Episode 8: CIRRENT™ Product Analytics: Data-driven approach to making connectivity products even better

Imagine you are launching a new product. You have invested a lot of time and money to develop, to test and to promote the product. And then a small problem that was not noticed in the test turns out to be a problem. A solution must be found quickly - sometimes not so easy because necessary data are missing. Rob Conant, Vice President Software & Eco System at Infineon and founder of CIRRENT™ Product Analytics, which is now part of Infineon as a service, explains,

  • why data is a key lever in the drive to deliver reliable connectivity, security, and ease of use.
  • how the usage of aggregated anonymized data from products in the field gives companies insights into product performance.
  • how customers can be enabled to make better decisions and enhance the connectivity performance of their products.

For more information about CIRRENTTM Product Analytics please click here.

Transcript

Guest: Rob Conant
Date of publication: 08 September 2021

Moderator:

The potential of the Internet of Things is well known. But how do we actually implement it? How can people and companies benefit from it? In this podcast, I meet with experts from infineon, partners and customers who tell me how it can work and what it takes to Make IoT work.
My name is Thomas Reinhardt, I am your host, and I am excited to bring this podcast to all of you.

Imagine you are launching a new product. You have invested a lot of time, money, heart and soul to develop the product. You have tested it in advance and put it through its paces. You have spent a lot of effort on promotion and awareness of your new product. And then your service phone rings off the hook because a small detail was simply not noticed in the test, but only now - in the field - turns out to be a problem. To prevent such a mistake from jeopardizing the image of your company and the success of your product, a solution must be found quickly. Sometimes, however, this is not so easy because the necessary data and information are missing.
In this episode, I talk to Rob Conant, Vice President Software & Eco System at Infineon and founder of CIRRENT™ Product Analytics, which is now part of Infineon as a service that uses aggregated anonymized data from products in the field to give companies insights into product performance.
Rob, great to have you as my guest today

Conant:

Hello from Silicon Valley. Great, talking to you today, Thomas.


Moderator:  

Let’s start with some rather top level question. In your opinion, what are the main challenges in IoT?

Conant:

Thomas I’ve been in the IoT space for a long time, and the first thing I’d point out is that the IoT is real and it is now with us every day. Our TVs are connected to the internet. Our music. Our cars. Our busses. Our garage doors and front door locks. Our lights and thermostats.  We even carry the internet with us in our pocket, and now I can ask my phone where I left my keys.  The transformation has been incredible.
And there are a lot of opportunities in front of us.  We see our role as helping make it easier for companies making IoT products to bring high-quality, differentiated products to market faster.  That means faster testing, less engineering development and testing cost, more confidence in security, and more confidence that the products will be easy to use for customers.   

Moderator:

And if the connection, security or ease of use doesn't work out, consumers are naturally quickly annoyed, precisely because IoT devices are so important in everyday life. What do you think it takes for product companies to overcome these challenges and satisfy their customers?

Conant:

Many of them have invested a lot to make sure their customers are successful. Lots of engineering work, lost of testing, alpha and beta testing, and lots of customer support for when customers do have problems.  
Our view is that this is all about data: collecting the right data to understand how products are working for customers.  Data on the Wi-Fi onboarding process, data on the networking connection, data on crashes or unexpected events on the product itself.  While testing may find the “one in a hundred” or even the “one in a thousand” problems, no amount of lab testing can address the complexities of the real world and real users. That has to be done with data.

Moderator:

And what is our role in this? After all, Infineon is a manufacturer of semiconductors.

Conant: 

Yes – we are a manufacturer of semiconductors.

Infineon is well known as a trusted SUPPLIER to IoT companies, but now – building on the joint strengths of Infineon and the former Cypress – we have evolved into a TRUE IOT COMPANY. We now complement our broad chip catalog with Software as a Service and IoT analytics.
Infineon does deliver a wide variety of software and tools that accelerate and simplify the integration of Infineon chips into customer applications, and now, with our SaaS and IoT analytics offering, we are helping our customers see things they couldn’t have dreamed of before!

Moderator:

That sounds amazing.

Conant:

Yes – we’re really excited about it. Our CIRRENT™ Product Analytics collects and aggregates huge volumes of anonymized data to give our customers new insights into how their products are working in the field. We’ve collected billions of datapoints from different products from different customers all around the world.  And digging into this data has shown us all sorts of problems our customers didn’t even know about. Fixing those problems has led to lower support costs, faster testing, and much better customer experiences.

Moderator:

And how does this work?

Conant:

Infineon provides a piece of code that runs in the product or the mobile app, and that code collects data for analytics.  This is information like what kind of router is the product connected to, how often does it disconnect from Wi-Fi and why, where are users running into problems in the Wi-Fi onboarding process.  We collect dozens of Events, Attributes, and Measurements.

Then our systems analyze that data and shine a light on problem areas.  We provide dashboards so our customers can see the root cause of problems, identify areas for improvement, correlate performance with attributes, monitor success with new firmware updates, and optimize their products. Lots of flexibility in how to look and and use the data.

And this data-driven approach to product use has worked wonders for our customers.  Many of our customers have used home-grown tools to use data to improve their products, but the breadth of data we collect and the sophistication of the tools makes it easier and faster to really understand what’s happening with products.

Let me give you an example: One large appliance manufacturer found that some customers had a lot of Wi-Fi onboarding failures.  In fact, one customer had to try more than 50 times to get their appliance connected to their Wi-Fi!  I’m impressed with the persistence!  Once we saw that with CIRRENT™ Product Analytics, the appliance company improved the process and increased the customer success rate by 35%.  Until then they knew they had support problems, but were never able to see what was happening. With data they could see the problem and just fix it. It’s amazing what we can do with good data.

Moderator:

This is a great example of how data makes the IoT work. But with all the data, can't you quickly lose track of it all?

Conant:

Yeah – too much data can be overwhelming. In fact, many of the customers with home-grown systems say they have lots of data but can’t make sense of it.  Just accessing the data is a project.
That’s one of the benefits of a structured system.  We provide customizable dashboards, and a well-thought-through data model that makes it easier to get to answers quickly. It's important to collect not only a lot of data, but above all the right data - in other words, the right data for individual customers must be made available.
Our experience doing this for years with different customers has really helped us do it right.

This model has worked so well for customers that we’ve expanded it beyond just networking: many of our customers use our system to track different type of product events like crashes, video buffering events, low power alerts, and other application-related data. You can also imagine what we can do around security – most companies try to build in security, but have no idea of the actual threats products face in the field.  We see a lot of opportunity to help our customers improve their products.

Moderator:

IoT security. A wonderful keyword. Because since the beginning of our conversation, the question of IoT security has naturally been pressing on my mind, given all the data that is collected here. How is this ensured?

Conant:

IoT security is getting a lot of attention – and rightfully so.  Both consumers and enterprise customer are concerned about both privacy and security. The services we provide do not collect any personally identifiable information – so there’s no personal data - but that does not decrease our commitment to security. We treat our customer’s data with care, and have built a secure cloud to make sure it stays private.

Equally importantly, we help our customers with security.  Securing devices in the field is difficult, and in the past it has been difficult to monitor device security.  We are providing tools to make that easier, so we can bring IoT security to  the edge.

Moderator:

You mentioned at the beginning that Infineon is now also a real IoT company. Can we therefore not also use the service ourselves to improve our own products and solutions?

Conant:

Absolutely. With more than a billion datapoints from real-world environments, we’ve built a data-driven approach to making our own connectivity products even better. We use data from the field to improve our algorithms, to optimize performance of our Wi-Fi chips in crowded RF environments in apartment buildings, to improve power consumption for battery-operated smart home products, and to deal with the thousands of different Wi-Fi routers that products might connect to in the field.

And the team has been able to achieve incredible results: The software works particularly well in combination with our AIROC™ Wi-Fi chips with extended data making CIRRENT™ Product Analytics even more valuable. The Cirrent team subjected this chip to numerous test. In battery-operated IoT devices, the radio is kept in idle mode most of the time in order to keep energy consumption as low as possible. The radio only turns itself on when absolutely necessary. Infineon is already leading the market with this technology, but when the engineers had a look at the data from the field coming over CIRRENT™ they discovered something surprising: Although energy consumption looked very good for most of the products, for about 20 percent of the products it was more than eight times higher than the average value. The CIRRENT™ tool was used to analyze the problem, the algorithm was changed and battery life was tripled. The same hardware, new software, and triple the battery life.

Moderator:

Wow. What a great result from which we and our customers can benefit.

Conant:

As I said, it’s amazing what we can do with good data! I can’t wait to see what our team comes up with next. Improving the connectivity rate, giving tools to our customers to use data to inform their product decisions, and having Infineon become an IoT company – making our products better. To me, that’s reliable connectivity. To me, that’s making the IoT work.

Moderator:

And that, in turn, was a great closing. Thank you very much, Rob. I am really grateful for the precious insights you gave.
This brings us to the end of this episode.

Dear listeners, for more information, please visit infineon.io. We will publish the next episode soon. Thank you very much. Take care and until the next time