April 9, 2018 Return to overview

Davra Talks With The CEO of The IoT Council Rob Van Kranenburg

Thanks to Rob, for taking his time to share a bit of his knowledge.


Davra got Rob Van Kranenburg in for a quick chat about The Internet of Things, big data & smart cities. Rob will be answering a few questions that people from inside and outside the industry constantly have.

Rob, you could start telling us a bit more of your background, how and when did you start to work with the Internet of Things?

My background is in literature, reading and writing about books and poetry, teaching hypertext and new media. I stumbled upon a community of engineers who were busy putting software in things and RFID tags on things in order to get better communication going on their functions, energy use and interaction with humans. That was around 2000. I thought; hmm this may be a new world. I better stick around that community. That is what I did.

What is the internet of things?

The combination of the need for supply chain and logistics to approach every item, thing, good, object – individually – barcode, QR code, RFID, Near Field, passive and active sensors and cameras, the new IPv6 protocol that enables every object with a little bit of software to be hooked to the internet and the human need to be in constant touch with each other. When we were still in villages that was easy. Now most of us live in cities full of strangers and dangers and through our smartphone we connect to our friends. These friends were always human. In IoT objects take on more psychologically friendly qualities for us and they too can become ‘friends’.

How do you see IoT affecting consumers on a day to day basis – today, in 5 years, in 10 years?

We will see more leasing and more sharing.

Matthew Chapman and Alex Brownsell write in Davos:  Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer believes the Internet of Things and mobile will create a “tipping point” for businesses that will change everyone’s lives “like never before”. Speaking at a panel discussion hosted by Forrester at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mayer also cited how “sharing economy” apps are revolutionising the world. She said: “150,000 people let strangers stay at their home last year through Airbnb; 1.5 million people assigned tasks to strangers through TaskRabbit; 56 percent would consider renting out their cars to strangers. “The Internet of Things makes connecting and trusting people easier. Part of this is the sharing economy, but through Internet of Things and mobile we can inspire and entertain people like never before.”

The  “Internet of things” (IoT) is “transforming the world through new business models: Companies involved in the “Sharing economy” such as Zipcar can better utilize their vehicles through IoT technology.”

We are connecting our cities, today! How are we bringing benefits to the population?

That is the key issue in all smart city programs. The Internet of Things is at a crossroads. It can only work if citizens are willing to pay for services and investments in infrastructure, which can only happen if the use of novel business models will bring added value to old services or the development of totally new services. Value for everyday life and everyday activities must be shown. For instance, energy efficiency pilots are encountering skeptical citizens who worry about privacy and to whom climate change is too far away to be a real driver for action.

Can you provide me with examples of successful implementations of IoT?

Yes, and they are in factories with predictive maintenance, in more efficiency through monitoring in agriculture and energy management. But these are very much back end processes. The real value for people is in the connectivity through the internet, in the web applications and the smartphone opening your door or your car – these small acts of convenience. There are some nice smart parking applications and systems claiming that they offer more security through a camera grid. The connected car may prove immensely successful in bringing down accidents and energy use.

But the real success of IoT will only be shown if the IoT becomes a public backbone linking up the gateways to the body (BAN Body Area Network), LAN (Local Area Network), WAN (Wide Area Network) and VWAN (Vey Wide Area Network): the body, the home, the car (and train, plane, bike= telematics) and city. Look at what Google is doing: linking up the gateways in a military-style campaign of always having two entrances to each gateway: for the body the Glasses and the Lens, for the home the Powermeter and NEST, for ITS the self-driving car and selling expertise throughout the automotive line and Google .org for the city.

A hot topic at the moment is security. If we can’t protect a fridge in our home, how are we going to protect an entire city? Are you worried about security or you think if we worry too much about security we won’t get anything done?

Security in a non-IoT world is very important. But in IoT, it is vastly overrated. In this hybrid and digital world there always is a copy. The Mifare Classic RFID card is wide open yet millions if not billions of transactions are made with it, mostly in traffic cards, every day. Does the industry care? No. can they put better security on it? Yes, but that would be too expensive. So it becomes a tradeoff like everything else. IoT means full traceability and transparency. You steal? Fine, you get caught at the same moment. All banknotes will have RFID so IoT is the end of corruption.

We should be more worried about the lack of social commitment in our cities, the poverty, the waste of human talent, the lack of love and friendliness.

IoT wants you to share everything, including your mood at one point. This transparency may frighten us now but we lived like this as humans far longer then this short period that tells us we are all atomized individuals who must be able to make it on their own.

What does Big Data mean to you? Things talking to things generating an unimaginable amount of data. 

Algorithm and data mining will always be ahead of the numbers. It will quickly learn what needs to be stored in the Cloud and what can be stored locally in all kinds of small robots. The new term is DaaS, Data-As-A-Service.

We are reinventing connectivity to support the internet of things, what are our biggest challenges?

Governance. Our politicians have done well so far but they think they are personally important because of their ‘special’ qualities. This leads them to believe that “ego” is key, whereas we know it is not. We just need good sewage systems, good roads, some sound communication peer to peer and open source, and local expertise knows best always.

In the last Chinese government, there were, out of the top 11 politicians, 9 engineers. And you see the result. IoT as a platform will be doing very well in China. Gradually, as the confidence in having this stability is felt, more open data programs will follow for young Chinese entrepreneurs to build on. That is the way forward for India too. Bring on the engineers. But bring the poets and the philosophers guarding the strong spiritual heritage of India alongside with them.

With Christmas 1913 Vassily Kandinsky sends a painting to art historian and critic Michael Sadler. This was 7 months before WW1. It appeared to Michael Sadler that the painting was ‘explosive’, ‘warlike’. A year later he asked Kandinsky if he had made the painting because he felt there was a war going on. No he said I knew nothing of war. But this I did know, that there was a terrible battle going on at a spiritual level. It was that battle that led me to paint this.

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