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A World ‘Simply Connected’

Take a moment to imagine a world that is even more connected than today. A world built on artificial intelligence and cyber physical systems. A world where factories are seamlessly connected throughout the value chain; where production is optimised automatically in synchronisation with customer needs; where breakdowns never occur thanks to continuous equipment monitoring and reconfigurable processes; and, where the optimum batch size of one is the standard and most cost effective unit of production.

A world where driverless cars have been made ‘smart’, and agricultural yields are significantly improved by real-time actionable and predictive data. A world in which data exchange is unquestionably secure and where sharing data for the benefit of others within and across economies is desired rather than avoided. A world of open standards, where traditional competitors co-operate and collaborate for the greater good. In a connected world, collaboration is the new black.

These advancements and more are all in the making today, and were presented at the 2017 Bosch ConnectedWorld conference that I attended in Berlin earlier this year.

Over the past decade, Bosch innovation has expanded in focus from the development and manufacture of ‘Things’, to also enabling the ‘Internet of Things,’ and offering technology and services that are ‘Simply Connected.’

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) can be described as a range of new technologies, and technologies that have finally come of age, that enable the fusing of the physical, digital and biological worlds. Industry 4.0 will impact all disciplines, economies and industries and will fundamentally change the manufacturing landscape as we know it.

Customers that will demand an increasingly wider range of variants and more personalised products will present a formidable challenge in the future, as will those that dictate participation in a connected value stream as a condition of supply. Whether appreciated or not, this will present challenges to manufacturers that we believe can truly only be met by factories and supply chains that are i4.0 enabled.

Similarly dramatic are the changes in personal mobility. A case in point is the driverless car, or what we call the highly automated vehicle. It is expected that this technology will be brought to market and highly automated driving will be a part of everyday life by 2020. So Bosch technology is not only bringing connectivity and AI to factories, it is also teaching cars how to learn and take appropriate action. When you consider that 90% of crashes are caused by human error, the application of the technology goes far beyond convenience, and takes on a much greater imperative.

In essence, Bosch is creating the brain for the highly automated vehicles of the future via an on-board connected Artificial Intelligence (AI) computer. This AI computer has the ability to interpret road traffic and manoeuvre through it autonomously. Cars already use Bosch sensors to monitor their surroundings, but with artificial intelligence they will also be able to interpret this data and use it to make predictions about the behaviour of other road users.

The computer will store whatever it learns while driving. Following further testing and validation on the road, the artificially generated knowledge can be transmitted to other AI on-board computers via a connected update to further improve the behaviour of all the vehicles similarly equipped.

Going forward, it is Bosch’s aim to assume a leading role in artificial intelligence across many and varied fields. Another example of the use of AI was presented by Australia’s own Ros Harvey, Managing Director of Agtech start-up The Yield, in which Bosch is both a lead investor and technology partner.

Together with Bosch, The Yield is developing Internet of Things (IoT) solutions that will significantly improve farm productivity. The IoT solutions combine micro-climate data collected at the point of growth with historical and forecast weather data, to deliver predictive analytics with the help of AI. These solutions will help growers make critical on-farm decisions which will in turn improve agricultural yields.

Besides artificial intelligence and the cloud, “blockchain” technology is also a major enabler of the connected world. For the layperson, a blockchain uses a type of decentralised database which distributes the information entered across thousands of computers making it impossible to retroactively alter records. When data is stored in this way it can guarantee the provenance of products, services and data. A fundamental requirement in a connected world.

The 2017 ConnectedWorld event was an eye opener in many respects. It highlighted for me that we are about to see a major technological leap, where the opportunities are perhaps limited only by our imagination.

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