Volkmar Denner has been chairman of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH and a limited partner of Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand KG since July 1, 2012.
Perhaps one of the most exciting developments happening in the Bosch Group at the moment is its transition to an IoT company. The IoT offers a wealth of opportunities in all our business areas: in connected vehicles, connected power tools, connected industry, and smart home solutions, to name just a few. Our strategic target for all of our electronic product categories is to be IoT-enabled by 2020. In order to achieve this ambitious target, we need to put an IoT infrastructure in place that provides our operating units, customers, and business partners with a reliable, efficient, and scalable onramp to the IoT.
Any such IoT infrastructure has multiple facets, and we should perhaps remind ourselves that Rome wasn’t built in a day. One of the first critical IoT infrastructure elements we built was the Bosch IoT Suite. Its components today already connect and manage more than 5 million devices. Another important piece of the IoT puzzle is of course sensor technology. Since 1995, Bosch has delivered some 7 billion MEMS sensors. Every day, more than 4 million MEMS sensors leave Bosch’s state-of-the-art wafer plant in Reutlingen, Germany. Another important milestone was the launch of our XDK sensor kit. Developers inside and outside our company can now create new functions with our sensors.
Underpinning our IoT strategy – the Bosch IoT Cloud
We unveiled the Bosch IoT Cloud at Bosch ConnectedWorld on March 9. This was a very significant step in our ongoing work to build up an IoT infrastructure. Bosch’s own cloud underpins our company’s overarching connectivity strategy – a strategy that aims to design and launch new business models and services in the fields of connected mobility, smart homes, connected energy, connected buildings, smart cities, and connected industry. In the future, Bosch will provide its customers with all the components that make up the connected world – sensors for collecting data, software for developing IoT solutions, and the cloud itself – and it will do so reliably, in the accustomed Bosch quality, and from a single source.
Naturally, one question we had to ask ourselves was: what role should the cloud play in an IoT infrastructure? In order to answer this question, it’s essential to know precisely what capabilities a cloud designed specifically for the IoT has to have.
Five patterns an IoT cloud must support
From research, we know that an IoT cloud must support some very specific application patterns, which in turn will set it apart from other types of cloud. Most IoT solutions are based on a common model: intelligent assets (vehicles, machines, etc.) are connected to business services. Naturally, an IoT cloud has to support this model.
Pattern 1: Cloud-based applications
This first pattern supports applications that reside solely in the cloud – in other words, applications that are not connected to any assets or devices. In many respects, this pattern is supported by any normal cloud: these days, we simply expect a cloud to provide basic support for the things such as developing responsive web applications. But there are some aspects to this pattern that are specific to the IoT. Before connecting to the asset, most IoT solutions require basic functions, such as master data management for users and assets. IoT application developers demand basic functions from a cloud, including the ability to manage the relationship between users and assets also with different access rights.
Pattern 2: Asset-based applications
The second pattern addresses the other side of the equation: an IoT cloud has to support application logic and data, which enables autonomous asset behavior. This is important for many mission-critical solutions that simply cannot rely on the assumption that the asset is always connected. Take, for example, an automated car driving through a tunnel. It is crucial that the automated car still performs all essential functions, despite the temporary lack of connectivity caused by the tunnel.
However, even if asset functions have to perform autonomously in this pattern, there is one dependency on the cloud. Since most IoT solutions are constantly evolving, the IoT cloud’s job is to ensure that software is distributed to the asset whenever a sufficient level of connectivity is available. This is a huge challenge, especially when it comes to managing large numbers of distributed assets with different versions of many different application services.
Pattern 3: Distributed IoT applications
While basic autonomous functions will be integral to most IoT solutions, many will also want to leverage the ability to combine and integrate an application’s logic and data, both on the asset and in the cloud. Distributed IoT applications can be extremely powerful, with the means to harness the IoT’s full potential. A fitting example is Bosch’s Connected Horizon: augmented map data is managed in the cloud, which adds information about things like speed limits, construction sites, and bends. This data can be downloaded to the vehicle and used to support advanced driver assistance functions. For example, if the car is aware of a speed limit ahead, it can automatically switch into coasting mode and decelerate to the required speed by the time the new speed limit applies.
Pattern 4: Digital twin
The basic idea here is that IoT provides us with the ability to create a digital twin of the physical asset based on readouts from machine components as well as additional sensors. This digital twin in the cloud will open up many new functions and solutions, including predictive analytics.
If combined with an IoT cloud app store, the digital twin pattern also promises to help establish new applications. The key benefit for application developers in this scenario is that they don’t have to worry about connecting to the asset and extracting the data. Instead, these applications are simply deployed in a secure sandbox in the cloud, which controls data access for each application. Because the applications are not deployed on the asset, but only in the cloud, the sandbox approach reduces the security risks. Ultimately, development costs are dramatically reduced, which means IoT applications can be developed at cloud speed. Take a usage-based insurance application: instead of having to deploy a costly telematics unit on each new customer’s car, the application can now simply be deployed in the cloud, using the digital twin to calculate the driver’s individual driving score in real time.
Pattern 5: Social IoT
The idea here is that data from multiple assets can be aggregated and used by multiple applications. These applications can use this “social” IoT data to benefit either the community or an individual asset user. A good example of this pattern is community-based parking. More and more cars are being equipped with advanced sensors that allow for real-time measurements of the car’s surroundings. The data gathered can then be used to identify available parking spots as the car drives by. If each car is constantly sharing its position and data on available parking spaces in the area, a social IoT solution can aggregate this data and make it available to those drivers who are currently looking for a parking spot. In order to support the social IoT pattern, an IoT cloud would have to be capable of supporting data ingestion and processing on a massive scale. What’s more, the IoT cloud needs an enforceable data management and security policy to ensure that only designated data is shared.
Now after listing the needs let me close by saying the Bosch IoT Cloud is one of the most important milestones of our transformation into a product company with advanced IT capabilities. Why? The answer is clear:
- We believe the Bosch IoT Cloud strategically completes the Bosch IoT portfolio triad of sensors, software and services.
- We believe the Bosch IoT Cloud is the foundation for a large number of successful IoT service solutions, delivered by Bosch and our partners
- We believe the Bosch IoT Cloud is the answer for those concerned about privacy and security.
Bosch – Invented for life.