Hannover, Germany. This year's CeBIT provided tangible evidence of the wave of digitalization sweeping the economy and society. The highlights included a minibus equipped with artificial intelligence making it capable of answering passengers' questions, drones which can be used to inspect industrial plant and equipment and the Smart City, boasting a sustainable infrastructure and providing new services to its residents.
As this year's official Partner Country , Japan provided a spectacular display of technical innovations, sending approximately 120 businesses occupying 7,200 square meters of display space to the event, making it the largest Partner Country showcase in the history of CeBIT. Other highlights in the CeBIT program included the CeBIT Global Conferences , featuring more than 200 speakers on three different stages – including leading Japanese robotics researcher Hiroshi Ishiguro, AI visionary Ray Kurzweil – who is predicting the fusion of man and machine within the next 15 years – and social media expert Michal Kosinski, with his provocative take on psycho-targeting during election campaigns. U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden, speaking on live video link from his Russian exile, said that the increasingly widespread use of encryption technologies was now making it more difficult for hackers to access data, although the "golden age of secret services" remained a reality, he maintained.
Internet of Things: The new business universe
The intelligent networking of machines, infrastructure and products within a diverse range of application environments is smoothing the road to digital transformation. The extent to which the Internet of Things is already a reality was illustrated by a range of impressive showcases at CeBIT 2017 – autonomous guided vehicles, for example. Visitors to the Vodafone display were able to see how vehicles equipped with LTE-V2X technology can communicate with each other to prevent accidents. And power-saving Narrowband-IoT technology, as presented by Deutsche Telekom for the connection of residential and commercial buildings, was another focal topic, along with the approaching 5G mobile telephony standard, which from the year 2020 will be used for data exchange between billions of machines and physical products.
eMobility pioneer Tesla was at CeBIT to demonstrate how electric cars can be charged at home using its Powerwall energy storage system. SAP on the other hand displayed a model airport demonstrating how the realtime analysis of airport workflows can enable management to respond flexibly to a number of different situations – from long waiting lines at security checkpoints and airfield traffic to empty shelves in airport shops. Telefónica also had a raft of exciting IoT solutions on display, including smart sports shoes outfitted with a step analysis tool, intelligent fleet management software and a connected protective helmet for use in extreme environments. Another standout attraction at CeBIT 2017 was the M2M/IoT pavilion, where Eurotech, with partners such as the OSGi Alliance, presented solutions like field service management, smart energy and environmental technology, all geared to a variety of industrial sectors.
The Public Sector Parc showed how public administration can use the information captured via the Internet of Things for commercial purposes, or make it available to citizens via a service portal – information on air particulate pollution in a given neighborhood, for example. The winner of this year's CeBIT Innovation Award also comes from the IoT sector: the ingenious Smartphone app from Plantix, which uses an extensive database to provide a visual display of a pest infestation or nutrient deficiency affecting fruit and vegetable crops.
Artificial intelligence: Giving thought to robots and machines
Other megatrends at this year's CeBIT consisted of artificial intelligence and self-learning systems. The state of the art was showcased most persuasively by exhibitors from Japan, which is viewed as the world's leading robotics nation. Highlights included Fujisoft's humanoid robot, already in use in senior residential homes in the Far East, and Yaskawa's robotic arm, allowing flexible interaction with the surrounding environment. There were also numerous showcases demonstrating the use of AI systems in industrial production, including for predictive maintenance and quality assurance or as smart workplace assistants.
Self-learning solutions represent a real milestone in other areas as well, including for medical diagnosis and autonomous guided vehicle traffic, as demonstrated by IBM with its Watson computer system. There is a general trend towards more user-friendly human-machine interfaces, as intelligent bots replace display instructions, and sensor-equipped machines or cyberphysical systems detect problems early on, ordering the required replacement parts as necessary.
Cybersecurity: Connectivity equals vulnerability
One of the most serious IoT-related security threats is the problem of insufficiently protected connections between machines and the web. Airbus Cybersecurity was at CeBIT to display a secure design concept for remote maintenance, with extensive surveillance functionality. Exhibitors such as Cisco, Kaspersky Lab and Trend Micro were also presenting new data security products, for connected production, smart cities and SMEs, for example, who are increasingly being targeted by hacker groups. One of the standout attractions was the "Haunted House" display presented by Sophos, replicating a smart home, and showing how cyber-gangsters can attack household appliances like a refrigerator, a digitally controlled heating system, or a video surveillance camera in the absence of timely precautions. In his address at CeBIT, Holger Münch, President of the German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation, warned of the need for closer international cooperation in fighting Internet crime. In a striking soccer analogy, he suggested we still playing like a varsity squad in the investigation of such crimes, whereas "we need to get into the Champions League!", he said
Everything in the cloud
Cloud computing now connects everyone to everything – companies, systems and products – as the technology that makes the Internet of Things possible. Along with cloud-based solutions for all kinds of business processes ahead of the imminent switch-off of ISDN, CeBIT displays focused on Unified Communication as a Service solutions, in which all communication tools are provided in the cloud, for higher worker productivity and clear cost benefits.
Drones: Taking business ideas to new heights
An entire hall at CeBIT was devoted to Unmanned Systems & Solutions. The expansive flight arena provided an ideal space for live displays of the most promising applications of smart-connected drones and other flying devices, on land and water and in the air. The exhibited applications ranged from logistics to surveying systems and use in disaster areas. The Chinese manufacturer Yuneec presented a flying robot independently able to detect and avoid obstacles, while another model displayed by Globe UAV can compile aerial photographs over a radius of 30 kilometers even in the hours of darkness, thanks to night vision functionality. Yet the industry is already moving on: a spin-off of the Technical University of Darmstadt exhibited a flying robot with vertical take-off and landing capability, thanks to a patented tilt-rotor mechanism.
Augmented & Virtual Reality: Unlimited possibilities
Directly adjacent to the drones, CeBIT visitors were able to explore the potential of the trend technologies of augmented & virtual reality for industry, trade and tourism, and to network with suppliers of professional business solutions. There were also some exciting VR applications on display for industry in the R&D domain: the West Saxony University of Applied Sciences in Zwickau presented its protective helmet with integrated data goggles, displaying warning messages to protect the safety of steel workers. And Fraunhofer Institute researchers have developed a process that uses internet technology for the augmented reality visualization of large CAD models that conventional terminal devices are unable to process.
Mobility: Electric, autonomous trendsetters
CeBIT 2017 also impressively underscored its status as the world's most important digitalization event in a number of other domains. A revolutionary electric car, the e.GO Life, was on show, for example, developed on the campus of RWTH Aachen University with fully digitalized processes, and about to go into serial production for a price of around 16,000 euros. Another vision that became a reality for CeBIT visitors was riding in a driverless bus over parts of the fairgrounds - the Schweizer Post "Smart Shuttle" was on hand for all five days of the fair to give visitors their first experience of the future of fully autonomous driving.
CeBIT – Global Event for Digital Business
CeBIT is the world's foremost event on everything essential to the wave of digitalization transforming virtually every aspect of business, government and society. The show annually features around 3,000 exhibitors and attracts some 200,000 visitors to its home base in Hannover, Germany. The spotlight is on all the latest advances in fields such as artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, virtual and augmented reality, humanoid robots and drones. Thanks to a rich array of application scenarios, CeBIT makes digitalization tangible in the truest sense of the word. "d!conomy – no limits", the chosen lead theme for 2017, underscore's the show's emphasis on revealing the wealth of opportunities arising from the digital transformation. As a multifaceted exhibition/conference/networking event, CeBIT is a perennial must for everyone involved in the digital economy. The startup scene is also right at home at CeBIT and its dedicated SCALE 11 showcase, which in 2017 sported more than 400 aspiring young enterprises. CeBIT 2017 was staged from 20 to 24 March, with Japan as its official Partner Country. For further information, visit www.cebit.de.