This year’s CeBIT was alive with tangible impressions of how the sweeping wave of digitalization is reshaping the economy and society. Leading research institutes and companies serving every conceivable user industry were joined by numerous startups to showcase the latest advances in the Internet of Things, Cloud computing, IT security, mobile applications and social business.
High-performance drones, self-learning machines, networked vineyards, technology that literally gets under your skin and a robot that can even display emotions: CeBIT 2016 showcased more technical innovations than ever before. All this was backed up by the high-caliber CeBIT Global Conferences featuring more than 200 speakers, among them such personalities as Phil Zimmermann, inventor of the legendary Pretty Good Privacy encryption software, Swedish bio-hacking activist Amal Graafstra and media icon Jeff Jarvis.
The Internet of Things as a key springboard for digitalization
This year’s event, staged under the motto “d!conomy: join – create – succeed” , focused on how companies can derive the maximum benefit from all the available digitalization opportunities. The overarching theme was clearly the Internet of Things (IoT): By 2020, far more than 50 billion objects are expected to be hooked up to the Internet, worldwide. The numerous competitive opportunities opened up by IoT technologies were showcased at the IoT/M2M pavilion. Corporations such as Telefónica and TomTom Bridge were in Hannover to present their latest applications. Eurotech partnered with OSGi Alliance to display a model railway as an example of Java-based controlling of complex traffic systems by means of portable software modules.
Many other exhibitors also showcased IoT technologies for real-world applications. For example, SAP exhibited a street lamp which can double as a charging station for electric vehicles, as well as sensors to measure airborne pollutants, provide real-time flood alarms in rainstorms, and keep an eye on passing traffic with a radar camera. Intel astounded CeBIT visitors with an incredibly realistic replication of a vineyard equipped with a solar-operated sensor station, enabling the winegrower to monitor the grape-ripening process by smartphone. Deutsche Telekom showcased its “from the field to the plate” digitalization process, with sensors capturing the number of sunshine hours and soil moisture data and uploading this information to the Cloud where it can be retrieved by GPS-controlled farm machinery. In another IoT scenario, this time from the health sector, ZTE displayed a sensor-based connected mobile health solution designed to protect the elderly from an outbreak of chronic diseases.
Big Data and the Cloud as pillars of digital transformation
The intelligent processing of ever-larger volumes of data in industry, logistics, health and mobility is rapidly transforming the economy. Almost half of all German companies are now using leased infrastructure from the Web. Cloud computing seemed to be everywhere at this year’s tradeshow – at the German premiere of the Salesforce World Tour, for example, which offered numerous examples of the accelerating pace of the digital transformation. Companies like Deutsche Telekom and Microsoft were on hand to display design concepts reconciling the flexible availability of IT resources with Germany’s strict legislation on data security. Researchers at Hasso-Plattner Institute addressed the issue of big data from a somewhat different angle. They have developed a software package which analyzes comments in social media channels to find potential customers for specific products.
New technologies for increased IT security
CeBIT 2016 impressed with an enormous variety of business security solutions – from an app for secure cellphone calls to the Airbus’s Cyber Defense Center for the fast detection of web-based attacks. Today’s businesses are increasingly having to deal with targeted cyber-attacks. In response to this threat, Kaspersky was in Hannover to showcase its new “Anti Targeted Attack Platform”. Another topic continuing to attract high interest is the encryption of e-mails. The Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology (SIT) began taking requests at CeBIT for its “people’s encryption” system scheduled to become available in the middle of this year – at no charge for private users. Another key security-related issue was taken up by Vodafone, with a connected bodycam for police, paramedics and fire-fighting personnel, designed to enhance public safety at major public events.
Disruptive business models from creative startups
CeBIT notched a new record for participation by startups at this year’s event, with more than 400 young enterprises represented in Hannover – 300 of them at the special SCALE11 display, alone. This leading European platform for startups provided a showcase for smart ideas in the Big Data, eCommerce, Mobility & Automotive, Smart Cities and FinTech areas. Deutsche Bahn partnered with a startup to present a system for reliably reading the distance from an oncoming train simply by registering the rail sounds. Eliminating the need for electrical wiring is expected to cut the operating costs for railway crossings by half.
With a prize purse of €50,000, the CeBIT Innovation Award was won by Felix Kosmalla and Frederik Wiehr from the German Artificial Intelligence Research Center (DFKI) in Saarbrücken for their “climbtrack” solution, which uses augmented reality to document the routes taken and training progress achieved on climbing walls. Certificates of merit were also awarded to Urban Invention GbR’s “ActiWait,” an interactive attachment for a signal request button at pedestrian crossing lights, and the “Cryptomator” developed by two IT students from Bonn, as the first reliable, client-side open-source encryption system for a Cloud store; the solution is platform-independent, and also suitable for users with limited technology familiarity.
Optimized digital administration processes
Digitalization represents a major challenge for government agencies. All their data will have to be securely and efficiently processed and dispatched. Exhibitors such as Software AG and Governikus were at the tradeshow to showcase their solutions to implementing “Digital Administration 2020.” The Competence Center for Public IT (ÖFIT) showed CeBIT visitors how existing technologies can already be used to develop a user-oriented umbrella portal for federal, state and municipal services. Further practice-friendly ideas were on display at Public Sector Parc and the BITKOM group pavilion.
Drones and humanoid robots conquer the business world
A noteworthy debut at this year’s CeBIT consisted of the Dronemasters Summit , which – along with an impressive exhibition segment – offered an extensive conference program and even a flight arena. The focus was on business applications for flying robots, as used for example by energy companies to monitor the condition of overhead powerlines and substations.
But the crowd favorite at CeBIT had to have been “Pepper,” a humanoid robot developed by French-based Aldebaran and IBM which can speak 20 languages, recognizes its interlocutor’s emotions from his facial expressions, and is going to be used not only in Japanese temples of consumerism, but also, in the near future, on German cruise ships.
An innovative avatar platform from Hewlett Packard Enterprise is designed to open up new business opportunities. A first prototype, on display at CeBIT, allows users to “virtually” try on a garment before purchasing it online, thus helping online retailers lower the number of returns.
Technology that gets under your skin
Digital transformation is set to give new meaning to “bio-hacking,” aka “the Internet of Us.” At the Digiwell stand, CeBIT visitors were able to have an NFC chip the size of a grain of rice implanted between their thumb and first finger. These chips can be used as mobile data carriers, allowing you to open your front door without a key. The bio-hackers’ vision for the future is that within ten years it will be possible to boost human performance by implanting a chip in people’s brains.
Augmented & Virtual Reality to be the next big things
Today’s production processes involve recording ever higher volumes of machine and process data. But how can we sift out the useful content from these mountains of data? The Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT) exhibit at CeBIT 2016 demonstrated how smart data analytics with an augmented reality application can be displayed on the floor – the target and actual values of a production machine, for example. As another premiere at this year’s CeBIT, Brother introduced its new data goggles, designed primarily for use in logistics and clinical environments.
A special eye-catcher at CeBIT involved the guest appearance by Tristan, the virtual dinosaur from the Berlin Museum of Natural History, courtesy of a Smartphone app by Shoutr. This stunningly true-to-life animation was screened over the real environment of the trade fair hall.