Technology is a key driver for change and impact

Monday, June 17, 2019

What makes an employee stay in one job for years on end? Carolien Nijhuis has been with a single employer, the Dutch internet and telecommunications giant KPN, for over 25 years. For the now managing director of Internet of Things (IoT) at KPN, it’s simple: When you work for a company that maintains a thriving entrepreneurial environment, nurtures customer centricity and positions itself as a leader of impact and change, why move?

By now we’re all well-aware that the world is moving toward a connected society faster than you can say “hyper-connected”. New connections are constantly forming, but according to Nijhuis there is something to be said about the value of those connections.

“At IoT we look at how we can make things smarter, so that it can produce new data. Combining the data gives our customers purposeful insights to make industries and societies better,” she explains.

“Every innovation we develop is co-created by our customers. They keep our focus straight,” she says, adding that innovation is about first determining the challenge at hand and then asking how value can be added.

Innovative (agri)culture

KPN uses technology to connect man and machine—tailoring every solution to suit the customer’s needs.

“We help customers in a variety of industries with smart solutions for their challenges. The goal we pursue in all those cases is to have an economical and societal impact,” Nijhuis says.

“For instance: Thousands of ‘connected’ e-bikes rolled out last year, ensuring that a bike insurer can track every bike with a small device and get it back should it get stolen—proving smart solutions can be very valuable in contributing to peace of mind for the customer and helping create a safer environment. Ultimately resulting in customer centric product offerings and lower premiums.

“Another example is a waste processing company that uses IoT to become a circular supplier of commodities: Van Happen Containers. By connecting their multiple thousands of containers they optimise their business, increase customer satisfaction and create new business models for them and their customers, contributing to safety and environment by less traffic movements of large trucks.

“We also began experimenting with the new 5G technology on several locations in the Netherlands. One example is smart farming solutions; using drones and 5G technology to bring farmers data they can use to optimise their crops, simplify the production process and to minimise the use of chemicals—contributing to sustainability purposes.

“Connecting data from things and people is an emerging trend, as is making sure all data is being shared in ecosystems, e.g. Smart Cities, to be beneficial for multiple parties in a broader context. A great example is Talking Traffic, where we enable several Mobility partners to share real-time data from e.g. roads, traffic lights, cars to improve traffic flow. We need to move out of silos and move toward an integrated world,” she says.

Woman and machine

“You see, man made the cars to take us over the road,” the song goes, but what about the women in this industry?

Nijhuis says women shouldn’t think it’s boring, or difficult, working for a technology-driven company. “I think it’s good to realise that technology is instrumental for change. What I’m trying to show women is that it is interesting to work in IT or data solutions, because for me—and I believe for all women, and men—technology is a key driver for change and impact on business and societal level.

“It’s also important to increase diversity in corporations,” she says, emphasising the need for more women in decision-making roles. Companies need to be diverse and inclusive in order to read the market and its customers, she adds. “Your customer will look like you.”

Carolien Nijhuis is one of the keynote speakers at the RightBrains summer event on 20 June 2019.