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The Sensor Sensation: Internet of Things

How the boundaries between the physical and digital world are becoming increasingly blurred. By Emiel de Punder

As many as 50 billion connected devices, up to €7 trillion in generated revenue and an annual economic added value that is equal to the gross domestic product of Germany (€3.4 trillion). If we are to believe the numbers, this would make the Internet of Things (IoT) the cornerstone in the transformation towards a new, connected world. The “sensor sensation” is here and offers an incredible amount of new possibilities.

The Internet of What?

The Internet of Things! You can think of it as a network of connected devices, people, systems and other sources that can process information from the physical and digital world. By using sensors, for example, we can “measure” physical events and characteristics and then send this data into the digital world. The IoT enables us to encourage the digitization of physicality/materiality. This can lead to innovations such as a car that measures the distance to the car ahead of it in order to calculate when it must make an emergency stop.

But haven't we been able to do this for a while now?

Yes, we have! But the beauty of modern technology is that we can do it on a much larger scale by connecting new data sources. The combination of these (new) large data sources allows us to gain new insights and discover new relationships that we had no idea were even there in the first place. In addition, sensors are becoming increasingly cheap due to mass production, internet is now a widespread commodity, and we can fit more and more computing power into smaller and smaller devices (just compare the functionalities of a phone from ten years ago to a new model). These are just a few reasons why the IoT is still somewhat of a new development.

So what can we do with it?

Because we attempt to create an image based on measuring different characteristics of “something”, we can also make a digital copy of this physical “something”. We call this a “Digital Twin”: a living digital copy of a physical asset. Do you remember RollerCoaster Tycoon from back in the day? Imagine that there was an actual physical version of your amusement park! In that case you could think of the digital version as your amusement park’s Digital Twin. We can then run simulations on these digital copies, for instance to identify a scenario in which the operational conditions of the asset are optimal. An example could be finding the shortest escape routes in the Digital Twin of a large drilling platform. We then mimic these digital conditions in the physical version in order to improve operational conditions.

What does Capgemini do with the Internet of Things?

IoT is an all-encompassing concept in which both architecture and applications, as well as other matters like security and connectivity are very important. That is also why you’ll see it throughout the entire organization. Furthermore, we truly use each other’s expertise and domain knowledge to provide our clients with the best possible assistance. A poorly secured IoT network can be hacked, for instance, or used for a DDoS attack. It is large network of devices, after all. Choosing a suboptimal communication protocol can cause systems to crash, since these devices transmit a continuous stream of data. Is it therefore a good idea to think about which hardware and software protocols you want to use.

Our colleague David Salguero Kuiters has already written an article about one of our cases: how Capgemini helps elite athletes to boost their performance and improve their results by measuring and analyzing various data. You can read the article here.