Thomas Hahnel, Lucy Turpin Communications
Although we Germans are the current soccer world champions, our IoT adoption rating is less than world class. Even Telekom CEO, Timothy Höttges, declared in October 2014: "We’ve lost the first half time of digitalization." In football, losing the first half is not tragic. But you have to figure out how much time is left and catch up quickly.
As elsewhere, several German industries are already adopting IoT. And you can meet people who already talk about the Internet of Everything. Our high-tech organizations, analysts and research institutes predict billions of networked devices for Germany. And because no other country is as dependent on exporting its tech goods as Germany, keeping abreast of trends is essential. So what is the real status of IoT in German industry?
IoT in Germany revolves mainly around on "Industry 4.0", on production technology and Smart Factory topics. BitKom, the German high-tech association, forecasts an annual growth of 1.7 percent for key industrial sectors – driven just by the contributions of Industry 4.0 solutions. Economically, this sounds very promising.
Pessimists liken German companies with the IBM of the 1980s. That was when IBM failed to recognize the potential of the upcoming software industry. Those were the days when IBM simply outsourced an operating system from a little company called Microsoft. The fact is, Germany is not a producer of core IoT technologies. True, we do a lot of embedded software programming. We have many companies designing hardware systems, boards, etc. But most of our business models are based on foreign technology that has been developed elsewhere.
While in Germany institutions are still tied up in discussing industry standards, in the US it seems that MTConnect has already become a standard for data exchange between vendor production facilities. Yes, IoT funding is always going to be higher in the US than in Europe. And there is more red tape in Europe, especially in Germany, multiplying the hurdles to implementing new technologies and businesses. So it’s no wonder that the CES didn’t highlight any German IoT gadgets.
The exception was, of course, our automotive industry: the Mercedes Daimler CEO presented a super self-driving car, and Audi’s was remotely controlled by an agent-style smartwatch. The Internet has become integrated into German cars and there are a lot of IoT business ideas for the future. But here, too, the primary technologies are not “Made in Germany”.
Germany has the world’s strongest automotive industry. And machine construction, electrical engineering, aerospace and med-tech are state-of-the-art. However, the second half of the match has started, and we have more than just one goal to win. I hope it will result in soccer-like preeminence – you must have noticed that over the last few years, the Germans managed to develop a world-class soccer match system...