways fortoday. Just reviewing some of the things we've been over, it seems likesecrets to success, for you guys are many, but two that jump out at the topof the program. You talked about Hey, do your homework, identify the gaps andthen hit it hard with everything you got and I think each one of those I'veseen companies mess up. You know and I've seen a lot of companies mess upall three of them. You know don't do the homework, don't think too muchabout the gaps and then get in kind of halfway and see what sticks we. In fact,I think we see that far too often and and then the other piece, not manypeople are, I don't know as jazzed about for more as we are, but firm,more is hard and critically important to success and even apple breaks, theirphones, you know apple, one of the most valuable companies in all the land.Firm Wares hard and getting it wrong is a big problem and it seems, like youknow, one of the things you guys have gotten right is not trying to beperfect, but trying to be really good and being better. You know every day,so when you see problems owning that investing and testing, is there a thirdone that you think I've missed? That has been one of the keys to globesuccess in the last few years. Well, like I said it's really the experience,you can't teach that and we've been fortunate for the fact that we justhave a wealth of it. So, on the hardware side, I have tremendousconfidence that whatever product we do,...

...we know how to do it properly. If thefirm word was new for us as we mentioned, but we're deigningexperience in that as well. But it's really you can't just open up a companyand expect to do smart right away and be successful right. You have companiesthat had no business being light bulls, making smart like bulbs all of a sudden,because smart light bulbs are a thing to do they won't last. We saw that withLe Bolt years ago you had a hundred companies all of a sudden making lbulbs, and now you have a a handful, maybe left in the market, the ones thatwere there at the beginning and they're still here now so yeah. It's really.It's speak to market. For us, it's doing the work and just relying in ourexperience and our teams just to get it done there you go so do your homework.Firm were, is hard and invest in the experience. Lessons Learn so Allanjoyed having you here today for folks that want to keep up with your story,where's a. where can we point the people they want to follow on aftertoday's episode? Well, Global Lectric, we do have an instagram page. We have alengthen page we're going to be launching a new website soon. So it'sgoing to be extremely interactive. I don't have a launch date yet, but thatwill be noted on our linkin and our instagram pages for sure. So we alsohave a facebook page, so any major social media, page or site. We have apage on cool and if anybody wanted to follow your story directly, Alan Bardenis findable person on linkedin correct. I am guess all right. If you'relistening on Apple Podcast, please don't forget, give us a five star.Writing if you enjoyed what you heard. My name is Ryan prosser appreciates youguys, showing up today we'll see you on the Internet. You shouldn't have to worry about IOTprojects dragging on or unreliable vendors. You've got enough on yourplate. The right team of Engineers and project managers can change a Pilotamoment for your business into your competitive edge, various close knitcrew of ambitious problem, solvers, continuous improvers and curiousbuilders knoww. How to turn your ideas...

...into a reality on time and up to yourstandards, with a focus on mitigating risk and maximizing opportunity willhelp you build an Iot solution that you can hang your hat on. Let's bring yourIot idea to life, learn more at very possible com. You've been listening toover the Air Iot connected devices and the journey, if you enjoy to day'sepisode, make sure to hit subscribe in your favorite podcast player and giveus a rating, have a question or an idea for a future episode. Send it topodcast at very possible com. See you next time. I.

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