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Using synergies for a connected company

Woman with tablet in lean production Source: Sylvia Stockbauer

At Bosch ConnectedWorld 2016, it was obvious to each visitor that Bosch is on track to become a major player in the IoT space. The opening keynote given by our CEO Dr. Denner explained why Bosch is entering the IoT market and why it is launching its own Bosch IoT Cloud. In the future, Bosch will support its physical products as well as their virtual digital twins throughout their complete lifecycles. Given Bosch’s broad offerings on the international automotive, industry, energy, and consumer markets, exciting times lie ahead, during which we will have to work on common open standards (a new way of thinking in the automotive industry) and international collaborations. As an example, we saw the “handshake” between Plattform Industrie 4.0 and the Industrial Internet Consortium live at the #BCW16.

Anytime Bosch faces a common technology challenge across its various business sectors and divisions, the company tackles it by leveraging a Bosch-wide Center of Competence (RB CoC). A Center of Competence focuses on pooling competencies and providing knowledge-based services. Currently there are 18 CoCs, established by stakeholders from different divisions. One of the newest is the Connectivity CoC, which handles IoT challenges. This is my CoC and I am proud to be part of the team. Having worked on IoT topics for almost 10 years, starting with the retail industry and then building my first smart home, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to contribute my knowledge to an evolving organization like Robert Bosch GmbH.

Focus on synergies

As many of the other CoCs do, we focus on creating synergies among the different business sectors and the divisions mainly by executing regulatory functions; providing design recommendations, methods, and tools; and supporting technology planning. A key CoC activity in strategic development is supporting the preparation for national and European R&D projects, e.g. the EU ECSEL public-private partnership. In this area, I can benefit from my background in IoT consulting. Here it’s necessary to take cross-functional action between software and hardware. Driven by IoT Advanced Interconnection Technology (AIT) trends, such as flexible electronics, harsh environments, and wireless sensors, new technological hardware approaches are needed to integrate the electronic functionality that the customer requires.

One of the initiatives supported by our Connectivity CoC tool development is the Vorto project under the Eclipse umbrella. Vorto is an open source tool that allows you to create and manage technology-agnostic, abstract device descriptions, also known as information models. The tool fits perfectly into our agenda as it can be implemented in automotive, industry, and consumer applications. You can find more details about the project here, written by Connectivity CoC member Olaf Weinmann.

Most of the solutions presented at #BCW16 are based on established wireless standards like Bluetooth, ZigBee, Wifi, GSM, and RFID technologies, with our CoC providing support inside the organization. Radio regulation and physical layer standardization, including 5G, are coordinated by the CoC for Radio Frequency Affairs. These standards require membership at the corporate level as well as coordination across the Bosch Group due to requests from multiple divisions. And because these standards are critical for our business, we have to define and establish our position in them to gain a competitive advantage.

Looking ahead, interoperability among these standards will play a major role in future IoT use cases, and our CoC will pave the way toward this goal.

At the conference, we saw GSM-based solutions for railway logistics and live demonstrations of firmware over the air (FOTA) for connected cars. To our CoC, these are perfect candidates for building common product platforms for mobility solutions. The logistics tracker use cases open the door to the market for low-energy connected sensor nodes and to developing a platform to minimize hardware costs. The experience in FOTA application for connected cars can be applied in all other IoT mobility scenarios, such as for e-bikes, scooters, wheelchairs, or robots.

However, the Cross Domain Development Kit XDK from Bosch and the recently announced Smart Home Controller are also laying the foundation for further wireless-enabled products (BT, WiFi, ZigBee). In addition, the IoT is driving new wireless technologies such as LoRa and NB-IoT, for example in mobility and agricultural applications. We in the Connectivity CoC are actively monitoring up-and-coming technologies to decide if Bosch should participate in the standards discussion and initial technology testbeds.

Shared knowledge enables shared solutions

It is important to us to install a proper knowledge management platform to ensure that knowledge is distributed across Bosch’s business sectors and divisions. By doing so, the CoC helps the different businesses to get their technologically excellent products onto the IoT market much faster. Another positive effect of shared solutions are higher Bosch sales of the shared wireless components. Given the fact that the IoT is currently still divided into separate vertical markets, common cross-domain solutions are key to decreasing the costs for end-to-end solutions.

Each year at Bosch ConnectedWorld, I can see the changes happening at Bosch as it becomes an IoT company, and I’m looking forward to experiencing the next step at #BCW17. Hopefully, our Connectivity CoC has helped a little bit in the move from a connected company to a connected world.