Business heads urge partnering for ‘internet of things’

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Business leaders in Michigan discussed the need for partnerships and collaboration in the age of the “internet of things” Wednesday at the 2016 Mackinac Policy Conference.

ThoughtFull Design Principal Tom DeVries led discussion among Rick DeVos, Start Garden founder and CEO; Rubert Huber, vice president for innovation and ventures of Faurecia; JR Automation CEO Bryan Johnson; and Brian Steketee, Modustri CEO and founder. They agreed that the internet of things provides an opportunity for Michigan businesses to work together and for policy to encourage that collaboration.

DeVries cited a 2014 Acquity Group survey, which found 87 percent of people did not know what the “internet of things” is.

“Roughly it means this: a world where objects and environments sense information, communicate with each other, respond to each other and to people all by being connected to the internet,” DeVries said.

Breaking it down, DeVries said the first wave of the internet was accessing it on personal computers. The second was accessing it through smartphones and tablets. The third phase is the internet of things: having everything else connected to it.

“Things are changing so quickly right now,” Johnson said. “In a digital world, things we built one or two years ago wouldn’t be built the same way.”

Instead, companies are looking to work together in order to innovate and implement their ideas. DeVos said one such example is the investing company Start Garden’s “seedless consortium,” which helps non-competitive businesses connect and build off each other

One of those businesses is Faurecia, an international automotive manufacturing company, which has worked with other companies in the consortium to test smart seating in cars that monitor heart and respiration rates, allowing it to tell if someone is drowsy or stressed, Huber said. That data would tell the seat to warm or cool and provide a massage to the individual to energize or relax them.

That two-way, adaptable communication and platforms and collaboration among organizations is the future of business, the panelists agreed.

“We really need to understand the consumer’s needs,” Huber said. “It’s about creating value for the consumer.”

In order to make those partnerships the norm in Michigan, however, Steketee from Modustri, a manufacturer of precision digital measurement tools for heavy equipment inspections, said it is important that policies provide an incentive to both the innovator as well as the investor by creating a safe space for entrepreneurship.

“We have a role to play and focus on what we do best in Michigan,” Steketee said. “We need to create a large ecosystem that enables us to thrive.”

Ultimately, Huber said, collaboration is what it will take to be successful. “It creates opportunities to move forward,” he said.

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