Eight speakers, with eight very different topics around one theme: high tech. In addition, a ‘market’ with innovations by 24 exhibitors from inside and outside the High Tech Campus Eindhoven. With almost 500 visitors, the first edition of “High Tech Next” was so successful that organisers Hilde de Vocht and Ingelou Stol immediately suggested a sequel.
Although technology was the leading theme, every speaker knew a way to stress the importance of the human factor directly connected to technology. This already started with Stijn Steenbakkers, who delivered the opening statement as alderman of the city of Eindhoven. “Yes, we’re the smartest, but let’s all turn this smartness in a more liveable city. Because that’s what we need most at this moment.”
As if he already knew Steenbakkers’ request, John Baekelmans immediately answered it with a clear view on the way imec is now turning Antwerp into a smart city. Although Baekelmans is the managing director of imec Netherlands, as a Flemish man he still has an eye on developments across the border. “If we can turn Antwerp into a more liveable city – indeed, that means that you would be able to cross the Ring motorway without the traffic jams that you are encountering today – then this could be an example for the rest of Flanders as well. And as a matter of fact, for Eindhoven too.” Yes, Baekelmans already spoke with the city council several times – and he is hopeful that a project can emerge from those talks.
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One of the main solutions imec is offering Antwerp is a clever use of light. “Light should be there when you need it only; the light should be inviting, it can turn a dark square or park into a liveable one.” Also, imec is working on a clever dashboard with which the city can predict floodings. Pictures of the most recent flood in the city stress the importance of his message.
And there’s one other clever solution imec is offering in Antwerp: “the digital twin“. Baekelmans: “It’s nice to solve today’s problems but how about tomorrow’s? With a so-called digital twin of the city, we are able to predict the problems of tomorrow, and by doing so, also start thinking of the solutions.” On the big screen, Baekelmans shows what he means: in a ‘real’ city, he virtually closes three streets and immediately the CO2-emissions are lowering to zero. “This is great. We are doing this in Antwerp, but we could do it anywhere. It’s just a matter of filling our IT with data, build the model and start the simulations.”
Jurjen Veldhuizen represents Huawei, the Chinese company that we all know from the more payable smartphones. “But hey, that’s only a very small part of our company”, Veldhuizen immediately says. In fact, it’s much more about business solutions than it’s consumer-related. In the most technical presentation of the day, Veldhuizen clarifies the need for 5G solutions (“We are widening the pipeline”) – and of course, the way Huawei is going to offer them. “In the industries of connected drones, wireless robots, cloud-based VR and connected cars, we are desperately waiting for 5G to come.” And yes, Huawei has thought of the need for standardisation: Veldhuizen knows that not only Huawei is looking for solutions: Verizon, T-Mobile, and even KPN are all on the same track.
Another bright view of the future comes from Philips’ Marcel Meulman. After declaring that Philips is 100% focused on healthcare (“and very successful in doing so as well”) he stresses that all the efforts are now focused on the prevention and detection of illnesses. “We want to empower consumers to manage their chronical diseases.” This results, Meulman promises, in 34% reduction of care costs, 49% reduction of hospitalizations, and even 75% less medical errors. Speaking of a bright future…
“Digital pathology” can offer solutions in – for example – oncology. “If we have enough data, we can detect if a cancer is aggressive, even without operating on the patient.” And of course, the audience wanted to know about the safety of data protection at Philips. Meulman: “We would soon be out of business if we wouldn’t take care of that. But let’s also be aware of the advantages of having these data. In fact, we could warn you if we would find out that somewhere on earth somebody with a similar physical structure would get a disease or a heart attack. So you can prevent this happening to you as well.”
“To be able to be a futurist, you need to understand history.”
Futurist Christian Kromme not only was the fastest-talking speaker of the day, but also the one that caught his audience most directly with a personal story that proved one of his main themes: “step out of your comfort zone and – more important – try to stay there.” The decision to pull his baby daughter out of the hospital and into more personal treatments caused a spontaneous applause from the audience. “She’s 7 years old now, still alive, contrary to all predictions.”
Kromme finds proof of the logic of disruption in nature – and in history. “To be able to be a futurist, you need to understand history.” His theory is that the seven stages of cell development (creating communities, a vascular system, nervous systems, instinct, imitation, intelligence, and finally imagination) can be copied onto the “human revolutions”. For those interested: we’re entering the 6th stage right now, with an AI revolution that will be more impactful than anything we have seen up to now. “This is a time when soft skills are becoming more important: only those who know how to use them can be the new disruptors. AI will humanify technology.”
Harold Goddijn, CEO of TomTom, one of the most recent new residents of High Tech Campus, represents the disruptor that was disrupted and is now again focusing on being the disruptor. His story is about the smartphone that changed everything and “hit hard”, about lagging software, the “enormous automotive industry”, and this new generation that cares much more about pollution, electrification and “the good life”.
“All this requests a new way of mapping and that’s where we come in. We can help understand the complexity of the problem. It’s about your car’s perception, about path planning and steering, and about exactly knowing where you are. Accuracy is key in this field, especially relative accuracy because everything around the car is moving, you can never count on anything staying where it is – so old-fashioned maps are becoming useless.” TomTom offers what Goddijn calls road-DNA.
“Let go of your ego, we have to collaborate.”
Constantijn van Oranje – special envoy at Startup Delta – has a double message: “Yes, we’re doing good in the Netherlands, but if you look at the rest of the world, you can only conclude that it’s not good enough.” Of course, the first responsibility to change this lies with the entrepreneurs themselves, but in hardly covered statements, he points at our national government as well. “Not only because more should be done to stimulate startup-entrepreneurship, but even more so because our educational system should receive more attention than it now gets.”
Also, Constantijn has some advice for Dutch companies, organisations and regions. “Let’s not pretend that those small entities can compete with the global players. Let go of your ego, we have to collaborate.”
IBM’s Snezana Zivcevska focuses on leadership in times of the fourth Industrial Revolution. “In these days of disruption, of human versus robots, we need a new way of thinking. Because only with a new mindset, we can get new results.” The leadership of the 21st century is about humility, Zivcevska says. “Stanford did a lot of research and they found out that elements like curiosity, adaptability, effectiveness and vision are key. Leading with purpose!”
At the same time, this is not the time for emotion-based decision making, Zivcevska says. “It’s all about your data. If you base your decisions on the correct information, it can become free of bias. That is also the way to go with your ethical questions.”
Menno Bisschops – from Lumolab resident VRee – is the last speaker of the day. With his gloves, his waist and shoulder pads and his backpack he immediately gets the audience’s attention. He shows VRee’s history, which is in VR-software and gaming, but he is certain that VRee’s future is more in business-to-business applications. New clients have been found in industries that need simulated training facilities, like the military, but healthcare might be an option as well, he says. “We believe that those industries can generate more money for us than the entertainment industry will ever bring. And the beautiful thing is, with our training methods in virtual reality, we can make sure that they waste less money on material.”
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