No Hype Zone: Taking the Long View on IoT in Berlin
The 2018 CUBE tech fair in Berlin challenged typical usage of hyped-up tech terms during talks by diverse speakers and companies. Even while attending a well-curated tech conference though, it’s still easy to get lost in abstractions during presentations. So it was refreshing to attend a no-nonsense dialogue about IoT in Berlin between two veterans in their respective fields: Monty Munford in tech journalism and Harald Zapp in serial tech entrepreneurship.
Monty (on left) uses an unfiltered directness which was the perfect counterbalance to Harald’s relaxed, cool storytelling. Together the conversation achieved a lively dynamic which delivered useful insights on an historic city undergoing a tech evolution, and offered advice for upcoming entrepreneurs.
Harald has 25 years of experience working in US companies and in particular 15 years at Cisco, before founding relayr (an IIoT platform for collecting IoT data), the Next Big Thing (a European company builder in IoT & blockchain), and most recently Weeve (an IoT-blockchain venture which empowers the Economy of Things). It’s a lot of terminology to unpack, but Harald’s the one to do it. He has a straightforward way of explaining things which he put to great use on stage.
Below is a paraphrased synopsis of an organic conversation that paints an accurate picture of Berlin and ends with tips for other entrepreneurs.
What’s in a Name?
MM: The name, “Next Big Thing” is a bold choice. What’s that all about?
HZ: Yes, it’s a powerful statement, but it really expresses what we saw that Germany was missing – an outspoken solution to keeping pace with especially the big tech players out of the US. NBT doesn’t claim itself to be the next big thing; rather it is focused on building the next big thing in IoT and blockchain.
Berlin’s Changing Landscape:
MM: It’s obvious to most that Berlin is a city of startups and increasing venture capital. But why is Berlin the place to be?
HZ: Berlin had to build itself up as it did not have the same local industry nor reputation as other major centers like Munich and Hamburg. In Berlin, we have now the created the optimal atmosphere with the three T’s: Tech, Talent, and Tolerance.
In Germany, we have the de:hub which is a digital innovation initiative from the federal government. This connects 12 centers of local tech expertise. Berlin is the IoT/Fintech hub, and NBT represents the IoT portion in connection with partners, Fraunhofer FOKUS and Factory Berlin. It’s crucial to be focused on IoT from a business perspective because of how fast it is growing. We can expect 50 billion connected devices by 2025, and $17 trillion of value associated with that data.
But remember: you can’t manage what you don’t measure...
HZ: Speaking of the value of data: Distinguishing between fake and real news is becoming increasingly relevant to our daily lives. This distinction can only rely on data. If you can’t rely on data, it’s worth nothing. There’s a need for real-time attestation of data. That’s where Weeve comes in, an NBT venture enabling an Economy of Things. While other NBT ventures are more vertical, say for example in healthcare, Weeve is more horizontal.
Weeve is focused on building a ‘Chain of Trust’ from sensor through to all aspects of data: harvesting, processing, transporting, assessing and commercializing. Weeve has developed its own operating system, WeeveOS, to run on sensors, and its own secure common transport for IoT data, MQTTS. Weeve is focused on the safety of things with security by design, not as an add on.
Advice for startups
MM: Given your extensive experience and global perspective, what advice would you give to the audience?
HZ: Look at the physical world as it connects to smart contracts. Look at making your business in this area. Take the long-view, looking ahead to the next 10 years and beyond. I see huge possibilities there. If you are interested in IoT, blockchain, and smart contracts, your future will be bright.
At NBT we have a B2B approach, followed by B2B2C. We develop solutions and early startups or entrepreneurs approach us and we help get the industry on board through our extensive ecosystem of partners. Get in touch if that sounds about right to you too.
All images copyright by Dan Taylor, Heisenberg Media