The Security Ledger Podcast

The Security Ledger Podcast

Episode 215-1: Jeremy O’Sullivan of Kytch On The Tech Serving McDonald’s Ice Cream Monopoly

May 25, 2021

We all harbor magical and romantic ideas about the transformative power of both technology and entrepreneurship. “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” That romantic idea is at the heart of many start ups, and the Internet has created a platform on which a never ending stream of new “mousetraps” can be conceived. Think, for example, of the NEST thermostat – that iconic Internet of Things product, which stylishly re-imagined the boring old thermostat: outfitting it with brains, motion sensors, a cool graphical interface and a powerful, web-based back end.  

Company Town 2.0

But technology can just as easily create dystopias as utopias: obscuring the operation of formerly mechanical instruments whose workings were easily observable, or harvesting data from unwitting users and ferrying it off to the cloud for use by shadowy global corporations. Technology can even trap owners and business people in a kind of servitude – like the share croppers or the residents of “company towns” in the 19th and 20th centuries whose lives were prescribed and diminished by invisible bonds of contract and dependence, rather than by physical chains. 

Jeremy O’Sullivan, Co-Founder, KytchMelissa Nelson, Co-Founder, Kytch

Report: Companies Still Grappling with IoT Security

As the Internet of Things expands from “smart thermostats” to cars; home appliances; the agricultural equipment that plants and harvests our food; or the machinery that businesses rely on; the chances that you or someone you love might end up as a digital share cropper or the resident of one of these virtual  “company towns” are growing. 

And that’s what our podcast this week is about. In the first part of a two part episode, we’re joined by Jeremy O’Sullivan, co-founder of the IoT analytics company, Kytch. Jeremy and his wife and co-founder, Melissa Nelson, were the subjects of an amazing profile in Wired Magazine by Andy Greenberg that described the young company’s travails with the commercial ice cream machine manufacturer, Taylor, a storied multi-national whose equipment is used by businesses from the corner soft serve joints to giants like Burger King and McDonalds. 

TV Maker TCL Denies Back Door, Promises Better Process

Despite the company’s sterling reputation and dominant position in the marketplace, O’Sullivan found that the Taylor equipment was notoriously unreliable – to the point of becoming an Internet meme. Today, sites like use McDonald’s online ordering websites to determine that anywhere from 5% to almost a quarter of all McDonald’s ice cream machines in major U.S. metro regions are not operational at any given time.

O’Sullivan’s big idea for Kytch: use technology he had developed to allow franchise owners bet...