The VVD group in the Provincial Council of Fryslân accepted the invitation to visit the companies of Innovation Cluster Drachten without any hesitation. What they saw during their visit exceeded their expectations. They discovered that a partnership of high-tech companies looks different in reality than it does on paper. The unanimous conclusion of Provincial Council member Esther de Vrij: ,,Our money has been well spent”.
The surprise of that morning was the presence of the new VVD alderman of the Municipality of Smallingerland, Sipke Hoekstra, who had come to Gorredijk at the invitation of the VVD Provincial Council Group. He wanted to see with his own eyes what the Innovation Cluster Drachten was up to. It was not the first time he visited the cluster, so he was already familiar with the high-tech companies. During the introduction to the two presentations, Mr. Hoekstra wanted to know if the companies could still recruit sufficient staff. According to Joost Krebbekx, Program Manager of Innovation Cluster Drachten, this is becoming increasingly difficult. ,,Philips is currently looking for 150 new employees and is now experiencing problems to fill vacancies for the first time.” The other companies in the cluster are also feeling the effects of the staff shortage, especially in IT. For this reason, ICD also presented itself at Connect.FRL on 11 December to show IT students which interesting companies they can find in the Northern Netherlands.
Marco Molhoek, Municipal Council Member for the VVD in Smallingerland, wondered if these vacancies could not be filled with employees from other ICD companies. Gerrit Baarda, owner/founder of Ziuz, would like his employees to stay until their retirement. ,,But this is not how it works. If people no longer like their job or seek a new challenge, there are sufficient opportunities within the cluster to find another job. Of course, we promote this within our cluster. The result is that I keep the employees who are really motivated to work for Ziuz.”
Child porn detection
Motivation is necessary because the work is sometimes emotionally demanding. This is certainly true at Ziuz Forensic that works on special software that helps the vice squads of the police and the public prosecutor’s office trace and identify child porn. ,,We are the market leader in this field and active in 50 countries. Our software enables detectives to trawl through hundreds of thousands of photos to identify the picture that is needed as evidence in a child porn case,” explained CEO Bert Garlich. “Criminals continuously think up new ways to prevent detection.” Provincial Council Member Marten Dijkstra wondered if software backdoors are a solution to track down child porn. Bert Garlich: ,,I don’t like backdoors and really wonder if they are a solution. The fast growth of this issue discourages me. In this country, as many as 30,000 child porn cases are reported each year, but vice squads can only deal with a few thousand a year. Our work has social relevance and poses big technological challenges.”
During the tour of Ziuz Medical, which creates devices that help pharmacies and caregivers check medicines, Provincial Council member Esther de Vrij was greatly impressed by what she heard and saw. ,,These are wonderful companies. They use their technological power to work on solutions to social issues. I had not expected this.” According to Esther de Vrij, the partnership between high-tech companies, educational institutes, and local and regional governments always looks different on paper than it does in reality. ,,The link with education appeals to me. It is future-oriented and the approach is practical. Moreover, it also offers MBO students sufficient opportunities. Fryslân really needs this kind of collaboration. Our money is well spent here.”
In the next presentation, Dirk Aalbers of Horus showed with a short video how 360-degree cameras are used as security systems in stadiums and at events and how virtual reality allows seriously ill children to stay in touch with friends and family. ,,We create the software to link the data collected by sensors and cameras.” Dirk Aalbers gave an example. ,,Cars are full of sensors and cameras. Our software makes sure that what the sensors and cameras record is presented on the car’s dashboard in an easy-to-understand manner. This happens so fast that drivers are able to take the right decisions based on this information. This may help to prevent traffic accidents.”
Camera detects coffee break
By combining mobile mapping with virtual reality, Horus makes it possible to check traffic signs, the state of the asphalt or the state of buildings from a car. ,,We use artificial intelligence to automate a thermal image camera that scans buildings for insulation leaks. You can also use this to check the quality of asphalt. Based on the temperatures a few years after laying the asphalt, you can find out if the asphalt in a road was laid at the same temperature or if the workers stopped for a coffee break in between. This also provides learnings for the next road that needs to be paved with asphalt.”
The fastest growing market for Horus is safety and security, which is a market that is difficult to enter, according to Dirk Aalbers. ,,You first need to build up a good reputation with the police and defense department. We managed to do so and we now get one order after another for our visual awareness tools, such as a camera system for on-site investigation at car crash sites. A video of a traffic accident clearly explains to the court what happened where.” Horus also helped the police with a system that allows group surveillance from a police van. ,,This is how they can identify troublemakers to prevent escalation or violence.’’ The Department of Defense also asked Horus for a system that continuously records the surroundings. ,,If a shot is fired, you can do an almost real-time scan of the surroundings to see where the shot was fired from so that you can localize and catch the shooter quickly.” This raised the question whether it would be wise to sell this technology to countries with a bad reputation for human rights, such as China. For Dirk Aalders the answer is clear. ,,No, because we value our relationship with the Dutch police too much.”