Last month, I participated in the Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam to talk about the next big thing in innovation, and also to hear some final thoughts from Neelie Kroes during her tenure as Vice President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe.

In her last speech at the Broadband World Forum as Europe’s Digital Commissioner, Kroes noted:

“We have a problem today of two Europes: a digital Europe and an analogue Europe. Of digital mind-sets and analogue mind-sets.”

She went on to say:

“It comes down to this question: is Europe’s leadership class willing to be excited about innovation and start-ups? Or is Europe going to be exhausted by using up its energy safeguarding vested interests, and holding up ancient barriers? We need to ask if we can reinvent ourselves. And if we are willing to be led to a digital renaissance based on an open mindset and a belief that we can be the best if we want to be.”

As impressive as the past several years have been in the mobile Internet revolution, the opportunities ahead are many times greater – and that presents an important opportunity for Europe to lead.

This next wave is being powered by a combination of ultra-fast mobile communications with access to content located in the cloud. This means that just about everything in our world will be connected, seamless and smart. The Internet of Things and machine-to-machine market is expected to see rapid growth according to Cisco[1]:

  • Globally, M2M modules are expected to grow by 5 billion…from 2.3 billion in 2013 to 7.3 billion in 2018.
  • In Western Europe, M2M modules will account for 47% (1.3 billion) of all networked devices in 2018, compared to 27% (432 million) in 2013.

For individuals, the impacts of the Internet of Things and M2M are already being felt daily. Wearables are tracking how many steps we take a day and sharing it with friends or family. We can control our homes – turn on TVs, music; adjust heating and cooling levels; and arm or disarm security settings – all remotely from our smartphones or cars.

For businesses, applications using sensor technologies are capturing vast amounts of data to improve decision-making and productivity. Companies can now make better decisions with near real-time information. Car and equipment rental companies locate, monitor and remotely lock or unlock vehicles. Utilities use smart meters to monitor the electricity grid and isolate problems. Retailers can track and restock inventory. Service providers can plan routing of client site calls.

The Europe with the “digital mindset” will be the one that benefits the most from this new wave of innovation. As Commissioner Kroes said: “This Europe is mobile and flexible. This Europe hates barriers and looks for new opportunities. This is the Europe that likes innovation…”

The potential of connecting anything and everything also requires policy makers to re-think policy, because M2M is so substantially different from handsets. In the next five years, the EU has a very difficult task: to build the right framework for relaunching investment, growth and jobs. Let’s make it easier for innovators and technology companies to deliver the new technologies that promise to make our lives better. And, let’s make it easier for providers to invest in the networks that will deliver it.

[1] Source: Cisco VNI Global IP Traffic Forecast, 2013–2018

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