The Internet of Things is Really a Thing in Germany

| Dr. Mac's Rants and Raves

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves

Episode #173


Last month I spent nine days in Germany as a guest of Germany Trade & Invest, the foreign trade and investment agency of the Federal Republic of Germany. The theme for our visit was Industry 4.0, a worldwide initiative (conceived in Germany) to develop standards and protocols to integrate the Internet of Things (IoT), cyber-physical systems (CPS), and the Internet of Services (IoS) with large-scale data collection and analysis and machine learning.

In other words, it’s about smart, networked automation with smart, self-configuring components. We visited more than a dozen manufacturers, research institutes, universities, and startups across three German states, and saw smart assembly lines in action, using smart, networked processes and devices. We ended our tour at the fabled Hannover Messe (Hannover Fair)—the largest industrial trade show in the world. And it was massive. If you've ever been, think six or eight CESes (Consumer Electronics Shows) in over 5 million square feet of exhibit space in dozens of huge exhibit halls.

Hannover Messe was easily the biggest trade show I’ve ever seen.

This year there were over 5,000 exhibitors and nearly 200,000 attendees (including President Obama and yours truly):

Bob LeVitus at Hannover Messe

(Left to right): German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U. S. President Barack Obama, and your intrepid reporter.

I’ll get back to the Messe and President Obama later; for now, we'll start at the very beginning (which I hear is a very good place to start): Our first stop was at the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence in Kaiserslautern, the largest AI research center in the world. There, we were introduced to some of the technologies behind Industry 4.0, including radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, real-time data collection and analysis, and cyber-physical systems (CPS) that make decisions on their own based on that data.

Next: IBM and Watson IoT

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Bob, thanks for the pix, which make me wonder if the US is falling behind. But then I remember that Germany is about the size of Ohio. But even so, the concepts are impressive, especially the variations on the tractor assembly line. With autos sold in the US, in can get really frustrating if you want Apple Carplay, but not a sunroof, as the salesperson says “Sorry, just the three trim levels.”

Bob LeVitus

ibuck: My impression was that everyone is working toward a common goal over in Europe, the goal being Industry 4.0, which relies on self-aware, connected devices with AI for analyzing data and making decisions.

I don’t know much about the state of heavy industry here in the US where the Internet of Things is concerned, so I can’t really say if Germany/Europe is ahead of us. What I saw was what appears to be a lot of “coop-etition” among companies large and small, with the backing of both federal and state governments. And I felt like very few big companies were trying to go it alone with proprietary systems; almost everyone we talked to was trying to figure out how to implement Industry 4.0 in their supply chains and assembly lines.

It was definitely an eye-opener. 

I hope that helps.

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