Wuxi IoT Week (1/2): My journey starts – why IoT in Wuxi?

Internet of Things ??? in China is a hot topic. And Wuxi is the Chinese hot spot for IoT related activities. You don’t know Wuxi? Wuxi has “just” a population of more than 6 million, growing about 1 million per year, has more than 3,000 years of history, is located at the ancient Grand Canal, the longest channel worldwide, and is only 45 minutes by train north west of Shanghai.

The city has been named the “Sensing China Center” in 2008 – and this has an interesting story. Here are some rumors that I heard during my visit: It all started with the fast industrialization of the rich Wuxi area in the 1990s. In 2007, China’s third largest beautiful freshwater Lake Tai was polluted by industry and people. Algae bloom and bacteria were so heavy that the Chinese government called the lake a major natural disaster. In order to control the cleaning of the lake, which involved the shutdown of several hundred factories and removal of the leaver harming algae from boats, the authorities installed a sensor network that measured water quality. Due to the success of this approach Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao proposed during a visit in Wuxi that the “Sensing China Center”should be established in Wuxi. In the opening ceremony on August 7, 2010, he called for the rapid development of Internet of Things technologies: “Internet + Internet of Things = Wisdom of the Earth”.

“Internet + Internet of Things = Wisdom of the Earth”

As of today “Wuxi National IoT innovation zone” hosts several research institutes and some 300 companies with 30 bn RMB turnover and more than 70,000 associates. Despite these astonishing numbers, the officials and several companies are unhappy about the economic success. It turns out that the business models for IoT and the slow market uptake are major issues here in China and in my opinion, this is true for the rest of the world, too. Just developing the technology is not enough. During the last week, multiple IoT events took place in Wuxi.

3rd International Conference on the Internet of Things

The 3rd International Conference on the Internet of Things (IoT2012)  was held from October 24-26, 2012. IoT 2012 is primarily a conference with strong international academic presence, seasoned by a number of technical and industrial workshops as well as demos and an exhibition floor with exhibiting companies. This biannual conference series has been initiated by the AutoID labs  of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETH), Universität St. Gallen (HSG) and Keio University, Japan. Lirong Zheng, Hao Min, and Junyu Wang and their team from Fudan University organized the event. Paul Havinga  (University of Twente, Netherlands) and Florian Michahelles (ETH Zürich, Switzerland) were also part of the program committee.

About 250 participants from research and industry presented and discussed topics such as IoT architecture and system design, IoT networking and communication, circuit and system design for smart objects in the IoT, IoT services and applications, IoT business models and corresponding process changes, cooperative data processing for IoT and social impacts such as security, privacy, and trust in the IoT. I enjoyed the strong expertise of the presenters. Though I had no chance to read all papers, my favorite papers were those of Vojkan Tasic et. all “Self-powered Water Meter for Direct Feedback” and of Johannes Tulusan et. all “Direct or indirect sensor enabled eco-driving feedback”. The latter two papers not only work on very relevant topics but they also show empirical profound change in real live as people´s behavioral change is key for many IoT applications.

My colleagues from Singapore, Steffi Kowallick (on the left) and Eugene Ng took care of the booth, Xiang Wang (in the middle) was the master and hero of the demo, and of course, Jianguo Wang and Michael Altendorf from our brand new office in Shanghai were there to find customers in China.

Bosch supported this event not only as gold sponsor. My colleagues form Corporate Research, Andreas Müller (Stuttgart, Germany) and Murat Senel (Palo Alto, USA) organized the Industry Workshop M2M. With a live demo, Bosch Software Innovations showcased a security application based on inubit Suite (BPM), Visual Rules (BRM), and a Bosch IP-security camera. On the workshop day, I did a presentation on “Technology inspiring a connected life” to share the Bosch strategy about IoT and some real life examples. Last but not least, I had the honor to do the opening keynote of the conference.

Humans in the Internet of Things: Xue and Wei are two typical users of IoT services. I asked the researchers in the conference to put people in the middle of their focus for IoT technology development.

My topic was “From Control to Purpose: Humans in the Internet of Things”. I explained the importance of IoT technology delivering purpose for humans and society. But IoT will also have a major effect on our enterprise organizations. IoT not only merges the physical world with the virtual world, with that it also merges organizations from Old Industry with the New Economy. This fact is, due to the 1:1 relationship of the IoT system architecture and the structure of organizations best described in Conways Law. You can download my keynote presentation here. I welcome your positive feedback and contributions to extend my thoughts even further.

Now am I very curious about your impressions of the IoT2012 Conference in Wuxi. What are your takeaways?

P.S.: There is a follow up blog post about my week in Wuxi and a blog post by Florian Michahelles.


About the author

Stefan Ferber

Stefan Ferber

I am Vice President for Engineering at Bosch Software Innovations GmbH in Germany – the Bosch Group’s software and systems house with responsibility for the Bosch IoT Suite – Bosch’s open IoT platform. In this role I represent Bosch in the board of the Eclipse Foundation, represented Bosch in the German “Industrie 4.0 Plattform”, and I am also a member of the European “Internet of Things Council“. Here I leverage more than twenty years experience in software development, software processes, software product lines and software architectures for embedded systems, computer vision, and IT domains. Before I was Product Manager for the Bosch eMobility Solution and therefore engaged internationally in the eMobility market, business models, standardization, and technology topics in Europe, Asia, and Australia. I also acted as Director of Bosch Corporate Systems Engineering Process Group and a technical expert for software engineering and software architectures mostly for automotive embedded software. I hold a Ph.D. and a diploma degree in Computer Science from the University of Karlsruhe, Germany and a MSc. in Computer Science from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, USA.