From M2M to IoT, From Satellites to City Streets, Bob Mazer Blazes Digital Trails

Bob Mazer has moved from practicing technology law to building technology companies, and most recent to building a non-profit technology community focused on developing smart cities and regions with the potential to improve urban life across the United States, and globally.

Based in the Washington, DC metro area, Mazer’s decades of experience in building, funding and growing digitally disruptive start-ups into thriving enterprises leverages his experience as a true pioneer in the Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and IP networking worlds, which has since morphed into IoT, Industrial IoT and securely connected endpoints and data systems only science fiction writers imagined when he was a boy.

“It’s an absolutely thrilling time,” Mazer said, “and Smart City Works could not be more honored to have been chosen, along with Refraction to receive a Federal innovation grantwhich will make it possible to create plans and support the efforts of start-ups who can combine forces with large enterprises to build a smarter Northern Virginia region.”

Before embarking on this next mega-project, which starts up in earnest in September 2019 after over a year of planning, Mazer and his team at Smart City works have hosted mentoring and business development programs through their series of cohorts as part of what they call their business “Actuator.”

“While traditional accelerators have had significant success at facilitating commercialization of early stage ventures–accelerator graduates have much higher success rates on average and garner disproportionately higher rates of investment–we believe we can do even better,” the organization’s website says. “To more rapidly move early stage ventures to commercialization, reduce risk for downstream investors, and improve likelihood of product uptake in the marketplace, Smart City Works has created a new class of business accelerator, called an Actuator.”

“Our model goes well beyond traditional business acceleration, through a number of enhancements to the business accelerator model,” Mazer explained. “Like other accelerators, we provide an intensive boot camp and unique ecosystem and maintain access to maker spaces, laboratories, as well as design and production tools to help companies overcome technical hurdles. What sets us apart is our selection process based on an analysis of what cities really need, and intensive programs that accelerates the process from prototyping through demonstration, positioning start-ups to succeed with less risk.”

Along with co-founders David Heyman and Gregory Sauter, Mazer is passionate about the opportunity to rethink connected infrastructure – which is being invested in after decades of neglect in the US market. “We are bringing together experts and inventors in a world where the physical and digital domains are tightly coupled, which means driving more efficiency and information that makes the operations of smart cities and regions easier to do. We can significantly improve and revitalize the well-being, sustainability, resiliency, and livability of cities, which is so critical given the continuing growth of urban areas.”

A seasoned entrepreneur and attorney with extensive experience, including solving extremely complex business and legal problems in the telecommunications industry where his career began, Mazer has left an indelible mark on that sector, and today is one of the leading visionaries in IoT.

A principal who assisted in the conception and founding of iBiquity Digital (terrestrial digital radio), iXnet (Global VPN), Ondas Media (European satellite radio) and Apio Systems, Inc., Mazer has developed business plans, recruiting world-class teams, and has secured investors since the 1980s.

Before establishing Smart City Works over four years ago, he worked in satellite launch and insurance underwriting for Assure Space, after leaving Apio Systems where he was Co-Founder and head of Strategic Business Development. Prior to that experience, Mazer served as SVP and General Counsel as a co-founder of Space Partnership International working on space and telecom solutions with a focus on emerging markets.

Prior to Space Partnership, Mazer conceived and built Ondas Media in Spain, implementing a satellite system for Europe, providing digital radio services. For the thirteen years prior, Mazer established the Vinson and Elkins Telecommunications Practice, representing numerous clients developing and implementing advanced telecommunications technology and services, and before that established and ran iBiquity Digital for over ten years, where digital radio was largely born out of USA Digital Radio.

Mazer co-founded International Exchange Networks, Inc. (iXnet) in the early 1990’s which was later sold to Global Crossing for $3.8 billion. His career as an attorney started at Chadbourne & Parke and continued at Nixon Peabody where he represented telecommunications clients including ILECS, satellite operators, developers of new technology and international telecommunications operators. He holds a JD in Law from American University Washington College of Law, an MA in Political Science and Government from The Catholic University, and a BA from the University of Maryland.

We caught up with Mazer as part of our ongoing series profiling IoT Innovators to understand what attracted him to the world of connected things in the first place.

What drew you to IoT?
I’ve always been interested in tech and first got interested in M2M – which is the precursor to IoT – way back when I was working in satellites well over a decade ago. I saw that people were jerry-rigging systems to monitor natural gas fields and oil wells and I thought, “this is a problem that technology can solve.”

What was your first IoT project?
It was actually a project using digital radios where I tried to use outband data channels to stream data. It was an idea that was ahead of its time and definitely ahead of the technology.

What are you doing/working on today?
Today, it’s possible – both economically and technically – to marry IoT with the natural and built worlds to solve some of the world’s biggest problems like energy efficiency and the use of other scarce resources. In fact, we’re doing some pretty exciting things at Smart City Works relating to resiliency/climate change/sustainability. We’re also thinking about equity issues relating to technology and access to technology so that we don’t leave people in the margins behind.

What are your predictions for IoT?
The next wave of development for IoT is going to be in the field of predictive analytics. With all the data coming in from networked sensors, we’re going to be able to make life cycle decisions relating to the design, build and operation of the urban environment. I think this area can introduce huge efficiencies and actionable insights that will radically change cities for the better.

Where do you see the most value created?
From the data that IoT produces.

Is there anything that you would like to see change i.e. regulations, policies, etc. in the current way the development of IoT initiatives/solutions are undertaken?
Yes, I think we need to figure out who owns the data produced by IoT and how to share the data among the silos. That means tackling issues like governance over IoT data and government procurement issues if we’re talking about smart city applications.

In your opinion, what is the biggest risk associated with IoT?
I think the technology behind IoT is pretty solid by now, so I’d have to say that the biggest risks associated with IoT relate to the failure of establishing rules about data governance and sharing of data so you can leverage the biggest value.

What is one piece of advice that you would offer a business leader that is interested in IoT?
Nothing in IoT moves as fast as you think it should – so be prepared for things taking longer than you expected.

Rocket Wagon Venture Studios is proud to sponsor this series on Enterprise IoT and IIoT Innovators. We will be profiling a different personality each week. Our innovators include highly accomplished business minds and thought leaders in the field of IoT and IIoT, including CEOs, CSOs, and CTOs of IoT companies of the highest caliber, revealing common challenges, risks, trends, and much more.

Arti Loftus is an experienced Information Technology specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the research, writing, and editing industry with many published articles under her belt.


Original published in The Smart City by Arti Loftus on August 29, 2019 and can be seen at