German global engineering and electronics firm Bosch has launched a suite of cloud-based services for the Internet of Things. The new services, designed to build on the company's existing sensor, software and connectivity offerings, were announced during the Bosch ConnectedWorld 2016 event in Berlin that wrapped up yesterday.
Bosch also unveiled a new project to bring together international industrial standards with Germany's "Industrie 4.0" platform. Bringing the two together will enable easier exchanging of data for the connected industry, the company said.
An annual two-day conference for company customers, partners and employees, Bosch ConnectedWorld this year featured a keynote address on IoT and the cloud by CEO Volkmar Denner, along with presentations by SAP, TCS, Infosys, Cisco and other companies. In addition to a focus on the industrial Internet, the event also featured programs on big data, mobility technology and connected homes and buildings.
'A Competitive Edge' in Security
"The Bosch IoT Cloud is the final piece of the puzzle that completes our software expertise," Denner said Wednesday during the conference. He added that the new services, which the company will begin using in-house this year and offer to other customers starting in 2017, represent "a major milestone for Bosch."
One key benefit the company is highlighting is the fact that its cloud infrastructure is located in Germany rather than in the U.S., where concerns over security have been raised in the wake of surveillance by the National Security Agency and battles over Apple encryption led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
"Many companies and consumers state that security concerns keep them from using cloud technologies and connectivity solutions," Denner said in a statement from the conference. He added that Bosch's IoT cloud computer center near Stuttgart provides the company's offering with "a competitive edge."
Common Standards for Improved Automation
The foundation of Bosch's IoT Cloud will be the company's own IoT Suite that helps to identify Web-enabled objects and orchestrate data exchanges across the network to enable a range of services and applications. The IoT Suite also lets users store rules for automated decision-making, for example, to report signs of wear and tear once they reach certain levels or to launch preventive services to avoid machinery malfunctions.
Bosch already offers a variety of IoT services and products, including its Smart Home System and remote access services for technicians troubleshooting company-made heating systems. The company's cloud-based services also provide crop data to asparagus farmers and commuter information on available parking spaces in Stuttgart's train network.
Meanwhile, Bosch's new "Industrie 4.0" initiative -- bringing together standards from Germany and the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) -- is aimed at ensuring a common technical language for industrial applications in manufacturing, logistics and building and energy management. For instance, the company is already using such an approach to manage machinery operations at its Homburg factory to reduce electricity consumption during peak load times on the energy grid.
Acting as a Tech Vendor
Working together, the IIC and Industrie 4.0 can set up shared test-beds and work to develop common architectures and standards, said Henning Banthien, administrative director for the Industrie 4.0 platform, in a statement. "The complementary nature of their approaches will greatly boost the development of connected industry and the Internet of Things," he said.
Frank Gillett, a principal analyst with Forrester Research Inc., who focuses on the Internet of Things, was at Bosch ConnectedWorld this week. Gillett told us that although some observers have taken Bosch's announcement to mean that the company aims to compete with the likes of Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, the reality is a bit more complicated.
The Bosch IoT Cloud is designed first to support the existing products and services Bosch builds itself and bring them into the Internet of Things, he said. But it is also aimed at Germany-based (and, eventually, other regional) manufacturers that want to build IoT-based capabilities into their own products.
In essence, Bosch is presenting itself more like a GE or a Schneider Electric -- an industry-focused company that understands potential IoT needs of manufacturers better than a software and IT company might, Gillett said. "They're acting as a technology vendor to other companies to help other companies IoT their products," he said.
Bosch's entree marks a two-pronged attack on the emerging IoT market, he added. "Effectively, it's a drag race right now between the generalists and the specialists," Gillett said. "The question isn't who wins but how much share each gets."
Image Credit: All photos courtesy of Bosch.