- On 1. December 2020
If you look at the current IoT-Hype Cycle from Gartner, the Internet of Things is established.
“The challenge now is to translate leading technologies into innovative products and services,” says Michael Kaiser, CEO of the Smart Systems Hub. Kaiser knows what he is talking about. After less than two years, the “Smart Systems Hub – Enabling IoT” has become a fixed point of reference when it comes to developing concrete IoT solutions. Visible success in a few hours, days or after three months.
The spectrum of co-innovation formats ranges from the creation of a concept or idea paper (Thin[gk]light), a prototype (Thin[gk]athon®) down to a Minimum Viable Product, colloquially known as “MVP” (Digital Product Factory).
No matter whether medium-sized companies or corporate customers, the work process is always the same: The “customer” gets an up-to-date overview of the latest technologies. “Often the interest in what is technologically possible today is greater than a company turning to us with a concrete problem,” says Kaiser. After all, the development is rapid. More and more new chip and sensor technologies, software platforms and cloud tools are pushing into the market and constantly expanding the spectrum of new IoT solutions.
Orientation and tangible results
At the same time, the shoe is on the other foot when it comes to implementing industrial IoT solutions – regardless of whether the company is small, medium-sized or large. While the big players are getting their mouths watered with buzzwords such as Industry 4.0 or “Factory of Tomorrow”, and they are mostly focused on the development of new digital business models and complete process changes in the sense of change management, SMEs keep choking on the colorful salad of technological possibilities and – if at all – approach the topic with small, easily digestible appetizers. Foresighted maintenance is a keyword.
In fact, according to one study, only 4 percent of companies use data as a basis for maintenance measures, even though 67 percent of companies see great potential in this area. The technological possibilities to satisfy the needs of both large and small companies are available. However, there is a lack of strategic decisions by management, access to suitable technologies and partners and, last but not least, an external body to accompany digitization processes. This is exactly where the Smart Systems Hub comes in.
57 percent of companies rely on external partners in the digitization process*
– IDG Research Services: „Internet of Things“, 2018
The recipe for success for companies
Under the motto “Enabling IoT”, the Hub supports companies at every stage of the digitization process. In the context of free Meetups, a first insight into various technologies and fields of application is possible. In thematic workshops, companies can gain access to reference solutions, for example in the area of predictive maintenance (Smart Maintenance). This enables a practice-oriented, easy start into the implementation. In addition, the hub has been specializing in another area for one and a half years now, in which the team around Michael Kaiser sees the greatest potential for users: co-innovation.
What does Co-Innovation mean?
Co-Innovation refers to the opening of the innovation process beyond the boundaries of the company. The innovation potential in the development of new products, services or business models thus increases exponentially. The groups involved from outside can be customers, suppliers, business partners, students or experts from outside the industry.
The need for co-innovation results from a constantly increasing market pressure to innovate. At the same time, value networks are changing the old logic of how companies collaborate and create innovation. Openness, curiosity and collaborative exchange are crucial for the future competitiveness of companies to solve problems in the interest of customers. “To this end, we have created three different co-innovation formats in our Factory, which aim to accelerate go-to-market at different levels of insight,” says Dr. André Gräning, Head of Co-Innovation at the Smart Systems Hub. “In the meantime, we can look back on a series of veritable innovation successes,” adds Gräning.
Whether it is the digitization of a meter reading process and the resource-based use of renewable energy for the energy supplier ENSO or an IoT solution for pump control at distributed locations for the electronics specialist PHOENIX CONTACT – the results of the four-day Thin[gk]athons show that supra-regional medium-sized companies trust in the Hub and its IoT expertise. The Hub brings together start-ups, innovations, technologies and cross-industry experts at one table and organizes a lively innovation process. “To this end, we rely on more than 450 partners in our network – including Silicon Saxony e.V. and key partners SAP, T-Systems Multimedia Solutions, Globalfoundries and Infineon,” says Michael Kaiser.
The Hub also helps when companies are at a standstill in solving problems and looking for new perspectives. The low-threshold entry format is called Thin[gk]light. Together with DAS Environmental Expert, a Saxon environmental technology company and equipment manufacturer for the semiconductor industry, a new way of thinking was developed by means of Design Thinking. As a result, the discussion partners with different departments specified the problem area and developed a solution approach, which the medium-sized company is now gradually developing further.
„Space – in the physical and figurative sense – plays an essential role for us. Because only when you step out of your familiar surroundings is it possible to think outside of established patterns.“
– Dr. André Gräning,
Head of Product & Co-Innovation,
Smart Systems Hub GmbH
The Digital Product Factory – the top class of co-innovation
Solutions cannot always be developed within a few hours. Hub key partner Infineon was looking for attractive and marketable use cases for its 24 GHz radar technology and presented the hub team with a new challenge. The semiconductor manufacturer relied on co-innovation, but was aware that a Thingkathon would probably not provide the answer to developing the desired multi-market solution. Although Infineon did not want to invest more than three months in a co-innovation “sprint”, the end result was to be a product-related demonstrator for customers and users. Therefore, the Smart Systems Hub and its partners developed another co-innovation format: the Digital Product Factory. This format, which takes several months to develop product-capable demonstrators, closes the gap between thingkathons for finding solutions or ideas and sample production.
For the first challenge, the hub team brought on board its partners T-Systems Multimedia Solutions and SAP. In April 2020, the first Digital Product Factory will be launched under special conditions: COVID-19 is a purely digital format. A highly motivated, international 5-person team of product managers, software developers, engineers, technical experts and project coaches took up the challenge from Infineon. After a phase of methodical idea development (Ideation) the participants concentrated on the validation of the ideas. For this purpose, the best ideas were transferred into so-called designer letters for use cases. These were then evaluated for their market potential. The idea of an intelligent locking system (Smart Door) was convincing in the joint consideration process with Infineon, and its implementation into a prototype was driven forward in the following implementation phase.
Numerous tests delivered remarkable results within only six weeks. With an accuracy of 99 percent, the solution records whether a person enters or leaves a room. The high accuracy is partly the result of a neural network in which artificial intelligence algorithms classified radar sequences according to patterns. In this way, the solution also recognizes whether a person has a bicycle with him or her, for example.
„Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Digital Product Factory was a great success for Infineon. A Minimum Viable Product was created in a relatively short time. Due to the high quality of the result, consisting of our sensor hardware as well as connectivity and software elements, we decided to further develop the MVP for an early market launch.“
– Uwe Gäbler,
Senior Director Development Center,
Infineon Technologies Dresden
In preparation, interesting partners are being sought for further “use cases”, including door manufacturers, canteen owners, elevator manufacturers and transport companies. The second Digital Product Factory, this time with partner Globalfoundries and its start-up Sensry as well as partner T-Systems, is already in the planning stage.
If we stick to the picture above, there is one thing to be noted: If companies hope that one day there will be an IoT surprise menu on their menu, that IT department, process management, production management and above all the management will enjoy it, you will probably be disappointed. After all, IoT – like other technologies – is not the menu, but merely a basic ingredient. Its special feature is its versatility, and it is precisely this – its application – that is the revolution. Partners like the Smart Systems Hub have the right recipes for this.
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