Internet of Things (IOT)

IBM Think 2018 – The Netherlands attract attention in Las Vegas

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There was quite a sensation at the recent IBM Think 2018-Congress in Las Vegas. Dutch representatives of large Dutch organisations including the Port of Rotterdam and Schiphol Airport were presented there as stars. Not only with photos and quotes on the gigantic billboards on The Strip, the most important thoroughfare of America’s gambling capital, but also from the various podia.

The objective of the Dutch IBM delegation, which included business partners and large customers, was to gain new insights, conduct conversations with executives and specialists and to share practical cases. The latter did not go unnoticed. Both Port of Rotterdam and Schiphol Airport were shining at the Think 2018 event. In fact, these organizations are at the vanguard in terms of digitizing their primary processes and products and with whom we – together with our partners – build an ecosystem.

They also triggered the attention of IBM’s IoT-leader Kareem Yusuf, who spoke from the main podium regarding the fact that you hear a lot of about new, upcoming technologies such as IoT, artificial intelligence, cloud and blockchain. The question is how do you bring all together to gain real value from it? The fact that several Dutch customers were ultimately presented as examples of this made me proud. It shows that we are on the right track here.

IoT everywhere

I noticed several other great things, as well. During the opening, our CEO Ginni Rometty addressed a hall of 12,000 attendees, explaining that there are currently more connected objects worldwide than there are individuals. This underscores the gigantic increase in the IoT. Consumers have an ever increasing number of connected devices at their homes: thermostats, autos, refrigerators, lights, fitbits, etc. Of course, this means that more and more data are being gegerated. At a certain point, artificial intelligence is required to retrieve the information and insights these data provides.

The IBM Watson Assistant just announced in Las Vegas is such a tool: a smart assistant that is comprised of a combination of artificial intelligence, cloud and IoT. During Think 2018 a car was displayed that is linked to this technology via its navigation system. The driver can get in and simply start talking to the car. He or she is immediately recognized and the vehicle configures itself to the manager’s personal preferences. The system reacts from the context, which also includes the time, the weather and the location. The catch? You are not speaking to Alexa or Siri. You are not even speaking to Watson. You are speaking to a version of Watson that is unique to your organization, which has been taught to do exactly what your company needs.

The system also has a link to IFTTT (if this then that), a internet protocol that allows apps and devices to collaborate. Using this, you can get to your appointment calendar, the news, the weather, etc. quite quickly via the system. All items that are integrated in the IBM Cloud.

Smarter world

During an IoT demonstration, a robot arm from an auto production line was displayed. Using ‘intelligent visual inspection’, this device can recognize minuscule deviations and errors in parts and constructions. Using ‘acoustic insights’, the system is also able to hear any malfunctions. These two possibilities lead to greater insight for utilizing predictive maintenance. This demonstration was quite impressive, including for our business partners who are extremely enthusiastic about rolling this technology out to their customers.

In her keynote address, Ginni Rometty spoke of a ‘world that is becoming increasingly smarter’. The theme recurred throughout the Think conference. Port of Rotterdam had a message in Las Vegas that was cntirely in line with this theme. Its ambition is no longer to be the biggest harbor in the world, but rather the smartest. Vincent Campfens spoke about this several times during his presentations. As a Business Consultant, he focuses (among other things) on applied IT: data communication, sensors and all aspects of the IoT. Read his review of Think 2018 here.

Sebastiaan de Sterke of the Schiphol Group conveyed a similar message in his presentation: to make Schiphol the best digital airport. Maximo, our enterprise asset management tool, is used (among others) to accomplish this. This tool is even more powerful thanks to its integration with the IoT and its ‘digital twin’ – also a topic of frequent conversation in Las Vegas. The digital twin is a digital representation of a physical object or device. Using the digital twin, maintenance technicians and other professionals can wander through the airport and immediately see the status of all digitized assets on a number of devices. Read the story of Schiphol here.

It is interesting that Schiphol and Port of Rotterdam both have the same objective: complete digitization based on digital twins. Whereas the harbor IoT has chosen the perspective of the presentation, Schiphol has elected to use the asset management approach. Nonetheless the end result will be approximately the same. It is interesting that they both run on IBM technology. The two customers recognized their common obejctives at the Congress found and agreed to exchange experiences and possibilities with one another exchange. Other customers, Waternet for example, were also interested in taking steps in this area.


Considerable attention was also devoted to blockchain in Las Vegas, in combination with IoT, among others. More people wanted to attend the session in which the link with IBM Maximo was explained than the hall could hold. It is quite extraordinary to see a 19-year-old product suddenly gaining a completely different type of value by linking it to new technologies. Read the blog entitled IoT gives asset management a new boost. Another application was providing more and deeper insight within supply chains, as Maersk is doing within a joint venture with IBM: creating far-reaching transparency in the chain with huge cost savings, while considerably cutting throughput time. Other parties were also invited to make the initiative a success. This is not all that was presented in the domain of chain management. Several interesting announcements were also made in the area of Supply Chain Insights.

Ultimately, the well-substantiated conclusion was that IBM is taking mega-steps in all sorts of areas. Dutch organizations are clearly in the vanguard when it comes to this. I am extremely proud of them. Check out Think 2018 site for the inspiring presentations and interviews.

IBM Watson Internet of Things, Business Partner Manager, Benelux

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