“The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” The opening line in Mark Weiser’s text The Computer for the 21st Century, seems to perfectly sum up living in the age of the Internet of Things. Most fascinatingly, Weiser wrote this exactly 20 years ago, when the way in which we now live with and rely on technologies were inconceivable to most.
Today technologies that are designed to enhance our way of living are embedded in almost every aspect of life. Individuals and families use connected devices to keep in touch with friends and family, be entertained at every moment, and keep track of information about their home, vehicle, and personal health.
Companies in every sector, as well as governments, use this technology to generate efficiencies and inform real-time decisions, while using the data captured by connected devices to drive better insights into their operations. These developments reflect the sharp increase in the number of connected devices being used, which Gartner predicts will reach the 14 billion mark this year, rising to 25 billion by 2021.
As the world becomes more reliant on these innovations, Liberty Global is working to weave IoT technologies into the core of our everyday life and business operations. We’ve stepped up the development of a number of IoT initiatives that are currently B2B-focused, but which will help us build capabilities to support a potential entry in the consumer IoT space down the line.
One key area we’re focusing on is Smart Buildings, which uses data captured by sensor technology to drive building management efficiencies and create a great experience for our own office workers and tenants. This is demonstrated with the new Vodafone Ziggo office in Utrecht. It’s also a brilliant example of a fully-worked-out technical solution ready to be commercialized in full or in any of its standalone components.
Equipped with more than 2,000 sensors, the Smart Office enables our colleagues to find their way through the building, locate a free desk and book the closest available meeting room on the spot – all via an app serving as the main user interface. The facilities team can also access a portal that provides insights to cleverly drive energy management. If low occupancy is detected in an area, an entire wing of the building can be shut down, with all the occupants invited to move to another area through in-app messaging and kiosks placed in high-traffic spots.
On top of the sizeable cost savings that can be achieved in this way, the Smart Office supports more agile, flexible ways of working. And, by making life in the office a little bit easier, it’s expected to have a positive impact on employee wellbeing and productivity.
Last year, our colleagues at Telenet signed a deal with Brussels Charleroi Airport to develop IoT technologies that will provide a better experience for passengers. The focus of development is on Smart Parking and passenger flow optimization. Visitors to Charleroi will be able to book parking via an app, have their license plate recognized by smart cameras for quick entry and be directed towards a free parking spot. Inside the building, they will be offered personalized services and guided through their journey across airport facilities, while their location data will be used optimize airport space and organization. Smart Airports are going to be one of the highest-growing IoTcase studies in the next few years so look forward to a more custom-made, stress free start to your journey.
The energy and cost efficiencies demonstrated in the VodafoneZiggo building, are also being replicated in an IoT proposition to help streamline the collection of data from apartment buildings in Germany. Unitymedia are digitizing building management processes that currently require manual collection – such as heating consumption – which allows building owners to collect accurate data in real time and drives significant cost and energy reduction On top of the in-country developments, there’s also work being done within Liberty Global’s Central B2B team to quickly develop, test and validate innovative IoT propositions.
The aim of this activity, as professor Robert C. Wolcott brilliantly put it during his speech at our Tech Summit 2018, is to scan the periphery to identify opportunities and challenges in areas that might not create major revenue shifts in the short term, but will help in securing the company’s long-term success.