Welcome to the data driven society, which the Northern Netherlands is well prepared for. If there is one theme where this Northern region can make a difference, it is the development and application of system intelligence. We must assume that, in due course, everything will be rendered ‘smart’ (dikes, energy networks, factories, etc.). Systems will monitor, analyze and steer themselves, which will make them much more robust than ‘old-fashioned’ systems which are externally controlled on the basis of feedback. Experts refer to adaptive and autonomous learning processes which will eventually have error-free performance, and assume that they will play an important role in solving many issues faced by society.
It is particularly the in-depth know-how in the field of information technology (gleaned from astronomy where the use of large volumes of data – Big Data – was more or less invented) in combination with the presence of the ‘original’ areas of application that makes the Northern Netherlands the ideal pioneering region in the world of smart systems.
Hard work is under way in the tooling field in the Northern Netherlands (development of ICT technology in which Big Data plays an important role, along with sensory research and grids, electronics and devices) and the application field: the testing of applications. Having once begun with the world-famous LOFAR project (also a grid of telescopes), many experiments have been initiated, often in typical Northern themes. For example, in the field of dike monitoring (IJkdijk project, a regular feature of the national TV news programs) and water management (Water Sense), energy networks (Smard Grids) and in the agricultural sector (precision agriculture, Smart Dairy Farming) or urban areas (Sensor City). The Smart Factory program continues the principle of autonomous learning processes.
The Northern Netherlands is a pilot region and the future will be exciting. Just imagine if all those smart processes could be interlinked via the Internet of Things or that people could function as a sensor network in the cloud (Quantified Self, or the iPhone as a sensor for registration and prediction of ground motion). There is less science fiction to this than it seems. While the Northern Netherlands is in a very good starting position, it is important to translate this into extra, substantial activity. Work is very much in progress.
Theme driver of the HTSM Northern Netherlands Task Force is Sibrand Poppema of the University of Groningen (RUG)