Success of networked solutions depends on high level of benefit
Second conference planned for 2015
New alliances for the internet of things
Stuttgart/Berlin – If the internet of things is to gain widespread acceptance, its main focus has to be a high level of benefit. This was the message from the Bosch CEO Volkmar Denner at the “Bosch ConnectedWorld” conference in Berlin. Held on February 5 and 6, this was the first conference of its kind. Attended by more than 400 experts, it focused on smart batteries, smart homes, and smart sensors.
Huge market potential The delegates agreed that the internet of things opens up huge market potential. By 2015, Bosch expects that roughly 75 percent of the global population will have access to the internet, and that six billion things will already be connected to the web. This growth is happening at a high exponential rate.
The opportunities presented by smart factories On the internet of things, parts and machines can also exchange information, allowing industrial manufacturing to be made more flexible. This will effectively create “smart factories” which are expected to lead to considerable increases in productivity, with opportunities opening up for German industry both as a supplier and a user. “The internet of things, and the smart factories that go with it, has the potential to create and preserve jobs in a high-wage location such as Germany,” Denner said. In this context, Bosch expects to see many new alliances, including between companies that have so far had nothing to do with each other.
Cross-industry conference Delegates to the Berlin conference – which included speakers from Cisco, BMW, McKinsey, Vodafone, and the University of St. Gallen – came from a wide range of industries, and from companies of all sizes. “This also shows how important alliances are for putting connected solutions into practice – all of us expect to see new alliances among completely new partners who have hitherto worked in completely different domains,” said Dr. Rainer Kallenbach of Bosch Software Innovations. This subsidiary, the group's software and systems unit, employs 600 associates. It also organized the conference. A second conference is planned for 2015.
A wealth of opportunities for Bosch The internet of things and services will change business and society. The technological basis already exists: tiny radio sensors can automatically record the status of any object and transmit this over the internet. Using the right software, this data can be evaluated and used as the basis for decisions. This opens the door to a whole new world of business models. As Kallenbach emphasized, this means a wealth of opportunities for Bosch: “The internet of things is not only relevant for industry, but also for mobility, energy, smart homes, and smart cities. Right now, Bosch is unsurpassed when it comes to covering this breadth and depth of applications – from the tiniest sensor to the connected city.”
The billions of mobile sensors needed for the internet of things cannot be wired up. And changing batteries is too much trouble. One solution is for the devices to harvest the energy they need from their environment - with effectively no need for maintenance.
Stuttgart/Berlin – Anyone installing a network of wireless sensors needs to provide them with power. In the protected environment of a factory or a home, this is an easy enough task. But what if almost every object is fitted with sensors for the internet of things, including in places where there are no power lines? In that case, the energy can perhaps be drawn from pressure differentials, vibrations, or temperature gradients in the environment. Bosch, too, is researching this kind of energy harvesting and how it might be applied, for example in the framework of 9D-Sense, a publicly funded joint project on which Bosch is working with ten further partners.
Free of failure-prone cabling Many of the billions of new entities on the internet of things will be low-cost sensors that collect data about their surroundings and then send it to a nearby router using standardized radio technology. To keep it as simple as possible to install the sensors, they need to be free of elaborate, failure-prone cabling. But for a network comprising hundreds or thousands of sensors in a given area, it would be a herculean task to change all those batteries – both time-consuming and far too expensive. Plus each sensor’s battery compartment would have to be waterproofed; a maintenance-free housing would be much less trouble.
Sensors, supply yourselves From all of the above we can derive an ideal profile of requirements: battery-free wireless sensors that supply their own power as much as possible. And there are several effects known to physics that they might harness – but since not all of these sources of energy are present in every location, the most suitable one has to be selected in each case. A tiny rechargeable battery can store the minuscule amounts of energy gathered. Meanwhile, clever programming ensures the sensors only transmit their data when absolutely necessary – which saves power.
Photoelectric effect When photons from high-energy radiation strike a suitable metal or semiconductor plate, they alter the energy state of the electrons in the material, thereby producing a voltage. This is the principle on which solar cells are based. And tiny solar cells can provide tiny sensors with electricity – as long as there is light.
Thermoelectric effect Current can be generated by differences in temperature. In a circuit composed of two different metals, a voltage is produced if the metals are at different temperatures. This effect can be used to build small thermoelectric generators, for instance as an arm band where the side facing the skin is warm and the other side cool.
Piezoelectric effect Certain materials display the piezoelectric effect, whereby a voltage is produced when pressure is applied. The effect is a result of the movement of electric charges within the material. And the inverse piezoelectric effect dictates that materials can be deformed by applying a voltage to them. Both effects already have a wide range of technical applications. Industrially produced piezo elements are usually made of ceramics and can for instance convert vibrations into small currents.
Vibration converters Many machine parts vibrate during operation, and this can be harnessed by building a vibration converter that uses an oscillating or vibrating machine part to move a permanent magnet back and forth within a coil and induce a (usually small) voltage.
Rotation converters These are based on the dynamo principle, whereby a rotating bicycle dynamo produces a voltage. Many technical devices also have rotating parts, and if these are fitted with miniaturized dynamos they can supply power to nearby sensors.
Practical application in the 9D-Sense project Moving from theory to practice, Bosch is coordinating the 9D-Sense project, which is supported by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research and includes ten further university and industrial partners. As project manager Torsten Ohms from Bosch Sensortec explains, 9D-Sense is developing a small, low-cost, autonomous multi-sensor system that is supplied with power by an energy harvester.
The system has three elements. First, there is the sensor module, which measures in nine degrees of freedom (a three-axis acceleration sensor, a three-axis yaw-rate sensor, and a three-axis magnetic sensor). Next comes the power supply, consisting of a thin-film battery for intermediate storage along with a thermoelectric harvester and a vibration harvester. Finally, there is the secure wireless data connection along with the necessary algorithms and interfaces.
Various possible applications of this technology are currently being explored. One of them is “smart wristlets,” arm bands that record their wearer’s movements; the partner company for these is Gemalto. Meanwhile, Otto Bock Healthcare Products is looking into how to power orthotics so they can help their wearers to extend joints (in this case the knee).
Navigation systems for inside buildings Bosch is also researching how sensors can help people to find their way around inside buildings. A sensor might recognize its wearer’s movements around the building and mark the route taken on an electronic map on a smartphone or tablet, which could if requested also show the wearer how to get around in an unfamiliar but mapped area. Projects are currently underway to generate maps of buildings by gathering user data. This all works without GPS, since reception of its satellite signals is at best poor and often non-existent within buildings. When wearers are sitting down, an energy harvester takes advantage of their body heat; if they are walking around, another harvester taps into their kinetic energy. Of course, wearers can deactivate all this technology if they wish.
Cyber-physical systems connect the real and virtual worlds
Parts communicate with machines
In the factory of the future, parts will tell machines how they “want” to be processed. This will make it efficient to produce small batches and customized products.
Stuttgart/Berlin – The internet of things has the potential to link all objects in the world. This also paves the way for the factory of the future, in which all machines and the products they produce stay in close contact. The key term here is “Industry 4.0.”
Before: versions 1.0 to 3.0 This term implies that there must have already been versions 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0, and indeed these refer to specific epochs in industrial history. Industry 1.0 refers to the steam-powered machines that to varying degrees took on heavy physical work for people, for instance in transportation or mines. Version 2.0 is characterized by the assembly line, which sped up production by dividing processes into steps, making it faster, cheaper, and more efficient. This allowed mass markets to be served. A classic example is the production of the Ford Model T, of which 15 million were built in the United States between 1908 and 1927. Industry 3.0 refers to computers, and the robots and machines they control, which allow an extensive degree of automation in production and a reduction in costs. This is the current status quo in industry.
Now: Industry 4.0 The future of industry is built on all of these things, but is far more flexible. And to some degree, it has the capacity to self-organize, since parts will tell machines how and when they “want” to be processed. The societal trend towards customization is a driving force for this. In such a factory, the lubricant is information, which tells the machines and robots how they should organize themselves for each project.
This interaction between machines, software, and information is known as a cyber-physical system. The network of programs with mechanical and electrical components communicates via the internet. This makes constant coordination possible, even between locations around the world and beyond company boundaries. Cyber-physical systems connect the real and the virtual world.
“Opportunity for German industry” “Industry 4.0 presents German industry with many opportunities – as both supplier and user. One of these is the ability to continue producing in high-cost locations,” says Dr. Volkmar Denner, the CEO of Bosch. This kind of production needs more than just machines, it takes qualified and creative experts.
Sports shoe configurator One example is the customized sports shoe. A website allows customers to configure their desired model through a series of clicks: green uppers, dark red logo, yellow laces. When the representation shown in the web-based configurator matches the customer's wishes, the order is sent to the factory with a mouse click. There, a robot selects the right materials and brings them to the machines, which cut the fabric and the logo and create the desired custom shoe. Upon completion, the shipping department automatically sends it on to the customer. The customer is kept informed about the order at every stage by email. And the shoemaker's supply system knows when it is time to send off an order for new materials.
In short, the flexible, information-driven cyber-physical system makes possible a real-time production capability – not only for cost-effective customized shoes but also for self-designed t-shirts, custom blends of muesli, or PCs.
Workpieces “know” what to do Denner cites housings as another example: “In future production setups, housings will be transported by an autonomous system from the production area to the assembly hall. The part “knows” the different steps in its processing; it uses the automated transport system to reach the next available machine, then tells the machine the finished product it should create and gives it the specifications. This is repeated from one process step to the next – including the subsequent logistics chain. The prerequisite is to have open, integrated software and hardware architectures. This encourages re-envisioning and collaboration.”
Communication by smart objects Plattform Industrie 4.0, an initiative of several industry associations in Germany, sees a similar pattern. “Which detergent belongs in the bottle? How does the metal blank need to be cut? Where does the spare part need to be sent? In the era of Industry 4.0, products know the answers themselves and they can inform the machines what needs to be done to them. The objects become smart. They have barcodes or RFID chips attached that contain the required information. Scanners and computers read the data and transmit it online – and make sure that the machines respond appropriately. This is how smart objects communicate. An internet of things is created. The physical world and the virtual world converge into cyber-physical systems.”
According to German's Federal Education Minister, Johanna Wanka, it's a question of speed: “The economy is poised on the edge of a fourth industrial revolution. The Industry 4.0 project gives us the chance to play a part in customizing this process and thus securing Germany's long-term prosperity. Research can help reorganize production processes and improve structures. But it is just as important that these results take hold quickly in everyday business.”