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IT LIFE: Craig Foster, HomeServe Labs MD

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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HomeServe Labs MD discusses his love of the iPhone, Slack and why architecture could have been an alternative career path

What is your role and who do you work for? 

I am Managing Director of HomeServe Labs, a fully funded innovation hub within home assistance company HomeServe.

As MD of HomeServe Labs, I lead the team that created LeakBot, the pioneering IoT leak detection device currently being used by insurers Aviva, RSA and Legal & General to prevent water damage resulting from leaks and reduce the costs of payouts in the insurance industry. 

How long have you been in IT? 

I am actually a product and marketing guy originally, and started my career as a brand manager in Procter & Gamble, so I have only really worked with technology at the core of my role for the past three and a half years while running HomeServe Labs. 

Homeserve Labs Craig Foster

What is your most interesting project to date? 

It must be LeakBot and us inventing the intelligent Thermi-Q technology which underpins it. This sensitive, patented technology allows the detector to tell the difference between a genuine leak in the home or someone washing the dishes.

We are delighted to see the success so far but the project isn’t over: we are constantly innovating in our approach, listening to customer feedback and looking at new ways to improve the product. 

What is your biggest challenge at the moment? 

Our biggest challenge right now is what tech companies often call “crossing the chasm”, which means transitioning from an early stage growth venture to a business that is doing B2B deals at scale. 

Our insurance partners are sold on the technology and believe that we have a unique solution to their problem, so our biggest challenge is gathering enough evidence to prove the business case to convince a CFO for a large scale roll-out. 

What technology were you working with 10 years ago? 

I didn’t work in tech 10 years ago, but the technology I was using back then at P&G was Lotus Notes email, IBM laptops, Microsoft Office and a blackberry.  Now it’s an iMac, an iPhone, Slack and the Atlassian suite (Jira, etc.). 

What is your favourite technology of all time? 

I would have to say the original iPhone launch in 2007, as few other product launches have changed the world to such an extent, and as a product marketeer everything about that product launch was sheer genius. 

How will the Internet of Things affect your organisation? 

It already is! We knew early on that we had to use new technology to disrupt traditional business models in home services to avoid being disrupted. We recognised the potential of the Internet of Things within the insurance industry and have become a pioneer in the new InsurTech sector, so hopefully we will continue to unblock the potential of IoT for our business and our customers.” 

What smartphone do you use? 

iPhone 6 plus 

What 3 apps could you not live without? 

Slack – best team collaboration tool, has mostly replaced email for HomeServe Labs 

Dashlane – password locker and automated login, I could literally not live without this now 

Evernote – The only place I write everything down, I probably print something on paper about once a month now 

If you weren’t doing the job you’re doing now, what would you be doing? 

If I could turn back time and do everything again I would have liked to have been an architect (of buildings, I don’t mean technology). If I weren’t running Labs right now I would be running another tech start-up, innovation lab or early growth business. 

 Quiz: What do you know about IoT?