Geoff Mulligan is a co-founder of Skylight. Before that, he was Chairman and Founder of the LoRa Alliance, Chairman and Founder of the IPSO Alliance, U.S. representative to the International Organization for Standardization’s Smart and Sustainable Cities project, and creator of the 6LoWPAN protocol for the Internet of Things (IoT). Geoff has been working on the internet for over 30 years, starting with the original ARPANET. Since 2001, he’s been focused on IoT. Vint Cerf, the “Father of the Internet,” has referred to Geoff as the “Father of the Embedded Internet.” Geoff has spoken and given keynotes at over 100 conferences around the the world on topics including IoT, designing for network/device privacy and security, open protocols, IPv6, and smart and sustainable cities.
Chris Cairns: Tell me about your path to Skylight.
Geoff Mulligan: While developing and leading the LoRa Alliance, I saw a need for the intersection of IoT, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), microservices, and cloud computing. Too many IoT projects are siloed solutions, and often on a grand and glorious scale — biting off more than can possibly be chewed (an entire smart city all at once). The internet, our transportation system, and our cities did not spring forth fully formed. They grew incrementally, but with the understanding that they were not being created in a vacuum and would be connected. Yet today purveyors of smart city solutions seem to view theirs as the only system to be deployed across an entire city and that it’s “OK” to ignore interfacing with other systems.
Rather than build huge, monolithic IoT systems, we should take a page from lean-agile engineering: smart cities — and in fact all IoT systems — should be designed and implemented in small, focused, interoperable pieces. Be defining and using open and interoperable standards, smart city pieces and IoT systems can be snapped together like LEGO building blocks.
With my experience in IoT, coupled with Skylight’s expertise in areas such as lean-agile engineering, APIs, and microservices, I saw an incredible opportunity to work with government (and civic) organizations toward advancing the state of smart cities and IoT systems. That’s what led me here.
Chris Cairns: How did you find out about Skylight?
Geoff Mulligan: I met several members of the now-Skylight team such as Kin Lane and Dr. Robert Read during Round 2 of the Presidential Innovation Fellows. After finishing my tour as a fellow, I felt that there was more all of us could be doing to continue applying innovation pressure on the government. Skylight presented a platform to help effectuate that, and I felt that it could be a force of change.
Chris Cairns: Why did you decide to join?
Geoff Mulligan: I want IoT to truly move from hype to reality, and to advocate for open and interoperable solutions where IoT can create new opportunities and solutions to solve real-world problems. I don’t want IoT be just another way to sell us more stuff we didn’t know we needed in the first place. Just as the government helped by building the original ARPANET, which led to the internet of today, I believe that the Skylight team can help the government leverage the power of IoT to drive improvements in healthcare, energy, transportation, water management, manufacturing, and elsewhere.
Chris Cairns: What have you worked on so far?
Geoff Mulligan: While completing my time as the Chairman of the LoRa Alliance and finding my replacement, I’ve started to focus on correcting some of the hyperbole in the IoT industry that appears to be trying to capture headlines rather than present reality.
In addition, I’ve started to engage with a number of cities around the world that are looking to make use of smart city and IoT technologies, and working with them to develop realistic implementation plans that embrace lean-agile engineering principles and open standards interoperability.
I also worked on a DARPA proposal for a LoRa-based gunshot detection and location system that could, in theory, provide a two-order of magnitude reduction in both capital and operating expenditures when compared to current solutions. Our goal here isn’t to commercialize this idea ourselves; it’s simply the use case chosen for conducting research on the latest LPWAN technology coupled with an open API-based cloud platform.
And, finally, I’m working on issues for the energy industry related to data privacy, security, and safety — promoting the mantra “protect what you collect.”
Chris Cairns: What do you see yourself accomplishing in the next six months?
Geoff Mulligan: There’s much to do!
One of the big things I’m going to focus on is collaborating with the Skylight team and other innovators to push forward the idea of an open API-based cloud platform for IoT. Such a platform would enable rapid, large-scale collaboration across IoT applications. Currently, I’m thinking about obtaining funding for one or more hackathons to show how this can be done. Ultimately, I’d love to partner with a progressive government organization who shares the same vision for such a platform.
I’m also going to focus on building Skylight’s IoT practice. There are good reasons why IoT is regarded as one of the top “disruptive” emerging technologies. We’re eager to work with government organizations who are looking to harness the potential of IoT to better serve citizens.
Chris Cairns: Geoff, thank you for your time. It’s been inspiring, and I’m looking forward to supporting you in your endeavors. To our readers, if you’re interested in engaging with Geoff on smart city and IoT topics, we’d love to hear from you.