The fourth Digital Enterprise Show (DES) held in Madrid, 21-23 May 2019 attracted over 26,000 attendees, up by 26% on the previous year. THINGS co-founder Magnus Melander facilitated the public sector session and moderated the panel on IoT and cybersecurity. In this interview Magnus shares his thoughts on DES, digital transformation and how THINGS promotes collaboration between startups and corporates.


The connection with DES

I’ve been working with the organisers since they started the show in 2016, typically as Master of Ceremony for parts of the program, panel moderator and speaker. Sweden was the Partner Country for the first year and in collaboration with Business Sweden, who managed a Swedish Pavilion and program, we brought some Swedish startups and corporates.

I felt it was high quality the first year already; very well organised, and high quality of speakers and attendees. They picked digital transformation as the theme for the whole event already four years ago, which I think was clever. DES has developed very well and has a massive conference program, detailed down to all kinds of industries and functions in companies, and technologies.


Why you should be attending?

First I don’t think there is any better event or conference dealing with all aspects of digital transformation in Europe and it’s equally interesting both for public and private sectors. Secondly my experience is that if you’re from Northern Europe or Middle Europe and you want to do business in the south you just have to go there and DES is a good opportunity to build relations in the south. It’s also international so there are a lot of North American and Asian companies and people there.

I continue to be impressed. DES has now matured into a great event for anyone interested in digital transformation.


Cybersecurity panel moderation

There is always a lot of focus on cybersecurity which I think is a really important topic. This year I was moderating a panel on cybersecurity and IoT with Felix Barrio Juárez, Head Manager at Spanish National Cybersecurity Institute, and Theo Priestley, CMO at WFS Technologies. Our discussion focused on what you could do, where you could start and what have you done. We also discussed how the current trade wars could impact the global cybersecurity efforts.


Digital Transformation in the Public Sector

I was also Master of Ceremony for the Public Sector day focused on digital transformation. Digital transformation is more about building capabilities to deal with it than what you actually achieve today. It is a process that will last maybe 20 years, just like when Internet arrived, and we are just in the beginning.

We had a lot of great speakers sharing their experience on stage including senior executives from the cities of Madrid, Valencia and Amsterdam, from Deutsche Telekom, the World Economic Forum and IDC to mention a few. I was impressed to see how well the public sector in Spain is developing with coordinated visions, plans and resources on national, regional and city levels.


The dark side of IoT and Cybersecurity

A lot of the Internet content and traffic is not accessible to the public and is often referred to as the darknet or dark web. The dark part is estimated to contain over 90% of the content. With billions of devices connected to the Internet using IoT there is a growing challenge to protect them from different types of attacks and threats. And most of the Internet security architectures and protocols can’t be used since many devices lack IP addresses and enough processing power and storage.

If one or two devices break or disappears it’s probably not a big deal. But the problem is that they often belong to a huge critical system like airline control or energy grids and we don’t want these systems to break. But even worse than losing devices is when somebody is manipulating or taking control over things, or when data from sensors is manipulated. These issues are really big and I believe security together with integrity are the two biggest challenges for IoT.

We need to collaborate globally to address these issues, both government and the industry will need to work hard together on this.


The future of Swedish industry in 5-10 years

I think it looks quite good because I believe we will be going from “smart” to “good”, and I believe Sweden is quite well positioned to drive some of that transformation. Let me give you an example: I’m quite often asked to give Smart Cities presentations and I always talk about Good Cities. Cities will never be smart – not homes or industries either- and it’s a poor objective since smart is very abstract for normal human beings. But a good city is much easier to talk about and a definition could be that it’s a city where people like to live, work and visit. This requires for example that they are healthy, safe and happy, which implies that healthcare, education and law enforcement works. Technology can be used to make processes and systems “smarter” but it takes many things to make a city good.

And I think good is what it takes to develop sustainable businesses that people want to work in and buy from. Sweden is quite well organised with a good quality of life for most and a quite sustainable approach to the environment. We have a good digital infrastructure and skills and we have started to work with digital transformation quite early on. Our tiny home market has forced us to go abroad and the combination of a quite good country and a very successful export industry is a great opportunity for our industry to lead the transformation from smart to good.


THINGS raison d’être

With IoT we bring the physical world to the Internet where all people and organisations already are. It took a while to get going because it’s difficult to connect physical things. Now we have the technology and networks needed to do most of that.

When the physical world started to be connected to the Internet a similar transformation, as when people and organisations were connected, was initiated. This is the digital transformation. I think it will take some 20 years again and it’s going to have a greater impact on people, organisations and society than last time. It’s going to follow the same kind of phases as the Internet.

The first phase is about connectivity and connecting things. We are still in the connectivity phase with IoT and estimates indicate some 20 billion devices are connected by now. It’s obviously easier to connect new things than old but we cannot wait for the old ones to be replaced. We just have to connect the things that already exist which is very hard so retro-fitting connectivity is mainly where we are stumbling now.

The next phase is what I call operational values. This is when you leverage that people, organisations and devices are connected to make processes better, faster and cheaper. This is a key driver of automation and probably where most value is created.

And then the last phase is what I call strategic values. This is when we do things completely different, invent new business models, turn products into services or create new businesses. Amazon started to sell books without stores and Google organised search results after how much people paid. But strategic values can also be things like brand equity and employee attractiveness.

Digital transformation will leave many losers behind, in the same way as the Internet did. Some of the winners will be new companies but most of the winners will be existing companies of today. How to come out as a winner is the key question we work with at THINGS together with some 500 relevant small Swedish companies and around 40 corporates.

Sweden has a strong export industry based on natural resources like water, ore and forests and we started THINGS five years ago to support that industry in it’s digital transformation. Industries like manufacturing and energy are very “physical” and have long investment cycles which makes them slow-moving by nature. So a key focus for THINGS has been to collectively learn how to transform innovation in small sharp companies to massive value-creation in large companies. But we also support, hands-on, people in our THINGS Enterprise Circle (TEC) member’s organisations with their internal and external innovation efforts. Good examples could be helping to plan and execute innovation challenges, second opinions from our Innovation Co-pilots, startup matchmaking, customised workshops and even launch-events.

Nobody knows where the digital transformation will take us so companies have to focus on building the capabilities needed to successfully navigate through the next 20 years of change. The only things I am sure of today are that you have to have management show that they realise what is coming, every single organisation will have to build their own capabilities based on the people they have today to navigate 20 years and these employees need to be inspired, informed and form new relationships far away from their current domains. Those three things I thought we actually could help them with through hands-on collaboration with smaller companies. And small companies have to find large companies to develop their products with – companies with customers, muscles, brand and channels.


The THINGS advantage

Our initial industry focus has brought us to hardware, IoT, 3D scanning & printing, drones, automation, robotics, energy harvesting, machine learning, computer vision, low power system design, narrowband networks, 5G, etc. We listen carefully to our industry members and try to support their current areas of interest to continuously stay relevant for them. The areas we focus on include a lot of deep tech which is why we have become the Deep Tech Hub in Stockholm. We will continue to bring people and organisations with a clear deep tech interest together for hands-on collaboration and efforts. Our primary value for small companies will continue to be opportunities to meet the right person at relevant larger companies. And for the larger companies, the members of TEC, we will continue to help them find and work with relevant small sharp companies.

DES 2020 is scheduled for 19-21 May and I have already started to discuss with the organisers about how to make a great arrangement next year for relevant small and large companies in our community. For more information on becoming a TEC member click here.


About Magnus Melander

Magnus is an entrepreneurial eco-system builder focused on corporate-startup eco-systems, industry specific eco-systems (e.g. mobility) and technology eco-systems (e.g. Wi-Fi and IoT). Magnus worked for 20 years in US corporates (IBM, Apple, 3Com) and held several executive roles in EMEA including Channel Director EMEA at Apple and head of Carrier business and member of EMEA Executive Management Team at 3Com. In 2000 he co-founded a VC focused on wireless technology, BrainHeart Capital, and became a European Wi-Fi pioneer. Since 2006 he has been a self-employed advisor, consultant, entrepreneur, writer and speaker. In 2012 he created an alliance for Swedish IoT companies which today has some 50 member-companies and some 20 partners. And in 2014 he co-founded the Deep Tech Hub THINGS in Stockholm which today works with a community of some 500 relevant Swedish startups and 40 international corporate members. Magnus has significant board and advisor experience and is a frequent moderator, speaker and writer (e.g. his IoT blog connectcompute.com).