Bosch Software Innovation (Bosch SI) hosted its annual analyst briefing in Singapore on 6th December 2019 to provide an update on its business, strategy and solution portfolio in the APAC region.
Bosch has expanded its capability and reshaped its go-to-market approach in a bid to not only position itself as a world leading IoT company, but also help move the IoT market forward.
A number of new solutions were demonstrated through the day. From tenants asking their building management if the gym was busy, to smartphones detecting a manufacturing fingerprint so you could avoid buying a counterfeit.
At the heart of the business updates though was a new organisational approach to prove markets and integrate user perspectives into solution development. Bosch is looking to achieve this by setting up dedicated, cross-divisional entities which can focus on user needs to drive growth while collating requirements for the Bosch SI centres.
Bosch SI essentially will perform a role of an IoT business incubator within Bosch Group, and once a vertical within Bosch SI has reached a certain level of business, it is spun off into a separate company focusing on that area. There are three business units that have met the threshold and have spun off so far.
Broader challenges still remain for IoT adoption. Patchy connectivity, varied regulation, and a lack of standardisation will continue to hamper the IoT market. However, from a user perspective the timing is right. Ecosystm research shows that while IoT uptake is limited, intention is strong. Enterprises will be looking for partners with a willingness to understand their needs and design around them, in order to help get initial projects off the ground.
Bosch Business Update – From Innovation to Commercialisation
Bosch SI was created to build Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, leveraging Bosch’s 133-year experience in developing and manufacturing products for the automotive, industrial and consumer segments. Founded in 2008, by 2019 Bosch SI has established 10 global offices, of which some have solution development capabilities, employing over 700 IoT experts. Four of the Bosch SI offices are located in Asia Pacific – Singapore, Nanjing, Shanghai and Tokyo.
Figure 1: Bosch Software Innovations in Numbers
The Bosch IoT Vision and Strategy is not limited to Bosch SI’s but spans across the full Bosch Group. An indication of the dedication to the IoT story is that Bosch is committed to enabling connectivity for all existing product portfolios ranging across its industrial, automotive, manufacturing and consumer product lines by 2021.
Another indication of Bosch’s IoT business maturing is that in 2018 Bosch it formed 3 new subsidiaries, each being a dedicated entity to take targeted IoT Industry solutions to market. The new business entities focus on
with other areas such as Agriculture, Retail, Energy, Mobility, Manufacturing and Home & Building as potential future spin-offs. The announcement is significant as it separates the innovation and commercialisation functions. Bosch SI becomes the dedicated R&D and incubation engine to take new industry solutions to a defined threshold before a dedicated entity is formed to achieve commercial scale.
Despite the fact that IoT has been greatly overhyped since the term was coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999, Ecosystm research shows evidence that adoption is accelerating across the region. Figure 2 outlines the current and planned adoption of ‘sensor-based analytics’ within organisations. The research strongly supports Bosch’s timing for investments in scaling the commercialisation of its solutions.
Figure 2: Industry Adoption of Sensor-Based Analytics
Market Pull over Technology Push is creating proven Industry Use Cases
The locations and specialisations of Bosch’s Innovation Centres across Asia are no accident and result directly from engagements with local clients. Each innovation centre specialises in certain solutions that have arisen from the productisation of solutions developed for customers. This ‘market pull’ strategy is a clear differentiation to the commonly practiced ‘technology push’ approach which has seen many vendors struggle to gain traction for their IoT solutions. Key industry solutions developed by Bosch SI are:
Agriculture – Bosch Plantect: (Japan). Plantect is a sensor-based monitoring system for early detection and prevention of plant diseases in greenhouses. The current solution targets greenhouse farmers for tomatoes, cucumber and strawberries.
Smart Building – Bosch Lift Manager (Singapore). Lift Manager is an AI-supported solution that can be retrofitted in existing lifts with set algorithms to monitor and predict lift malfunctions and enable predictive maintenance.
Smart Building – Connected Buildings (Singapore). Bosch Connected Building leverages cameras and sensors to optimise business operations such as Air Quality, Light Monitoring & Control, Lift Monitoring, Occupancy Tracking, Asset Tracking, Carpark Monitoring, and Object Tracking.
Manufacturing – Secure Product Fingerprint Solutions (China). Secure Product Fingerprint captures a unique fingerprint for products to combat counterfeits and connect manufacturers with their users.
The Bosch IoT Ecosystem – Open Source and API enabled Platform
Bosch has realised that IoT is a concept that cannot be owned and delivered by a single entity. As such Bosch aims to establish its Bosch IoT Suite as the platform to connect any Bosch or third party “things” to deliver targeted industry services and solutions.
Bosch IoT Suite can be deployed on Bosch’s own IoT Cloud or through Cloud partners such as AWS, Microsoft or Huawei (for China only). It is a PaaS offering that packages unified device APIs to connect things with device management, software updates over the air, data management and security capabilities. An inbuilt analytics engine assists with business logic tools to drive business value out of the data collected. The open source and open standards architecture promote the development of in-house or third-party industry applications as platform add-ons and use cases.
Bosch and Market Outlook
IoT has been one of the most hyped ‘buzz words’ for the last few years but true market adoption is yet to follow suit. Ecosystm research shows that market intention is positive with more industry-focused uses cases and simpler ‘plug and play’ style solutions available that require less CapEx and shorter time to value.
Bosch is well positioned to capitalise on this trend. Its focus on developing proven use cases for targeted industry sectors and then working with anchor customers and testing the solutions internally within Bosch, is a clear differentiator in the market. Commercially scaling these solutions will remain the key challenge as decision stakeholders may not be the key beneficiary of the solution. In the connected building example, tenants will be the key beneficiary of finding quiet gym slots or having better air quality but it remains questionable whether this will convince the building owner or operator to put pen to paper and sign-off on relevant IoT investments. An area that Bosch needs to focus on, is the articulation of its business proposition and more importantly connect this to the business value to prospects and customers. As solutions scale in the market, broader sales and partner teams will need to be enabled to bring this message to the relevant stakeholders. The fact that these stakeholders may sit outside Bosch’s traditional comfort zone will not make this endeavor easier.
Bosch will also face varying market regulations that could create road bumps in scaling its solutions. The Bosch Lift Manager solution as an example provides sensor diagnostics for predictive maintenance scheduling. Many existing lift maintenance contracts however follow local regulations that require ongoing scheduled servicing of elevators which reduces the cost savings potential.
The decision to establish standalone IoT entities is seen as a strong commitment and the right move to take advantage of the presented IoT opportunity. The high degree of customer advocacy and industry experience further makes Bosch a strong contender of the Industry 4.0 revolution.
The Government will primarily focus on four significant sectors for its Industry Transformation Plans: food and beverage, agritech, forestry and wood processing, and digital technologies. For this, the government will work with businesses, workforce, and Māori to determine the best path towards to achieve their goals.
Agritech Industry Transformation Plan
New Zealand’s agritech sector spans across a range of technologies including genetics, information and communications technology, machinery and equipment, including robotics. The government is working with industry body ‘Agritech NZ’ and other relevant entities to draft a strategy and action plan for agritech transformation in New Zealand. The objective is to support production, drive innovation and increase exports for New Zealand’s industry.
Commenting on the NZ’s digital transformation Ecosystm Principal Advisor, New Zealand-based Jannat Maqbool, said “the agriculture sector needs to focus on innovation in order to compete and thrive as global trends and consumer demand presents challenges in feeding the growing global population. Investment in programmes driving investment in technologies and related initiatives to boost innovation and productivity in the sector will support the growing Agritech sector including work to scale Agritech businesses internationally.”
Digital technology opportunities
To support the ongoing development of New Zealand’s technology and industrial sector, the NZ government is taking several actions. The government has plans for more coordinated action between industry and the Government. Including:
Continuing work with the IoT Alliance and the AI Forum to drive applications of digital technologies;
Implementing Industry 4.0 programmes to increase uptake technologies and processes across manufacturing sectors, improving productivity and competitiveness;
Coordinating, developing and rolling out a National Digital Infrastructure Model to generate value from data for all aspects of the economy–e.g. infrastructure management and development;
Supporting New Zealand digital technology firms by providing a level playing field for New Zealand firms to compete for government business;
Working through the Digital Skills Forum to ensure the digital technology sector, and the industries that rely on digital technology workers, can access the tech talent needed to support the growth of these sectors and the economy.
With Government setting itself for the fourth industrial revolution, there will be certain challenges and opportunities in the implementation, “the opportunity is for increased productivity and to focus more on value add to compete internationally whereas a key challenge will be finding the skilled employees that will be required as industry 4.0 is adopted” said Maqbool.
Journey of NZ industries for digital transformation
SMEs make up over 97 percent of enterprises in New Zealand and digital transformation presents an opportunity for accelerated growth and competitiveness, potentially contributing US$7 billion to New Zealand’s GDP. “Digital transformation requires awareness, adoption and effective change management but before all of this there needs to be a shift in mindset of those in charge or a changing of the guard so to speak to understand and appreciate that the move is necessary, not only for the business itself but for bridging the digital skills gap and supporting a region’s productivity and economic growth ” said Maqbool.
The Government has also created plans for tourism, creative industries, aerospace, renewable energy and health technologies for the digital push. These advances will facilitate the development of new industries in New Zealand.
“It essential that efforts through government initiatives align with other approaches already driving the move to digital in order to ensure available resources are effectively utilised and for ongoing sustainability,” says Maqbool.
A preview of the New Zealand Agritech Story, developed along with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE), was kicked off on a foggy Waikato morning on day two of Fieldays, providing insights into the country’s competitive advantage in Agritech along with perceptions of key global players. This was then followed by the New Zealand government announcing a new $20 million Agritech investment venture fund.
NZ Tech reports that the tech sector in New Zealand is the third largest and fastest growing export sector, worth $6.3 billion in 2015, and according to the TIN100, the Waikato, has had the fastest growing tech sector in the country two years in a row. New Zealand Agritech exports stand at $1.4 billion in 2018 and is growing – and together with a strong tech sector overall, the investment will help position New Zealand at the forefront of Agritech innovation globally.
Day two also revealed Fieldays Innovation Award winners across a range of categories including Modusense who took out the Gait International Innovation Award for Product Design and Scalability. Modusense, developed here in the Waikato, is a secure, scalable and reliable Internet of Things (IoT) device platform that provides everything needed to deploy remote data collection. In the primary industries sector, Modusense enables complete apiary health monitoring.
Another IoT enabled solution, RiverWatch, was awarded the AWS Innovation Award in Data for their “Fitbit for water” – an inexpensive water quality monitoring device. RiverWatch is currently running trials in the upper Waikato River in partnership with Te Arawa River Iwi Trust to look at the impacts of industry and farming on water health.
Agritech will transform the industry, and innovations such as those mentioned will further advance New Zealand’s position in the agriculture industry. The true value of Agritech will be realised when AI-enabled IoT is leveraged for cost savings through process automation, and for greater visibility of the entire supply chain. And leading organisations in the industry are aware of it. In the global Ecosystm AI study, Resource & Primary industries (including Agriculture) emerged as a leader when it comes to current and future deployments of IoT Sensor Analytics.
Innovations in IoT
Shipping and logistics in the agricultural sector present unique challenges including a lack of transparency, something that Sparrows.io is working to solve with a hardware and software solution that provides actionable insights using custom sensor modules and live tracking to enable visibility over the supply chain.
The recently launched TRex – IoT, Telemetry, Data and Messaging I/O Transceiver, was also being showcased in the Innovation Centre. Designed to be used for long range monitoring and control, the solution enables two-way messaging and is customisable to meet the needs of applications across various industry sectors including agriculture and farming.
Another innovation that caught my attention at the Innovation Centre was a water monitoring and management device designed to be connected to the irrigation system to enable effective management of water through a mesh network. Hailing from the deep south Next Farm has developed two solutions, with their Remote Irrigation Mesh (RIM) product utilising integrated farm sensor technology together with cloud-based dashboards allowing farmers to maximise the efficiency of water usage while minimising runoff.
Innovations in AI
One of my favourites from last year, Halter, were in the Mystery Creek Pavillion this year and after raising $8 million in funding to refine and further trial their solar-powered collar, for herding cows and monitoring their health, in the Waikato they are close to hitting the open market. Head of Data Science at Halter, Harry She, previously employed by NASA, oversees the development of what the team calls “cowgorithms” which form the basis of the AI underpinning much of the product functions. The collars, which can receive signals up to 8 kms away, is available free and farmers then subscribe on a monthly basis, at a cost per cow, to enable the features they require.
Another product back for another year was the PAWS® Pest Identification Sensor Padfrom Lincoln Agritech which is able to identify pests, differentiating these from native species, and transmit the result to the Department of Conservation staff. Utilising machine learning and AI, amongst other technologies, the device greatly reduces surveillance workload and enables staff to detect and respond to re-invasion more rapidly.
However, as exciting as the idea of a Fitbit for cows and innovation in the pursuit of a predator-free New Zealand is, I must admit the highlight of my Fieldays visit was a team of Agribusiness students from Hamilton’s St Paul’s Collegiate school who were awarded the Fieldays Innovations Young Innovator of the Year Award for their floating electro unit “Bobble Trough” designed to keep animal water troughs clean by preventing the growth of algae and microorganisms through the release of copper ions into the water.
I am now working to secure the team’s innovation as a display in a Smart Space being launched in July as part of the Hamilton City Council’s smart cities initiative, Smart Hamilton. A space designed to provide an opportunity for the wider community to engage with technology innovation and be involved in co-creating solutions that enhance the wellbeing of Hamiltonians.