Little did I know that The Things Conference in 2020 would be the last big event I’d go to for well over 2 years – thanks COVID 😭
After a forced break The Things Conference made a glorious return last week, and so I found myself on the Eurostar direct to Amsterdam, eager for two very full days with more than a thousand other folk geeking out together as once more Amsterdam became the global epicentre of all things IoT.
Of course there was an online version of the conference for those who couldn’t make it in person – but honestly you gain so much more from the in-person experience it is well worth the trip.
The conference is held in a GIANT waterside hall of over 5000m2 divided into a huge vendor exhibition, two stages for talks, several workshop rooms, and networking areas. They did a great job of keeping the hubbub of the exhibition away from the stage areas and we could watch and hear the talks without distraction.
It kicked off at 9:30 with Johan and Wienke (the two founders) welcoming everybody and then through a series of brief case studies highlighting the scale of some recent implementations that would be discussed further in talks during the conference. Sadly I missed the end of their keynote because I had to get mic-ed up ready for my own talk.
My talk focussed on how our MyWay offering helps address personal safety, and how it was a women-led design team working hand-in-hand with women students from the University of Reading. As a group, women students are more vulnerable than most when out on their own at night. The day before I left for Amsterdam I had spent at Freshers Week at the uni, and it was really pleasing to see how well the new features in the app were received by this year’s intake. You can watch the talk here:
Talks I enjoyed
There were lots of really excellent talks at the conference. Here are just a few that I picked out:
After hearing about the tens of thousands of devices Lucy Zodion and Connexin have been deploying, Catherine from Meshed made a really good counterpoint that impact is more important than scale, and she gave some excellent examples, including the sensors they have installed on this Australian multi-million dollar mining dump truck. As a child I had a bright yellow Tonka Truck that looked exactly the same, but it’s tyres didn’t cost $100k each! It might not suit the chip and sensor manufacturers who *need* scale, but I wholeheartedly agree that IoT needs more focus on impact and solving those high value problems for customers.
It was really good to hear different talks taking a deeper look at designing solutions and sensors and all the factors that need to be considered. Patrick from DefProc Engineering walked us through his thought process for monitoring CO2 levels and adjusting ventilation in his office. Later, Reinhard from Decentlab showed us the various problems you need to design around when monitoring water levels in gulleys.
Everybody loves Lacuna Space – they are regular presenters at The Things Conference and it is really exciting to see their progress towards making a viable LoRa-satellite business. There was a lot of excitement this year as people could get hands-on with their long awaited dev kit in a workshop. Typical that the hottest workshop ticket of the conference clashed with my talk! What I wasn’t expecting was for Thomas from Lacuna to give a second presentation on a hobby project him and some friends have been working on to bounce LoRa signals from the Earth to the moon and back. It was a joyous talk on which to finish the conference.
I missed several talks I meant to see because, well I got talking with other attendees and with lots of suppliers in the exhibition hall. It is *so* good to chat to people in real life again, and to catch up on how we’ve all been getting on.
I was happy to see that UK distributors were well represented with AllIoT, Concept13, and ConnectedThings all with stands (and even a shop) at the conference. There were lots of new (to me) sensor and component manufacturers present, including I think for the first time, Milesight who have an ever growing range.
And of course the wall of sensors has got bigger than ever:
As you might expect, more companies are making bold claims of “green-ness” than probably should, but there is genuine effort in some areas.
There is some really exciting progress in energy harvesting from e-peas, Voltaic, and similar tech has found its way into Elsys’ latest sensors. This is fantastic news in terms of longevity of sensors and reducing maintenance costs. I *think* it is better for the environment (I’m not an expert) as long as the devices are used long enough. Good to see that the case is also biodegradeable.
The days are jam-packed and all the IoT can be quite overwhelming, so it helps to get outside by the water and enjoy the sights of Amsterdam. It really is a beautiful city with some amazing restaurants. Pictured above with me are Richard, Harry, Marco, Will, and Kiki, winding down at a dinner organised by Multitech (thank you Neil and Dan) at the end of the first day. I’m sure we did talk about IoT but I mostly remember rugby, snowboarding, and the merits of our various desserts!
That’s it until next year’s event, which again will be towards the end of September.