Antwerp is developing a Capital of Things

© Victoriano Moreno

The world around us is evolving at a rapid pace because of digitisation. Applications that may have seemed the stuff of the future in the past will become tomorrow’s reality. Instead of remaining on the sidelines, the City of Antwerp wants to become the European reference for the Internet of Things. The first step in this process is the development of an inter-university post-graduate programme in the Internet of Things, which will commence this autumn.

The European reference for the Internet of Things

The City of Antwerp, the Port Authority, the University of Antwerp and imec, the research and innovation hub for nanoelectronics and digital technology, have joined forces in a unique partnership. After the launch of the City of Things project early this year, Capital of Things wants to go one step further and develop an ambitious and distinctive ecosystem out of Antwerp around the Internet of Things (IoT). Developments include the smart city, as well as IoT solutions for e-health, a smart port, industry 4.0 and the circular economy. Such an ecosystem consists of an intricate innovation network, which creates value through cohesion between education, research, living labs, incubation/acceleration, digital and industrial growth companies, venture capitalists, corporates and international brands.     

© Victoriano Moreno

Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO of Antwerp’s Port Authority: “Together with the private port companies, we will be building a “Port of Things”, among others with the NxtPort data platform. This anticipates the major technological transitions that will fundamentally change the nature of the port’s activities. The smart management of freight flows will be combined with innovations in terms of infrastructure, logistics and mobility flows.” 

Industry is also gearing up for a major transition. The Industry 4.0 spearhead refers to an industry that uses new technology, more specifically digitisation, artificial intelligence and robotics”, says Jacques Vandermeiren. “Here too the Internet connects everything and we create value by processing big data at speed”.

An inter-university Internet of Things programme

The four partners also wanted to anticipate on the next skills and the technological knowledge profiles that tomorrow’s society and economy will need, with the development of the Capital of Things.

Professor Peter Hellinckx, head of UAntwerp’s ICT Department: "IoT is considered one of the new, driving forces in the global economy. Large and small companies must be able to respond to this evolution if Flanders does not want to be left behind. We can only achieve this by providing the labour market with technical and social-economic profiles, which can take the lead in this rapidly evolving world.”

“The first step is to develop a unique, inter-university Internet of Things programme”, says Herman Van Goethem, Rector of UAntwerp. “This new, modular, post-graduate programme will be jointly developed under a partnership between the University of Antwerp, Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Ghent University. In a first phase, this programme targets Masters in ICT and in industrial or civil engineering. The programme will commence in the spring of 2017 and should culminate in an advanced Master programme in the long term. Students follow courses during the first half of the academic year and do a work placement in the second half.”   

This technological programme is organised in close synergy with the business community, which wishes to anticipate the IoT revolution. The City and the Port of Antwerp and imec will jointly promote it.


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