The Future Is Now: Guy Yehiav of SmartSense by Digi On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

We believe it is crucial to incorporate the voice of the customer throughout our marketing and sales initiatives. Through every channel — digital, social, face-to-face — we infuse all our messaging with stories from delighted customers and raving fans. The marketing process is part of the customer experience, and one of the core missions of our company is to improve the customer experience. We want to be an example of transparency in the space, so we bring that attitude into the way we communicate with the market, employees, and customers. The best way to make your case is by showing proof of other satisfied customers.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Guy Yehiav.

Guy Yehiav is the President of SmartSense by Digi, an IoT solution for the nation’s largest pharmacy retailers, food retailers, and foodservice companies. Over his 25-year career, Guy has built a reputation as a highly respected executive known for creating a culture of innovation and inclusion while embracing new customers and pursuing vertical markets. Guy has a track record of success spanning mergers and acquisitions, product portfolio planning, B2B enterprise software, SaaS metrics, conflict management, AI, and IoT solutions.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

In high school, I studied computer science and electrical engineering. Then, I served in the army for four years, where I worked in electronic warfare. In college, I had two majors, industrial management and computer science. I didn’t go to college to go into the supply chain sector, but the combination of these two majors was the catalyst that sent me in that direction.

My background includes 28 years in supply chain innovation. I built my first company, Demantra, around the concept of a “demand-driven supply network,” a term that was coined by one of my mentors, the late Roddy Martin of AMR Research. Demantra provided supply chain optimization software. Our whole idea was around “outside-in” thinking — optimizing your supply network from what’s being demanded rather than what you can produce. Since then, everything I have done has always been built from the perspective of “outside-in” thinking. It’s about what the customer needs — both now and in the future — not what I can develop. You can apply this same perspective to how you approach everything — the supply chain, technology innovation, and even hardware and software development. After I sold Demantra to Oracle, I was the head of Oracle’s supply chain go-to-market strategy for four years.

Then I identified that the next big thing was to eliminate reports because they are not universally instructive. If I send a report to two different people, one person will do one thing, and the other may do something completely different. Too many people were drowning in reports. So, I joined a consulting company called Profitect and transformed it into a software base, focusing on prescriptive analytics for the next ten years. Data takes on different forms: descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive. Descriptive is a snapshot of your data, typically at the aggregate. Diagnostic analytics allows you to slice and dice the data to find out why something happened in the past. Predictive analytics show you what will happen based on historical trends and events. Prescriptive analytics show you what you need to do today to optimize tomorrow’s outcomes. I sold, integrated, and merged Profitect with Zebra technologies, an amazing technology company that focuses on hardware and optimizing the front-end employee’s work. They planned to add more software to their hardware in a “better together” type strategy, adding more value to their customers.

Through that journey, I learned that there was massive innovation and progression over the last 20 years in IoT sensors. However, I believe there will be even more significant changes coming to the IoT space in the next few years, and I want to be part of these changes. So, when I was looking to do something new with my career, I started talking with people from IoT solution provider SmartSense and their parent company Digi. Now I am serving as the President of SmartSense.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Over the years, I have been fortunate to create some great connections with my buyer personas and my user personas. These individuals were often promoted because my company’s technology enabled them to set themselves apart in their own company. I always tell one story that sticks with me. At a conference, one of my users came with his wife. She came up to me and thanked me, saying that their new home was a result of my company’s technology. Her husband had implemented our solution and had been promoted twice, allowing them to afford their new house. When you overdeliver for customers, you impact their careers, but more importantly, their lives. And that’s fun to see. That’s why I’m here.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people/the industry?

We connect the physical with the digital and back to the physical type transformation. That’s what we do. You can think about it as connecting machines with machines and with humans. In our specific case, the machines are all kinds of sensors. I’ll give you an example. Let’s say that a freezer door is open. Your sensors will tell you that temperature is decreasing, pressure is decreasing, and humidity is increasing while current consumption is at an all-time high. You can be 97% certain that the door is open with just these four measures. You don’t even need a camera anymore. With this knowledge, our IoT platform generates a prescriptive workflow, instructing an employee to shut the specific freezer door. This is a very efficient, targeted direction of labor.

In the old days, you would just say, “Hey, it is 4 pm; you should go and check the temperature across all freezers and refrigerators manually and log it on paper or in a file to store in a compliance folder.” Or, if you had legacy IoT temperature sensors, you would say: “Hey, the temperature decreased. What could that be?” It could be a power outage. It could be that the door is open. There could be a malfunction of the unit itself, or even an inventory overload. You would not know. Not knowing requires employees to investigate all potential causes. It requires an employee with advanced knowledge, which is not always available at all locations. Eliminating all those checks with a targeted work instruction allows you to act in a timelier manner that ensures quality and safety and prevents loss.

This IoT technology optimizes human labor, redirecting people to specific tasks that have a more significant impact. The goal is to augment, not replace, humans. We connect the physical world to the digital world and then go from the digital back to the physical in a never-ending optimization loop.

How do you think this might change the world?

Fundamentally, we save lives. That’s what we do. We collect and connect the critical temperature, humidity, oxygen, CO2, accelerations, current, and other measurements for vaccines, medications, produce, food preparation, and other critical assets. Our platform creates workflows that ensure safety. We also help ensure inventory is where it’s supposed to be, providing that it’s of the best quality possible, so our customers can delight their customers. But, at our essence, we take all this data with the objective of saving lives. We serve hospitals, pharmaceutical retailers, food service providers, restaurants, and grocery stores. It’s a very exciting space.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

We all read about privacy concerns in the media, and there is public wariness around robotics, automation, and IoT. Although these technological advancements may appear to be cause for concern, I don’t think we need to fear IoT. Leading companies like SmartSense are putting securities in place within the IoT to protect against ransomware and leakages to ensure that the data is only used to optimize products and services in a way that delights customers. IoT and automated robotics will continue to show their value, and we will see more and more technology deployed in warehouses, grocery stores, and other places. The whole idea is to connect all those IoTs to generate extra value for customers.

In fact, when we consider the Gen Z workforce coming into retail pharma, grocery, and food service, we need to think about how we’re equipping them with the technology they need to do a great job. Gen Z expects the connectivity that IoT enables. If we do not give them the technology they need to overdeliver, they will leave and look for another job.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Right now, the IoT market is very fragmented, and many manufacturers are only focusing on producing hardware for sensors to sense specific capabilities. At SmartSense, we are going beyond that by using the data that the hardware collects to prescribe actions that optimize outcomes in real-time. I think the tipping point for our verticals will be the point where connected IoT combines with other innovation areas, like the blockchain, for example, generating even more value and transparency.

If you take a sensor and put it on a pallet throughout the supply chain, you can enter it into a publicly held general ledger. You can request data from the ledger, identifying a specific SKU or specific product and pulling up information about the state of its quality over time, farm to table for food. An apple needs to be held at a specific temperature and humidity levels throughout harvest, the dormant months, and the supply chain. With IoT connected to the blockchain, you could pull up these measurements from the apple’s complete history — from agricultural producer, through transportation, all the way to the retail environment. This information would help you determine how long the apple will last, how tasty it will be, and other critical quality considerations. The state of produce is mainly impacted by its state during the time of transport. Operators and consumers alike would be given a more holistic story regarding product quality. This potential goes beyond agriculture and grocery. The possibility for the IoT/blockchain combination to impact the pharmaceutical industry with applications for vaccines and medications is massive as well. There is a gamut of industries that need these capabilities.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

I think where IoT is going next is 100% true positive, with detailed guidance on what needs to be executed to improve and even optimize outcomes. You can take that into control, quality assurance of products, you can take it into tracked transportation, you can take it into on-shelf availability, you can take it into a lot of areas.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We believe it is crucial to incorporate the voice of the customer throughout our marketing and sales initiatives. Through every channel — digital, social, face-to-face — we infuse all our messaging with stories from delighted customers and raving fans. The marketing process is part of the customer experience, and one of the core missions of our company is to improve the customer experience. We want to be an example of transparency in the space, so we bring that attitude into the way we communicate with the market, employees, and customers. The best way to make your case is by showing proof of other satisfied customers.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

The number one person would be my wife, Maya. A long time ago, I learned that you need to be able to go to the balcony. Whatever you do, you need to go to the balcony and get an outside perspective on what you do and what you think from time to time. If you bring all the management on an outing and start brainstorming, you get the same view most of the time. If you can bring someone with an outside-in view, it’s the best unfiltered perspective. And that’s what my wife brings to me. She doesn’t know the industry with the same level of detail as my management and I do, or the vertical that we are playing in. She is a programmer and an interior designer. But, when she comes from the outside in, she looks at it and she may say, “Ahh, that sounds like a mistake.” And she would tell me that. Then I restart and know I need to build from there.

Over the years, I have had multiple mentors. My supply chain mentor is, rest in peace, Roddy Martin. He was a great friend of mine and my mentor in supply chain. His generosity and passion are well-known across the industry. He always wanted to help you and push you and train you and educate you and connect you with others all at the same time. The CEO we hired at my first company Demantra, Bill Seibel, provided me with terrific guidance on entrepreneurship and building company culture. He recently came out with a great book called Press Go: Lessons Earned by a Serial Entrepreneur. Another great mentor is James Langabeer, II. He is a Professor of Healthcare Management, Policy, and Biomedical Informatics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. James taught me everything I know about customer success and implementation. He plans to join and lead our SmartSense Board of Advisors for healthcare (more to come later). From a math perspective and heightened ability to solve complex problems, my professor Eli Singerman impacted me tremendously. He’s a fantastic guy that told me that for any problem — in life, in enterprise, in software — there’s a mathematical formula that can solve it at 100% accuracy. And that’s what he does for a living, now as a leader of Engineers at Intel. I’ve also been fortunate to know Eddy Shalev, who built the first Israeli Venture Capital company in 1984. He guided me and taught me how to build strong technological companies.

Of course, there are even more mentors I haven’t mentioned. I’m very grateful for the abundance of advice and guidance I’ve received throughout my career.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

My slogan that I really believe in is, “It’s all about the people.” I think it’s essential not only to say it but to mean it. Whether it’s the people who work at your company or the people that buy your solution, you need diverse perspectives for entrepreneurship and innovation. When I wake up in the morning, I think about how I can help the people I work with progress in their careers and make our customers’ lives better by under promising and overdelivering. The fulfillment that I get from seeing people progress in their careers, either our employees, our customer’s or industry colleagues, is what really resonates with me.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

The Future Is Now: Guy Yehiav of SmartSense by Digi On How Their Technological Innovation Will… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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