Hannover Messe: Companies are Getting Ready for the Industrial Internet

Hannover Messe: Companies are Getting Ready for the Industrial Internet

Hannover Messe (HM), the world’s leading trade fair for industrial technology, which took place in Hannover from April 23-27, has reinforced its role as a yardstick for the power of innovation in the global manufacturing industry. While the fair was still dominated by Industrie 4.0 in 2016 and in previous years, the industry is now already a step further (a development which took place within just one year). Accordingly, the main theme this year was the Industrial Internet. In our view, this development is also supported by the fact that MES solutions in the context of Industrie 4.0 are more and more turning into extensive Industrie 4.0 solutions and are also finding their way into the cloud.

A differentiation between Industrie 4.0 and Industrial Internet is being made not to split hairs or invent new marketing buzz words, but rather because the technology has truly evolved. Whereas Industrie 4.0 has its predominant focus on digitizing internal production processes by means of enabling technologies such as automation, analytics, sensors, cloud, mobility, connectivity and security, the Industrial Internet transcends the borders of manufacturing facilities: in fact, it includes the digitization of product development, customer data and the products themselves. The underlying technologies are comparable, i.e. analytics, cloud, security, sensors and connectivity, but at one point or another go beyond (e.g. artificial and cognitive intelligence and customer and open data interfaces).

This applies – among other things – to the concept of the “digital twin”, which means that a virtual, digital replica is created for each and every system, machine and product while still at the planning and development stage. During the formation and design phase the digital twin allows to perform comprehensive simulations without a physical prototype. After the product has been delivered, the digital twin can serve to document modifications and replacements of parts as well for the purpose of remote maintenance (with the help of VR and AR glasses). This concept is not new, however due to the technological advances in graphics processing and thanks to the system of cloud computing (as a delivery platform for data), it is gaining momentum at a rapid speed and thus became a major focus of this year’s Hannover Messe.

Which brings us to the next hot topic of the fair: IoT platforms. Currently, the choice of IoT platforms is limitless and a market shakeout inevitable. In their efforts to compete for customers, providers are rapidly expanding the capabilities of their IoT platforms, particularly regarding the scope of technological functions and availability of new standard applications. This applies above all to providers’ ecosystems – a consistent move, given that only IoT platforms that offer customers access to a comprehensive, modular application kit are a serious option. And the provision of such is impossible without an ecosystem of partners developing a large number of various applications around an IoT platform. Having said that, the plans of Siemens, Bosch and SAP to rapidly transform their IoT platforms into market places is a logical next step.

The blockchain, much-debated in other industries, was only a marginal topic at Hannover Messe. There are in fact various approaches, ideas and pilot projects concerning the use of the blockchain in industrial environments, however actual operational and presentable use cases are rare. Statements of companies such as IBM, Bosch, Siemens or WalMart in which they refer to blockchain projects can at the present stage rather be seen as experimental moves. The blockchain technology is conceivable in all areas where a large number of partners is to be granted access to digital information, alterations are to be prevented or recorded unequivocally. Potential use cases therefore relate to the digital twin or exchange of protected 3D printing files.

This post gives only a few examples from the massive range of topics presented at Hannover Messe. What was however striking was the fact that more and more IT companies find their way to this particular fair and tend to turn their back on CeBIT, Hannover’s computer expo. Even though the number of visitors was roughly the same (CeBIT: 200,000; HM: 225,000), the atmosphere was completely different. While Hannover Messe is growing in size and attracting more and more international visitors as well as new exhibitors (6,500 this year), CeBIT is currently being overhauled in what seems to be an “emergency step”: for 2018, there will be a new concept (to attract a younger audience) and a new date (June), an attempt to rescue CeBIT from a slow death.