Nicola De Carne, CEO and Founder of Wi-Next

IT and OT Unite!

Interview

Wi-Next is a new company in the Industrial IoT space.  I was lucky enough to individually speak with two of its best representatives. I first met Armando Pereira, the wonderfully intelligent General Manager for the US, who walked me through Wi-Next. But as I was leaving IoT World 2015, he ran up to introduce me to Nicola De Carne, or Nico, who both founded and is the CEO of Wi-Next.

I hit it off with both Armando and Nico, as both of them made jokes about the relative difficulty of my traditional first question.

 

RL: I just have about five questions, if that’s alright.

AP: Difficult questions or easy questions?

RL: Pretty easy, I think.  Could you explain what Wi-Next does in one sentence?

NDC: That’s not that an easy question! (Laughs.)

AP: So I can keep on talking and fake it like it’s all one sentence?

After laughing with each of them, both Nicola and Armando jumped straight into a concise description of Wi-Next.

NDC: We provide industrial grade solutions to enable manufacturers to leverage data from their machines to optimize the performance of the machines and to cut the cost of production.

AP: Simply put, we network unconnected machines to platforms that analyze their performance.

RL: Could you expand on that?

NDC:  We are an Industrial IoT company, we work on the industrial side of IoT.  We provide a complete solution to interconnect industrial machinery with cloud applications.  We are in between the cloud and the industrial machines.  We enable the cloud provider to move close to the machines’ data purchasing capabilities and their decision-making capabilities.

AP: We operate in the industrial IoT space, so factories.  Typically it’s a warehouse or a big building with lots of machines inside – older machines, newer machines, modern machines with different types of technologies and interfaces. Sometimes, absolutely no interfaces!  So we provide devices that are directly attached to the machines and enabled to do either the collection of the performance data of the machine, or the generation of data.

Armando Pereira, General Manager, Wi-Next USA

Armando Pereira, General Manager, Wi-Next USA

AP: For example, on a very old type of machine, we have a solution that connects to the power line.  And it cannot do much, but it monitors the consumption of the machine.  And typically, when a machine goes into a fault there’s either a spike in consumption or a drop.  So we detect that and we report that.  And we also have the capability to go directly break the power line.  On a more modern machine, we would interface to a port. For example, the machines that were deployed in the 1980s and 1990s, had one of many types of ports, being an RS45 type port, or a CAN bus, or a PROFIBUS.  These were the first steps into digital interfaces.

(At this point, I immediately thought of the 1982 movie Tron, showcasing the first conceptual exchange of data – through the earliest computer buses – between a human and a computer. Luckily, I held back my temptation to ask if Wi-Next could actually transport Jeff Bridges into a machine. Armando continued.)

AP: …and we also interface with machines via ethernet ports.  So when the machines have ports, it’s because they have sensors inside.  And they are putting onto those ports the status of the sensors or the statistics that were collected inside.  We package all that data and we send it up to a cloud platform for analysis and processing.  So we basically like to think of ourselves as IT [Information Technology] meeting OT [Operations Technology].  They are the very heavy concepts of networking and interfaces combined with the realities of the operations.

R: That’s a great way to say it – IT meeting OT. So, how exactly did Wi-Next get started?

NDC:  We are a spinoff of an Italian based company that worked for 10 years in the Enterprise WiFi market.  We just moved here to Silicon Valley and now have trials with some clients in Industrial IoT.  So we are starting our activities in the United States and in Europe.

AP: [Wi-Next] grew through a sequence of products that all involved WiFi and mostly Hotspot WiFi.  So we have a large amount of experience in how to put hotspots in shopping centers and large spaces.  We also have the experience of networking outdoors in bigger spaces.  For example, Wi-Next did the Juventus Stadium in Italy.

RL: That’s awesome.

We continued chatting for a bit, as I continued with one of my favorite questions, “What do you do for fun outside of IoT?” And as I spoke with each of them, as they mentioned their love of spending time with their families and playing with their children (with Nico also professing his love of reading books – sometimes a lost art in the world of technology), I was caught off guard by Armando.

RL: Ah! I’ve just thought of one more question!

AP:  You’ve only got a budget of five questions.

This made me laugh quite loud because he said it with a deadpan face and I really wasn’t expecting it. But he was ever so kind enough to let me continue.

RL:  We’ve spoken about the origins of this company being in Italy, and all the time spent in Milan and Turin, yet you love Northern California, so what do you think about Californian wine versus Italian wine?

AP: (Laughing hard.)  I’m Portuguese.

RL: What? Oh my goodness – my apologies.  I thought because we spoke about Italy so much–

AP: No, no, I just have a bias view on that [wines]. I arrived here in California when Intel was a very small company, Apple was just starting, and you could go to Napa and get all the tastes of the wine for free.  Lots of things have changed since that time.  But Napa has done a fantastic job of marketing of its brands.  And the quality of California wines is very, very good.

 

I knew Armando had a true sense for business (as well as a great way with words to circumvent the comparison to Portuguese wines) as his main praise was for the successful international marketing of California wine. And along with Nico, whose flair for explaining exactly how Wi-Next can truly help efficiency in the industrial space (with the added bonuses of lessening industrial pollution and decreasing electricity consumption – both on an industrial scale), Wi-Next really is in a solid place to become a contender in the nascent world of Industrial IoT.