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Author's profile photo Bernd Leukert

Internet of Things: From Megatrend to Commodity

Every year, Hannover Messe, the world’s largest industrial trade show, brings together more than 5,000 exhibitors from every corner of the globe. The many conversations I had in Hanover this year with customers, partners, media, and government representatives made clear that the Internet of Things (IoT) has become an integral part of every digitalization strategy.

Building on technology

In its evolution from megatrend to established approach toward realizing digital strategies and the ideas of Industrie 4.0 in a diverse range of use cases, the Internet of Things has grown to encompass various technologies. From sensors to the executive dashboard, many complex technologies, such as protocols, gateways, big data, databases, and smart applications with predictive capabilities, are involved to turn bits and bytes into added business value. As everything starts with – or rather builds on – an open, flexible, and scalable platform that embraces new technologies such as machine learning and blockchain, IoT capabilities have become part as standard offerings of cloud platforms.

Identifying business potential

IoT enables companies to establish intelligent services and after-sales products for their customers that complement their existing portfolios – one example being the use of predictive maintenance for machines in the B2B sector. With these new services, flexibility and speed come into play for both the customer and the customers’ customers.

We increasingly see the product becoming the medium used to convey information, prompting machines to act by, for example, initiating a maintenance service or triggering a payment. Since these services are only used on demand, the customer only pays for what they use. The “flexibility” associated with IoT therefore also extends into the realm of contracts and payment models. With services comes data, and these increasing amounts of data in turn lead to new services, such as benchmarking for customers. The result is an intelligent network that benefits all contributors.

News from Hanover: Innovating in lockstep with partners and customers

The focus of SAP’s presence at the Hannover Messe this year was on how digital twins are connecting the physical world with the digital world, enabling companies to connect machines within a network across their entire lifecycle.

To provide manufacturers with a comprehensive cloud solution, SAP introduced the SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud, including digital manufacturing cloud for analytics and execution. We also launched a network of digital twins to optimize the asset lifecycle from design to decommission. It synchronizes the virtual, physical, conditional, and commercial definitions of assets or products in real time to accelerate innovation, optimize operating performance conditions, predict service requirements, improve diagnostics, and enhance decision making throughout the value network.

Developed by SAP and NTT as a co-innovation project, another impressive solution showed how data can help ensure workers’ safety in potentially hazardous environments. SAP Connected Worker Safety uses predictive analytics based on sensor data from wearables and the workers’ environment to identify the very first signs of danger in real time. Its application in, for example, the mining industry is a great example of the important and lifesaving difference this solution can make. High levels of blackdamp, an asphyxiant that reduces the level of available oxygen in the air, can quickly lead to critical and life-threatening situations. Equipped with wearable sensors, workers are warned well before any such situation escalates.

Staying underground, SAP joined forces with Cargo Sous Terrain to showcase what transportation could look like in the not too distant future – with underground tunnels used for the transportation, temporary storage, and resource-efficient distribution of goods, all powered by renewable energy. Moving goods underground – sous terrain – and managing it in a highly-automated manner results in efficiency gains for both companies and people and also represents an important step towards to a sustainable future.

From robotics and artificial intelligence to big data – intelligent manufacturing technologies are hyper-automating our industry and changing our established work structures. How companies – particularly SMEs – can benefit from such digital business models was one of the topics discussed at this year’s Leaders’ Dialogue. In addition, Plattform Industrie 4.0 presented the key results and goals of the platform as well as the outcomes of the trilateral cooperation.

IoT and Industrie 4.0 mark an exciting turning point: businesses worldwide are connecting plants and products, using machine data for predictive maintenance, and developing innovative service models. In the factory of tomorrow, machines and devices will work almost autonomously and Hannover Messe made it very clear that the future is all about collaborating and connecting.

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