Episode 6: Daniel Pifko, VP North America at WakeCap

October, 09, 2020

Summary

In this episode, Clue CEO, Oded Ran speaks with Daniel Pifko, VP North America, at WakeCap, talking about wearables, WakeCap products and optimizing crew operations.

WakeCap website
Daniel on LinkedIn

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Oded Ran (Clue) (00:09):
Hello, welcome to another episode of the full scoop, where we discuss all things, telematics and construction technology. My name is Oded Ran, and I'm co-founder and CEO at Clue Insights, the hosts of this show. And today I'm really excited to have with us. Daniel Pifko, who's the VP of North America at WakeCap. Daniel, great to have you with us.

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (00:28):
Oded, Thank you very much. Nice to see you and thank you for having me on the show.

Oded Ran (Clue) (00:33):
So I'm really, really excited about what we're going to show later, but before we get started, tell us a bit more about WakeCap and your journey to join the company.

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (00:42):
Yeah, sure. So if you haven't picked it up from the accent or maybe look for clues later on, I am from Canada. I was born and raised in Toronto and went to school at university of Waterloo, just outside of Toronto, where I went through for engineering. I did some more school. I went to graduate school on the West coast of Canada. And when I was wrapping up there, I was looking for other places to go. I was looking all over the world and ultimately decided to come down to California to make my career here. I was doing most of my work, my undergraduate and graduate research and a combination of image processing and mobility and automotive work as well. But it was really the mobility that piqued my interest when I was much younger. Maybe I was addicted when I was young, when I was very much younger, I took the family phone apart and put it into, I put it into an old yogurt container and that was my childhood attempts at mobile computing and internet of things. I still have it. I still have it around somewhere. When I was graduating from school, I was thinking I could go into image processing could go into a couple of different areas and mobile computing, mobile phones, and the like were really booming.

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (01:50):
When I came down to California, I pretty much joined the mobile phone industry and have been in different aspects of that since then. So I've done software, just consumer software for mobile phones. I did some work with electronic arts, which was great fun around the time that the iPhone and the Android were first released. I was at electronic arts and product management. I've always had an interest towards a combination of being in the field and working and actually the business side of it. And then the technology side of it too. So combination of product management and sales engineering, and, and things like that did a fair bit of an industrial or a enterprise sales as well. I did some work with Ford motor company where they had a field service group and we put together some software for them. So largely speaking, I've been in the mobile phone industry where it's important to understand what kind of information do people need to have, or need to create when they're walking around, when they're moving around.

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (02:48):
And that applies whether you're a consumer and you want to put a smile on your face, or whether you're a commercial enterprise or, or an industry where you need to have something that's going to make the business work better or make it more profitable or make you more competitive or improve safety or reduce accidents or something like that. So, yeah. So I've been in the mobile phone industry, you know, personally, while I was down here in California, I got, I got my private pilots license up in Canada and then down around San Francisco, there's a huge hang gliding population. So I spent a fair bit of time up in midair looking down on Silicon Valley. Yeah. So I've been in mobility for quite a while. And then about four years ago, I switched over us. It's a fairly small jump to internet of things or smart, connected things, either stationary in the house or as you're moving around.

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (03:34):
And that's how I got to know WakeCap. They were one of my customers and my previous company got to know the founder of the company, who was actually funded here in the US we got our funding here in the US, but the founder got his first contract out in Dubai and moved out there. And then last fall things have been going really well for them. For the past three years, I was ready to make a move. And so I came on board as VP of North America to just warm things back up here in the US and get them up and running again. And that's how I got to, that's how I got to wake up

Oded Ran (Clue) (04:04):
Fantastic journey. So you know, it's not often that we have people on the show, they can actually show and hold in their hand, the product that they're building. So you're one of these. So let's talk a bit about WakeCap. Show us the product. Tell us a bit more about it.

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (04:19):
Yeah. Let me give a really short view first, before we show, we do the show and tell which I will do in a second. The basic idea is that we have a real time location system for construction sites and oil and gas. And the idea is that if you're running the site, you want to know where people are and you want to know where things are, and you want to know all the judgements that you make to improve the site based on that information. Okay. We decided to go after the workforce first, but there's, it's a very natural extension to heavy equipment, lighter equipment tools, things like that at the heart of it right now, there's a filler. See if I can, there we go. So this is just a standard construction hardhat standard suspension. We pulled off the ratchet knob and replaced it with our little device, which looks like this super light, super small.

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (05:10):
It has the electronics, the battery, and the antenna in there. The weighs less than an an ounce. It actually weighs less than the full brim on the full hardhat. So super light, super easy. The battery in there lasts between 12 and 18 months, depending on how, how people use it and how often they just let it sit. That's the main and most visible part does not. It gives you on the job site, location and time. It has no camera. It doesn't listen to you. And on the job site, it connects out to the rest of the world by a series of devices that we put on the job site. And you can kind of see those back here. These are battery operated, wall-mounted things, and they install kind of like a mini intranet. It's called a mesh network, but it's a little mini connected network on the job site, very flexible. And so if there's a place that's hard to into, or that's like blocked out, you can't get cell phone signal in there because the towers are in the wrong place. We can just put up one of these and make sure we get a hundred percent coverage on the job site. And so with a combination of those, we're able to tell a worker location across the entire job site, whether it's a super broad wide site or whether it's like a 70 story tower, we can get full coverage.

Oded Ran (Clue) (06:21):
And how do companies use this information?

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (06:24):
Yeah. So the biggest thing they want to know, so we were doing one project with a, in Dubai, with a company that has, I think, I think we're, we're just over 3000 workers wearing the WakeCap hardhats, 70 plus story tower in Dubai, by a company called B6. They want to know three things. They want to know who's on the job site. When did they get there? You know, who exactly is there? They want to know, are they in the areas where they're supposed to be based on the work packages and what they want to do to kind of keep things moving? And then the third thing they want to know is, is there anything going on in the site, that's slowing people down from doing what they're doing or what they should be doing. And ultimately, you know exactly where people are on the job site.

Oded Ran (Clue) (07:10):
That's moderately useful, you know, a smart supervisor or a crew chief will be able to pick up some things from that. But what we'd like to do is get into more interpretation of the data. So for example, there's no more, when you, when you sign in, when you come on the job site, we already have each one of these as associated to an individual worker. And so we know who's on the job site. And so there's no more punch cards. There's no more signing in. There's no more signing in, on a common iPad. There's no more even the crew chief or the crew supervisor manually signing people in and kind of hoping, guessing that they're right about when people are there or not. So they just walk onto the job site and we know that they're there and we leave the job site. We know that they've left, then we can do all sorts of other things like understanding time and motion, how long it takes people to get from one place to another. Maybe a certain aspect of the job site is set up. So they're not as efficient. And you know, finally the workers can can say, Hey, this isn't working well and prove it to the site supervisors.

Oded Ran (Clue) (08:08):
That's fantastic because really this problem of employees needing to become data entry clerks or to, you know, punch cards. But that's also part of the conversation you and I had offline about Clue and WakeCap in these elements. That sounds really, really great, great solution for that.

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (08:26):
And it's, it's the kind of thing where we have some basic analytical tools. We have an initial set of analytical tools that we know people are gonna want based on location. They want to know comings and goings. They want to know attendance and like time and attendance, they want to know timekeeping based on work packages. We can talk about safety and fall detection. They want all that. And we're delivering the core set of what's going on and some aspect of the analysis there. But as we grow, we will be connecting up with program with APIs, with computer connections, with other packages, so that we can wrap it into the bigger picture of how a general contractor runs their site, right? Or how a supervisor like their different roles, safety, you know, safety officer or project director, or project manager. They want to know slightly different things. And we're more than happy working with other companies to make that happen more easily, more quickly, and in a more automated way.

Oded Ran (Clue) (09:25):
And how granular can you get, for example, first in terms of resolution, is does it go to the level of meters of knowing where an employee is?

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (09:35):
We're doing meters in North America? (laughing) We can do either yards or meters, either one, right? We speak both languages. The short story is for the kind of stuff that we're trying to locate, where we're trying to locate people. You want to know it down to the level of a few feet to a few yards, right? So, you know, two yard, two yards to 10 yards is loosely speaking the accuracy. And it really depends on how, how densely you put these around the job site.

Oded Ran (Clue) (10:10):
Do you see for example, companies already now coming and say, Hey, I'm working on a 70 story building. And you know, floor 68 required from us, you know, 150 hours whereby this floor only 220 hours?

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (10:31):
Yeah. So there are a few different ways that we can slice and dice the data. And some, every company does it slightly differently. But for example, what we can do is when we first installed the system, right, we'll get the blueprints for the entire project and import them and geo reference them. So put pins in them so that we know where they are by latitude and longitude and, and height. And then we, we draw zones. We draw areas on top of those blueprints and they're just lines on a page. I mean, we can do any shape you want. And ultimately the goal is to make those zones meaningful to the project manager, right? So it could be things like Northwest corner, Northeast corner, Southeast corner. It could be, this is my tool shed. This is my office. This is my break room. This is my lunch room. This is the elevator. This is the elevator waiting area, which I'll circle back to in a second. So we divide up the entire thing into that. And then we can subdivide those or collect those rather into productive areas, indirectly productive areas like elevators and transportations and tool sheds and areas where they're unproductive or not productive areas. It's not meant to be protective areas. And so we can give people, we can, we can give people a count of how many hours they spend in productive areas or a specific one. And then we can divide that up too by individual, although that's not as useful as a crew. So if you've got a that goes out and they are responsible for being in a certain section, we can do that. We can divide it up by subcontractor, right? So, you know, whether a subcontractor has actually done a, spent the amount of time, they said they were supposed to either in a specific work area or on the site as a whole, it's very easy for us to go through and get a total of subcontractor, a, B and C. We can say, this one spent 400 hours. This one had 800 hours in the past week. This one had a thousand hours in the past week, two weeks. And so you can very easily get a total. And then you can, you can compare that against what you plan and what you can also do is compare things like how much time, what percentage of the time did they spend in a productive area? Right. You know, what percentage of the time do they spend in indirect areas? And it may be something that they have control over and maybe something they don't have control over, but ultimately you can manage that. You can have your weekly meetings or your daily meetings with your troop crew chiefs and say, Hey, look at this number. There's something wrong here. Is there something really going wrong? Or do we just need to, you know, just get there faster.

Oded Ran (Clue) (12:56):
And do you today, with all this information, how does the supervisor or the project manager get all this data today? Do they get a daily report or they, it all depends on the project, what type of format they want to receive?

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (13:08):
Yeah. So we have a web based dashboard where we can give different levels of access to. We have customers can view it as a, all the jobs for a particular company, all the sites and buildings or one for a specific site, or just like an individual worker can look at it. They can look at it themselves, or we can, we can publish it and download it for them and just send it to them, put it in PDF or a PowerPoint or something like that. Very, very easy to do. And then usually the project project director or project supervisor will meet with their team to collect that information, present, discuss, do all that kind of thing. I should probably also point out to how that information gets there. So you've got, you've got the hard hat which connects to each of these anchors, but multiple of them around a building, they don't actually speak to the internet directly.

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (13:56):
You know, we've got a device here called the gateway, which is just a small computer and it connects to the internal mesh network on one side. And then on the other side, it connects to the regular open internet using some network connection, either a SIM card, like a cell phone connection or an Ethernet cable or wifi. And it sends it up to our Amazon servers where we collect all the data and keep it all safe and secure. And then we turn that into the dashboard where people can get access to it, where we can do things like collect a list of names of people who are like workers and quickly and easily import them into the system to make it easier to deploy it.

Oded Ran (Clue) (14:30):
Fantastic. So in terms of traction and size of company so far, how large is WakeCap? How many employees, what can you share with us about the traction you've had so far?

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (14:40):
Yeah, we're pretty good. So far. So it's been, we've been about three years. The company is three years old. We just had our third birthday celebration. Thank you very much. We're going to make a little cake. We primarily focus on the medium to large contractors. So we're working with CCC in Dubai. There's a multibillion dollar company. Like I mentioned, B6. So probably 10 to 12 multibillion dollar general contractors, primarily in the middle East. And then now that things are going here in the US there's a bunch of large GCs that are, that were interested in speaking with companies about 40 some give or take 40 somewhat people we're funded through professional investors here in the U S a couple of strategic investors where you have private investment pools coming out of general, contractors that on the one hand have invested, but we also have a wall in there so that they don't get any of the competitive information from their other their other customers as well.

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (15:38):
It's been pretty good. I mean, we'd have at least a couple of projects over 3000 workers on a single site, several in the, you know, a couple of thousand couple of thousand range. Really our entry point is several hundred. What we'll generally do, we'll generally start off with a pilot program. So people rightly so are like, Hey, who is this guy? Who's this, what's this new technology. I don't believe any of it. Prove it to me. We're like, okay, we'll prove it to you. That's fine. And so we'll do a pilot project of 100, 200, 300 workers across a facility or a site run that for a couple months, three months, somewhere in that ballpark. And then set pretty, pretty hard proof points of what we say we can do, and then going through it, what kind of data is showing the basics? Yes, it does work.

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (16:21):
What kind of analytics matter most to you? And then a big part of the pilot rollout too, is a, of getting to that size is the ease of deployment and the ease of use for us, right? So when we're, when you've got 6,000 people, 3000 people on a job site, you can't be messing around with training everybody 10 minutes, 15 minutes, that's just not going to work. And so it's very important to us that there'd be zero worker training. In fact, our first are for you talking about traction. One of our first customers said to us, listen, I've got a technology graveyard. You know, I've got a room full of old technology that never worked. So let's do this installed, we'll install the network, we'll install your mesh network. We'll give out some number of these hardhats. It was like one or 200 somewhere in that ballpark.

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (17:05):
We'll give it out and then go away, come back in 30 days and no training, no nothing. If it's still working, if it's still getting data, then we have a conversation. And we did that. It took about, it takes about literally 60, 60 seconds to give this to a person it's like, what's your name? We've got your name. Here's hard, hard hat. One, two, three, you tap it. Or you read it or you scan it a couple of different ways of doing that. And here's your hard hat you go off and do it. And we did that. We came back later on, they're now one of our largest customers,

Oded Ran (Clue) (17:36):
Amazing, but do do people every now and then by mistake replace hats, you find that the air conditioning person trade person is working in the wrong floor. And then you realized they exchanged hats. That happens ?

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (17:50):
Pretty rarely, certainly in the U S like in, in some of our projects, they're just vanilla hats, you know, vanilla hardhats, or vanilla held helmets. Like here's your yellow helmet. Some of them put stripes on it to indicate what your role is or seniority in the U S that people have stickers, stickers. You do not mess with people's stickers. So they'll, they'll keep the shell. We'll swap out. We'll put another suspension in, but they keep their stickers. And you're not taking someone else's stickers that you don't play that game.

Oded Ran (Clue) (18:17):
Fantastic. Now, where do you see this technology going? Do you see this, for example, in a few years time, you'll start adding on a node two way communications. So you can ping someone or some things like that, or in general, what are you excited about seeing where this technology can go, other than deploying it in more and more and more businesses?

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (18:37):
Yeah. So we're in the fortunate position that we have some initial, initial traction. We have some proof of initial return on investment. We're making real money, and we've got real anecdotes to support that. And we've got lots of ideas of what to do, and it's hard to choose which one we do first. Right? So, so right now it's core productivity, attendance time. Time-Tracking some things about movement and worker flow. The next one up, or one of the next ones up is going to be the safety features. So this already has fall detection. This has a motion detector inside. And what are the, what are the elements we use this for right now is just, is the person moving around? Right? So have they for compliance purposes, have they put it down beside them? And it's not moving, right? So we can detect that because of the motion.

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (19:18):
But this also means you can do fall detection. So we've got that working in the lab and we're productizing it. Now you can do a faster evacuation. So if there's a big site, then you can get people off much faster, prove that everybody's in the muster area. And if everybody is, it automatically cancels the Evoque. And if not, you can find out where the stragglers are and figure out if someone just dropped their helmet or if they're actually hurt. So that's coming in terms of two way communications. This does have a beeper in it. And it strictly speaking, it does have a button where you can press on this, but we don't want to ruin the experience of having zero training, right? And so you can't have different beats for different purposes. So the beep is going to be reserved most likely for get out, right.

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (20:01):
Something bad has happened. Leave. If it starts screaming at you, there's a reason for it go away. And the button is more like a panic button something's gone wrong. I need help. And by the way, I don't need to tell anyone where I am, because it knows where I am and down to like couple yards, 10 yards, something like that. I know what room you're in, further down the road, we're going to be seeing integrations with some of the big other packages that are out there. Certainly clue is very, very interesting to us as a way to manage the bigger picture, connecting into things like Procore and Oracle Primavera and multiple Autodesk construction solutions pieces, whether it's BIM three 60 or beams, Autodesk field solutions, or even plan grid, just to ingest the, the blueprints. We're actually in the Autodesk technology residency program here in San Francisco. And so we get to we're prototyping with some hardware down at their pier nine facility right along.

Oded Ran (Clue) (20:55):
That's fantastic. It sounds like such an intuitive, like you said, solution that I think it, lots of people listening to this, you know, this concept of having zero training, definitely. You know, is it really important? Like you said, you make compromises, does the product provide it or not? And I think that's great. And in terms of also people watching this, you mentioned you have the moment you're focusing on larger deployments of hundreds. Do you envisage in future, being able to provide this for a company that just has 20 employees of 50 employees, but they still want to use it off the shelf?

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (21:26):
Yeah. I mean, that's a natural extension to the product line or one of the natural extensions. I mean, from where we are right now, we can go into a safety for one connecting with other, other packages that are out there. We can start to go into, like once you have this network installed to have a variation on a device that's attached to like a piece of large hardware or a piece or two tools, just like, literally this just connects onto this network to have, this is just an ID tag, because there are some places, either you're in an office or there's other, you're in an office, or you're in like a large camp, but there's 20,000 people or 15,000 people on a job. And there's some places where they don't wear their hard hat, but you still want to be connected. So this is a, this, this, this thing has a one year battery life connect to the same network. So we will be doing that. And then I also see that there's going to be a lot of interest for things that are lower touch. So once we really started to prototype and develop and productize a standard dashboard, like the things that everybody wants and just make that download and click and download, download, and click, it is not even downloaded. Just go onto a website, click and set it up then. Sure. I can see going with the smaller GCs or the smaller price.

Oded Ran (Clue) (22:34):
That's fantastic. Really, really exciting. So before we wrap up one question, I always ask every guest on the show. If I now allow you to go to any company in the world and operate any one of their machines or assets, which one would you choose to operate in? Why?

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (22:48):
Yeah. So I think you would probably be, there are a couple of different things. I mean, of course I'm, I'm naturally thinking of the crane. That's kind of an obvious, obvious gimme, but I think it takes a long time to get up there and you have to be really safe. And it it's, I don't know, you can't have as much fun. I think one of the big, several of the mining trucks where the tires are alone are twice the size of it. Right. And being able to, to, you know, rip around on one of those would be incredibly fun. Digging is always fun. Digging is I've always enjoyed digging. So any, any kind of big backhoe or lift or something along those lines would be great.

Oded Ran (Clue) (23:25):
Awesome. That that would be yours.

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (23:29):
Yeah, there's one story. There's one little anecdote that I forgot to add. It really is important in understanding both our value and just the general trend of once you have the individual locations of where people in crews are on a job site, then you can find out about all sorts of different things that you didn't otherwise know were problems. Right? So a very specific example on the B one of the B six projects, we were noticing that there were certain areas where people were spending a lot of time, and this was one of those indirectly productive zones that I mentioned earlier. And it turns out they were right around the elevators and the project director, who's encrypt smart well-trained and architecture background, 25 years in the business. He couldn't figure out why people were waiting. And it turns out that they had miscalculated the number of elevators that they needed to install for the workers that they had on site at the time.

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (24:25):
And so they were literally paying hundreds and hundreds of person hours for people to stand around, waiting for an elevator. And they didn't know that it was a problem. He didn't know that was an issue on his own site, because it was kind of hidden. It was up on the higher floors. And so once he saw it, he immediately knew something was just wrong. They investigated it and sure enough, immediately afterwards, they started staggering their shifts. So people weren't either arriving or leaving at the same time. And you can bet that on every single project from then forward, they're going to change their calculation for number of elevators versus number of workers on onsite.

Oded Ran (Clue) (25:03):
Great example for the ROI that you would get from using it the first time. And then afterwards learning from from something that needs to get better in a subsequent project.

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (25:11):
Exactly. You can tell, you just know that there are more findings like that out there were just given we'll cover that we'll do the attendance, we'll do the timekeeping, we'll do the safety and the fall detection. But once that's done, just having all of this information, there leads to natural extensions like that. COVID was another great example, you know, same sort of deal where one of the, one of the projects said, Hey, we got two guys who had who were diagnosed, what can you do for us? And two hours later, we had literally just ran a different report. And we gave them a list of people that those two, two guys had been in contact with and specific locations on the job site, where those people had been. So those could be disinfected first. And we've since expanded that to include things like how much time did you spend with people?

Oded Ran (Clue) (25:59):
Like if was I four or five yards away from someone, but I spent eight hours in the same, in the same room. You better, you know, you bet I want to call those people and tell them they've been exposed. So, and lots of other things to made it more self serve. So all that, to say that once you have the location information, there's lots of stuff you can do and learn. It's pretty clear we can beat the, we can get you a, a, a strong return on investment right away. And also lots of other opportunities to improve the project operations on the construction sites

Oded Ran (Clue) (26:30):
With COVID-19 that takes, you know, safety to a whole different dimension in terms of proximity and whatnot. That's so super interesting and you know, very, very exciting for everyone listening to this or watching this. What's the best way to get hold of you and contact you?

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (26:46):
Well, the easiest way is just go to wakecap.com. Contact information is on there. If it comes in through the U S I'd be happy to give you a call, have a chat, see what's going on with your, your sites and your companies, and see how we can help, help make them work better.

Oded Ran (Clue) (27:07):
Fantastic. That was really, really great. And for everyone's listening after the show finished, you'd be able to see in the captions, all the information about Daniel and the company, and some links that I'm really, really grateful for you spending time with us. Very, very excited to work with you all, looking forward also to integrating it when you're ready with Clue and good luck in journey!

Daniel Pifko (WakeCap) (27:30):
Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thank you.

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