What the h[e|a]ck is BCX?

This year’s Bosch ConnectedWorld (BCW) featured a brand new partner event: the Bosch ConnectedExperience (BCX). With BCX, we at Bosch are reaching out to developers and deliberately hacking real things. For me it is also a long-term dream come true: An event in which developers from around the world and all Bosch business units are invited to spend two intense days hacking, learning, playing, and in general having a lot of fun.

So I put on my hoodie and went to our great location, Café Moskau in Berlin. I was so proud to introduce the ringmaster, Elgar Fleisch, to our 300 participants: Software and hardware developers, product designers, and product managers from Bosch customers, IoT start-ups, and independents. I did not see a single suit or tie. The event featured four parallel hack sessions and a focused conference track.

The participants of the #BCX16 had the choice between four hack challenges and one conference track.

There was a tremendous range of things to be seen during the two day event – from tiny MEMS sensors to a complete car, video cameras, Bluetooth tags, nut runners, and a CNC carteser. And these physical world things merged with virtual world technology, such as the Bosch IoT Suite & Cloud, ProSyst, MySPIN, MongoDB, Salesforce, Eclipse IoT, Node.red, ThingWorx, Oracle, MathWorks, and National Instruments. The list is of course much longer.

Here are my top six takeaways from participants who shared their experience in their own blogs.

1. It’s possible to solve a world problem without much significant programming experience in 24 hours .

A simple sensor hack that helps people to maintain a healthy posture: that was the idea of Sebastian and Stefan, an interaction designer and user experience consultant taking part in the Connected Sensors hackathon. According to the Bertelsmann Foundation, German industry could eventually boost productivity by 20 billion euros per year if it could tackle employee time lost related to neck and back pain. Within 24 hours, the hackathon team had found a small wearable sensor to measure posture that was ultimately reminiscent of a Star Trek badge. They also established limits for determining unhealthy neck and back movements. Once the greatest obstacles were solved, the team tackled the audio and visual feedback provided by the iOS application. To do so, they created simple messages to guide the user through the calibration process and how to use the iOS app. All this with limited electrical engineering experience. Congratulations!

2. The best ideas may come from a group of people who don’t even work for you .

Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, Founder of designswarm & Good Night Lamp, was the co-curator of the #BCX16. She blogs about #BCX16, with a team consisting of an academic from the UK and independent software engineers from Switzerland and Germany. The team had never worked together and only met that day. Within a few hours, they had figured out how to address the built-in screen on a Rexroth industrial-grade nutrunner. This small screen became a platform for communicating to workers as they performed their tasks. For Alexandra, this is the perfect example of a business that concedes that the best ideas in a world of connected experience may come from another group of people who don’t even work for you. Moreover, the #BCX16 showed how important it is to seek relationships with a global developer community that no longer interacts with a large business in traditional ways.

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3. Using a single product for more than a single purpose.

Iskander Smit, strategy director at Info.nl, gave a presentation on adaptive interactions and the core of things. Most inspiring for him was the approach of creating a platform for others to use. For example, the collaboration between Bosch SoftTec and TomTom, which promotes solutions for the connected and automated car. Bosch is building components for intelligent mobility that others can use and build upon. The idea is to build not only self-contained products with their own range of functions but also products that can be used as a foundation to spawn other products when they are adapted. Using a single product for more than a single purpose was yet another important takeaway from the #BCX16.

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4. Designing an IoT business model for carsharing within two days.

Matthias Max is a digital product designer, developer and owner of bitflower. In Greenify, his hackathon team merged the idea of car-sharing gamification with eco-friendly driving – with technology based on the Bosch mySPIN sensor interface. Through mySPIN, they had countless sensor data end points available and finally enough material to add substantial value to the car-sharing experience. The team decided that Greenify will be based on gamification aspects. The most important ones were challenges, competition, and a reward system. Drivers would earn badges for safe and eco-friendly driving or for picking up passengers. They would also be able to become better drivers by consulting the community and other drivers to share their experiences and helpful tips. When it comes to business modelling, identifying the added value for stakeholders – car-sharing companies, car-sharing users, and third parties – was a key question on their minds. They took this side of the modeling very seriously, because it is the one differentiator that will turn a nice-to-have app into a winner on the market. Matthias’ final conclusion is that it seems that developing IoT business models is not so much about technology, but more about a way of thinking!

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5. Good ideas may swim against the tide .

Aaron Land, former head of engineering and part of the digital and emerging media team at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City, spoke at the #BCX16 conference about the Pen. In his blog, Aaron explains that the Pen is a digital project and meant to give Cooper Hewitt Museum visitors permission to play in the galleries. That means visitors can touch and in some cases write on objects in the museum. It also allows people to “collect” displayed objects by tapping the pen on the displayed object’s label, which itself contains an embedded NFC tag. Every museum visitor receives a pen that is then paired with their ticket and which contains a unique short code as URL. That code can later be used online to retrieve information about the corresponding visit. A person might call up their visits while they are still in the museum or six months later from home. Throughout the museum, there are also a number of large multi-user interactive tables, each with custom-written applications, where visitors can browse through more information about the displayed objects as well as related objects from the collection. These applications also allow visitors to create – and save – their own designs. The success of this project is astonishing: Launched a year ago tomorrow, the Pen has been used by visitors to collect objects four million times. It enjoys conversion rates of 20 and 30 percent, respectively, for people looking at their online visit within the first two weeks and then creating a Cooper Hewitt account.

“The building, by way of the interactive tables and the Pen, is now the single largest consumer of the museum’s own API

The Pen project is a good example of bridging the gap between digitalization and the analog museum.

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6. Transforming a “things” business into an “Internet of Things” business .

“It was inspiring to see a large enterprise open up its mindset to the agile world of start-ups and Coders ,” says Mirko Ross, co-founder and CEO of digital worx GmbH, and confirms Bosch to be on the right track with its engagement in start-ups. His final observation for the #BCX16: “A large organization is changing its mindset towards disruptive business models in the Internet of Things.” Cool!

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With the first BCX an obvious success, it’s crystal clear to me that we at Bosch have introduced a new and regular format for engaging with developers . It is an important ingredient in transforming a “things” company to an “Internet of Things” company. And it is so important that developers and hackers convey not only to “internet” but also “things” technology. Are you ready to join our next BCX in March 2017?

Save the date #BCX17
 

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.