A ‘Meet the Industry’ conference in Potsdam Positions the Internet of Things and Services To Support German Companies
A Brave New World
The Internet of Things (IoT) is already proving to be a key tech area of the future. IoT involves the intelligent networking of objects via the internet and importantly – data collection and analysis. Collected data helps companies understand their customers, identify patterns, and align products with their needs and interests. Businesses can learn to understand customer usage patterns from information provided by devices.
Data from machines and plants also gives a picture of the customer’s environment. Aggregated status data on machines and systems from customer environments means new service models take form around this data, with the goal of optimizing warehouse processes, fleets, or other logistics.
The market is exciting because apart from the big IT players, classic industrial groups also have a stake here: they bring experience in engineering and a drive to innovate.
So what’s the hurdle here? The added value in automation technology is only achieved through digitization. The question becomes how exactly to transform one’s business effectively. The answer likely lies in knowledge sharing: knowing customer needs, having technological and industry expertise, and gaining expertise in IoT through collaboration.
Conference To Connect Players
To spark this collaboration, two of Germany’s de:hub digital initiative locations, Berlin and Potsdam, formulated the idea behind Meet the Industry on May 17, 2018 to be held in Potsdam. In this day-long conference entitled “From the Internet of Things to The Internet of Services”, the two hubs combined to make a forum showcasing IoT expertise and insights from specialists and companies with successful IoT solutions.
media:net heads Potsdam's media tech de:Hub which is headed by a consortium made up Potsdam-based institutions and societies including: media:net berlinbrandenburg eV, Virtual Reality Berlin Brandenburg eV, State Capital Potsdam, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy Brandenburg, and Cluster ICT, media and creative industries, part of Brandenburg Invest GmbH.
With support from IHK Potsdam and the EU Regional Development Fund, workshop guests had the opportunity to hear from central players across the Brandenburg region. Specifically, this included compelling talks from telecommunications providers, specialized providers, and IoT startups. Presenters included representatives from IoT & blockchain company builder NBT, Bosch Software Innovations, and Telefonica Germany NEXT GmbH. Conference attendees included a mix of media, investors, and corporate representatives.
The goal of the conference was to evaluate the status quo in IoT from the perspective of medium-sized companies, platforms, industrial groups, and startups.
After a warm welcome from media.net berlinbrandenburg’s Andrea Peters, NBT’s Head of Partnerships Falco Schuett, delivered an introduction on why the ‘Internet of Things is becoming the Internet of Everything.’ He identified that IoT will be the most important industry trend in the next 10 years, generating $14.4 billion worldwide by 2025. IoT’s well-known benefits include cost savings, increased productivity, supply chain optimization, better user experience, and reduced time to market.
Keep Calm and Don’t Believe the Hype
Dirk Slama, VP of Bosch Software Innovation, encouraged ‘calm in the face of hype’. He gave an inspiring talk on Smart Cities and Smart Buildings and how digital transformation affects all business sectors in Bosch’s portfolio – namely Mobility Solutions, Industrial Tech, Energy and Building Tech, and Consumer Goods. He says, ‘things don’t end when the product leaves the company’, i.e. when it reaches the customer’s hands. A crucial feedback loop should safeguard the lifespan of the product and the brand. An extreme example is when Tesla remotely unlocked the battery capacity of their vehicles in Florida to help car owners escape a natural disaster. (Let’s hope we can expect more wide-spread, less exotic, use-cases.)
He discussed various versions of IoT control Points, like how China uses WeChat for everything, or if there could be one app to find all available cars. He explained that as things get more complicated, the rate of change tends to slow down. Fighting this sluggish trend is important for companies to ensure progress. He closed by citing the Bosch IoT Campus in Tempelhof Berlin as an example of how classical manufacturing wants to transform.
Panel Discussion: Moving From Things to Services
Andreas Kronke from PIABO, the agency of choice for tech companies like Asana, Stripe, Bosch, Telekom, and Factory Berlin hosted the main panel of this workshop. Andreas’ panel members included the above-mentioned Falco and Dirk, as well as Lars Heidemann from Telefonica Germany NEXT | geeny. Together they explored the role of data in business models. When moving from B2B2C, Lars suggested an inclusive approach, for example tuning in to what people are talking about in small towns in Germany. Ultimately there must always be a customer, or C, in the end.
Industrie 4.0 was cited as a notably German branded concept, recognized in the US. This is especially important because it involves the Mittelstand, a term referring not only to small and medium sized enterprises but also an approach by many family-owned German business with long-standing traditions in engineering.
Regarding Germany’s global ranking in platform strategy, Andreas wanted to know: “is IoT the great chance for Germany?” The German market is fragmented, which makes competition from the US and China even tougher. We need expertise in IoT to overcome this hurdle – and that can be facilitated via cooperation.
As for innovation, what works best? Corporations bring market reach, startups bring passion for an idea or concrete product, and there must be some form of acceleration. This can vary from a single point of contact, innovation department, or company builder connected to an ecosystem. Whether a corporate or startup initiates an innovative idea, there has to be a business-case to support it.
Pick up a Book!
The panel concluded with these instructive points:
- Refresh your perspective with Homodeus by Harari, Life 3.0 on AI, and QualityLand.
- Security updates are vitally important.
- Consider an ‘IoT stamp of approval’ like the Made in Germany concept.
- You must have a good idea to begin with.
- You must be able to pitch that idea.
- Focus more B2B than B2C, at least at first.
Real Use-Cases from Startup Voices
As opposed to corporates, startups have the advantage of being able to operate disruptively without the burdened of existing business. This can more easily lead IoT beyond the perception of connected toasters towards fuller innovations in the SME sector. After the panel, selected Next Big Thing AG startups named METR, evertrace, and Weeve shared actual business use-cases of what IoT data is enabling.
1) CEO Dr. Franka Birke presented her startup METR, NBT’s PropTech venture. She demonstrated how an M-Gate, a data-reading device they’ve developed for the remote read of heating consumption from tenement apartment buildings, will help housing companies and their occupants. Housing companies seek secure and scalable solutions; tenants want fair billing, and predictive maintenance is good for the buildings themselves. METR plans to have an app store allowing tenants to browse and download apps and services. They already secured Berlin’s 2nd largest housing company as an early client, which bodes well for the future.
2) NBT’s supply chain and IoT venture, evertrace, pushes the evolution of supply chain optimization. evertrace is creating an end-to-end platform for real-time tracking of physical assets and process automation through smart contracts. CTO Gautier Lobry says real-time data are currently stored in silos and thus unavailable to all stakeholders in the supply chain. Those stakeholders include cargo owners, freight forwarders, and insurance companies. He says trustworthy data is crucial for the automation of the supply chain and smart contract-based processes which enable more flexible and customised insurance products.
3) Blockchain developer Martin Mauer presented NBT’s blockchain and IoT Venture, Weeve, who is fueling the Economy of Things. Weeve sees data as a product and they are building a Chain of Trust around that data. They enable this trust by bridging the tech gap between IoT and blockchain. To do so, the code of the smart contract must be verified. Weeve has developed an operating system and a secure messaging protocol. As their community is steadily growing, read more from them here.
If IoT data is the new oil, what do we do with the data?
After the startups presented, attendees heard other economic use cases from OMQ’s Sven Engelmann, Nexolink Solutions, and Rene Beck from BEKAST IT CONSULTING GMBH. Fraunhofer FOKUS’s Axel Rennoch discussed Quality Analysis with IoT Testware before Jorge Wende from IBM Cloud closed the day with a talk on IoT’s future.
Meet the Industry successfully presented multiple angles on IoT to representatives from diverse German’s businesses, helping them identify industry contacts and conceptualize solutions. The conference gave a snapshot of the status quo and the newest developments.
As a core component of the European IoT ecosystem in Germany, our community of experts across technology, business and research is ever growing. If you feel you could add to the community and drive innovation in deep tech, find out more about our IoT Hub community here.
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All images in this post are copyright of David Marschalsky.