14 Oct 2020

Internet of Things

From Theory To Practice: Erik De Nert’s Personal Journey

For as long as I can recall, I’ve always wanted to improve things: to implement my knowledge and apply technology to real-life scenarios. This is just as true now, in my role at Inimco, as it was when I was a kid.

I can remember playing PC games at 11 years old. However, being the keen gamer that I was, the games I played always needed more memory than I had access to – so I had to find workarounds.

Around the same time, I kept encountering another problem: the fact that you could only connect one computer to the internet at a time. So I found myself turning old PCs into a Linux-based gateway – making the internet connection shareable (much to my friends and family’s delight!). For me, “it doesn’t work” wasn’t part of my vocabulary. I made it work – or found out how – one way or another.

Connecting A GPS To The Internet

This attitude came in handy during my university studies in Ghent, where I did a Master’s in ICT. I learned lots of theory: about information protocols, mathematical models, and development. So, naturally, at the end of my studies I had to choose the most practical thesis I could.

My chosen subject involved what was then a burgeoning technology – connecting GPS receivers to the internet. This was back in 2002, at the dawn of the mobile web, when phones were a lot different (much more basic, heavier, and virtually indestructible -- case in point: the Nokia 3310).

The thesis’ focus was that a GPS connected to the internet could greatly help surveyors get a more precise geographic positioning. While a standard GPS would give a precision interval of about 10-15 metres, by connecting that GPS to the internet, the accuracy would improve immensely.

For me, this topic was both tangible and practical. It wasn’t called IoT (the Internet of Things) at that time – but that's exactly what it was. This thesis taught me that by connecting things to the internet, analysing data, and making things better – you could get more accurate results.

This knowledge soon became a driving factor for me – fuelling my professional ambitions.

Pen & Paper Factories

When I began working in 2004, my primary focus was centralising data and applications. I also worked with thin client technology – centralising computers on a few servers, and taking the screen on-site, making it easier to do hardware replacements and standardise resources from a company perspective.

I also worked with a few industrial companies at the time – many of which operated and were stuck in a very old-fashioned way of working – not just old infrastructure, but recording things on pen and paper.

While many industrial companies were reluctant to change – citing arguments like "this is how it’s always been” and “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it!” just didn’t wash with me. I could see that these businesses needed to evolve in order to stay competitive – and there was something I could do to change that.

The Birth Of Inimco

My aim was now set in stone: to apply IT best practices to the factory floor. However, it was clear that there was a lot of work to do – not just in terms of IT and machinery, but in helping people come to terms with new technology and embrace it to improve their operations.

Me and Peter, Inimco’s other founder, both agreed that there were many improvements to be made in industrial environments and we saw an opportunity to do this with cloud technology, IoT, and modern applications.

Together, we made it clear that we were not going to be just another IT development company. Given our shared vision, past collaboration, and IT background, we now wanted to look through the industrial world's eyes – to understand how things worked on the production floor and to understand real business needs. This is the one thing that hasn’t changed for us since we founded the company.

We embarked on a mission to fully understand the manufacturing world – and to this day, that's what Inimco is about.

Our solutions continue to help manufacturing companies, machine builders, and OEMs gain insights into their machine and productivity data, improve operational efficiency and offer data driven services by leveraging Industrial IoT solutions based on MS Azure.