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The world’s digital nervous system

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Last week, we spoke to a director of ICT & Logistics regarding a smart boiler that, for instance, is able to automatically refill the selected water pressure. In case this occurs too often, the owner of the boiler receives a warning signal via the corresponding app on his phone and a mechanic can be contacted automatically. This way, severe malfunctioning of boilers is reduced to a minimum, which comes in handy in these cold winter days.

Imagine living in a world where devices know what we need and fulfil those needs completely automatically, without us having to give them any order. This might sound very science fiction, but the opposite is true. Despite it not being applied on a large scale yet, such applications are already available for consumers, businesses, and governments.

All sorts of connected devices can be found on the market today, such as Toon from our client Eneco and the Nest thermostat that recognizes your favourite home temperature and lowers it when you leave the house, to optimize the energy consumption. Another example is the car connector made by the ANWB (the Dutch organization for traffic and tourism) which uses data sharing for improved roadside assistance, automated paid parking services, and discounts on car insurances for drivers who demonstrate safe driving behaviour.

The city of Santander in Spain is the most progressive ‘smart city’ in Europe. Thousands of sensors have transformed the city into a high-tech laboratory. Sensors to guide visitors of the city to the nearest available parking spot via the shortest route. Sensors in trash containers that send a signal to the municipality when they are almost filled up. Damp sensors in public parks to optimize their irrigation. Movement sensors to ensure street lights are only switched on when a person is nearby. These are only a handful of examples of the application of sensors.

These are all examples of the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT provides organizations with new opportunities to integrate data by using a network of devices, to optimize human decision-making and process execution. Both are key to gaining an understanding of the broad digital context when formulating a digital strategy, as described in our white paper “Digital Strategy – Building your company’s vision and journey towards being digital”.

The added value of IoT devices and services will increase rapidly over the coming years due to the rise of their sector-transcending applications. An example could be a real-time service network in which devices are monitored at a distance. Using an algorithm, it can be forecasted which part of a device will soon be in need of replacement. Subsequently an automatically generated service request is placed on the marketplace, and the best offer is accepted. The service mechanic is granted access to the specific building via a special code so that the repair can be executed. After the part has been replaced, a message explaining the repair and providing the invoice is sent to the organization automatically.

A practical example of IoT can be found in the Port of Rotterdam. Each day the number of active sensors in the port increases. Not only sensors that measure streams, temperature, and the groundwater levels, but also sensors that detect movements and forces on the quay wall. Usage of these data allows for more adequate maintenance and development of new walls by the Port of Rotterdam.

IoT is thus considered to be the world’s digital nervous system, gaining strength by the collective connection of devices to the network. However, by solely connecting devices to a network, the device will not generate business value for an organizational chain. The challenge with IoT is to discover the true added value of the data it generates and to subsequently develop new and improved products and services from that data.

The applications and added value of IoT are of such great importance present day that analysis of their potential is a standard item in the strategic analysis of the digital context of an organization that we perform for our clients. Are you interested in knowing more about IoT and the development of a digital strategy for your organization?

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