IoT and 5G offer the manufacturing industry a way to upgrade services

The Internet of Things, where everything around us is being digitized, offers opportunities. Already you can turn on the thermostat remotely or see who’s at your door at any time – even if you’re far from home. Plants in greenhouses are automatically watered when they need it. Anchors with sensors hold our dikes together and warn if the water tension and pressure changes. No longer does the dike reeve have to visit all the dikes. Much more is possible thanks to the future 5G network and everything will become connected to everything.

Els van de Kar, associate professor of Business Service Innovation at Fontys University of Applied Sciences Venlo, and Etienne Scholl, Domain Sales Manager at Ericsson, explain in a microlecture what the Internet of Things (IoT) and the 5G network can do for e.g. the manufacturing industry. This is where the manufacturing industry is going to make a difference. Not because of the products, but because of the service that they will be able to provide, says Van de Kar.

Smart Servitization

“That’s what you call a difficult word: servitization.” The Business Service Innovation research group is exploring how new technologies such as IoT, Big Data and 5G can provide a competitive advantage so that manufacturing companies can remain profitable. Fontys is not alone in this: The Netherlands has set itself the goal of having the most flexible and best digitally connected production network in Europe by 2021. This can be read in the Implementation Agenda 2018-2021, drawn up by the Smart Industry platform, FME, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, the Dutch Chamber of Commerce, the Koninklijke Metaalunie and TNO.

Smart Servitization © Fontys Hogescholen

Together with LIOF, Vodafone, Ericsson, Zuyd University of Applied Sciences and Regitel, the lectorate forms a project group that is examining how far Limburg’s small and medium-sized enterprises and the manufacturing industry have come in terms of IoT. Van de Kar: “In other words, what about their level of IoT maturity? That’s a slow process in Limburg.” Students came by for an interview after companies had responded to a digital survey. While a company had responded digitally that it was well on its way when it came to IoT, it became clear from the interviews that most companies are only in the early stages of their implementation of IoT. “These trajectories take time and I assume that this will take a few steps at a time.”

“Consumers are already wireless, but factories have only just started”, Scholl continues. “The industry still uses a lot of machines that are connected by cable, regardless of how wireless technologies make factories more flexible. This is also down to the fact that this technology is completely new. It is unclear how it is going to progress. You have to run production in industry, and if your factory is shut down as a result of a malfunction, it will just cost you money. It is important that the technology is stable. They know that cables are stable.”

Speed vs latency

Aside from stability, speed is also important. “If we look at 4G, that’s not fast enough for all industries. 5G will be 20 times faster.” 5G also has an advantage for robotics. As there is always a delay in data that you send via the network, Scholl explains. “We call that ‘latency’. The delay is twenty-five to thirty milliseconds with 4G, whereas 5G reduces it to one millisecond. Which is necessary for self-driving cars, for one thing.”

The level of accuracy of 5G is greater. Scholl: “This is good when it comes to aircraft maintenance, for instance. Lots of tools are needed for that. With a single push of a button, the system checks whether all the material and tools that have been used are back in the right place. It’s terrible to think that a screwdriver might have gotten stuck in one of the engines.”

Many companies are already using wifi on the path to 5G, says Scholl. “Wifi works when there are only a few users. Compare it to a space where more and more people are coming. You start talking louder and louder and at some point you have to talk so loudly that you can no longer hear each other.” Scholl cites an example from the Rotterdam port where automated cranes load and unload container ships from China. “That went well using wifi until boats passed by that also had wifi networks, then the system kept dropping out.”


Plenty of options and advantages, yet the story behind the data is rooted in all these smart applications, Van de Kar goes on to say. Who owns the data, where is the data, what to do with all that data? When Van de Kar asks who would like to be connected to the rest of the world through their bicycle, house and car, one German student responds: “Not me! They’ ll be able to see into my brain in a second. And I enjoy taking care of my car and bike myself.”

There are more reservations. Afterwards, a Dutch fourth-year commercial economics student admits that he is skeptical. “I see it as a great gift, at least that’s also how companies present IoT and 5G. But there is no way back, I think. It seems as if companies will be able to offer cheaper services because of digitization, but I don’t see that happening quite yet. And you are missing out on the social aspect, I’m afraid that it will make society even more individualistic.”

Andreas Zosholl, a German international business student who is currently completing his studies at Groba, sees mostly opportunities. ” This introduction was very interesting for me personally. Not so much for my graduation thesis. With that, I’m mainly concerned with sensors and internet connections for the machines. 5G is still a step too far for Groba.”

FPGAS: Cloud Service Hardware with Vulnerabilities

Actually, they’re pretty handy, the FPGAs. The abbreviation stands for Field Programmable Gate Arrays. Their advantage is: these programmable gate arrays are much more flexible than ordinary specialized computer chips. And so far, they have even been considered particularly secure. But now researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) have found potential gateways for cyber criminals in these electronic components. Especially if the FPGAs are used by several users. And this often happens. Because they are used in large data centers, which in turn are used for cloud services of large tech companies and the Internet of Things.

Comparison: Lego Bricks Instead of Modelling Clay

While conventional chips can usually only perform special, constant tasks, FPGAs are able to assume almost any function of any other chip. Therefore, they are often used in the development of new devices or systems.

FPGAs, for example, are used in the first product batch of new devices because, in contrast to a special chip, whose expensive development is only worthwhile for very large quantities, they can be modified later”, explains Dennis Gnad from the Institute of Computer Engineering (ITEC) at KIT.

The computer scientist explains that this could be imagined as building a sculpture from reusable Lego bricks instead of binding modelling clay.

Low Power Consumption and Arbitrary Distribution

FPGAs are used, for example, for smartphones, networks, the Internet, medical technology, automotive electronics and aerospace. A further advantage, namely their low power consumption, also makes them attractive for use in the server farms of cloud services. Especially since they can be distributed as desired.

“This way, one customer can use the upper half of the FPGA, another the lower half”, says Jonas Krautter, also from ITEC, describing the application of the programmable chips. In cloud services, for example, the chips deal with tasks in the fields of databases, AI applications such as machine learning or financial applications.

And this is where the problem lies:

The use of a chip with FPGA by multiple users at the same time is a gateway for malicious attacks”, warns Gnad.

The versatility of FPGAs would give tricky hackers the opportunity to carry out so-called side-channel attacks. The attackers use the chip’s energy consumption to extract information with which they can crack its encryption. This would enable one customer of the cloud service to spy on another by means of the internal chip measurements. It would also be possible for hackers not only to spy out treacherous fluctuations in power consumption, but also to generate them themselves.

Solution: Restriction of Access

“This can falsify the calculations of other customers or even crash the entire chip, which could result in data loss”, explains Krautter. Similar dangers exist with other chips, Gnad continues. Such as those frequently used in Internet of Things applications such as intelligent heating controls or lighting. And when you consider the areas in which these services are now used for business and private purposes, it’s definitely time to act.

The solution proposed by Gnad und Krautter is to restrict users’ direct access to the FPGAs.

The difficulty lies in filtering out malicious users without restricting benevolent users too much”, Gnad notes.

The study was recently published in the specialist journal ICAR.



“Excellent Light combined with fast broadband data connection”: Signify’s LiFi is piloted all over the world


Not only the labs on the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven but also a meeting room in Bangalore, a lobby in Stavanger, a smart devices lab in Singapore, an office in Paris and dozens of other places around the world have already experienced it: connection to the internet without looking for the traditional wifi signals. Thanks to Signify‘s worldwide pilot, an internet connection can now also be acquired through “light fidelity”, or LiFi.

Interview Radio4Brainport with Ed Huibers (Signify):

Signify says the LiFi-enabled LED fixtures are the ideal combination of “excellent light quality with a fast broadband data connection using light waves, enabling customers to send email, securely access their company network and surf the internet through their lights”. And the good thing is: it offers at least 1,000 times the spectrum of WiFi, according to the Eindhoven based lighting company. “Philips LiFi-enabled luminaires are attracting considerable interest as an alternative or complementary technology to WiFi for specific applications and because of the increasing congestion of the radio spectrum.”

[learn_more caption=”How does LiFi work?”] LiFi: broadband connectivity through your lights

LiFi offers two-way, high-speed wireless communication like WiFi. Instead of using radio signals it uses light waves to transmit data. Signify’s LiFi-enabled Philips office lighting fixtures have a broadband connection speed of 30Mb per second without compromising lighting quality. This speed is enough to stream simultaneously several HD quality videos while holding a video call.

How does LiFi work?

Each luminaire is equipped with a built-in modem that modulates the light at speeds imperceptible to the human eye. The light is detected by a LiFi USB access key plugged into the socket of a laptop or tablet (in the future such technology will be built into laptops and devices). The LiFi USB access key returns data to the luminaire through an infrared link.


Implementation from Bangalore to Stavanger

Trial customers are located all over the world. In Bangalore, India, for example, managed offices provider Incubex has established a LiFi meeting room to enable the many start-ups and firms it serves to explore the technology. “Since our inception, we’ve been actively experimenting with and promoting new technologies. We’re giving our 450 plus members at our Manya Tech Park hub, and more than 3,500 members at our 10 other hubs, the opportunity to be the first to get hands-on with this new technology which is set to go places. So far, we’ve had great feedback and received lots of enquiries from our members,” said Alap Uttamchandani, Founder of Incubex.

Atea, the IT infrastructure company in the Nordics and Baltic region, is piloting LiFi in its office in Stavanger, Norway. The company has installed LiFi luminaires in the lobby of its building so it can demonstrate the technology and have visitors try-out the connectivity. Telecoms company Orange is another customer, piloting the technology at its office near Paris, France, where LiFi is being tested as a complementary and alternative to other mobile communication technologies.

In Singapore, Republic Polytechnic will install LiFi in its Smart Devices Lab. It intends to give its students new learning opportunities and broaden their exposure to smart lighting technologies. The Polytechnic is the first institute of higher learning in Southeast Asia to adopt LiFi.

Broadband Internet through your lights

“Our initial pilots illustrate the massive potential of this technology,” said Michel Germe, Head of LiFi at Signify. “We’ve received hundreds of enquiries from potential customers from all corners of the world, some of which have unearthed applications we’d never considered in detail, such as communication between robots in manufacturing facilities. As well as the 30 pilot projects, we’ve installed LiFi in 26 of our buildings across the world.”

Advantages of LiFi

Signify says LiFi offers benefits over WiFi as it can be used in places where radio frequencies may interfere with equipment, such as in hospitals, or where WiFi signals cannot reach or are weak, such as underground. “It’s also ideal for use in environments demanding high security; for example, the back office of a financial institution or government service. LiFi adds an extra layer of security as light cannot pass through solid walls and a line-of-sight to the light is needed to access the network.”

IoT start-up Pycom is building a global mesh network from Strijp-T

PyLife_ Pycom_

Pycom, the Internet-of-things start-up working from Strijp-T in Eindhoven and Guildford in the UK, has been shaking up the global IoT landscape since its establishment three years ago. Its suite of hardware and open-source software products provide a flexible toolset for its 250 000 developer clients and are slashing the development time for IoT products. This week Pycom launches a new product, one which it believes could help create a decentralised, global connectivity ecosystem within five years.

Audio interview at the bottom of this text

Bettina Rubek Slater_ Pycom
Bettina Rubek Slater, Pycom

Bettina Rubek Slater, COO and co-founder of Pycom, says the driving vision behind starting up in November 2015 was to give all connected ideas an opportunity to succeed. “We were responding to a need for developers to have a much quicker way of getting connected products to market. We came from the IoT industry and we knew some of the challenges that were there, with developers starting with Arduino or Raspberry Pi environments, and where they would all have to go back to the drawing board once they had created their proof of concept or pilots. And we thought there is a better way of doing this”.

She and fellow co-founders Fred de Haro, who is CEO, and Daniel Campora, the CTO, rolled out a three-phase strategy of creating a hardware platform which would “take developers right from idea to manufactured product; a suite of tools – software developer environments – that would help them along the way. And then, ultimately, a connected community that strengthens the networks for everybody”. Rubek Slater counts the creation of this extensive developer community, now reaching across 83 countries, as a notable achievement by Pycom, saying that the active, open-source collaboration speeds up the innovation process.

The challenges of the start-up process have been varied, with one aspect being the cash-intensive nature of creating hardware in a European context which is still limited in its support for start-ups, whether through fiscal incentives or through venture capital funding.

“In Europe, we have forgotten how to invest in technology. Only Asian countries are now investing in hardware start-ups.”

“In Europe, we have forgotten how to invest in technology,” de Haro says, reflecting on the comparative ease with which US venture capital funds allocate capital to tech start-ups. Added to that, raising institutional capital for hardware innovation is especially difficult – even in the US. “Only Asian countries are now investing in hardware start-ups. Elsewhere, the expertise within the VC community in analysing hardware deals has gone; these guys have all retrained to analyse software deals”.

Pycom nevertheless is pleased with the $5m in funding which it raised; this, combined with the disciplined use of operating cash flows, and R&D grants from the Dutch government, have enabled the business to advance through the critical early phase of starting up.

Pycom this week goes to market with a consumer product that is also applicable to its community of developers. The product, Pylife, consists of adaptable, wearable hardware, together with a software platform potentially housing multiple apps designed to connect devices and people.

Pylife will run on the crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter for one month, targeting €200,000, with product delivery starting by May 2019.

“With Pylife we hope to create a global mesh network within five years – a network of connected people and connected devices. The more people we have within that mesh network, the stronger the force, so to speak,” says Rubek Slater.

Philips Lighting winner of IoT Breakthrough Award 2018

iot breakthrough Philips Lighting

For the second year in a row, Philips Lighting has won an award for its Hue smart lighting program. According to IoT Breakthrough, an independent organization dedicated to helping the best Internet-of-Things (IoT) products and companies “Break Through” the crowded IoT industry, Philips Lighting is the company of the year in its category.

“We are thrilled to name Philips Lighting the “Connected Home Lighting Company of the Year” once again. Philips Lighting is a true pioneer and global leader in smart lighting, and has contributed significantly to the smart home industry,” said James Johnson, managing director, IoT Breakthrough. “We continue to be impressed with the expansion of the Philips Hue familyfeature innovation to enhance consumers’ homes and lives with light, and collaboration with other brands, from Amazon to the Golden State Warriors.”

Philips Hue is a smart lighting system for use at home. It can control or be connected to color, atmosphere, music. Hue is operated with apps on your smartphone.

The winning IoT Breakthrough selections showcase IoT technologies and companies that have both succeeded in pushing ingenuity and exemplifying the best in connected solutions across the globe.

James Johnson: “From a remarkably strong field of more than 2,000 entrants, ranging from startups to technology industry titans, it is truly an outstanding achievement to have been selected by our esteemed judging panel. We thank all of our entrants, judges, and partners for supporting the IoT Breakthrough Awards and we look forward to continued IoT innovation from winners and nominees throughout 2017.”

The IoT Breakthrough Awards recognizes the IoT innovators, leaders and visionaries from around the world in a range of categories, including Connected Home and Home Automation, Connected Car, IoT Security, Wearables, Industrial IoT, M2M, Enterprise IoT and many more.

More than 2,000 award nominations from organizations and individuals representing 15 nations were submitted to the awards this year for consideration. The award submissions were judged by an independent panel of experts that represent a cross-section of the industry, including journalists, analysts, and technology executives.

Winning products and companies were selected based on a variety of criteria, including most innovative and technologically advanced products and services, with the ultimate goal of recognizing the “Break Through” nominations for connected technologies and companies.

Sources: IoT Breakthrough Awards, Philips Lighting

Becoming a Smart Society: The ethics of the Internet of Things

Eindhoven wants to become a smart society. But how does that work? What’s going on in a society like that? Are there any good examples to learn from? DataStudio Eindhoven explores the transition a city has to go through to actually become such a smart society. Each week, we present a new contribution on e52. This week: ethical questions surrounding the Internet of Things. Read all the articles here.

Read moreBecoming a Smart Society: The ethics of the Internet of Things

EU Support for Internet-of-Things projects at TU/e

Half of the approved European ERAnet projects for research on user safety around the Internet of Things, come from Eindhoven. In total, six projects were honored. The University of Twente will receive funding for a project as well. The exact amounts of the fundings have yet to be decided on.

Read moreEU Support for Internet-of-Things projects at TU/e

Smart City is looking for Smart Citizens

A workshop in the afternoon, and a Thingscon Salon in the evening: on Friday July 8 all was prepared to find the Smart Citizen. Because one thing was really clear to the organisers of these Internet-of-Things meetups: preparing the Smart City can only be done by building a Smart Society. And for this, obviously, smart citizens are needed.

Read moreSmart City is looking for Smart Citizens