Digital Becomes Material

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Imagine: one day it occurs to you that why on Earth these rubbish bins are always full? And why these trucks come to pick the trash even though there is hardly any trash to collect.  Huge inefficiencies there that cost time and money. Live alone the nerves. slush_2014

If your brains happen to have geared by your conception towards inventor-mode, then the next thing is that you start to think what to do about it. And this is exactly the moment when a light bulb is getting wild in your system: yes, there could be a solution that connects the digital and physical. Which is exactly the nature of the innovation flow wave we are observing right now.

So you go about inventing a sensor – so strong that tractor could head over it without harm – that could be stacked inside the rubbish bin. It will read the situation in the bin, and on the basis of the historic data it could then estimate at what point in time this bin is full. But in addition to this, if the bin IS full before the trend estimation, it will also send the message to fetch the stuff. And because of the intelligent software, the system also learns to read anomalies.

So indeed, we see the marriage of material and digital, providing the kind of service unimaginable only ten years ago. And you may guess this story is not off my hat. It is a real story with real people, currently a Finnish company named Enevo which has now some real-life proofs that indeed collect companies can save up to 90% in the cost if they apply the system.

So how they do that? Instead of having static routes they have dynamic routes, informed by analytics platform of the system. It creates forecasts for ideal container pick-up schedules and routes which can be accessed directly by the driver through smart phone. Reduced costs and not overfilled trash containers. Happier company and happier customers!

This was just one the hundreds of cases presented in the Slush 2014 last week. What a wonderful event with so much spirit and energy!   But the whole event – through these kind of almost countless cases – proves my point about the next socio-economic wave. It will circulate around how to improve radically the efficiency of the resources we are using.

It is peculiar indeed that Finland has become a center point of this kind of action. With over 13 000 participants, 17 000 square meters of venue, 250 companies at demo boots, billions of money searching for proper investment targets and guys like me being enchanted by the event, this is an unbeatable experience. Silicon Valley, London, Berlin or Barcelona hasn’t got this.

Why Finland? Without trying to be too smart in finding the answer for the question, three observations:

  • Finland is a land of engineering mind. See the big picture extending from inventing of conifer wood as a raw material for making paper. Leading to create modern forest industry where three out of 10 giants come from Finland. To become the mecca for mobile technology as Nokia skyrocketed in the 1990’s to become one the best brands in the world.
  • Finns love to be entrepreneurs. Up until now this will was foreshadowed with large companies offering steady jobs. Not so anymore. So there is a tremendous unleash of entrepreneurial spirit that is no more harnessed by the social value of finding yourself from a large company.
  • The fall of Nokia paved the way for new wave of digitally tuned companies in all walks of business. You might even see that the sudden crash of Nokia from the top of being one of the the most sexy business of the world to become an outcast of that business was indeed a real blessing. Without this event we wouldn’t be praising Slush here today.

Whatever is the case one thing is sure. Something new and substantial is boiling here. Something that to me is  another token of the new era – the magical sixth wave –preparing to make the revolution the kind we saw last time, when we entered industrial society. Big big thing.