Money, Bitcoin, and Blockchain

Money, Bitcoin, and Blockchain

Throughout history, humans used many forms of money, such as seashells, livestock, cacao beans, salt, gold, silver, and paper notes. However, the technology invention of Blockchain made it possible to create the first digital coin: Bitcoin. So what is Bitcoin, and the role of Blockchain? 

Jean-Luc Verhelst is a Bitcoin & Blockchain author, trainer, and adviser. He is also a global public speaker. Jean-Luc wrote the book Bitcoin, the Blockchain and Beyond (2017). It is a 360-degree onboarding guide to the future of money and Blockchain.

Before his current position, Jean-Luc worked several years as a strategy consultant, and became the blockchain leader for Deloitte Belgium after spending several months at the EMEA Blockchain Lab. In 2021, Jean-Luc was a speaker at the Virtual Data Innovation Summit webcast ‘FinTech AI Adoption & Benefits,’ where he presented: Blockchain-based tokens: a new asset class? Jean-Luc: “They say that a Google search can change your life. That was the case for me back in 2011 when I discovered Bitcoin.”

Money

Money is the value people attach to something, e.g., US Dollar. Three features characterize it: a medium of exchange for goods and services, a unit of account, and enabling you to store value over time. Currency is a form of money and is often issued by and linked to countries. Additionally, there are also other types of currencies like private- and digital currencies.

The difference between currency and money is threefold: a currency is not storing value over an extended timeframe, is unbacked by any physical asset, and last but not least exposed to inflation. Besides, a currency must be portable, acceptable, durable, recognizable, fungible, divisible, and scarce to be successful. US Dollars, Euros, and Renminbi fall under the definition of currencies. “Though Bitcoin has long been considered a digital currency and not money, it is becoming more and more a store of value for individuals and businesses,” says Jean-Luc.

Bitcoin

What is Bitcoin? Jean-Luc explains: “Bitcoin is the Internet’s first distributed digital currency. It is fully decentralized, meaning that no central organization is controlling it. That makes it different from fiat currency such as the US Dollar regulated by the Federal Reserve.” In other words, Bitcoin is a digital coin used as digital cash on the Internet. You can transfer Bitcoin to someone else without a third party like a bank”. 

“Anyone can connect a computer or device to the Blockchain and run a full node storing and maintaining the Bitcoin Blockchain” – Jean-Luc Verhelst
 
Satoshi Nakomoto created Bitcoin and launched it in 2009 after publishing the paper’ Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System‘. It is still a mystery if Satoshi Nakomoto is a single person or a group of people. What we do know is that he/they conceived the system and implemented it before release. “The programming code that defines Bitcoin’s functioning is open-source. That makes it possible for everyone to read and understand the functioning and rules to which it responds. The open-source code started running on January 3, 2009. Since then, it is impossible to change the rules that make Bitcoin work: The Bitcoin protocol“, says Jean-Luc. We discover this more in-depth in our next blog.


Blockchain

With technologies like artificial intelligence, the Internet of things, and mobile Internet, Blockchain – the platform underpinning Bitcoin – is one of the greatest advents of the Internet. 

The Bitcoin Blockchain is a collection of records in a shared account ledger keeping track of Bitcoin ownership. It shows who owns the bitcoins at a certain point in time. The ledger is distributed across the network. Jean-Luc: “An essential benefit of a distributed ledger is that the data contained within the Blockchain is not stored and managed by a third party or intermediary that you have to trust. Instead, the entire network of Bitcoin participants collectively maintains the Blockchain. Anyone can connect a computer or device to the Blockchain and run a full node storing and maintaining the Bitcoin Blockchain“.

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The Innovation Expert

Rapid technological changes urge organizations – startups, small and medium businesses, and corporates – to be innovative to stay in business. However, companies often don’t have the right in-house expertise to create innovative products or services successfully. You can solve that lack of know-how by working with an experienced innovation expert. 

Liliana Carrillo is a top 5 nominee for the Belgian ICT Woman of the Year, organized by DataNews on February 4, 2021: She Goes ICT. Liliana is a computer science engineer, researcher, and entrepreneur with experience in the American and European markets. She has in-depth technical and business expertise and focuses on helping companies to innovate smarter. It is her passion to create new technologies and methodologies that help organizations grow sustainably. 

Liliana already helped many businesses with their innovation projects by, for example: translating business needs into financial and technical requirements and vice versa: being an intermediary between the business and the customer; and building the right team to ensure a successful innovation project.

European Digital Development Alliance 

Currently, Liliana is CEO of the European Digital Development Alliance (EDDA). EDDA represents more than fifty think-thanks, civil society organizations, and experts focusing on digital policies and digital transformation. The aim is stimulating European digital- and tech policies that reduce the worldwide digital divide. 

In February 2021, EDDA organizes the event: Next Generation Collective Intelligence. Besides, Liliana is the lead-writer of a Policy Paper for the European Commission and -Parliament on strategically addressing the African digital challenges. She does this in cooperation with the Director of the European Future Forum. 

Innovative Projects

Three examples of companies who have worked with Liliana are the Digital Leadership Institute, a Human Resource Tech startup, and Threefold. These organizations recognize that determining and finding the right expertise is crucial for successfully building sustainable, innovative products and services.

1. Digital Leadership Institute

The Digital Leadership Institute (DLI) is a Brussels-based, international non-government organization. It is a recognized world leader in promoting girls’ and women’s greater participation in strategic, innovative entrepreneurship and arts powered by science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) sectors. The four areas of activity are education and skills development, innovation and entrepreneurship support, advocacy and awareness building, research, and consultancy.

They reached out to Liliana for her business knowledge and hands-on experience with co-writing proposals for innovative European projects and her technical expertise to build blockchain applications: “I helped them co-writing a funding request for a new project. Besides, I also provided technical advice on how to build and deploy the blockchain application named E-womensays Liliana.”

“I add business value to organizations by helping them with their innovation projects on a technical, business, and human level.”

2. Human Resource Tech Start-up

A startup in the Human Resource (HR) sector came up with the innovative idea to build a platform that helps you find in no-time a job that fits best, whether you are a career starter or want to evolve or switch your career. The application requirements included an AI-algorithm and a conversational bot.

Although the startup founders had lots of HR experience, they acknowledged their lack of technical expertise to build a platform that helps people find a job that best fits them. Therefore, they asked Liliane to become their technical lead. Liliana: “To avoid supplier lock-in and high financial cost, I migrated their current platform to a new independent platform that gives them full flexibility. Additionally, I was asked to help find financial investors and grants programs, better market their brand, and contact the public employment service of Flanders to use their databases to build a pilot project.”

3. Threefold 

The mission of Threefold is to create a truly neutral, decentralized, green upgraded internet (ThreeFold Grid) and a truly decentralized, green, and inclusive digital currency (ThreeFold Token). In other words, create the biggest decentralized grid of self-managing internet capacity in the world being built collectively by an inclusive ecosystem and owned by everyone.

Threefold contacted Liliana because of her ability to combine business, technical, and social competencies. They requested her to create an innovative team that can develop a gold token for their digital platform — the right people with the right synergies. “First, I made sure I fully understood all aspects of the end-product: the gold token and its components. Secondly, I created a project work-breakdown of all required roles, e.g., legal consultants, finance consultants, security consultants, back-end, and front-end developers. Third, I listed per position all required technical and social skills. Fourth, I prepared a job description per role, including financial compensation, and discussed it with the customer. Fifth, I contacted recruiters in different countries to post our job vacancies online. Last but not least, I interviewed the candidates and created a list of people that best fit the team requirements.” 

Liliana’s motto is: make innovation simple for customers. “I add business value to organizations by helping them with their innovation projects on a technical, business, and human level. It is all about assisting customers to successfully achieve their goal to develop a new product or service by using my insights and experience effectively and efficiently throughout the whole innovation project.”

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A personal data management platform

Since the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), personal data protection became an essential privacy criterion for citizens and organizations. Regaining control of your data, improving data privacy, and authorized data-access is a win-win situation for all stakeholders. Therefore, for example, the Digital Twin Belgium Meetup aims to realize a sound European data privacy business model that provides citizens control over their data. Besides, startups like Datavillage build a user-centric personal data management platform to support citizens and organizations in creating a fair economy.

Quentin Felice and Frederic Lebeau are the co-founders of Datavillage. A company in Europe’s capital, Brussels, focusing on building a personal data management platform to unlock data power reliably. Quentin: “Our platform allows you the opportunity to collect, structure, enrich, process and share personal data in a trusted and compliant way.”  Frederic adds: “Your data is valuable. At Datavillage, people come together to gain control of their data, decide with whom to share it, and receive benefits.”

Insights-as-a-service

The user-centric personal data management platform of Datavillage addresses three market actors: data users, data providers, and data consumers. It lets data providers decide which organizations get consent to analyze their data. The resulting derived data gives data consumers insights into, e.g., improving products and services, better serving citizens, and future innovations. Quentin: “Our vision is to create a marketplace where you can valorize your digital profile.” First, the platform helps you, and organizations, to control personal data in a privacy-first manner. Second, it creates a digital profile based on your consent what data to share with whom. That allows users – developers – to organize and process data. Additionally, they can share the derived data with data consumers to create new digital assets.

A personal data management platform

Datavillages’ user-centric personal data management platform

Datavillages’ platform use cases

The media sector is an excellent use-case example, explains Frederic: “Suppose, you want to receive better recommendations about western movies. You can allow Datavillages’ personal data management platform to create a viewer profile of your social, streaming, and television data.” By doing this, you avoid that a third party gets access to your full Netflix viewing data, for instance. The next step might be to share your viewer profile on the national broadcasters’ streaming platform. That enables them to process your viewer data and to provide you with valuable western movie recommendations. Besides the media, the platform is also useful in other sectors such as health, finance, retail, human resources, and mobility. 

Beta launch of the personal data management platform

Are you ready to gain personal data control and use a platform aiming to create a fair economy for all? Datavillage launched a free beta version of its user-centric personal data management platform for professionals like developers and data scientists. You can sign up as a beta tester to test and experience the platform with your preferred data sources: “Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Strava, Colruyt, Financial Data, and moreYour feedback, including desired features and data sources, is welcome. Moreover, it is taken into account during the further development of Datavillages’ platform. 

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Multi-device VR/AR experiences

Since the COVID-19 crisis, the investment in virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and cross reality (XR) accelerates as more businesses are interested in organizing immersive virtual experiences. It means that the development of VR/AR technology is boosting. For example, the WebXR technology company LucidWeb confirms that they receive numerous requests to explain from a business-, solutions- and technology point of view their multi-device VR/AR experiences.

 

Leen Segers, Founder LucidWeb and Co-founder Women in Immersive Technologies Europe, developed a keen interest in technology during her career: “I have a master in applied economic sciences, and started as a Marketing Transformation Consultant at Accenture. Via several career steps at, e.g., Kaltura and Saffron in London, I became more involved in 2D video distribution. That inspired me to start my own company: LucidWeb. We focus on WebXR technology, allowing us to help organizations showcase high-quality VR, interactive, 360° video, or 3D models (AR) via the consumer browser.” LucidWeb is a member of the VR/AR Association in Belgium. Besides, Leen organizes monthly meetups in AltspaceVR for women in immersive technologies. 

 

VR/AR experiences

LucidWeb specializes in developing middleware software that facilitates businesses to create a 3D experience on multiple devices – desktop, mobile, and VR headset – without building an app. Leen: “The main benefit is that our customers can use one URL to effectively distribute their content to the end-user. The end-user only needs to click on the URL, and it automatically adapts the content to their preferred device. In other words, we make content accessible for desktop, mobile, and VR headsets with just one URL and one click.

“We focus on WebXR technology, allowing us to help organizations showcase high-quality VR, interactive, 360° video or 3D models (AR) via the consumer browser.” – Leen Segers, Founder LucidWeb

Having easy access to 3D experience on multiple devices is a real advantage, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of in-person experiences that require travel, it becomes possible to create virtual, 360° video experiences, such as online events, including presentations, workshops and partner booths, or interactive online museum visits. Furthermore, you can think about remote learning courses, e.g., health students attending real-time surgery in a hospital. It is even possible to record the operation in 360° video to create an extended e-learning curve and multi-device VR/AR experiences.

Immersive travel experience

Leen mentions that LucidWeb also created a 360° video travel experience that allows you to discover Cuba: “You can choose between four scenarios. Additionally, we added a geographical map with real-time tracking based on machine learning. In the future, it is possible to extend the Cuba travel experience with local museum visits. It is even an option to create museum visitor profiles.” By collecting the data where visitors in a museum look at, you can recognize if they like, for example, contemporary or classical art. This data allows you to personalize the museum experience by showing visitors their preferred art style objects.   

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Virtual engagement & collaboration

The VR/AR Global Summit Online took place on June 1-3, 2020. It is an online event hosted by the VR/AR association that gathers tech experts from all over the world. The aim is to connect you with the best solution providers in the field, but also enterprises and media entertainment companies. Part of the online VR/AR event program was an inspiring session about the top ten keys for virtual employee engagement and collaboration in the long term. Due to its success, the next VR/AR Global Summit takes place from September 30 to October 2, 2020.

Dr. Steve McNelley is co-founder of DVE Holographics, a global leader in holographic telepresence with products such as holo-rooms and DVE immersion rooms. Marlo Brooke is CEO at Avatar Partners, a company that develops Simplify Complex Systems. It aims to increase the efficiency, safety, and effectiveness of equipment, systems, and processes for, e.g., first responder and commercial industries. “Together, Steve and Marlo hosted a session about the top ten keys for creating and maintaining a highly effective, motivated, accountable workforce,” says Khaoula Belaadel, sales, and marketing intern at Help To Grow Business. 

Key 1: Teamwork

Teamwork is a critical factor in achieving business success. Active cooperation generally leads to developing a sense of community. Besides, your motivation and productivity level increases when feeling appreciated and recognized as a valuable team member. Also, soft skills such as trust, openness, and respect play an essential role in teamwork. 

Key 2: Making a positive contribution

Making a positive contribution starts with small and simple gestures like initiating new ideas, active listening, and forward-thinking. Khaoula: “It is challenging to accomplish this in a virtual environment when you don’t have a dedicated workspace at home. That is why DVE Holographics developed the DVE Huddle Room: an immersive conferencing system for meeting rooms.”

Key 3: Proximity

Proximity in a virtual workplace is often considered a paradox. However, you can reach it by stimulating virtual interaction via, for instance, eye contact on camera. It builds better emotional connections during online meetings and a sense of collaborative, realistic group interaction. DVE Holographics helps businesses with this via its telepresence features, such as having a correct camera perspective to enhance proximity in virtual workplaces.

Key 4: Life-size interaction

Khaoula explains: “To stimulate interactions into a virtual workplace, you can mimic real-life office environments. Along with general available online meeting tools, this leads to better communication, engagement, and productivity.” To achieve a life-size interaction, you create a dedicated working space with, for example, dual monitors, natural sunlight, desk lamps, and a comfortable chair. Additionally, you have to differentiate your working hours from spare time. It assists you in being focused and productive.  

Key 5: Body language

During virtual meetings, body language is vital for effective communication. The use of appropriate physical gestures, such as smiling, increases the ability to connect with colleagues, build trust, and successfully share new ideas and concepts. Khaoula: “A visual connection, having eye contact, assists in achieving a closer bond. Furthermore, an open body language indicates honesty, helps build trust and demonstrates presence and engagement.” The right tone of voice is also crucial as it encourages active listening. 

To stimulate interactions into a virtual workplace, you can mimic real-life office environments. Along with general available online meeting tools, this leads to better communication, engagement, and productivity – Khaoula Belaadel, sales, and marketing intern at Help To Grow Business. 

Key 6: Collaborative, realistic group interactions

You can use VR and AR technology to teleport yourself from home to a virtual office environment. It is especially useful during group interactions and teamwork. Achieving successful group interaction requires a transparent organization. First, you define tasks, assign roles, and set goals. Second, you put mutually agreed on working procedures in place and select the most effective and efficient communication technologies to create a steady work rhythm. 

Key 7: Direct eye contact

Maintaining direct eye contact with attendees during a virtual meeting is an indicator of focus and interest. So, it is crucial to reach a balance between looking at your camera and screen. It helps if you view the audience as individual listeners with whom you establish eye contact. That improves engagement and involves everyone in the conversation. Also, ensure to make good eye contact when highlighting your most critical lines and points to increase the impact on the audience.

Key 8: Emotional connection

Establishing an emotional connection is motivating and satisfying. It results in feeling appreciated and belonging to a community. Being connected with colleagues in a virtual workplace often improves engagement. It makes you feel involved and committed to actively participate in having a productive online meeting. Creating an emotional connection requires to respect and help each other, make time to socialize, and have fun. You can also enhance the emotional connection via thoughtful management. A manager who recognizes the team members’ skills and know-how tends to motivate them and positively impacts productivity. 

Key 9: Variety

Having various spaces available in a virtual workplace is essential. It mimics a real-life office environment that stimulates productivity and avoids becoming bored. For instance, most virtual platforms provide a multitude of spaces with unique features and allow many participants access. VirBELA even has virtual playgrounds to strengthen collaboration by socializing with your colleagues. 

Key 10: Work-life balance

The tenth and last critical key to enhancing employee engagement and collaboration in a virtual workplace is work-life balance. It is about reaching a state of satisfying equilibrium in different life aspects. Overall, clear priorities and actively managing your time lead to better collaboration, productivity, and a solid work-life balance.

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VR/AR in Belgium and beyond

In Belgium, the adoption of virtual- and augmented reality is going well because of the well-known reputation in R&D and innovation, locally and globally. The VR/AR Association in Belgium aims to promote, guide, and connect researchers, businesses, community groups, and governments. Participating in events is a powerful way to achieve this. So, on June 1-3, the Belgian VR/AR Association is present at the VR/AR Global Summit Online (VRAGS). It is the perfect opportunity to network with other businesses and vendors, and to generate VR, AR, and XR leads and partnerships.

Cederik Haverbeke is an XR Strategist, Entrepreneur, and Chapter President of the VR/AR Association Belgium. He speaks at global and local events and always emphasizes the strong reputation of VR/AR in Belgium and beyond.  

Nim Framework

The involvement of Cederik in various XR (cross-reality: VR/AR/MR) projects has led to a ‘natural interaction modules’ schema: the Nim Framework. Cederik came up with the framework because he often experiences at XR projects a gap in communication between the business and what he likes to call ‘the catacombs of code.’ It results in many misunderstandings impacting the implementation of an XR project. To solve that, he built the Nim Framework. Cederik: “The Nim Framework provides a common language for business- and technology experts to talk about the 4th revolution. It focuses on streamlining the communication between these experts concerning man and machine interactions caused by VR/AR, artificial intelligence, and 5G.” 

“I am convinced that Belgium can play a leading role in the world-wide VR/AR market.” – Cederik Haverbeke, Chapter President of the VR/AR Association Belgium

Belgium VR/AR 

Together with Howest University, Cederik published in 2019 the first VR/AR Association Ecosystem Report Belgium. It is an insightful overview, including 49 organizations, from businesses to universities, institutions, and non-profits. It describes, e.g., the types of companies, offering(s), customers, and their inspiring case studies in different industries. Besides, each organization provides its view on the future of the Belgium VR/AR ecosystem. Cederik is proud that the current report proves that Belgium has a high active number of organizations in the field of immersive technology globally. “I am convinced that Belgium can play a leading role in the world-wide VR/AR market,” he says.

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The impact of AI

Artificial Intelligence is a hot topic. The amount of computing power is increasing exponentially. Moore’s law talks about the amount of compute doubling every eighteen months. With AI, the amount used doubles every three and a half months. So, since 2012 we have seen an increase of 300.000. Businesses are looking ahead of what is coming; however, there are also concerns that AI might steal employees’ jobs. What is the future impact of AI in the health, energy, and transportation sector?

Tom Raftery, Global VP, Futurist, and Innovation Expert at SAP, acknowledges that AI leads to automation of routine job tasks as well as job creation: “The first mechanical loom, the spinning jenny, was invented in the 1750s. Workers were afraid to become redundant, but the opposite happened. The spinning jenny produced better quality and cheaper yarn than manual production. As a consequence, market demand grew. In 1760, the number of spinners and weavers in the United Kingdom increased to 7900, and in 1790 it rose to 320.000. In short, just as the spinning jenny, AI is creating jobs.”

AI impact in healthcare

Ten years ago, most of us would not have imagined that we would carry around a device that tracks what we do and where we go. Tom: “People are more and more willing to give up some data privacy to monitor their health. Soon, you probably will have a private health cloud based on data collected via our smartwatches such as heart rate and blood pressure. The good thing is that you will decide who gets permission to access your data, e.g., a trustworthy healthcare practitioner. Based on predictive analysis, your doctor receives an alert if the values of your heart rate or blood pressure go below or above a particular data point. If so, the doctor contacts you to discuss your health and to make an appointment to run tests.”

“Just as the spinning jenny in the 1750s, artificial intelligence is creating jobs.” – Tom Raftery

AI impact in Energy and Transportation

The energy- and the transportation sector are changing enormously. “It is a landmark moment in energy that it is now more efficient and effective to build a new wind farm or solar plant than it is to power an existing gas plant”, says Tom. Besides, with the shift to connected energy, it is possible to check via a smartphone app, including real-time analytics, the 5-kilowatt solar array on your roof. We are getting far more smart energy management.

In transportation, you have the four CASE megatrends: Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric. Carl Benz got the patent for the first combusting engine vehicle in 1866. Due to the evolvement of technology, Daimler, owning Benz, decided to stop all their research in internal combustion engines, and has shift to research and development of electric vehicles. In the meantime, the automotive sector is using AI, e.g., to develop long-lasting electric vehicle (EV) batteries that charge faster.

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Be part of the solution

Currently, we are in a world health crisis concerning COVID-19. It urges people and companies to reconsider how to survive in the short and long term. We are all facing the same dilemma, and we can all use help throughout this COVID-19 pandemic. It is crucial to stay in contact to understand the people’s needs around us and our business network. Besides, we have to meet these needs by offering relief on a personal and business level. What can you do to become part of the solution to assist people and businesses during the COVID-19 crisis?

Listening 

I hear many heartfelt stories via the media and business relations about health, humanity, and how to survive. The COVID-19 pandemic makes it crystal clear that health is the highest good for humanity. It all comes down to do whatever it takes to overcome this unprecedented health- and, as a consequence, economic crisis. We face lots of infected people, crowded hospitals, health workers risking their lives, and even deaths. Furthermore, numerous people are in home-quarantine, and the government has defined regulations for non-essential businesses, social distancing, teleworking, and financial support. We probably all have gone through considerable dips in our lives and have grown through all of them. However, this pandemic calls us to go back to basics and to help each other.

“Being part of the solution means making a difference by providing your help and expertise to those in need.”

Be part of the solution.

Being part of the solution means making a difference by providing your help and expertise to those in need. First and foremost, we must stay in contact with the people around us and our business relations. We have to listen to them to understand their needs throughout the COVID-19 crisis. So, it all starts with communication and empathy. Second, we have to meet their needs by offering relief on a personal and business level. For example, I actively reach out and listen to people’s stories and help them as much as possible to cope with their personal and work- or business situation. How? By providing different perspectives, sharing life and business experiences, advising about available regulations, offering technology solutions to enhance communication, and bringing them in contact with those in my network who can provide help. Although it may not be easy to step in, it is essential to offer our personal and business expertise to move forward.

Digital is part of the solution.

The COVID-19 pandemic makes many companies realize that working at home and virtual events are the future. Fortunately, the technology to facilitate this entire digital switch is available. Therefore, I am partnering with my business network to create a first-class webcast solution to help small and medium businesses engage with customers and partners. 

I wish you strength during this challenging crisis.

What can I do to become part of the solution for you during the COVID-19 crisis? Contact Desiree 

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The power of an IoT platform

Companies are developing more products and services that are ready to connect to the internet as data has become a valuable resource for creating business value. An Internet of Things (IoT) platform enables you to collect, analyze, and monitor data in real-time. However, business leaders often want to understand better how to connect their product or service to the internet, retrieve the data, and use it to create business value.

Thomas Dalberto, Account Manager Benelux at Altair, supports companies to innovate better through engineering simulation: “We develop engineer software to do digital prototyping, manufacturing process simulation as well as IoT platform and Data intelligence solution. Our approach is called ‘simulation-driven design,’ which means that we digitally simulate how your product or service reacts based on its design. Through mathematical- and physical equations, we test how it will thrive in the real world. In short, Altair provides the knowledge and technology needed to implement your digital twin strategy.

Data and IoT: wind turbines and beer breweries

How can you leverage your data with an IoT platform? Thomas demonstrates this via two business examples: wind turbines and beer breweries.

Wind turbines 
If you want to develop wind turbines, you create a prototype and test the structural components, electric motor, aerodynamics, and so on. The next step is to start using the prototype and collect, through sensors, relevant data such as wind speeds, rotating speeds, and maximum vibration. Thomas: “The IoT platform not only collects data via sensors but can also analyze and monitor it. Besides, it is an opportunity to innovate faster and reduce the cost of prototyping. For example, your IoT data shows that your wind turbine blades are turning too fast, which increases the maintenance cost of the motor. Due to this data insight, you can adjust the design of your wind turbine to avoid high maintenance costs and even failure of the engine. Last but not least, the data also makes it possible to create a model that predicts the maintenance of your wind turbine to avoid downtime.”

Beer breweries
Do beer breweries need data? Thomas explained during the DataBeers Brussels Meetup why beer breweries need data and how an IoT platform helps you to leverage data by:

  1. Creating new products
  2. Improving marketing efforts
  3. Protecting assets and fraud detection

Thomas Dalberto presenting the beer breweries case at the DataBeers Brussels Meetup


1. Creating new products

A Spanish brewery wants to extend its beer offerings. They decide to take a data-driven approach. Thomas explains: “First, they collect and analyze data about the ingredients of their popular beers with the support of our IoT platform. Based on the results, they create four new beers out of barley, yeast, hop, and water. Then, they test the new beers at their customers and monitor in real-time the consumption. How does this work? They use a flowmeter, an IoT device placed between the beer keg and the tap. Each time the tap opens, the beer passes through the internal blades of the flowmeter and sends electronic pulses to the connected wire. The data goes to the IoT platform, and after analysis, a dashboard visualizes it. It allows the brewery to identify the most successful beer and to start commercializing it. The good news is that the new beer is already available at the supermarkets in Spain.”

2. Improving marketing efforts
Before using the IoT platform, it took the marketing department of the Spanish brewery two to three months to collect enough data to create a meaningful sales report. “By implementing the flowmeter and the IoT platform, they now monitor in real-time the beer consumption. It also enables them to get information about, for instance, the average amount of beer served per day, the most popular beer, and the best period for a marketing campaign. These data analytics help to monitor and improve the beer marketing efforts, Thomas says.” It is even possible to use the data for creating a predictive marketing model to determine which strategies and actions have the highest probability of succeeding.

3. Protecting assets
5 and 1 million! Already in 2014, Baker reported this is, respectively, the amount stolen by thieves, not in euros cash but stolen kegs. Therefore, asset protection is a necessary legal action for breweries. The IoT technology assists them in tracking the position of each beer barrel via sensors connected to the internet: from brewery to customers, and vice versa. Though the IoT data supports breweries to manage their assets, it is also possible to create a data model for predictive logistics to lower the cost per order. A good example is to predict when to organize the delivery of full kegs and pick-up of empty kegs.

In summary, an IoT platform enables you to collect, analyze, monitor, and visualize data. It is an opportunity to efficiently and effectively create business value with data. Besides, it is easy to change your strategy based on the data you receive from the IoT platform and to develop models for predictive purposes.

Do you want to leverage your data and create business value with the power of IoT and data intelligence? Contact: Thomas Dalberto, Account Manager Benelux at Altair

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Applying the innovative power from China to Belgian companies

The Belgian business community is becoming increasingly aware that China is at the forefront of innovation. Pascal Coppens, author, keynote speaker, sinologist, and technology entrepreneur, wrote the book: China’s New Normal. He describes how China sets the standard for innovation. The book’s common theme is China’s leading position in the development and implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI). What can Belgian companies learn from China’s innovative power?

Realizing ambition
Pascal has worked and lived in China and Silicon Valley for more than twenty years. Since 2016, he is back in Belgium. “Belgian start-ups, small-, medium-, and large businesses show much goodwill in the area of digitalization and innovation. However, compared to the extent China is changing the world with AI, Belgian companies are lagging,” he says. To help these companies progress, they have to take into account two critical factors:

1. A positive wake-up call
Pascal: “If we compare China’s ambition with that of Belgium, it is evident that China has a stronger will to make a difference on a global level.”

“In Belgium, businesses often focus on discussing the challenges posed by innovations, and in China on discussing solutions. The latter requires courage and a strong will to realize ambitions. That’s where China stands out, and Belgian companies must have a positive wake-up call.”

2. Focus and ecosystem
In China, companies always establish themselves in geographical areas with specific expertise and ecosystem. “If you go to Alibaba in Hangzhou, you will notice that most people in this city are working in e-commerce. In Belgium, we need to do the same: decide what our expertise is, and how to profile ourselves with it in the world,” says Pascal.

The focus on developing solutions, sharing knowledge and experience, is an essential part of the Chinese culture. Companies in China recognize that being part of an ecosystem is an investment in the future. A large company often creates a new department when they decide to work with a start-up. In other words, Chinese companies are part of an ecosystem and use it to profile themselves in the market. That is what companies in Belgium have to apply more. 

 

“By demonstrating the Chinese business world to entrepreneurs, I want to inspire and challenge them to take a critical look at their thinking about innovation.”

 

Applying China’s innovative power
Pascal’s drive encouraging business leaders to implement China’s innovation approach in their organization is one of the reasons for his book ‘China’s New Normal.’ Entrepreneurs often ask him: how are we going to do that? He answers this question by giving lectures, workshops, and organizing innovation tours to China. “We have to be open to using China’s innovative power, that is my opinion. I find it strange that companies go to Silicon Valley for funding, but not to China. So, during the China innovation tour, we visit companies like Tencent, and also a selection of start-ups, scale-ups, and unicorns mentioned in my book.”

“By demonstrating the Chinese business world to entrepreneurs, I want to inspire and challenge them to take a critical look at their thinking about innovation. I often notice that they have better insight and more confidence when we come back from a China Innovation tour. It helps them to implement business changes, based on the innovative power they experienced in China.”

Do you want to grow business by creating content about your innovative technology solution? Contact Desiree

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Ethical Artificial IntelIigence

Ethical Artificial Intelligence is at the heart of Omina Technologies, an AI and machine learning company. In June 2019, Rachel Alexander, the founder, and CEO, won the Belgian AI Personality of the Year Award. “Getting the award, for me, is a real validation of ethical AI. It is crucial to have people in your organization who believe in ethical AI because it is a mindset that you need to develop. When I started our business in 2016, I had to explain the dangers of AI. Now, I focus on how we can take concrete steps to solve it.”

AI in Europe
On April 8, 2019, the independent High-Level Expert Group on AI set up by the European Commission presented the Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence.

The guidelines put forward a set of seven critical requirements for trustworthy AI systems. The group also prepared a document which elaborates on a Definition of Artificial Intelligence used for the guidelines:

Artificial intelligence refers to systems that display intelligent behavior by analyzing their environment and taking actions – with some degree of autonomy – to achieve specific goals. AI-based systems can be purely software-based, acting in the virtual world (e.g., voice assistants, image analysis software, search engines, speech and face recognition systems) or AI can be embedded in hardware devices (e.g., advanced robots, autonomous cars, drones or Internet of Things applications).

“I find it encouraging that the European Commission came out with a definition of AI and seven key requirements that ethical AI systems have to meet, says Rachel.”

Seven requirements for trustworthy AI

Requirement 1: Human agency and oversight
AI systems should empower human beings, allowing them to make informed decisions and fostering their fundamental rights. At the same time, proper oversight mechanisms need to be ensured, which can be achieved through human-in-the-loop, human-on-the-loop, and human-in-command approaches.

“This requirement points out that it is vital to combine AI and human intelligence. In other words, AI is augmenting human intelligence. There are studies about the diagnosis’s accuracy done by a doctor, done by AI, and done by both working together. The outcome shows that AI plus human intelligence is more accurate compared to only AI or human intelligence,” explains Rachel.

Requirement 2: Technical robustness and safety
AI systems need to be resilient and secure. They need to be safe, ensuring a fall back plan in case something goes wrong, as well as being accurate, reliable, and reproducible. That is the only way to ensure that also unintentional harm can be minimized and prevented.

“It is necessary that you have certain governance around critical AI systems to make sure that it is not possible to reverse engineer it. Additionally, how do you know that your AI system is accurate, reliable, and reproducible? To answer this question, you have to understand your algorithm thoroughly.”

Requirement 3: Privacy and data governance
Besides ensuring full respect for privacy and data protection, adequate data governance mechanisms must also be ensured, taking into account the quality and integrity of the data, and ensuring legitimized access to data.

“Since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect on May 25, 2018, organizations focus more on privacy and data governance. However, I expect this to change in the future. Why? Because many youngsters don’t have a strong belief in data privacy due to, e.g., Facebook and voice assistants like Alexa.”

Requirement 4: Transparency
The data, system, and AI business models should be transparent. Traceability mechanisms can help achieving this. Moreover, AI systems and their decisions should be explained in a manner adapted to the stakeholder concerned. Humans need to be aware that they are interacting with an AI system, and must be informed of the system’s capabilities and limitations.

“Monitoring the evolution of your algorithms, and understanding what those are doing is an essential level of transparency. At our company, for example, we make it possible for customers to generate an output report by pressing a simple button. It shows you immediately if the AI system meets its service level agreements, what the risks are in the decision making of the algorithm, and how this has evolved.”

“It is crucial to have people in your organization who believe in ethical AI because it is a mindset that you need to develop.”

Belgium AI Personality of the Year Award - 2019

Requirement 5: Diversity, non-discrimination, and fairness
Unfair bias must be avoided, as it could have multiple negative implications, from the marginalization of vulnerable groups to the exacerbation of prejudice and discrimination. Fostering diversity, AI systems should be accessible to all, regardless of any disability, and involve relevant stakeholders throughout their entire life circle.

“I hear many people talking about getting the bias out of AI. That is impossible because you can’t get the bias fully out of humans and data. Nevertheless, what you can do is to minimize it by making it visible through the transparency of your AI system.”

Requirement 6: Societal and environmental well-being
AI systems should benefit all human beings, including future generations. It must hence, be ensured that they are sustainable and environmentally friendly. Moreover, they should take into account the environment, including other living beings, and their social and societal impact, should be carefully considered.

“We make our ethical AI and machine learning platform available for enterprises with lots of data and small and medium businesses with fewer data, tells Rachel.”

Requirement 7: Accountability
Mechanisms should be put in place to ensure responsibility and accountability for AI systems and their outcomes. Auditability, which enables the assessment of algorithms, data, and design processes, plays a key role therein, especially in critical applications. Moreover, adequate an accessible redress should be ensured.

“To assess if an AI system is ethical, you have to audit your AI systems and be transparent about the results and improvement plans. Overall, it is impossible to solve all ethical AI problems outlined in the seven requirements at once. Currently, our business focuses on privacy and data governance, transparency, and societal and environmental well-being, says Rachel.”

Three AI and machine learning offerings
Omina Technologies offers three AI services: Omina Academy, Omina Consultancy, and Omina Core.

Omina Academy 
The academy focuses on bringing AI knowledge to the market so that you can explore what it can do for your company.

Omina Consultancy
Rachel: “Besides the academy, we also provide consultancy. Organizations often contact us with a request to help them understand how they can strategically implement AI. So, we come in and start with a readiness assessment. For example, we perform a benchmarking of the customer’s sector, assess the organization’s strengths and weaknesses to implement AI, and look at their data. That results in a strategic AI roadmap.”

Omina Core
“Last but not least, Omina’s Core is an ethical AI and machine learning platform for enterprises and small and medium businesses. It analyzes massive amounts of data, structured and unstructured, and makes complex decisions and predictions faster and more reliable.”

Do you want to enhance your AI knowledge and apply ethical AI and machine learning in your company? Contact: Rachel.Alexander@ominatechnologies.com

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Smart and Mobile Operations

Many industrial companies deal with complex operations in their plants. It often forces management to speed up the operational digitalization to be a competitive market player. Although technological innovations make it possible to automate nearly an entire plant, it is still vital to have skilled personnel with in-depth knowledge. Unfortunately, due to an aging workforce, management sees themselves confronted with a possible loss of valuable knowledge and hands-on experience. Their main concern is how to safeguard the knowledge of senior operators and help juniors get up to speed with complex operations?
 

Geert Sergoyne is co-founder and CEO at Gemsotec. “Our mission is to enable companies with complex operations to make instructions, tasks and inspection rounds mobile and smart. It helps them to capture and organize the knowledge-based information of their senior operators and to create a digital buddy for future talent.”

Digital buddy: four critical success factors
Up till now, most junior operators get extensively training from seniors to gain complex operations knowledge and experience. However, the digital economy and the aging workforce urge companies to change the way they operate.

Geert: “We asked ourselves what the Software as a Service (SaaS) application critical success criteria are for a digital buddy, supporting less experienced employees during complex operations?” That resulted in a list of four success factors:

  1. One software platform for all company departments involved in complex operations
  2. Collect, analyze and visualize data to gain insights
  3. An intuitive user interface
  4. Augment: enriched data such as a detailed floor plan and pictures to guide operators during their inspection rounds

Based on these four critical success factors, Gemsotec created the application GoRound.

GoRound application
What is GoRound? “GoRound is a web and mobile application that assists you to perform inspections, instructions, and tasks.The web application facilitates the creation of templates, plans, and reports. It also manages tasks and collects valuable data insights for improvements. The GoRound mobile app is a digital buddy that guides operators and technicians via a step-by-step approach. For example, they can check the precise location to perform an inspection, log statuses, add text comments, check process values and make field service requests,” says Geert.

Projects and approach
Currently, several GoRound projects are ongoing in different industries. A food company is using the application to digitize the quality inspections of a product line. It means that paper-based management is replaced by tablets that run the GoRound application to log production failures and to perform critical checks such as temperature and fat content. It enables them to optimize the efficiency of the product line thanks to valuable data insights. Additionally, the digital logging of data improves its compliance with regulations and procedures.

“Another project is with a chemical company. Here, employees use tablets to inspect railway wagons containing hazardous substances and to perform full site inspections. The GoRound application provides them the instructions to execute checks and allows them to enrich their data with pictures and comments. That speeds up the time-frame to generate inspection reports and fix problems. In other words, it not only improves the efficiency and safety tracking of the railway wagons but that of the entire site,” says Geert.

“GoRound is a web and mobile application that assists people to perform inspections, instructions, and tasks.”

There is also a GoRound project ongoing with a production company in Spain to digitize more than eighty complex operations checklists for the inspection of many international product types linked to different customers and countries. The mobile GoRound app helps them to select the correct product type checklist.

All GoRound projects start with a customer kick-off meeting. Geert: “We carefully listen to our customer’s needs, identify all stakeholders, agree on what the objectives are, and how we are going to cooperate. It is our responsibility to deliver and configure the application and to provide user training. The customer arranges their team’s buy-in, enters the necessary know-how in the app, and uses it.

Active participation of stakeholders is crucial for a successful project, as well as a user-friendly interface and excellent user experience. Due to the project sizes, I expect to extend our portfolio with project management services to help customers with the implementation of the GoRound app.”

Rapid growing market
The worldwide market for mobile operations is expecting rapid growth in the coming years. That provides many opportunities for established businesses as well as start-ups. For example, in the future, operators will use smart glasses for complex mobile operations. The advantage is that you have easy access to information and work instructions. Besides, your hands are free to perform tasks, and an online expert is available if you need help to solve a problem.

“Currently, Gemsotec is active in the chemical, food, manufacturing, and logistics industries. We are often amazed by our customers with the new use cases they introduce. Although we have many projects dealing with inspections and tasks, I also see great potential for complex procedures such as the lockout tag-out procedures. The fast pace of technology innovations will further help us to develop the GoRound application and to meet the business needs of our customers,” says Geert.

Do you want to know more about the GoRound app to make your operations smart and mobile? Contact: geert.sergoyne@gemsotec.com

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