Bosch ConnectedWorld: Smart Cities, Smart Homes

We’re on to the afternoon breakout sessions at the second (last) day of Bosch ConnectedWorld, starting with the smart city initiatives in Monaco. Their goal is to improve the quality of life for citizens and visitors in this city-state that has both the highest population density and the highest per capita income; this is being addressed through capturing and combining data from a number of different connected components, and integrating with higher-level rules and processes. This manifests in a number of different areas, from energy to transportation to waste management. There were not a lot of specifics, but they appear to be fairly early in the process so haven’t designed, much less deployed, much yet; they are starting with an initiative to add smart sensors wherever possible to enable future smart city capabilities.

We moved from smart cities to smart homes with Bernhard Dörstel from Busch-Jaeger Elektro (a division of ABB), discussing trends in smart homes and shift from home automation as an oddity to mass market. For non-residential buildings, the KNX standard provides guidelines for automated devices, but that standard hasn’t been fully adopted for home automation, which has different concerns and functions than non-residential. That inhibits broad acceptance of these systems, so that they remain “toys” for the financially well-off rather than a part of every home. One trend that is likely to change this adoption is the demographic shift to an older population: selling the (now) middle-aged consumer on the security and control benefits of home automation while they are in their prime earning years and living in a home that they own. Although not explicitly stated, those consumers are also positioned to take greater advantage of smart home technology as they grow older, since it can be used to help them to live independently in their own homes for a longer period of time.

We have a break now, then a short panel discussion and closing remarks, so this is likely the last post from Bosch ConnectedWorld. It was great to have the chance to attend and see how BPM and rules are being used within the context of the internet of things.

Smart Energy At Bosch ConnectedWorld

I was a bit late to the start of the breakout track focused on smart energy solutions, and missed some of the presentation by Cordelia Thielitz of Bosch Energy Storage Solutions group, but I was able to see some of the her case studies for renewable energy usage, such as the use of PV (photovoltaic) combined with scheduling to allow the PV to be used during times of peak prices, reverting to the grid when the cost is lower. Although I think that it is less common in Europe, time-of-use pricing is very common in North America; in Toronto, where I live, the off-peak electricity price for households is only 55% of the peak price, so timing the use of locally-generated energy to avoid the peak can result in a significant cost savings.

The second speaker in this track was Thomas Schäfer of Stromnetz Berlin, which operates the power grid and electricity delivery networks for the city. They are adding technology to improve the performance of the energy grid, starting with adding online measurement of network stations and allowing remote control of these stations, which enables faster switchover in times of power outages so that customers spend less time in the dark. The new technologies also can reduce latency of new connections and service changes, as well as reduce costs, allowing them to remain competitive in a deregulated energy market.

The final speaker in the energy track was Roberto Greening of Bosch SI, showcasing their Virtual Power Plant (VPP) vision that will allow for the monitoring and control of distributed energy providers. Traditionally, the energy grid was made up of a small number of large power plants (fossil fuel/nuclear) that generate an expected amount of electricity onto a common transport and delivery infrastructure. As new plants come online — including sources such as wind power that can be highly variable — the grid needs to get smarter in order to completely understand generation, traffic and consumption. In fact, in Germany, wind and PV sources don’t feed into the high tension transport grid, they feed directly into the distribution network, so the location of the monitoring and measurement needs to change as well. In the last couple of years, things have changed even more: wind and solar increased significantly, nuclear power stations were taking offline, consumers produced their own energy back to the grid, and electricity needed to flow from the distribution network back up to the high tension network for long-range transport. What’s needed is intelligent energy management across this complex, heterogenous network of plants, networks and consumers

Bosch SI ConnectedWorld Day 2 Keynotes

Day 2 of Bosch SI’s ConnectedWorld conference in Berlin started with a keynote by Dr. Volkmar Denner, Chairman of Robert Bosch (the parent company of Bosch SI and many other subsidiaries).  He had a strong message about Bosch’s commitment to continue expanding their repertoire of IP-connected devices. As a major manufacturer of sensors and other enablers for smart technology in automotive, industrial and home applications, they have had to build a lot of the infrastructure required for created smart devices and systems, including the software stack of BPM and BRM, interfaced with device management. As with most new technologies, however, it’s more than just the technology: it’s about new business models that take advantage of that technology, and solutions created to serve those business models. Consider car-sharing, a business model enabled by on-vehicle connectivity technology: although the technology is relatively straightforward, the business model is completely disruptive to the rental car market as well as car sales and leasing. Denner spoke about a number of other emerging technologies and how they are enabling further disruption in the transportation/mobility market by considering multi-modal solutions, including electric bikes and cars that require models for shared charging stations.

Bosch is doing some impressive things on their own in the IoT area, and is pushing it forward even further by partnering with ABB, Cisco and LG to develop open standards for smart home solutions. This will eventually need to address issues of data privacy and security; this has been a hot topic of discussion here since the BMW speaker yesterday stated that they own the data generated by the BMW that you bought.

We also heard from Michael Ganser of Cisco in the morning keynote; his talk was a fascinating look at some of the trends in the “internet of everything” in a hyperconnected world, and drivers for embracing that. There’s a lot of paranoia around having everything in your environment connected and monitoring, but a lot of potential benefits as well: he mentioned that 30% (or more) of traffic in some urban centers is just people looking for parking; smart parking solutions could radically reduce that by matching people with parking spots.

Looking forward to today’s sessions on smart energy grids and smart homes.

Bosch SI ConnectedWorld: Software for IoT

Following the Bosch ConnectedWorld Day 1 keynotes, we broke out to two streams of sessions: business and technology. I’m at the technology track, where we heard from Jim Morrish of Machina Research on the market evolution from M2M to IoT. He had some great examples of how the early telematics/SCADA market evolved to M2M, and is now becoming the more complex and connected IoT market that includes far more than just industrial machines and applications: corporate IT systems, published data feeds, crowdsourced and social media data, and more. Instead of end-to-end connections between hundreds or thousands of like devices, solutions now need to include millions of heterogenous devices and data sources. These changing requirements ripple through the entire software stack: from communications infrastructure and device management to the applications development and operational environments. Being able to communicate, support devices and manage the data flow are the base functionality required, whereas the application development tools are where we’re seeing the competitive differentiators between solutions. In M2M, it was all about the devices and connectivity; in IoT, those are assumed to be offered as a standard platform, and the application developer is key to to creating flexible device-agnostic applications and providing deep integration to business processes.

The remainder of the track was led by the Bosch methodology and solution architecture team — Dr. Frank Puhlmann, Veronika Brandt and Steffen Gürtler — showing us the Bosch software suite for IoT and how the components within it are assembled into a solution. Puhlmann started out by defining the platform, which includes M2M, BPM and BRM; he stressed that a key differentiator for them is being able to have a tight integration between devices and business processes. He used the example of ACME Cleaners (cue Coyote and Roadrunner), an office cleaning company that has a fleet of robot cleaners. And yes, we had a robot cleaner in the presentation room. It’s a commodity cleaner (iRobot), but integrated with a variety of other devices and processes: motion detectors and scheduling software to determine when to run, but also linked to the customer service information such as contracts. He highlighted some of their partners’ hardware involved in the test solution, including a Cisco router and Vodafone SIM M2M, plus their own motion sensors. He also showed a smartphone app that can turn the cleaner on and off, return it to its dock, and even play sounds. He demonstrated a portal that they created, allowing ACME to monitor status and to control devices remotely, but also to process related contracts and invoices. We also saw the Vodaphone portal that can be used to monitor and control the SIM card connections for each device at a more technical level. The entire stack supporting this includes a UI integrator and forms engine connecting to BPM, BRM and M2M management, and including identity management for security. The development environment is model-based, including BPMN for process models, and tightly integrated with the device management.

Brandt and Gürtler then gave a deeper technical look at the ACME Cleaners scenario implementation. In general, the M2M layer interacts with the device events, capturing information that will be used by the higher-level layers, such as area covered by any individual robot cleaner, which may impact billing amounts. The BPM and BRM layers handle customer and device registration, and invoicing according to the billing rules.


The M2M architecture has a central registry of devices that includes information such as the properties of each device, a standardized container for accessing devices, event subscription and processing, and REST APIs. Pretty much any device with an IP address can be integrated into their architecture fairly easily, even more so it if has a REST API already; the ability to control any device will be specific to what functionality that the device exposes. The BPM suite provides a model-driven environment for creating process models, while Visual Rules provides decision tables and trees for modeling rules and decisions. Bringing these together allows for both process-to-device flows — controlling the device schedule, for example — and device-to-process such as sending maintenance requests, with a common identity management layer to control security and access.

Apologies for the graphics quality: the presentation slides aren’t available yet so I’m making do with some bad shots of the projected screen using my phone, and inserting using WordPress for Android which I apparently haven’t completely figured out.

Getting Connected With Bosch

I’m at Bosch Software Innovations (Bosch SI) first ConnectedWorld conference on a bit of a whim: their analyst relations included me on the standard mailer, and I responded that I could attend if they covered my travel expenses. They agreed, and here I am in Berlin — consider that also my disclaimer that Bosch has paid for my travel expenses but not for my time, so anything that I blog here is my own opinion.

The conference opened with a keynote from Dr. Rainer Kallenbach, CEO of Bosch SI. Bosch SI is the software division of Bosch that includes their internet of things (IoT) initiatives, and there’s a lot of IoT on the menu at the keynote as well as the sessions to follow. I’m a big proponent of smart devices of all sorts: beyond my smartphone, we’re playing around at home with a smart electrical switch (I confess, it currently controls the light over the cat’s daytime napping spot, but we’re considering other uses) and a smart smoke/CO alarm; I frequently use car-sharing services that have sufficient in-car connectivity to consider them as smart devices, since they track location, rental status and fuel levels. Kallenbach discussed many other home applications, including smart medication trackers to tell if someone has taken their meds and provide a reminder otherwise, smart vehicles, running shoes that monitor your runs, home security systems and more; plus smart city initiatives to improve traffic, energy, and quality of life. There are also a host of industrial and enterprise applications, such as smart machinery that sends messages to maintenance when it requires service, and smart fleet vehicles that optimize delivery routes.

Bosch SI is a fairly young division of Bosch, and created through the acquisition of a few technology players for BPM and BRM, such as the inubit acquisition just over a year ago and Visual Rules in 2008, and the development of M2M (machine-to-machine) and other related products. Questions for Kallenbach included security of internet-connected devices: there have been a few stories recently about the poor security in home-based connected devices (including in a report, however apocryphal, about a refrigerator sending spam email); the answer was pretty high level but this is obviously an area that will require close scrutiny as more devices become connected.

The second keynote was from Elmer Frickenstein, head of development of electronics at BMW, discussing IoT in the automotive industry. He started by discussing the general trend of IoT, which is to connect everything, and how Google’s recent acquisition of Nest indicates their plans to incorporate smart devices in ways that we probably can’t yet imagine. The data volume projections behind the explosion in IoT over the next five years are shockingly large, with the need for related infrastructure such as additional satellites to transmit the data. His main focus, however, was on BMW’s ConnectedDrive as the natural progression from early functionality such as in-car emergency call systems, to full communications and control systems in a vehicle. One key point is that the new BMWs now have their own SIM card to connect to the internet, hence their own IP address, providing a transport structure for them to connect for remote monitoring, but also to provide functionality such as mobile wifi hotspots for vehicle occupants. This also means that updates can be pushed to the vehicle directly, and there is an application marketplace for apps for your car: that is, the app runs on your car directly, not on your smartphone connected to your car. Think about apps that find and book parking spots for rent, or enable car-sharing, plus navigation systems with real-time traffic and weather monitoring. In the future, fully automated driving so that your car can drop you off at a meeting, then park itself? Since these apps are so closely connected with the car’s operation, the app marketplace is completely controlled and populated by BMW.

There’s a double-edged sword in all of this in-car technology: it can provide a much better driving experience as well as remote maintenance-related monitoring, but adds complexity and potential for complex system failures and security breaches. In fact, Frickenstein stated that BMW considers the data that they collect from vehicles belongs to BMW — presumably to use for vehicle health monitoring — and they consider that they have the right to sell that data to third parties. That’s going to be an extremely controversial point moving forward, especially in other countries; it’s only a short distance down that slippery slope for BMW to allow law enforcement agencies to remotely control your car, and not obvious that you have a way to opt out of this. As much as your insurance company and local police (not to mention the NSA) will love this sort of direct access to your every movement, I can imagine that a lot of people will be reluctant to risk exposing that much information and control of their vehicle to outside parties. I don’t own a car so don’t have to make that decision, but you can be sure that I will have fun with one of these new BMWs and their apps if I have the chance to drive one on loan.