Karen K. Burns: “IoT has not really reached the tangible world of the everyday user”

Karen is the Head of Business Development at Mooncascade, the fastest growing mobile and product development house in Estonia. The company works with large corporate clients as well as SME’s and startups on various projects, mainly delivering mobile solutions. Just recently Karen helped us launch our VUNK 2016 program giving a nice introduction about the Internet of Things, e-commerce and digitisation. Considering those who did not make it that time, Karen happily shares some of her thoughts here.

At VUNK program launch last week you talked about trends in IoT, could come back to those and name a few that fascinate you right now?

I am just fascinated at where this ‘trend’ has merged into, its cross-disciplinary use cases are of interest to me. It seems that IoT is more in use inside industries (manufacturing, transport etc); it’s not really reached the tangible world of the everyday user as yet. We are still to get our internet-connected fridges and other gadgets; smart homes are also yet to really reach us - people can switch their sauna on remotely, but that is not really a smart home - I don’t think it’s even been defined yet, so personally I am the most interested in how we’ll have smart homes inside our smart cities. Simply plugging tons of sensors together won’t be useful, the Big Data and analytics behind it will be things delivering the real value to us.

What, in your opinion, have been the phenomenons in  IoT that have not lived up to the expectations?

The plugged in devices - like just mentioned, just plugging a thing into the internet won’t be useful - the analytics behind it will be valuable. Also, what will happen with Beacons? It would be good to see what other use cases apart from advertising this technology could be useful for.

Are you also somehow connected to any interesting products right now via Mooncascade?

Mooncacade is a product and software development company. But we also work on our own products l and hope to spin these off if successful.

One of these is called LBS which is a location based services platform that takes real time cell phone data, anonymises it and enables us then to look at people’s trajectories throughout their day. We could use it to track people’s movement in real time. It sounds a little bit big brother, but it has very good use cases.

It’s very easily applicable for public sector organisations. For example, if we look at Lasnamäe, every morning 50 000 people will go to work, but where do they go and what roads to they use? If we put machine learning behind it, we can predict where people’s patterns of movement will take them and when. If we close one of the main roads, the computer will then use algorithms to predict what re-routes people will take and what roads they’ll use. This helps in road planning, road load balancing and infrastructure works.

Another thing we’re doing is GeneWix - a DNA analyzing product that we develop together with Tartu University scientists. It’s a very personal, private and very secure way of providing health and lifestyle advice.

There are more, but these are the main things.

What do you expect from VUNK 2016?

I expect really varied ideas by the prospective teams I met at the launch event. There was one Estonian-Ukranian start-up, I’m not sure if they’ll apply to the accelerator or or not, but they had a very interesting augmented reality-chemistry app that could be used as a learning tool. So I think we will see a lot more VR, maybe augmented reality stuff, cross-diciplinary things where people are merging design, user experience, hopefully with more tech and science together.

What’s your main professional-personal goal?

At Mooncascade I work at business development. Previously in a sales role I had to work in the Middle East and sell the desert in Abu Dhabi. It’s a real buzz I get from meeting new people and helping them through the service offering that Mooncasce has. My aim is to be better at this and so I’ve gone back to university.

I’m currently studying law in London at a private university. I have also been accepted already to do my MA at Edinburgh. I want to be able to provide legal councel inside Mooncascade on the topic of intellectual property. One of the areas where all companies are moving to, we can see this in VUNK and Telia as well, is that we’re coming out with these new and innovative areas to make money and create different revenue streams. This is all intellectual property and it needs to be protected. So my personal business goal is to protect the innovation that Mooncascade does. As well as the innovation we do with our clients by protecting their IP and by marrying up the business development with IP protection.

You were also involved in Hollywood movie productions, any cinematographic recommendations for this summer?

Yes, I was. I was working for the Abu Dhabi Media Zone Authority and my job was to sell Abu Dhabi and its locations to Hollywood film productions. So I was part of the team that sold the desert basically. That’s where I burnt out and why I came back to Estonia. I worked on Star Wars 7, Fast and Furious 7 and did a lot of commercials. I’m also a volunteer at Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF) and I still love cinema but I just don’t want to work in it anymore. I recommend everybody to go and see PÖFF that kicks off first in August with Tartuff. There are really varied films the festivals are showing us. The traditional box office cinema is completely bland, only caters for the masses. There are so many good films I could recommend, but the freshest and the best offering of international cinema in Estonia would be at the Black Nights Film Festival. So that’s what I’d recommend everyone to go and see.

Karen will be one the mentors at VUNK2016 Hackathon on 9.-11. September. To participate, register here. As a warm-up for the main event Garage48 also hosts idea garages taking place on 9 June, 24 August and 31 August. More info & registration here.