I had a fun conversation with Mark Van Rijmenam (@VanRijmenam) a couple of weeks ago about cloud computing, Big Data, and the IoT. Mark runs BigData-Startups.com in Den Haag, Netherlands. We were mutually amused that he had chosen the name Think Bigger for his new book just as I had chosen that name for a recent IoT piece.
His book is now out, and can be found on Amazon. Mark sees as I do, an enormous opportunity for manufacturers with Big Data and IoT. He lives in a region of Europe known as the Randstad, encompassing 7 million people within 3,200 square miles across the cities and metro regions of Amsterdam, Den Haag, Rotterdam, and Utrecht. It's one of the great manufacturing centers of the world.
Given my roots and current base within the US Industrial Heartland, it seems that Mark and I share a similar point of view about the challenges and opportunities facing manufacturing in the developed world. Despite the recent decades of the Information Age and increasing global emphasis on a service-oriented economy, I've long believe that you still have to make stuff to succeed.
The IoT shows a way for manufacturers to seize industrial leadership again or for the first time. Mark seems to agree. As he wrote recently, â€śfor manufacturers, IoT will mean using sensor data to optimize manufacturing processes and improving products.â€ť He quotes, Stefan Groschupf, CEO of Big Data Startup Datameer, who says that manufacturers need to â€śinvestigate and implement Big Data solutions to optimize processes, pull away from their competitors and ultimately save massive amounts of time and money.â€ť
â€śHowever,â€ť Mark writes, â€śa 2013 survey by the American Society for Quality (ASQ) showed that currently only 13% of the manufacturers surveyed have made (parts of) their factories smart. Those organizations that did implement sensors, 82% said to have experienced increased efficiency, 49% noticed fewer product defects and 45% experienced higher customer satisfaction.â€ť
â€śAnother survey by ARM Holdings among 779 business leaders showed that 23% believe that the IoT will change their business or strategy. In addition, 30% believe that the IoT will unlock new products and services from existing products and services.â€ť
â€śSo, although the results are significant, still very few organizations making their organization smart.â€ť
He also notes that doing so â€śis probably just a matter of time, (as) the ARM survey also revealed that 95% believe their company will be using IoT in three years.â€ť
Mark thus believes â€śthe connected world â€“ the Internet of Things â€“ is becoming a very real phenomenon, and some technology companies are trying to take the lead. The latest example is of course Google with its billion-dollar acquisition of Nest, the startup that produces intelligent thermostats capable of understanding and analyzing usersâ€™ behavior by analyzing light levels, activity, humidity and temperature among other things. Also Googleâ€™s self-driving, connected, car gives us an idea where we are heading. Or what about Appleâ€™s new iBeacon technology that could significantly change our shopping experience?â€ť
Mark also writes about the potential of sensors to help cities innovate. He cites an example of Santander, Spain, â€śwhich has buried 12.000 sensors under the asphalt, affixed to street lamps and atop city buses. These sensors are a Proof of Concept by the European Commission to test how sensors can make European cities smart. Innovative solutions created with these sensors include street signs that display real-time parking information, up-to-the-minute information on road closures, parking availability, bus delays or the pollen count.â€ť
â€śLocal shop owners have even joined the game and allow citizens to place orders when passing by, even when the shop is closed.â€ť
How Big Again?
This is all great stuff, and also points to the difficulty in measuring â€śhow bigâ€ť the IoT really is. As I've written before, I don't care. â€śWalang pakialam,â€ť as my friends in the Philippines say. Mark, in his writings, has addressed the money issue from the expense side. Answering his own question â€“ â€śBut how can organizations turn the data from these sensors in real money?â€ť â€“ he writes, â€śthere are several important aspects that organizations need to take into account when joining the IoT movement. (For example,) the best results are achieved when sensors are installed throughout the supply chain and data is shared as much as possible within that vertical. This could result to more efficient and intelligent processes that benefit each player within the supply chain.â€ť
â€śWhen for example materials are equipped with sensors, they can be tracked throughout the supply chain and smart-machines can talk to each other to optimize processes.â€ť He is clear that working such magic is â€śnot an easy task, let alone cheap,â€ť noting the upfront costs, maintenance and support costs, and need for highly skilled analysts for all of the new Big Data being generated.â€ť
I haven't had the chance yet to read his book, but I imagine he encourages people to think bigger as they meet and rise to these latter challenges, on their way to paving the 21st century information superhighway with the things they need.