Mar 29, 2023 | 6 min read

Alistair Fulton

Podcast #202 Wireless Transformation


Connecting the Future: The Evolution of Wireless Technology


In this week's episode, Ken Forster interviews Alistair Fulton, former SVP and General Manager of LoRa Wireless and Consumer Sensing at Semtech.


Semtech Corporation is a leading supplier of high-performance analog and mixed-signal semiconductors and advanced algorithms for a wide range of applications, including IoT, data centers, and wireless infrastructure. Their products are used in various industries, such as telecommunications, consumer electronics, and industrial equipment.


Alistair is a distinguished leader in the field of Internet of Things and Industrial Internet of Things, with more than 20 years of experience. He has expertise in developing vertical solutions, platforms, tools, and ecosystems. Alistair began his career at O2 in the UK, where he led strategy and business transformation after the company's demerger from British Telecom. He later worked for Deloitte Consulting's telco practice in New York, where he developed vertical IoT solutions for clients in the US. Alistair then joined Microsoft, where he played key roles in Microsoft’s early IoT strategy, driving the company's IoT developer tools and open-source software strategy and M&A for cloud capabilities and tools. Alistair then joined Hitachi, where he led product management and technology as part of the founding team that developed the Lumada Industrial IoT platform, which used digital twins to reduce customers' time to value. Most recently, Alistair served as the leader of Semtech's wireless IoT business in 2018, leading the development of LoRa and LoRaWAN to become the leading global Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technology for the Internet of Things. Alistair is widely recognized as a thought leader, public speaker, and visionary in the field of IoT.


Discussion Points:

  • What would you consider your digital thread (the one or more thematic threads that define your digital industry journey)?
  • I was impressed with your background, having already led business transformation at O2, working in the telco practice at Deloitte, and your time at Microsoft. If you had to summarize that time into three learnings relative to IoT, what would they be?
  • You joined Hitachi Vantara in 2016 as the global leader for their Industrial IoT product management. What attracted you to the Industrial IoT space and Hitachi in particular?
  • Let’s fast forward to your time at Semtech, joining in early 2018 as Senior Vice President & General Manager, Wireless (LoRa) & Consumer Sensing Business. Can you tell us a bit about your remit in this role and what you are most proud of?
  • This was a formative time for LoRa, competing with SIGFOX for non-licensed spectrum and for the emerging 5G for licensed spectrum. What makes LoRa so special?
  • You culminated your time at Semtech with the acquisition of Sierra Wireless for $1.2B, which was completed in January of this year. What was the strategic rationale for Semtech acquiring this business?
  • Where do you see the largest opportunities for LoRa going forward, and in what sectors and use cases?
  • What can we learn from the recent reboot of SIGFOX?
  • So, what's next for you?
  • In closing, where do you find your personal inspiration? (i.e., book recommendations, articles, podcasts, people, etc.)


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View Transcript


 Ken: Good day, and welcome to episode 202 of our Momenta Digital Thread podcast series. Today, I'm pleased to host Alistair Fulton, the former SVP and General Manager of LoRa Wireless and Consumer Sensing at Semtech. Alistair has over 20 years of experience building vertical solutions, tools, platforms, and ecosystems in the Internet of Things and the industrial Internet of Things. From early roles at O2 in the UK, leading Strategy and Business Transformation following their demerger from Bridge Telecom, he moved into developing vertical IoT solutions for clients in the US as part of Deloitte Consulting's telco practice in New York. More recently, he joined Microsoft, where he led their entry into the IoT platform and tool space, incubating the first iteration of Azure IoT, leading M&A for Cloud capabilities and tools, and driving Microsoft's IoT developer tools and OSS strategy. He subsequently joined Hitachi to lead product management and technology as part of the founding team that built the award-winning LaMotta Industrial IoT platform, which pioneered using digital twins to reduce customers' time to value. Most recently, he joined Semtech in 2018 to lead their wireless IoT business. Alistair is a recognized IoT thought leader, public speaker, and visionary. Alistair, welcome to our Digital Thread podcast today.



Alistair: Thanks for having me. It's a pleasure to be here, Ken.



Ken: It's a pleasure to have you. You and I had many chances to work together over the last several years. I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the relationship. Hence, as we started to think about guests for this new season of podcasts, it made clear sense to have you and finally corner you so that we can have a great conversation around LoRaWAN, Semtech, and your very rich background in IoT. I'm so excited about this. We call this the Digital Thread podcast and always start with the question, what would you consider your digital thread? In other words, the one or more thematic threads that define your digital industry journey?



Alistair: That is an interesting question, I guess my journey to this point has been joined together by one core theme, and that's to make it simpler for the companies on this planet that you extract, produce, or distribute things, to use the power of data and analytics to be more efficient, and more profitable, and less wasteful and damaging to the environment. Going back to my earliest days at O2 - to date myself, that's the days of WAP. We were still talking about the excitement of 2G and the emergence of 3G pre the widescale availability of things that we call smartphones today. The massive potential of ubiquitous connectivity was becoming clear – I don't know whether you’ve heard of Mark Anderson, a futurist with a company called SNS – but it’s something that he'd always described as 'always on real-time access' or AORTA going back to the late 90s. The potential of being able to connect things to transform the way we live was clear even back then when it was voice, pictures, and then a video when the devices got better. But as wireless networking technologies continued to evolve, the possibility of connecting everything, every single thing, every asset, truck, meter, car- went from being something that only the most well-resourced or most regulated companies could afford (or had) to do with wired M2M and SCADA solutions, became something that potentially other companies could use as well.


The issue then, as still now, is that working with these technologies requires very specific development skills that are scarce very often, or you had to build a custom solution to every problem because you couldn't buy anything standardized, you couldn't put it together yourself. There weren't platforms or solution components. If you could afford to pay a company like Deloitte to build that for you, then great. Or if you could afford to find and hire and maintain your software development teams, even better. But that mean’t that only a few companies could take advantage. Why that matters is probably clearer to us now in ways that it wasn't back then. If we don't make access to these types of technologies, which marketers and analysts have glommed together under this headline of IoT, but that are really a diverse and wide range of technologies that span everything from sensors that collect data about the physical world, networks that transport that data, Edge computing so you can process some of it close to the source, digital models or twins that model systems to manage data, storage analytics, security- the list is long. Making those technologies ubiquitous, simple, and cost-effective- if we don't do that, we won't be able to slow down or maybe even reverse the centuries of the damage humans have inflicted on this planet. We won't be able to extend the time that the human race can comfortably spend on this planet just a little bit longer, which in many ways, is the goal of what we call IoT. I've focused my career on making those technologies simple and accessible. From custom solutions that can deliver a quick ROI to Cloud-based platforms that make it easy for software developers to design applications that collect and aggregate and analyze data to customizable industrial IoT platforms that aim to deliver more value out of the box or enable products that come already connected, and able to optimize their efficiency or performance for customers who maybe aren't or don't want to be expert software developers. Today, we're a very different place than when I started at Microsoft in 2009. Today there is a wide range of easy-to-use tools and platforms available, and so I’ve spent the last few years following on from that thread, focusing on tackling one of the big, scary challenges that remain in this space, and that's providing a solution that can connect the many billions of sensors we need to measure the world cheaply, for very low power, wherever they are on the planet. And again, making that technology simpler to use.



Ken: It's interesting. I asked the digital thread question to be open-ended and not too specific. Some will talk very much about their history; some will talk about current activities. I think you're one of the first to turn this into purpose. In some sense, it's the purpose-driven thread. I think that's quite commendable, especially the way you weave in the humanity and the planet perspective into all of this. In some sense, it is an interesting backdrop to overlay against your profile, which I'm very impressed with; I spent a lot of time across and on the same side of the table over the last several years with you. But I must say, I came up with a new respect for your background when I started looking at the work you had done for the purpose of putting together this podcast. Impressive, I guess. From leading business transformation at O2, working in the telco practice at Deloitte, and then, say, up through and including your time at Microsoft- impressive work that you had done. If you had to summarize all of that into three learnings relative to IoT, what would those be?



Alistair: I've been privileged enough to work on some very interesting things with many people who are a hell of a lot smarter than me. I think I draw from that- and there are probably three big learnings if I’d call out. The first I would say is when you look at the technology landscape; there are winners and losers. Some technologies gained traction; some were great ideas but didn't go anywhere. But the technologies that win are the ones that do the job well enough. And I emphasize well enough - it doesn't have to be the best solution – but it has to work; and it has to fill the bill required. And technologies that have lots of friends, i.e. a wide ecosystem to drive adoption, and evolve that technology and put the voice of the customer into R&D. And, perhaps not surprisingly, technologies that are simple to use. So I'd say that's the first key learning; is that the technologies that win are ones that do the job well enough, have lots of friends, and are simple to use. The second major learning I've had over the years is that whatever your plan is, no matter how well you think you've analyzed the market or understood what's happening based on trends, etc., you will be wrong. So the safest thing to do is always to assume that you're wrong. I apply this to pretty much everything in life, including business. Assume that you're wrong and know that your job is to figure out why you're wrong as quickly as possible and figure out what to do about it. In my experience, the most effective way to do that is to find whose problem you're trying to solve - to find your customer – and listen to them and figure out what they're trying to do and how you can help them. Then thirdly, I'd say, somewhat more facetiously- the other big takeaway from building solutions and platforms and everything else in between is that customers want to “eat the cake”. Now, you or I care a lot about how the cake's made or how great the technologies and equipment we used are. The customers want to eat the cake. If they don't already know what it will taste like, or you can't help them truly visualize it, you're wasting your time.



Ken: On your point number two there, assuming you're wrong. Somebody recently told me- in fact, I was in Taiwan over the last weeks and somebody told me "The way to be most successful in business is to assume the null hypothesis." The scientific method. Assume you're wrong and look for all the reasons that you're wrong, right? Only then, when you run out of reasons, you must be right.



Alistair: I say that to the folks I've worked with on teams, particularly newer ones joining the team may be straight out of university. They always look at me like I'm an idiot. "Why is this person telling me I should assume I'm wrong?" But I mean, it is true. I think we are conditioned to believe our own bullshit. There's a self-enforcement of, "Well, I must be right because I thought it, and I need to be right, and therefore I'm going to carry on." There are myriad technology companies that you can point to who have driven themselves down a mineshaft by convincing themselves they're right all the time. In all of that, the one thing that is not heard is the voice of the customer. Customers have the great characteristic that if you find who they are, understand their problem, and ask them the right questions; they'll tell you the right answer if you're smart enough to listen or interpret what they're saying. If you live by that rule, you won't avoid getting it wrong because you'll always be wrong to begin with; but you're going to be right faster than you would otherwise be.



Ken: When we did the intro, we talked about IoT and industrial IoT. I noted when you jumped over to Hitachi Vantara in 2016- it was a global leader in the industrial IoT product management role that you played. What attracted you to the Industrial IoT space in general and Hitachi, particularly at the time?



Alistair: Well, I think I spent a number of years with Microsoft building- what I'd characterize as a Swiss Army knife set of capabilities. Do anything you want, and start anywhere you want. The big takeaway for me was that, for many engineers, that was a great set of capabilities to have and opened up various possibilities. But for many customers, it didn't give them the answer; it didn't give them the cake. You gave them the ingredients and the machine and said, "Hey, get on with it." That wasn't enough. When you look at industrial IoT, per se, industrial IT concerns itself with customers who extract, produce, or distribute things. It's these industries, particularly legacy or older ones, like energy extraction, generation or distribution, and consumption- where older equipment and processes or ineffective business models that are inherently less efficient. It's these businesses that are responsible for a majority of the harm that we're doing to the earth. If we can start there and make a meaningful change, we are heading in the right direction. That means getting into those messy, dirty industrial scenarios, sitting with a customer who's maybe a line operator in a factory, and understanding what they're doing day-to-day and how you can optimize that. Of course, consumer IoT is super interesting as well. It will have a major impact on many things, like, how long you or I will be able to stay in our home as we age. But we can fix those problems and not make a dent in climate change. I think we have an overriding moral priority to address what's happening to this planet. I think we're at a point now, unfortunately, where it's very difficult for folks to look at what's happening and deny humanity's role in creating this circumstance for ourselves. It's a real moral priority for us all in technology in almost every line of business to do what we can. That's industrial IoT to me.



Ken: When you look at just raw impact, and you said it much more eloquently, we think that is definitely where the industrial IoT, and particularly, operating technology companies, where the biggest opportunity is for digitalization. Again, back to purpose-driven. Most of our audience will know you from your most recent role, your time at Semtech. Again, you joined them in 2018 as Senior Vice President and General Manager for Wireless, that's LoRa and Consumer-sensing business. Can you tell us a bit about your remit in this role? What are you most proud of?



Alistair: Yes, sure. At Semtech, as you said, I led the wireless and sensing business unit, a standalone P&L within Semtech responsible for LoRa, which I’ve probably spent more time discussing over the last few years than anything else. But it also includes Semtech's capacitive-sensing business, providing devices that you find in most mobile phones that moderate the power output based on proximity to our bodies and enable touch interfaces. Semtech is both a pioneer, innovator, and leader in the sector, having more or less invented these technologies from scratch. It's a really interesting business. I was also responsible for our power portfolio, including wireless charging and a portfolio of high-reliability products. Think diodes that get sent up on spaceships. It's quite a diverse portfolio, but yeah, most of the time, I focused on LoRa for a number of reasons. It's probably fairly clear that it ties back to the core focus that I've had over these years in that it has, I think, the potential to deliver meaningful change. Also, from a commercial perspective, it has massive growth potential as a business. We've seen some of that potential realized over the last few years, but there's still way more to come. My role in LoRa spanned every aspect of hardware, software, Cloud R&D, product management, and all the go-to-market functions through to the growth of the LoRaWAN partner, developer, and customer ecosystems. Overall, the P&L numbered about 500 people at its largest, with annual revenues approaching around 300 million dollars.

Regarding what I'm most proud of, that's a really tough one. We did so much along the path of making LoRa and LoRaWAN, the leading LPWAN connectivity for IoT. And to briefly describe what's LoRa and what's LoRaWAN- LoRa is the radio layer, it's the physical radio. It's the hardware. LoRaWAN is the protocol that runs on top of that radio; that is an open protocol owned and facilitated by an organization called the Lora Alliance, which does an amazing job. If I was to look at it, there are a few big technical milestones, like launching the LoRa Edge chip to the Cloud platform- it's a world first for low power, GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth-based location. It allows you to locate assets indoors and outdoors with a Cloud service backing it all up, which was a first for Semtech, which had been a more traditional semiconductor company up to that point. Extending LoRaWAN's reach to provide satellite connectivity, which we've done more recently through an add-on to the LoRaWAN protocol called LR FHSS, makes it possible for ground-to-satellite communication, both geostationary and low-Earth orbit satellites. That's got real potential to open up the untracked and uncharted parts of this world where stuff still exists, where energy-gas pipelines run through unpopulated areas. Satellite and low-power satellite has been something we've needed for a while. But I would say the main thing that I am most proud of is the team I got to work as a part of and be a part of. It's a diverse team that spans the US, Europe, and Asia. It's got many languages, people who had super deep embedded firmware developers through to partner channel marketing, and almost every culture you could imagine. That team is united by an obsession with understanding customers' problems and figuring out the solution. Seeing that teamwork on a day-to-day basis and the things they've come up with turn into reality and make their way into customers' hands has been astounding. To see that team, unite and work through the chaos of COVID, supporting each other while continuing to grow and drive rapid growth for LoRa, was probably the most impressive thing I've experienced in my career. That's certainly what I'm most proud of in my time there.


Ken: I'd say you have an awful lot of things to be proud of. One of the things I didn't hear, and I consider it certainly a crowning achievement of your time there, is the acquisition of Sierra Wireless. Of course, Semtech acquired Sierra Wireless for about 1.2 billion and just completed it in January this year. But of course, it started well before. Let me ask, what was the strategic rationale for Semtech acquiring this business?



Alistair: Yeah, you said that'd been a long journey. Acquisitions that size tend to be. I've known the Sierra Wireless team for many, many years, the world of telco being relatively small. Perhaps not surprisingly, the acquisition ties back to what I said earlier. The first goal of the acquisition is to deliver a simplified, uniform, and appropriate- and those three things are quite different- developer experience for IoT solutions regardless of whether you're trying to build a solution that needs low power, whether you're trying to build a solution that needs the bandwidth that cellular can provide. Because at the end of the day, we, as technologists, present this smorgasbord of different technologies to customers. We're all excited because of the diversity, range, and problems we're solving. Customers look at that and see complexity and confusion, which equals cost. Suppose you can unify all those tools into a full toolkit that obscures some of that complexity. Honestly, I don't need to know what happens behind the green curtain half the time. Then you're providing developers and their customers with better tools to get the job done, which means the wider adoption of IoT.


The second goal is really about enabling network coverage. Again, there are developer tools and building stuff, but then there's making sure that there's network coverage and network coverage that you can actually use, that's interoperable. The LoRaWAN ecosystem has done an incredible job of building wide area networks using LoRaWAN pretty much around the planet. The cellular world has done an equally incredible job building cellular coverage everywhere. But bringing those two technologies together in the past has been quite difficult. You've always had to have- you've got your portfolio of devices that lives in the LoRaWAN world, you've got your portfolio of devices that lives in the cellular world, and actually making those two things work together and talk to each other as part of a solution has been a real headache. And so enabling ubiquitous network coverage, providing MVNO services that cover both cellular and LoRaWAN-based IoT solutions, and enhancing those services through stuff that you need- I need to be able to manage devices; I need to be able to update the money to connect them securely and authenticate that they are what they purport to be. Again, providing a platform that does all those things takes the pressure off the developer, takes the worry off the developer, and lets them focus on the thing that’s really valuable, which is building an analytics-based solution that helps their customer figure out what's happening and how to do it better.


The third goal of the acquisition is delivering a unified partner channel experience. It's been clear to me for a long time that when you talk to customers and you just turn up and talk about LoRaWAN, that’s only one of the conversations they will have that day, alongside ones about Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Thread, and Matter. Of course, I might think that my particular tool is great, but if that tool doesn't work well with others and isn't usable as part a portfolio, again we're just making our customer's life harder. Delivering a unified channel experience, the “one-stop shop” if you'd like, is actually really important to help partners be effective, to grow profitably and to propagate their solutions across the planet regardless of whether they are OEMs, ODM solution providers, system integrators- customers of any form.


So those are really the three core goals of that acquisition. It's a big acquisition and integration, and the teams are making fantastic progress toward bringing those two businesses together. The thing that has struck me over the years that I've talked with Sierra is just how similar the teams are. They are both unified by an obsession with what customers need and are deeply technically capable in the various aspects of embedded device development all the way through to cellular network planning. So it's a formidable combination, and I'm excited to see what comes of it and the progress which will be made as a result.



Ken: I like how you've positioned low power, wide area technologies side-by-side with cellular and saw that developers need to be able to explore all options in their various use cases and scenarios. Let me ask since you can't talk too much about that low-power, wide area without considering the recent reboot of Sigfox. What's your perspective on that? What do you think we can learn from that?



Alistair: Interesting question; I think Sigfox is a super interesting technology and business. I think the primary message to take away from Sigfox’s recent history is that customers need choices between different solutions and that interoperability and openness are not just things that tech companies should aspire to- they are things they need to live and breathe every day to succeed.


We like to talk about “differentiation” as engineers and as technology providers. My solution is different from Ken’s, so you should buy mine. But differentiation to customers means complexity. It means it's not the same; it means I will have to do something different because no one tool will do the job well enough.


I think the early days of Sigfox were driven by a grand and noble vision to provide ubiquitous, easy-to-use connectivity everywhere for low-power devices. And to be clear, the Sigfox team made incredible progress toward that goal, but they were hamstrung by a closed proprietary mindset in the early days and a failure to build a robust ecosystem. And honestly a miscalculation, which we are all guilty of- of how quickly customers would build IoT solutions, and specifically, how quickly customers would build IoT solutions that used a proprietary technology versus the cost of actually rolling out the networks. Putting all that money in the ground ahead of revenue is no small feat, and no amount venture funding could get them out of the hole that that created.


I think if you look at what they're doing now, under the new leadership of Henri Bong and Philippe Chiu and the team at UnaBiz, the Sigfox team- and there are some of the best minds in low-power IoT in that team- have a new lease on life and have a second chance to make that vision a reality. And I think Henri and Philippe and team have a really deep understanding of the importance of interoperability and openness. With some good fortune, they are well-positioned to build a successful business in the future. I think that provides a choice and; as I said, choice is what customers need. The fact that there's one of something is not a good thing. Uniqueness is not what customers want. Differentiation is not what they want. They want things that do the job well enough, have lots of friends, and that are easy to use. I think that's the path that UnaBiz is setting itself up.



Ken: Now, it just so happened. I had dinner in Taiwan last week or two weeks ago with one of the lead investors behind UnaBiz. From his perspective, I heard much about why he's invested in it and what he thinks about the team. All good. In terms of low power, wide area, and LoRa, specifically. As we look forward, where do you see the largest opportunities, and in what sectors and use cases?



Alistair: That's a tough question because the simple answer would be everywhere. If you look at almost every aspect of life and industry, there are needs for insight and understanding of what's happening if we are to drive toward a particular goal. I mean, that's a bit of a pat answer, if I was to call out particular areas of technology I think the delivery and enablement of location is a very very important thing. Location is often described as the most valuable data point in IoT; knowing where something is and its condition is valuable. Knowing what condition it's in requires knowing where it is far less so. Going forward, one of the focuses for the team is building on the LoRa Edge platform, which, as I said, is a world first- building on that platform to enhance its capabilities, to add more locationing technologies to enable really accurate indoor location.


The holy grail, if you like, is that I want to be able to locate something everywhere. I want to be able to locate it on the factory floor, I want to be able to locate it in the warehouse, I want to be able to locate it on the road, and I want to know where it is when it goes to my customer site. There are actually not very many good technologies today that can provide that complete span. There are really good answers for the individual questions- outdoor location and indoor location. Those answers get better if you don't have to worry about power. But those solutions aren't good enough for little devices that have to survive on a tiny little battery or a photovoltaic cell, so there's a real need, opportunity, and requirement to drive into that area.


The other area is more of a sister ship, with Edge computing. It's very clear that it is critical to know what's happening in the local area and act based upon what you see, near real-time, or maybe even real real-time is a really critical capability. But it's been hamstrung in the past by a lack of low-power computing or a lack of tools that allow you to build mini-ML or AI models and deploy them to the Edge. Those things are really starting to pick up, and there’s a lot of attention is being focused there. I think that LoRa working in that ecosystem and helping those customers add connectivity to their product is also a massive opportunity that I think LoRa is well-placed to take advantage of.



Ken: Yeah, I'd agree with you on both of those specific areas because we see them in several of our portfolio companies and where we see- especially the advantage of being able to roll out your own LoRa network without having to be carrier-driven. Indoor and in-factory environments, in particular, have been quite interesting. Even on warehousing, distribution centers, track and trace applications, and some cold chain tracking, we've seen some very interesting use of LoRa that I don't think you could do with cellular because of the requirement to have it out.



Alistair: Now I say this is coming originally from cellular- cellular technologies are great. I've seen some of the blood, sweat, and tears that go into creating standards firsthand, and it's messy and horrible, but the technologies work really well. The challenge in connected device technologies has always been that the business model of telcos doesn't support low-cost connections. You've got all of that infrastructure to support customers and deal with high ARPU revenue streams, like voice and video. But those structures are fundamentally not designed to support low cost. Now, you've seen a lot of telcos over the years try and spin out IoT-focused businesses, to reengineer their business and strip cost out. But most of those have failed, more from a mindset issue than anything else. So the emergence of technologies like LoRaWAN, where you can- as a customer- can go on Amazon, buy a gateway for a couple of hundred bucks, stick it in your house, there are open-source platforms like the Things network that I can use to build a connectivity solution, connect the device, and ingest the data. That flexibility and that freedom that provides are very important. But the fact that it also enables a very low-cost model is even more important because when you're trying to connect everything, you can't spend $5, $10, or $20 a year to connect every trash can on your driver as a waste company. You can only afford a few sets, so these technologies both fit the technical requirements of the but they also fit the commercial requirements, which is important.



Ken: This has been a fascinating conversation. Again, as I've had a chance to review your background, you have a very broad platform of experience, given, as we said, your purpose upfront. Let me ask, what's next for you?



Alistair: Well, I've been on a hard sprint over the last few years so one of the things that I wanted to do, and I've wanted to do for some time actually, was to see the Sierra transaction through to the point of completion and then take some time and spend it focused solely on my family. Now I know that’s something that people always say, but I have a 12-year-old and an 8-year-old, and it's been very clear to me over these last few years that the years of childhood, they pass very quickly. I've spent a lot of time focused on building technologies and businesses, and all the while painfully aware of how fleeting that childhood is. So getting to spend a couple of months as I have- doing the school run, and cooking dinner every night has been a really special period of time for all of us. I've also been advising several different companies that I've gotten to know over the years on how to grow their businesses, grow effective ecosystems, build partner channels, raise funding, and what M&A things to pursue. And that's been really rewarding as well- it's been very nice to actually say some things I didn't say out loud in the past when dealing with customers because it wasn't my place to. It's been quite nice to be able to roll up my sleeves and do that. I'm starting to engage more deeply with a handful of companies I think are doing really important, transformative things in the connected device space to see how I can help them accelerate. No surprises, the areas that I find most interesting are low-power Edge computing, location, and energy harvesting- the ability to power devices without batteries to avoid carpeting the planet with coin cell batteries, which is one of the concerning byproducts of IoT. It's been an excellent period of time. I know my children much better than I did before, even though COVID – which as I said, we spend our lives in the business world focusing on things like that, but there are other things to life as well.



Ken: That leads to my final question: where do you find your inspiration?



Alistair: Probably the cliché answer is “my children” but everyone says that so I'm not going to. I've always believed that curiosity and the refusal to ever think you've learned or understood something completely is really key to a fulfilling life or personal growth. I guess one of the ways I feed that is I read a lot of things. If I look at my desk now- what's in my desk now? I've got a book called, "What We Owe the Future" by William MacAskill, which I'm reading at the moment. It encourages us to take a much more active role in positively influencing the future as a moral priority. I'd recommend it to anyone in the audience. It's a real eye-opener, and it helps us look up from the day-to-day and the thing that we're focused on and our own selfish self-interest honestly, to think about the role that we play in society and what we need to do as part of that society to sustain it.


I guess on a similar theme- I suppose it’s my theme for this week- I'm also reading a book called, "Ikigai: The Japanese Secret of a Long and Happy Life" by Hector Garcia and Francesco Mirallas. It's quite different. It's a book that explores what motivates and sustains a bunch of folks who live in a village in Japan which has the rather unusual characteristic of having the most longest-living people on the face of the planet, the most people over the age of a hundred and the highest average age. It looks at the simple aspects of life that run through their existence and the sense of community that helps support people, and how working as part of the collective - again, outside oneself- is really a critical part of what makes us function as human beings. And next week it will be something different and the week after that something different as well- I'd summarize all of that as- what's my inspiration? Growth and learning. Always.



Ken: Great answers. I like the children too, upfront, given that you've had a chance to rediscover them. Alistair, thank you for sharing this time and insights with us today.



Alistair: Yes, it's been a real pleasure, Ken. Thanks for having me on this podcast.



Ken: Yeah, and equally so for us. This has been Alistair Fulton, former General Manager of LoRa for Semtech. Thank you for listening, and please join us for the next episode of our Digital Thread podcast series. Thank you, and have a great day. You've been listening to the Momenta Digital Thread podcast series. We hope you've enjoyed the discussion, and as always, we welcome your comments and suggestions. Please check our website at for archived versions of podcasts, as well as resources to help with your digital industry journey. Thank you for listening.


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What inspires me?

As a proud geek, I find inspiration in the numerous ways technology transforms our lives. The limitless capacity of humans to innovate and solve problems is astounding. However, for us in the technology sector to help mitigate the biggest threat facing future generations - climate change - we must provide tools that empower individuals to turn their ideas into reality. Technologists need to resist the urge to focus solely on how technologies work and instead concentrate on comprehending the world they enable. To achieve this, I spend most of my leisure time delving into the literature that explores the intricacies of human behavior and how people live. Whether it's fiction, current affairs, history, or design, or the books I read to my children, such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, I constantly strive to expand my knowledge and understanding of our world.


About Semtech Corporation

Semtech Corporation (Nasdaq: SMTC) is a high-performance semiconductor, IoT systems and Cloud connectivity service provider dedicated to delivering high quality technology solutions that enable a smarter, more connected and sustainable planet. Our global teams are dedicated to empowering solution architects and application developers to develop breakthrough products for the infrastructure, industrial and consumer markets. To learn more about Semtech technology, visit us at or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.