4 applications of IoT in the building industry

Consumers and chain partners are imposing increasingly stringent demands with regard to infrastructure. Roads, the railway network and the drainage system simply have to work at all times. Transparency and availability are the standard, and downtime is no option. The building industry is able to meet this demand thanks to the application of sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT). Sensors and smart analyses enable predictive maintenance and thus guarantee better services.

Customers demand availability and they don’t want any surprises. Maintenance has to become smarter and more predictable. The present infrastructure is ageing. Digitization, more frequent measurements and digital media are causing exponential growth levels of the information flow. At the same time, the end-user is demanding that organizations respond with pragmatic actions and that they share information. Infrastructure projects are becoming more and more complex in terms of engineering, finance and design. Efficient ways of working are gaining in importance. Sensors are essential enablers and are the key to success.

Do you want to work on challenging projects like John?
Take a look at our website: www.werkenbijict.nl.

Frank’s challenge: Recognize and classify video images with AI

We live in a ‘data-driven’ world in which AI determines which products are shown in a webshop, predicts what music you want to hear, and determines which taxi will take you to your destination in the fastest and cheapest way. Frank Thomson is applying this technology to video. “We’re training AI models so that they can automatically classify video images.”

Wide range of video applications
Companies are using video more and more often, in a wide range of applications: from surveillance and other situations in which you want to monitor any deviation from a normal situation to inspection and investigation of objects. In most companies, viewing and inspecting these images is still a matter of manual work. Frank is training machine learning algorithms to recognize video images. The purpose: fully automatic detection of occurrences of a particular situation. This will allow people to focus on that part of their work that requires their knowhow. Frank: “The time savings are huge, and what’s more, we’re making the work of the staff who need to analyze those images a lot more pleasant.

Do you want to work on challenging projects like John?
Take a look at our website: www.werkenbijict.nl.

Walter and Michiel’s challenge: facilitating 24/7 communication between all systems

Throughout the terminal, remote-operated cranes are lifting immensely heavy containers out of container ships as if they were made of cardboard. After completing their journey across water, through the air and onto the shore, these containers are unloaded by the crane on waiting freight trains or trucks and shipped to the hinterland.

In the words of Michiel van der Meer, a Software Engineer at ICT Group: “The immense power and complexity involved in this work, along with the sophisticated technology used, is something that appeals to a lot of people. The fact that a crane can be operated and move around thanks to your work – the software you and your team have developed for the container terminal – is thrilling and a really fascinating thing to witness.”

Most container terminal operators in Rotterdam, Antwerp, and elsewhere are supported by innovative information technologies in managing their operational processes. This allows them to operate their terminals smarter and more efficiently while at the same time boosting their profits. ICT Group has been a valuable partner to businesses in this industry for many years.

Do you want to work on challenging projects?
Take a look at our website: www.werkenbijict.nl.

Saurav’s challenge: designing error free and reliable software for the medical sector using Model Driven Engineering

Not many software engineers get their very first assignment developing software for the medical sector. It happened to Saurav Paul, who shortly after his degree in Embedded Systems started working as a software engineer for ICT Group. The challenge was to design a software system for a service tool used to check complex x-ray machines. Needless to say, the software had to be delivered error proof, reliable and fast.

Philips Healthcare develops innovative x-ray systems for image guided medical procedures. These machines are powered by a so-called startup/shutdown controller that guarantees the machines’
safety and reliability. The functionality of the startup/shutdown controller is regularly checked through a service tool. Philips Healthcare asked ICT Group to develop the software for this service tool.

Do you want to work on challenging projects like Saurav?
Take a look at our website: www.werkenbijict.nl.

“Job satisfaction is important, and that’s what I’ve found at ICT Group”

Arend van Putten has been working at ICT Group as a software architect in the healthcare industry since 2015. Why did he choose this company? What is it that makes his profession so appealing? And what are his dreams for the future

Meaningful work
Arend has been working for technology companies operating in the healthcare industry since he graduated from Twente University: having begun his career at GE Healthcare, he went on to work for radiotherapy equipment manufacturer Elekta before joining ICT Group. “During my studies I completed two traineeships at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam. While I was there, I helped develop diagnostic software that speeds up the process of detecting brain tumors. The fact that I was involved in developing software that one day might contribute to saving lives meant a great deal to me. It really made me want to give it my all, and that’s why I decided to look for work in the medical industry after completing my studies.” He turned out to be lucky, finding work as a software developer at GE Healthcare, where he worked in a team of experienced and highly motivated senior developers. “I learned so much from them in various areas: How to deal with quality issues, application life cycle management, customer requirements, and so on and so forth. Traceability and in-depth testing of software are very important in the healthcare industry. When you become part of a highly experienced team in your first job out of college, quality consciousness kind of becomes your second nature.”

From team member to front man
After seven years, Arend made the move to Elekta, where quality assurance processes had not yet reached the same level of sophistication than at GE. His knowhow and experience allowed him to truly contribute to the team effort, while he also learned what it means to be the front man rather than one of the links in the chain of an experienced team. This experience turned out to be very useful in his current role as a software architect at ICT Group. “I immediately felt at home in this company, right from the very first meeting,” is how Arend describes his move. “They are working for customers in the healthcare industry, they’re involved in interesting projects, and they offered me the opportunity to prove myself as a software architect. My ambition for the future is to become a CTO, and this is a good step in the right direction.”

Developing new architecture
He is currently on his second contract job. “I had to develop a new architecture for both projects. It is extremely demanding, and not only from the perspective of the software. You also have to ensure that the team becomes familiar with the new technology, that they feel challenged, and that they enjoy learning new skills. You need to give people the freedom to make mistakes without being penalized, because it allows them to learn. In that sense, I could build on my experience at GE Healthcare, and create an atmosphere that’s conducive to learning as a team.” Arend’s current role extends into the political arena as well. “If you develop medical software, you are required to define and follow a process. Existing processes are not always as efficient and flexible, what makes it inevitable to suggest your changes. And once you get involved in processes, politics automatically becomes part of the game. The fact that everyone has an opinion about everything can be challenging, but at the same time it’s very interesting and you learn to see things from a different perspective.”

ICT Group knows what motivates people
Arend’s current position calls for more ‘soft’ skills than was the case in his previous roles. That turns off a lot of techie guys, but Arend has welcomed this part of the job. “Software is predictable while people are changeable. I like the challenge of discovering how to motivate people. I read a lot about these subjects, and I do my own research. I found the video ‘What motivates us’ extremely inspiring (Google this title and you’ll find it straight away). It turns out that knowledge workers who really need to tap into their creativity in the workplace are driven by three things: they want to determine themselves how they do their work, they want to get better at their job, and they have a yearning for meaning and fulfillment. If you coach your teams based on these three values, they will automatically perform better, and they will enjoy their work more.” Arend’s approach to motivating his client’s team is the same as the approach used by ICT Automatisering. “That’s why I feel so much at home in this company. I can choose the types of projects I want to be involved in. I prefer projects that allow me to increase my professional level, but that also give me the opportunity to learn new things. My business unit only works for the healthcare industry. The software we develop facilitates more efficient processes and more effective decision-making. For instance, faster diagnoses or better treatment plans. That’s one aspect of the job I really love: it just goes to show that our work really matters. And it’s what puts a big smile on my face when I go to work every morning.”

How do you – as an IT professional – intend to contribute to improving healthcare services? Take a look at your new project at ICT Group!

“There are various ways to be successful; ICT Group encourages its employees to pursue these”

Joost Houwen joined ICT Group in 2016 as a software developer in the healthcare industry. Why did he choose this company? What is it that makes his profession so appealing? And what are his dreams for the future?

In his previous job, Joost worked together with his team to develop an e-commerce platform. A great project in which I learned a lot, says Joost. “The functionality itself was pretty straightforward. What was more complicated was the fact that the enormous number of functionalities had to be combined into a single package. It was as if we were putting together a huge jigsaw puzzle. The first step of the solution consisted of creating a framework. The challenge was to keep the various interfaces of the puzzle pieces as simple as possible, allowing us to fit them together.” From the moment the team had put the puzzle together, Joost’s interest started to fade. “You can endlessly keep adding and optimizing functionality, but I’m far more interested in developing a framework.”

Healthcare requires the highest-quality software
He was contacted for a position at ICT Group, and was interested in learning more about it. “My interest was piqued by the fact that they were looking for someone to develop software for the healthcare industry. ICT Group and the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) are developing a workflow management system together for hospital oncology departments. The software generates highly intelligent planning schedules that speed up the process of examining patients so they can receive their diagnosis sooner. The software optimizes processes and automates workflows. Quality is extremely important, because even a minor glitch in the software can have huge implications. Everything is tested thoroughly. Quality comes before speed, which suits me down to the ground. I like to do a thorough job and make things transparent and traceable so that you have a solid foundation for future extensions.”

ICT Group wants its employees to develop
Joost decided to make the switch to ICT Group, also because he was told that he could participate in the MGH project. “And that’s what I did during the first couple of months after joining ICT Group. However, a new contracting position came up that really matched my skill set and experience. Even though I had chosen ICT Group for their in-house projects, I said ‘yes’ to the contracting job. I understand that things can sometimes turn out differently than expected. As it happened, they didn’t force me to take the contracting job. It would have been fine if I’d said ‘no’.” Joost is currently working on a project in which he is creating a DTAP environment for a diagnostic center/primary care clinic. Quality is also an important issue here. “I’m developing software that automates workflows. It’s important that all processes are seamlessly aligned, avoiding the risk of any job failing to meet the requirements or getting delayed. Basically this software has the same functionality as the application we developed together with MGH, apart from its scale and the fact that it’s used for different diagnostic purposes.”

Pursuing your own dreams
Joost is very happy with his employer ICT Automatisering. Especially because they provide the kind of career pathways he finds interesting. “I took a Professional Leadership course in my very first month on the job. It shows you how to discover your motives. I learned that what excites me more than anything is being of added value to others. I discussed this with ICT Group and we looked at how we can make the best use of that desire in my position. For instance, I’d love to convey my passion for my profession to others. That’s something that we are actually doing right now. I’ve been given the opportunity to organize a ‘Train the trainer’ session and to give presentations at colleges. That’s an excellent match with my primary role as a software developer. It allows me to test the waters and find out if it’s something I’d like to pursue further.”

Success depends entirely on passionate people
Joost is the embodiment of ICT Group’s vision that success depends entirely on passionate people: “ICT Group looks at what people enjoy; what their interests are and what they’re good at, without pigeonholing them into a particular job right out the gate. You’re given plenty of opportunity to develop. And that’s nice, because there are various ways to be successful. I like it when your employer encourages you to find those ways.” It creates a certain culture and mentality in the company, Joost observes. “Everyone here is passionate about what they do.” And that can be pretty dangerous with a wild bunch of software developers, he says with a smile. “Like I said, developing software is just like solving a puzzle. And it’s just as addictive too. Sometimes I really have to tell myself to call it a day. Otherwise I would continue until the early hours of the morning.” He’s happy that he made the switch to ICT Group. “My former job was also a lot of fun, but after a while I noticed that I’d become stuck in a routine and was really working on autopilot. Now I have to use my brain in everything I do, and that’s a lot more interesting. I learn something new every day, I’m getting a chance to explore extremely interesting issues, my work contributes to society at large, and I get to earn a good living on top of that. What else could you ask for?”

Would you also like to learn new things every day and make a contribution to society at large? Find your new challenge at ICT Group.

Transform data into action-oriented information

Data is crucial to remaining competitive in a rapidly changing world. The key to keeping full control over your business and staying up-to-date on the latest business opportunities is to aggregate as many data sources as possible. To help you complete your digital transformation successfully, ICT Group has developed the 4C model, which outlines the four stages of transforming your business into a data-driven organization. This blog post focuses on the second stage: Collect. New technologies are continuing to change the corporate playing field in increasingly radical ways: the Internet, social media, and various mobile devices are facilitating the direct exchange of data and information worldwide. Consumers can compare prices and service and quality levels at a glance, making it essential for businesses to keep adapting to changing customer needs in order to stay in the game. After all, if they fail to deliver, customers are certain to take their business elsewhere. This makes it more important than ever for companies to be connected to the network economy. Linking data sources and systems to each other in strategic ways gives you a more sophisticated understanding of your customers’ needs. By harvesting and analyzing data relating to your production processes, you can offer your customers the highest-quality products at the lowest prices. The second step that businesses need to take in their shift to a fully data-driven approach is to integrate all information sources. Combining the Right Data Sources While a single data source can provide a wealth of information to help you improve your business operations, aggregating multiple data sources and ecosystems will increase their potential exponentially. You can improve the efficiency of your business’ logistics processes, for example, by comparing data relating to traffic flows, energy prices, and local weather conditions. In a connected world, all relevant objects and devices generate data, making it possible to develop new, smart and sustainable applications, including smart grids. These energy networks are every bit as intelligent as they sound: they facilitate two-way traffic and record data relating to consumption and supply. These ‘smart’ features are essential, as a growing number of renewable energy sources are connected to the power grid. Solar and wind energy are subject to peaks and troughs, and smart distribution makes the smart grid secure, reliable, efficient, and sustainable. GreenFlux: Intelligent Loading Infrastructure Electric vehicles are growing in popularity, but their success depends on a solid charging infrastructure. With its smart infrastructure, GreenFlux – a charging-station operator and service provider in the field of electric transport – provides maximum support to drivers of electric vehicles, aiming to make electric transportation accessible to everyone. The company is putting in place a nationwide, user-friendly charging network in the Netherlands, which will make it easy for electric drivers to charge their vehicles. Smart Grid Regulates Peaks and Troughs in Consumption Electric vehicle drivers should be able to rely on charging facilities being available anywhere, anytime – and that’s where the challenge lies, as the newer generations of electric vehicles consume an increasing amount of energy. It is therefore important for smart-grid energy providers to ensure that utilization is well-balanced and that energy consumption can be accurately estimated. GreenFlux uses a central solution for this purpose that regulates the overall charging infrastructure. Predictive algorithms enable the company to manage energy consumption intelligently. The aggregation of various data sources – including information such as weather conditions, estimated power consumption and location – turns disparate data into relevant business information. Data Ensures Improved Service, Sales, and Marketing GreenFlux currently operates smart charging stations linked together through the Internet. The data generated is stored in a central system and processed in Azure, Microsoft’s public cloud computing platform. The company uses Azure as new solutions can be rolled out quickly and easily using this platform. Cloud computing is one of the key building blocks of the system, as it ensures virtually no downtime, data access anywhere, anytime, and automatic scaling where necessary. Having this technology in place enables GreenFlux to provide the highest-quality services to its customers and suppliers. GreenFlux uses the aggregated data it collects to improve its sales and marketing practices, making it possible to tailor its products and services to customers’ requirements as much as possible. Click here for more information about digital transformation.

It’s all about Connectivity

What company doesn’t want to find ways to keep improving its products and services, just like global industry leaders such as Amazon, Airbnb, and Microsoft? Something these three digital pioneers have in common is that they all use data to keep developing and improving their business models. In order to support organizations as they undergo a successful digital transformation, ICT Group has developed the 4C model, which outlines the four stages of transforming your business into a data-driven organization. This blog post focuses on the first of these stages: Connect. Internet connectivity is considered as basic an amenity these days as running water and electricity. We spend virtually every waking hour using our smartphone to get work done, share experiences with one another, or compare and buy products online. You could say that most people are plugged in 24/7. The fact that we’re all connected in this way makes it easy to compare products and services at a glance. This means businesses are held to increasingly high standards, and if organizations fail to deliver the best service or quality or offer attractive pricing, consumers will be quick to switch to a competitor. Businesses use data to remain relevant and tailor their products to their customers’ requirements as needed. But whatever you’re looking to achieve, it all begins with connectivity. Data Is Everywhere – Make the Most of It Individuals and businesses need connectivity to access the constant flow of valuable data available. While a lot of consumers are already connected 24/7, many businesses have yet to catch up. For these companies, Connect is the first stage of the 4C model toward becoming a fully data-driven organization in the network economy. Businesses begin their digital transformation by improving their processes and organizing them more efficiently, which they can accomplish by unlocking relevant available data. Numerous data sources are readily accessible, including Excel spreadsheets and data stored in ERP and CRM systems. The data can easily be exported to a cloud database, where it is analyzed using a BI tool. These analyses tell you exactly, for example, how much time employees spend in transit or performing specific types of work. Connect as Many Data Sources as Possible In addition to these readily available data sources, various devices continuously generate interesting data that has the potential to make businesses run more efficiently. Vehicles, machines in production plants, heating systems, and lamps can all provide information on utilization and frequency of use, provided they have Internet connectivity. A growing number of devices and objects are now equipped with sensors and an Internet connection and are part of the Internet of Things (IoT), making it possible to monitor their performance through a central system. At the same time, machines can also access each other’s data automatically. By linking this data to databases containing historical data, the production chain can be organized even more efficiently. Sensors and Connections If devices are not yet connected to the Internet, it’s simply a matter of fitting sensors and connecting them. This process is becoming easier all the time because sensors are getting smaller and more affordable. At the same time, the options for connection are becoming increasingly accessible, while there are practicable solutions available for all types of IoT scenarios. This makes it easier for the data generated to find its way to a central database and an analysis tool. Decisions Based on Hard Data This new way of working, monitoring, and managing data does require a different mindset and modus operandi, simply because technology will come to play a more important role in supporting decision-making processes. Decisions previously made on an intuitive level may pan out rather differently if they are made based on the available data instead. This gives us greater control over the present and the future. Data is leading companies to the promised land of unlimited business opportunities, in which everything and everyone is connected. Click here for more information about digital transformation.

Brainport interview with ICT Group about trends in high tech

Brainport TalentBox published an article about ICT developments that lead to smart industry. They interviewed Bart Lamot, Sr. Business Consultant at ICT Group. Read what he has to say about working for ICT Group and about the latest ICT technologies such as Model Driven Engineering, blockchain, mesh app and service architecture and smart grids. Discover how these technologies are related and will eventually lead to smart industry: fully automated systems, too complex for humans to control.

Are you a peach or a coconut?

Vincent Merk (TU/e) gives an introduction to intercultural awareness ICT Group was founded in the Netherlands in 1978, but now it’s 2016 and the organization is internationalizing rapidly. Not only because we are working for clients worldwide or have offices abroad, but even more so because in the Eindhoven region almost a quarter of our employees has an international background. This comes with new challenges in day-to-day work situations as many teams consist of colleagues with different cultural backgrounds. To create more awareness and give some guidelines for a practical approach, ICT Group invited Vincent Merk, senior lecturer intercultural management at the Eindhoven Technical University. Mr. Merk gave a very interesting and interactive presentation.

What is culture?

The first question is of course ‘what is culture?’ and this is followed by ‘how do you approach another culture?’. These questions are not so easy to answer but a commonly used definition of culture is “the accepted values, customs, attitudes and behaviors of a people or a group”. There is not just a national culture, but also professional culture (academic world, different sectors in the industry) and organizational culture. A lot of research has been conducted and models have been drawn up to capture cultural aspects, but it all starts with awareness. Independent of your cultural background, every individual sees what he/she wants to see. Being aware that different people have different perspectives is a first step.

A peach or a coconut?

These different perspectives have to do with your (cultural) background as well as your personality. When it comes to communication, there are a lot of factors that influence whether or not communication runs smoothly. The language used is an influence, as well as non-verbal communication and aspects like context. Mr. Merk also asked the audience ‘are you a peach or a coconut’. This metaphor depicts a model in which there are 2 domains of communication: public and private. The peach has a large ‘soft’ –public- skin and has the tendency to share a lot of personal information, but this persons’ “stone” – the private topics- are considered very private and hard to reach. The coconut has a hard outside layer, sharing little private information at first but once you get to know this person you can access their private domain easily. An example: if you get a new Dutch colleague, you will easily get information regarding his/her private situation on their first work day. What hobbies does he/she have, if they are married and have children or pets. A new Japanese colleague will never share such information on the first workday. However, being invited to a Dutch colleagues ’home is very rare, even if you have been working together for a long time. This is considered the private domain (stone): a typical peach. The Japanese might want to get to know you a bit better but will then invite you for dinner at his/her home and share their private domain: the coconut approach. This may lead to misconceptions: “the Dutch colleague is sharing a lot of private information but never invites me to meet up outside of work, maybe he/she doesn’t like me after all” or “I don’t know anything about this Japanese colleague but he/she is inviting me to his house. Maybe he/she wants to please me in order to get a promotion”. Such examples show how much we are looking through our own, culture-colored glasses. There is no quick fix when it comes to avoiding or solving such misconceptions but it helps to be aware of (possible) differences. If you start living and working in another country, try to learn the language and gather some information about the culture. Do not reject differences, but observe, ask, try out and when in doubt: double check. It will mean you’ll sometimes have to compromise or change things in your behavior but in the end it will help you feel at home and have better relations with your colleagues and that will surely lead to easier communication and a more effective way of working. And who knows, you might even get invited for dinner at a Dutch colleagues’ house! Also interested in working in a multicultural environment? Check out https://ict.eu/careers/ for our options!