M2M Then, Now and the Future
M2M Now talks to serial entrepreneur, Chris Lowery, founder and chairman of Wyless Group. With successes such as the development and sale of Interoute behind him, we ask what drove him to set up Wyless and how does he foresee M2M
developing in the next few years?
M2M Now: Chris, what made you decide to get involved in the world of machine-to-machine communications and launch Wyless in 2003?
Chris Lowery: I had been previously quite successful with another telecoms business, Interoute, which we sold in 1999. Interoute is now the biggest fibre network and cloud computing provider in Europe. Then in 2003, I was invited to tender for a company which had a large number of off-premises ATMs. I didn’t acquire the company, but I realised that installing fixed line connections into remote locations was quite mad. So, I hired a couple of guys and we built a simple
M2M management platform and bought SIMs from T-Mobile in the UK and Wyless was born.
M2M Now: The M2M industry didn’t really start to grow until about five years ago. Were the early years tough?
CL: It’s true that when I started Wyless in 2003 we were a little ahead of our time. M2M was fairly primitive in those days, mostly telematics for vehicle tracking, all very simple stuff. We introduced the concept that every remote device could be connected to the enterprise network by wireless and managed through the internet, thus eliminating the need to install fixed line connectivity when it wasn’t necessary, was too costly, or just not practically possible.
But the market was not ready; industry growth was sluggish and bringing solutions to market was difficult. So we decided to invest in improved technology and multiple interconnects with MNOs which contributed to finally opening up new, global opportunities in M2M communications.
M2M Now: You say it was simple, but I believe that you were using private Fixed IP addressing before anyone else.
CL: That was the smartest thing we did. We introduced a series of patents for innovations in data and network management. The first and most commercially viable of these was a means of creating Totally Secure Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) by matching public and private Fixed Internet Protocol (FIP) addresses for all remote devices. That patent also introduced the concept of third party management of multiple VPNs using a wireless Data Management Platform connected to the internet.
This management tool became our award-winning platform Porthos. These and many other innovations helped create the capability to introduce more practical solutions to provide global M2M solutions to a wider commercial audience in many types of industries. We also continued to implement new interconnects with other European MNOs, to expand
our geographical presence.
M2M Now: You started Wyless in the UK. How did you get into business in the US?
CL: We had the opportunity to quote for a big order in the EPOS market. The company was based in the US, so I knew we’d never get the order if we didn’t have a man and a dog over there. I called my friend and former colleague in Interoute, Dan McDuffie in Boston, and asked him to pretend to be Wyless Inc.
Not only did we get the order, but six months later, Wyless Inc. was a going concern. Dan is a phenomenon and I know he won’t mind me boasting on his behalf; since we appointed him as Group CEO he has grown the business by 60% year-on-year!
M2M Now: So Wyless’s business was growing well and then last year you acquired a number of companies. What was behind this?
CL: Although the M2M industry is still fairly fragmented and immature, we realised a couple of years ago that it would eventually become consolidated, like many industries, into a one-stopshop, where you can buy or rent the finished end-toend product in a single package. So that’s what we set out to do. We acquired ClearConnex, an engineering outfit in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, to build our own device management capability.
Then we set up two JVs (joint ventures), Progressive Platforms and Wyless Connect to deliver bundled solutions – device procuration, logistics and management, solution software and communications – in several verticals, so that we could market them as finished products. ‘You have a requirement and you want a solution? Sign here and you’ve got it, the
whole nine yards.’ And our strategy seems to be working very well.
M2M Now: You must have seen some extraordinary developments in the industry over the last 10 years?
CL: Frankly, there are some things going on now in what they call the IoT, or Internet of Things, which are not only amazing, but quite scary. We have to be careful not to let our desire to manage everything around us become an obsession and introduce the world into an Orwellian 1984 scenario. Common sense is called for to distinguish between possible, desirable and useful.
M2M Now: You clearly had a vision when you started Wyless, how do you see M2M developing over the next few years?
CL: At the moment, M2M is a bit of a bun fight. Quite a few contenders, big and small are all fighting for the crumbs that fall from the MNOs’ table. As the industry matures we’ll see some consolidation and partnerships at all levels. Already, Wyless is privileged to work with 15 MNO partners and not just in a one-way relationship. A number of our network providers are also our customers, because they like the way we manage secure private networks and how we package
our bundled solutions and they want to be a channel to market for us.
The rapid growth in M2M and the IoT will require more global standardisation, just like other telecoms sectors. New roaming legislation will dictate open network SIM transfer, or over-the-air switching of multi-IMSI SIMs in globally deployed devices. The ITU and other bodies like OneM2M will become more involved, because we’re talking about billions of devices all over the world. It’s going to be a very interesting few years.
M2M Now: Looking back over the last decade, what gives you the most pleasure?
CL: To be very honest, just surviving after 10 hard years gives me a lot of pleasure, but there are so many other things to be thankful for. Firstly, I am immensely grateful to our Shareholders and Board of Directors they kept faith during the most difficult years and deserve the rewards that I expect will come to them. We now have a team of over 100 employees in five countries, a team which is prepared to work 24/7/365 and even on national and religious holidays to support their company.
Couple this with the technology innovation awards that we have won for Porthos, our Management Platform, and the numerous Value Chain Awards won with our partners. Just consider the many hundreds of customers who depend on us to keep their own customers happy and successful and these achievements make the few difficulties we have
encountered seem inconsequential.
I am very proud of what Wyless Group has accomplished, but we’re not finished yet. Over the next few years, we will
continue to innovate, consolidate, expand geographically and maintain our place as the best, full end-to-end solutions-based business in the M2M industry.
M2M Now Jargon Buster:
EPOS = Electronic Point of Sale
IMSI = International Mobile Subscriber Identity
IoT = Internet of Things
JV = Joint Venture
M2M = Machine-to-Machine
MNO = Mobile Network Operator
SIM = Subscriber Identity Module