• By Sin Mei C
  • October 8, 2013

Philips Innovation Days 2013: Connected Everything and the Future of Agriculture

Last week, the Philips Innovation Days 2013 took place in Ghent. Jini was invited, so Tim and I got to spend the day surrounded by innovative tech, of which I’m covering some highlights below. Upon arrival, the Ghelamco Arena, its facade covered with ~0.5 million independently controlled LEDs, immediately set the tone for the day; a perfect environment to showcase the products being released from Philip’s innovation departments. At the Innovation Experience itself, all products were set up by subject: Connected Living, Livable Cities and Transforming Healthcare, Together.

The day started off with a keynote speech of Hans De Jong, CEO of Philips Benelux. He highlighted the future changes in the world, where Philips innovation is focusing on.  The world’s population will grow to 9 billion by 2050, of which 2.4 billion people will be over 60. This brings problems such as food scarcity, mega cities with polluted air and 50% of the population to have a chronic disease. It makes you think. Luckily, there’s lots of companies working on solutions for these ‘upcoming’ problems already, and Philips is one of them.

Philips Innovation Days 2013


Philips showcased solutions that could replace heart-valves without open-heart surgery, 3D ultrasound systems that allow the practitioner to focus, the use of Google Glass in the operating room, and a system for CT-scans that use 80% less radiation. While all these are very impressive, what caught my attention in the eHealth category was the Motiva app.

Philips Innovation Days 2013


Motiva is Philips’ remote patient monitoring app that allows customers to log and share their health data. The app aggregates personal data from various measuring devices for blood pressure and heart rate, and makes it possible for medical staff to have access to their patients’ physiological data when needed. While Motiva currently still requires some manual input, we were informed that Philips is working on interconnecting their eHealth devices so that they log values automatically, and Motiva can aggregate these.

For eHealth solutions, I believe Philips has taken a huge step in the right direction. The next step are more automated, continuous tracking devices, where the manual input is not required anymore. This should also result in less bogus input.

More information: Philips Motiva

Philips Innovation Days 2013

Connected Living

Connected living is the area I was initially most interested in. Philips aims to interconnect all our devices, which perfectly fits into the Jini vision of smart, context-aware technology.

Philips Innovation Days 2013


Light is everywhere and with the Hue smart lights, Philips wants to innovate the every day use of light.  Hue are multicolour LED lightbulbs that have WiFi connectivity (and thus their own IP) and allow you to easily change the ambient light in your room or office. The Hue smart lights are app-/SDK controlled and can change lights independently from each other. Controlling actions for the lamps can be easily scripted using IFTTT.

I liked how it looked and can see many possible use cases. For example, having cool, functional light to concentrate when working at home, switched to warmer, more cosy light on a romantic night. Or as they mentioned during the demo: let your Hue lights flash a different colour when your football team scores a goal, but for some reason you’re not able to follow the match on TV.

Christophe Pons (@ponnepics) explained about the hackathons they are organizing. He gave some cool examples where developers are taking this, such as visual navigation in stores, and I got the feeling much more is coming still.

More information: Philips Hue Hue for Developers

Philips Innovation Days 2013

Saeco GranBaristo Avanti

With Saeco, Philips is releasing a product for the connected barista; an espresso machine controlled by an iPad app. I really liked how you could browse menus, pick a cappuccino, tap a button in the app and the machine starts brewing without any human intervention.

If you start dreaming, you can easily envision a world filled with food printers that print you a delicious pepperoni pizza, all at a tap of the button.

Move over Nespresso, a connected king has arrived to take over the reins ;-).

More information: Philips Saeco

Philips Innovation Days 2013

Smart Air Purifier

With the Smart Air Purifier, Philips has released an intelligent air filtering device. The Smart Air Purifier is app-enabled, and can thus be controlled by smartphone remotely. You can receive alerts when air quality is bad, asking you if want to activate the machine and start filtering the air. The dedicated app shows you a historic overview of air quality, and based on that information, it even gives you an indication of the best time to open the windows.

Because of the disastrous air quality in its largest cities, China is the primary market for the Smart Air Purifier. Yet the device is definitely interesting to anybody living or working in a big city with lots of cars and thus air pollution. Even more so for people suffering from other air quality related problems, such as hay fever and asthma.

More information: Philips Smart Air Purifier

Philips Innovation Days 2013

Livable Cities

Philips is using LEDs for a lot of new things. There’s environmentally friendly motion-sensing roads that only light up when people are around, as well as smart LED systems that control an entire city’s lighting and allow for parts of this lighting to be shut off when needed for events and such. All impressive, but standing out was definitely the use of LED for city farming.

Philips Innovation Days 2013

City Farming

We are quickly moving towards a future where harvesting food for the additional 2 billion people will require an almost impossible increase in available farming land; we’d need an extra agricultural area the size of Brazil.

For a while now, there’s an alternative being developed and tested: city farming, the use of new and innovative techniques for growing greens right in the city center.

For this, one of the problems Philips’ technology helps overcome, is that cities don’t have the perfect weather all of the time. The company impressively combined its LED technology with climate controlled rooms, making it possible to grow greens on water in special rooms with Philips horticultural lighting.

The special ingredient to this, is that growing a vegetable requires the perfect combination of light. Using multiple LED colours, a LED recipe as they call it, Philips makes this possible. There’s different LED recipes, which combined allow for fast growth and the harvesting of perfect lettuces, tomatoes, strawberries, …  in the dark, stacked 7-high. Too futuristic? Some companies are already applying these techniques for day to day growing.

We tasted the tomatoes and strawberries, and they were pretty tasty.  Truly amazing developments.

More information: Philips Horticultural

The Connected Future

While we expected to see merely a devices showoff, the Philips Innovation days were much more than that, and delivered a generally inspiring day. Hue is to light what NEST is to thermostats and Lockitron to doorlocks. City farming will be really huge. Saeco is more than just an espresso maker, it’s a product that rides another upcoming wave: the world of food automation.

A few of these products are currently aimed at early-adopters, and for them to be adapted by the general public there might be some improvements required still. However, these objects, and others like them, will eventually become smarter, even better connected and truly aware of a person’s habits, mood and environment –  his context.

Soon, the lights in your room can change to match your mood, or to try and improve it. Soon, health information will be continuous, can predict diseases before they happen, and can take actions in advance. If you’re in need of health monitoring, and about to get a stroke, your eHealth device(s) will detected this, lights will flash and calls will be placed to get the attention of first responders. Soon, kitchen devices that know you well enough to guess what you want to eat or to recommend something new, will make sure food is ready when you arrive at home, taking traffic jam, as well as your weight and calorie information into account. Soon, you’ll buy any device, arrive at home and find it has automatically synced to your lifestyle. No configuration. No fuss.

Won’t that be an exciting future? I’m glad that with Jini’s context platform we’re able to play a part in turning these ideas into reality.  What about you? What would your ‘connected’ future look like, and which context-aware devices would be essential to making it possible?

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