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Bconnected: The Personal Account of a Sherbrooke Company in Europe // Sherbrooke International


Maude M. Sévigny No comment



Through the Sherbrooke International program, Sherbrooke businesses received direct support for their development outside of Québec. Sherbrooke Innopole is proud to encourage and support Sherbrooke companies to enable them to gain international exposure. After each such significant project, the participants are invited to talk about their experiences in a blog post.

From March 19 to 25, 2017, Bconnected had the opportunity to conduct its first trade mission, by participating notably in the Salon IoT World, to seek inspiration from the European market for connected technologies. Vincent Camiré, Techno-consultant at Bconnected, shared the delegation’s experience:

The Internet of Things (IoT) market has seen a veritable explosion among individuals as well as businesses. In a nutshell, new assets for “businesses of the future” include location, machines, remotely controlled smart objects, fleets of self-service vehicles, connected health, wireless in-store payment, remote supervision, inventory management, predictive maintenance, and client data in real time.

Canadian Embassy in Paris

On the first day, we visited the Canadian Embassy in Paris where we had the chance to speak with tech-trade delegates from Québec and elsewhere in Canada. The primary objective of the meeting was to promote France as a place to do business. An unexpected finding—technological services companies are equally predominant (61%) among technological companies in France.

Our itinerary continued with a visit to a successful incubator in Paris—Agoranov. With a leading position in Paris, this incubator earned its success through its very rigorous process of selecting projects that will have an opportunity to benefit from 24 months of intensive incubation. Some 300 companies have been created from the 325 projects that have gone through the program since the year 2000. It’s worth noting that Agoranov is also a founding partner of another accelerator/incubator called the 104 factory. Tuesday, another appointment was on the agenda. This one to visit Paris and Co, another incubator, which has positioned itself as an “innovation platform.” On a smaller scale, this incubator has also been highly successful.  As a matter of fact, after three years, the survival rate of companies that benefited from this environment is over 80%. Amazing, isn’t it?

Then it was Wednesday, and at the entrance to the Parc des expositions de la porte de Versailles, the real game started. More specifically, the moment we set foot in the Salon IoT World. A busy schedule had been planned. First and foremost, since we were there to learn about a much more mature market than our own, I chose to attend the majority of the presentations, but I couldn’t overlook the 300 exhibitors at the event. Here’s a summary of what I had the chance to learn during these wonderful 48 hours!

Preconceptions before my departure:

  • The market in France is ahead of those in Québec and the rest of Canada.
  • Still too early, few players, few resources.
  • Major technological change = Management of major change.
  • Security. Information that travels is at risk of being hacked. To add a layer of safety to the data that is exchanged, determine if IoT can be combined with the Blockchain concept.
  • Humans will become unnecessary and replaced by machines.

 Answers to these questions:

  1. We are entering a new era of change. The greatest risk for our businesses, is to not take any risk. A little like the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, those that do not modernize, will not be able to remain competitive in the long term. Without rushing, it’s important to look ahead to the coming years.
  2. Focus is at the root of success. It is critical to identity projects with the greatest ROI and the best added value. It is essential to start with a need, and not an idea for a product.
  3. Be prepared to accept failure. To minimize the risks to stakeholders, the use of research contracts, which tend to provide some flexibility on a legal level, has been suggested.
  4. A good plan for a shift toward connectivity will always take into account current systems (Legacy). It will explain how these new technologies will interact with older ones. Adjustments to the architecture and infrastructure can be envisaged to be able to support this shift to connectivity and the continuous exchange of data over the Internet.
  5. Such an integration of multiple systems will lead to new challenges in terms of standardizing multiple data sources and formats. Constant attention must be paid to being constantly aware and always thinking about the future to simplify the upstream and downstream integration of connected solutions.
  6. Commit to the process and implement the concept of “champion” for IoT projects. It’s simply a matter of involving the various internal experts ready to endorse the change and act as a resource to steer the project to completion.
  7. To manage change, the key is to simply involve all the stakeholders. This way, it becomes much more difficult to contradict oneself when everyone has contributed to the change.
  8. Humans will not be replaced by machines. In fact, they are complementary. A machine is superior to a human in the structured analysis of information, but a human will always be required to handle unique situations, to ensure a smooth-running operating environment, and to make more emotional decisions. We call this “cobotics”, an approach that aims to produce robots that help humanity by automating some of their chores. For example, large automotive plants in Germany have re-integrated humans into their chain because machines alone were not sufficient.
  9. For IT security linked to these changes, it is important to note that this aspect is important for both experts and suppliers. It is easy enough to secure information, it’s a matter of doing it well from the start of a project. Normally, the start and end points for data are secured initially and the information sent is encrypted, and is thus nearly impossible to decrypt. In addition to well-encrypting this information, we learned that, thanks to a blockchain or similar algorithm, it will be possible to confirm the integrity of the data exchanged.

 Conclusions

  • We are lagging behind, but the Canadian market is ready. All that is needed is a solid game plan and financial position because the market doesn’t yet know its needs.
  • The issues raised in theory by our clients are not baseless, but there are many possible solutions to tackle them.
  • We won’t get there alone. We have to a create network of like-minded people who see and believe in the value of the Internet of Things
  • Many solutions already exist. This leads us to re-examine our strategy, while continuing to focus on developing our own solution. To best serve our clients, we need to create a range of products more in line with their needs.
  • It’s been proven that the “small project” approach based on the needs that we have promoted since the outset, is the best approach in the current context.
  • We will have no other choice but to turn around and focus on properly incorporating the Internet of Objects, Blockchain, and cyber-security in order to offer our clientele the very best.

After this rewarding week, our game plan, in 4 broad components (to be detailed in the next article) includes:

  1. Convincing others/Education
  2. Acting as a central point/resource for all IoT initiatives in Québec
  3. Developing a platform and connected material
  4. Distributing the best solutions for our clients

People without whom this adventure would have been impossible:

» bconnected.io

Sources and photo credits: bconnected
»
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For details about the program or to apply for the next call for projects, please see instructions and regulations. The next call for projects in the key sectors of Cleantech, and Information Technologies and the manufacturing and advanced manufacturing industries is underway and the deadline is October 25th, 2017.

» See news on the call for projects