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How startups and corporations can jointly take the Internet of Things forward

hubraumTo implement innovations you need the creativity and flexibility of a startup and the knowhow and resources of a corporate group. Uniting the best of both worlds, the ‘challenge up!’ startup initiative seeks to fire up the development of the Internet of Things.

The Internet of Things is a breeding ground for new ideas. That plays into the hands of startups as a matter of principle. They mostly have fresh ideas and are able to develop them fast thanks to their compact structure. At the same time, however, scarce resources and a lack of knowhow slow them down. Corporations could solve this dilemma.

As a rule, startups with good ideas are merely on the shopping list as far as large corporations are concerned. Intel, Cisco, and Deutsche Telekom (with hub:raum) have now adopted a different approach. At the Mobile World Congress in March these three launched a joint startup program, ‘Challenge Up!’, that aims to make market entry easier for young companies and to establish contacts with potential partners.

More than 300 applicants

IoT startups from the EMEA region had until the end of May to apply to join the program. During the application phase the startups continued to develop their projects with the aid of experts and mentors from Intel, Cisco, and Deutsche Telekom.

At the end of this phase a jury had to nominate the best 20 of more than 300 applicants to go forward into the next round. The Top 20 were invited to Krakow for intensive training. Along with intensive coaching, mentorship sessions, workshops and lectures were on the agenda. At the end of five days in Poland a jury named the 12 winners.

Better treatment of diabetes patients

They include, for example, the Danish startup Admetsys, which has developed Smart Pancreas, a system that measures and controls the blood glucose levels of diabetics automatically while they are in hospital. Admetsys shows in detail how it works and the benefits it offers in this video:

Admetsys – Diabetic treatment. Revolutionized. from Domaso on Vimeo.

The team at ProGlove, in contrast, has developed a smart glove that could make work processes significantly simpler in the future. It is a wearable that incorporates inter alia a computing unit, various sensors, an RFID module and a display. What it looks like and what it can do can be seen in this video:

The other startups’ ideas are also worth a look. Here is a brief overview:

ComfyLight: The Swiss startup has developed a smart light bulb with both a motion and a brightness sensor that can log into an LAN via a wireless module. If the user is not at home the system switches on and off automatically to deter burglars. If a burglar does gain access to the home, the system raises the alarm by means of light signals. The domain leads to the IoT platform of the Romanian startup of the same name. If companies connect their equipment fleets via the platform they can collect machine data centrally, evaluate it via a dashboard and even send control commands to their machines.

Hi-Park: Can’t find anywhere to park? The Israeli startup Hi-Park’s solution could be the answer. Instead of equipping individual parking spaces with sensors the company relies on existing devices: smartphones. If the smartphone’s camera keeps an eye on the roadside as the user is driving along, image recognition software analyzes whether parking spaces are free or in use. On the basis of this information the app directs motorists to the nearest free parking space.

Ifinity: The Polish startup Ifinity aims to achieve no less than change the way we interact with our environment. It does so by relying on beacons. In Warsaw these small Bluetooth transmitters already help people with impaired vision to move around town independently.

n-Join: Transforming a factory into a smart factory requires the utmost precision in process analysis. That is where the Israeli startup n-Join kicks in. Its software analyzes plant and machinery data continuously, recognizes production process anomalies and visualizes wear and tear of critical components meticulously.

OORT: The Polish startup OORT has big plans. Based on Bluetooth the company is in the process of setting up an open ecosystem for home or office use. Devices are connected via a hub and users can control connected devices and automate processes via an app or the web portal. When, for example, users leave their home, lighting and heating are switched off and the alarm system is switched on.

Senic: Would you like to control your smart home via your smartphone? The German startup Senic does not rate that at all highly. Instead, the team has developed a kind of universal remote control for all connected devices and even your laptop by means of Bluetooth. It can be operated by a control wheel, button or touchscreen interface or – contactlessly – by means of certain gestures.

SEMSEYE: When planning shift schedules for their employees, retails have hitherto had to rely on instinct and experience. Semseye, a Lithuanian startup, aims to change this state of affairs. It has developed a device that quantifies customer footfall. Users can check the data in real time on a web portal and are better able to decide when how many employees are needed in the store.

Taggalo: Until now, online traders have been a step ahead of retailers in the field of customer contact. On the Web the customer journey is easy to individualize on the basis of customer data. In retail that has been a much more elaborate process. The Italian startup Taggalo aims to change that. It has developed sensors that record indicators such as store traffic or how long customers stay in the store and visualize them in real time on a platform.

Waylay: If you have already taken the first step toward Industrie 4.0 by connecting plant and machinery, Waylay will take you on the next steps in the journey. The Belgian startup’s platform enables users to realize complex automation concepts. Sensors and actuators can be incorporated via the REST-based architecture, and so can CRM or ERP systems.

Until November, participating startups will be working intensively with Cisco, Intel and Deutsche Telekom mentors on developing their business. This will include appearances in Krakow, Berlin, Dublin and London. To gain an impression of the startups and their ideas, your next opportunity will be on September 5 during the 2015 Startup Night in Berlin and on September 6 at IFA. If you want to meet with the Challenge Up! Teams or get more information, please contact either Holger Sbrzesny (Holger.Sbrzesny[at] or Andreas Dönges (a.doenges[at]

The startups that come through the program successfully will qualify for possible co-investment by the three corporate sponsors or by leading corporate venture funds. Details will be available at the ‘challenge up!’ summit to be held at the unBoundDigital technology conference in London on November 30 and December 1, 2015.

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What the M2M industry can learn from dystopian Hollywood productions

Hollywood-sign-ccNowadays all areas of life and work are connected by M2M to one network: the Internet of Things. Box office hits like The Matrix or The Terminator show where this can lead. They depict a dystopian future in which machines gain control and humankind is on the brink of extinction. But what does this mean for the future of M2M?

In The Matrix trilogy the borders between real and digital world become blurred. For most humans reality is actually only a simulated reality called the Matrix and created by intelligent machines to control the human population. Human minds are simply uploaded like computer programs into the Matrix, while their bodies are used as an energy source for the machines. With the help of others who have been freed from the “dream world,” Neo (Keanu Reeves), the protagonist, tries to defeat the machines and free as many people as possible from the Matrix. The machines are controlled by one central source and characterized by artificial intelligence.

Autonomous of human control

While The Matrix trilogy remains abstract in regards to the central control of intelligent machines, The Terminator series is more specific: Skynet is the mind behind the action. Originally, it was designed as an autonomous and intelligent US military command and control computer network to improve nuclear defence. However, Skynet grows too dangerous for its own good. In the end, it makes its own decisions and identifies humankind as the major threat. Following its rationality, Skynet launches nuclear attacks all over the world and thereby causes the immediate death of three billion people – it is Judgement Day.

Machines with artificial intelligence autonomous of human control are a notion that was around even before the first Terminator hit the movie theatres in 1984. Currently, we are toying more than ever with the same idea. M2M has potential to transform the world. Networked communication between everyday items has changed the way we do business and live our lives. But what can the M2M industry learn from such dystopian visions? The Internet of Things is just starting to take shape. The growth in M2M applications and connected devices is undeniable and already offers many advantages that make daily life more comfortable.

Safety and reliability are the keys

In The Matrix trilogy machines act individually but also interact with each other in packs or swarms. Sounds familiar? The industrial Internet of Things already promotes networked interaction of machines and robots without human support. Fire departments, for example, use drones in the event of fire in order to gain a quick and safe overview of the situation. However, this progress needs to go hand in hand with safe usage respectively the prevention of misuse.

This is something which is also obvious in The Terminator series. Machines build machines – the Terminator itself is designed, manufactured and programmed by Skynet, the spearhead in the fight against humans, taking the battle literally to the past, our presence. Skynet continues the battle against humanity to the very end in The Terminator series – all for the sake of self-preservation. Today we are already on this path: The Internet of Things benefits, for example, from mesh networks, self-healing systems that enable continuous connections even if one node of the network breaks down.

Tapping the full potential without losing track

However, does this path lead to the edge of human extinction as described by Hollywood? Skynet is a metaphor for what the Internet of Things in combination with artificial intelligence should not become: An advanced machine or programme that has progressed so far as to oppress its creators. Putting aside the dramatic effects of Hollywood cinema, concerns especially about data security must certainly be addressed to promote responsible and safe usage. New technologies should be designed to improve humans’ quality of life, but not to serve technology itself.

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  • Valery Yankin: Thank you for the article, Stephanie. Development of the IoT means there is a growing number of appliances able to receive remote commands. Making sure only authorized persons can issue these commands should always and ever be one of the highest priorities for M2M developers. An M2M device can indeed "turn against its owner"--if a malicious person gains control. Recent issue of people tampering with Tesla's brakes is one sinister example of what damage can be done if access is not secured properly. ...

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Protocols for the Internet of Things

Standards are a subject that is de rigueur in any serious conversation about M2M. Three new acronyms currently going the rounds are MQTT, CoAP and OMA LWM2M. All about M2M explains for beginners what lies behind them.

A few years ago the M2M/IoT industry set its sights on a common objective. Standards were to make seamless data interchange between heterogeneous devices possible and thereby take the Internet of Things forward. A problem with existing Internet technologies was that they were not designed for communication between connected machines. For one, these devices have limited resources and need to operate energy-efficiently. For another, they feature special communication patterns such as periodic status reports. Several standards and protocols now exist that take these aspects into consideration:


The Message Queue Telemetry Transport (MQTT) protocol was originally developed by Dr. Andy Stanford Clark and Arlen Nipper in 1999. Its architecture is based on the publish/subscribe principle. Messages are characterized by subscribers being able to receive them without knowing in detail who their publisher is. MQTT is considered to be a simple, lightweight protocol and is specially designed for low-bandwidth data transfer in high-latency networks. TCP/IP Port 1883 is reserved for MQTT and Port 8883 for MQTT over SSL. Since October 29, 2014, MQTT has been an OASIS standard. You don’t need to be an M2M expert to have come into contact with the protocol. Facebook Messenger is based on MQTT.


The IETF Constrained RESTful Environments (CoRE) working group has been taking the Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP) forward since 2010. It is described as an Internet standard in RFC 7252. CoAP is designed mainly for use in sensor network nodes, be they switches, sensors, or valves. The protocol is based – like HTTP – on the REST (REpresentational State Transfer) style of architecture. REST models things as resources that have certain states and can be manipulated by a uniform interface. Its proximity to HTTP offers enormous advantages. Requesting the status update of a machine is no more difficult than requesting the value of a Web API. Furthermore, CoAP can simply be translated into HTML, thereby building an important bridge between the world of machines and the conventional Internet.


The Open Mobile Alliance developed the Light-Weight M2M protocol (OMA LWM2M) specially for device management of connected objects. It aims to provide essential M2M functionalities such as firmware updates, access controls and connectivity statistics. OMA 2012 was the first draft. Version 1.0 was published in 2013. OMA LWM2M falls back on the above-mentioned CoAP protocol and is thus ideally equipped for sensor networks. In addition to communication via UDP at the transport level the standard supports communication by SMS. The Eclipse project Wakaama provides a framework on which to create LWM2M clients or servers.

Of course this is only a short overview of some recent developed standards. There are many more. As the U.S. computer scientist Andrew S. Tanenbaum once said: “The good thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.” While developers will have the task of finding the right one for each solution or use case, users will probably rest easier knowing that at least one problem with different standards is already served. Thanks to IoT platforms like the Deutsche Telekom “Cloud of Things,” interoperability of different standards is easily possible. If you want to learn more, you might find this blog post helpful. It explains how IoT platforms can help you to manage the growing number of connected objects.

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Data Analytics forges ahead fast

Container ship moored at commercial dockThe market for sensors is booming, the price of data storage is falling and M2M data volumes are on the increase. The Internet of Things is clearly forging ahead at full speed. But what happens to all the data that sensors collect and supply around the world? Big Data is still something many people find hard to grasp. In the Port of Hamburg Deutsche Telekom is demonstrating how much untapped potential IoT data already has.

On the Internet of Things (IoT) everything and everybody generate data. Cars relay geodata to help manage traffic flows, production facilities relay status reports and coordinate their optimal capacity utilization and physicians monitor patients around the clock by means of wearables. The resulting data volumes are enormous – and are increasing continuously. The strategy consultants at Machina Research forecast global annual growth of the flow of M2M information to around 3.2 exabytes until 2024 in the mobile networks alone. Compared with todays volume that is a 16-fold increase because today’s annual data throughput is still 0.2 exabytes.

Low-cost hardware makes IoT entry level less challenging

Figures provided by Germany’s AMA Association for Sensor and Measurement underscore the revolutionary nature of the changes that are under way. The Association represents the interests of 480 companies that are involved in sensor and measurement technology for all manner of uses. It regularly polls its members on economic development and its surveys have revealed that over the past decade sales of sensor and measurement technology in Germany have increased on average by 6.3 percent per annum.

What can be said for sure is that all industries – from mechanical and electrical engineering to medical technology – are increasing the intelligence of their products. They are able to do so more easily than ever. Sensors for the Internet of Things are available at ever lower prices. McKinsey management consultants provide the current figures for mobile communications market:

“Low-cost, low-power sensors are essential, and the price of MEMS (micro-electromechanical systems) sensors, which are used in smartphones, has dropped by 30 to 70 percent in the past five years.”

Developments in the market for storage solutions are also taking the Internet of Things forward. Storing information electronically has never been less expensive. Storing what the omnipresent sensors record is thus as easy as pie, and this data is no less inexpensive to relay via mobile networks. The cost of mobile data connections has in recent years developed positively for the customer.

Data is captured, but not used fully

McKinsey does, however, place a damper on expectations. The management consultants present a simple calculation. Today’s offshore drilling rig incorporates 30,000 sensors, but the operators use only one percent of all sensor data. According to McKinsey that is typical of the current situation: “Most of the IoT data collected today is not used at all, and data that is used is not fully exploited.”

This view is shared by German Big Data specialist ParStream. A study that it commissioned from Dimensional Research concludes that data is captured, but not used fully. Data capture and storage was found to play a role in the majority of IoT projects, whereas information gained is fully analyzed in very few cases:

“While the vast majority, 83%, are collecting data, only a very small number (8%) report that they are making the most of their data by fully capturing and analyzing data in a timely fashion.”

However, a little over a half of the respondents (58 percent) said they were coming to grips with analyzing IoT data, albeit somewhat hesitantly – and they know they can do better.

IoT data as the basis for new business models

So what is to be done? According to McKinsey the use of IoT data is currently limited to real-time machine control. Yet this data presents much greater opportunities that await exploitation. It can contribute to value creation and to the creation of new business models:

“The Internet of Things will enable, and in some cases force, new business models. For example, with the ability to monitor machines that are in use at customer sites, makers of industrial equipment can shift from selling capital goods to selling their products as services.”

This ‚as-a-service‘ approach could give the supplier a more intimate tie with customers that competitors would find difficult to disrupt, the McKinsey experts state. The sensors that are incorporated everywhere now open up new angles of entrepreneurial vision. They can do more than just monitor machines in a factory or container vessels on the high seas, such as identifying ways to optimize processes and procedures. IoT data can be used to extend the service life of production facilities by means of optimally coordinated maintenance. It can also be a valuable raw material for redesigning future generations of equipment, while Big Data Analytics opens up many other opportunities. Those who succeed in collecting and making use of enormous quantities of structured and unstructured data from different sources will advance into new dimensions of value creation.

A practical example in the Port of Hamburg: More cargo handled in the same amount of space

The Port of Hamburg provides an indication of what the intelligent connection and evaluation of IoT data can already accomplish. T-Systems and the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) operate in the port the smartPORT logistics system. This solution enables truck and container movements to be better controlled at all times and at the same time facilitates more efficient use of the port’s limited space for additional traffic infrastructure. That reduces bottlenecks and waiting times and speeds up cargo transshipment.

The smartPORT logistics system merges all relevant traffic and infrastructure data in the 72 square kilometers of the port area and it does so in real-time. This data includes the position of trucks and relateded containers, terminal and depot information, construction sites, bridge opening times, and free parking spaces. In this way the Port management, forwarders and parking providers receive a comprehensive picture of the situation around the clock and can respond swiftly to infrastructural incidents, e.g. traffic congestion. As a result, traffic flows around the shipping berths can be predicted more accurately. If a bottleneck occurs, the Port Authority knows about it immediately and can take suitable counter-measures. These decisions are based on IoT data gleaned from different sources.

smartPORT logistics is a private cloud application based on the T-Systems Connected Car platform and on SAP’s Connected Logistics software. The application connects freight data and information from telematics systems of different providers with the Hamburg Port Authority’s traffic and infrastructure data. Furthermore, Telekom provides an Android app that serves as a telematics unit in trucks. Finally, the SAP Connected Logistics software connects all of this real-time data and makes it available to users on an online portal.

Analysis of IoT data pays dividends

Examples such as this from northern Germany will set a precedent. Here too, the findings of the Dimensional Research market researchers speak for themselves. Ninety-four percent of IoT stakeholders still feel that collecting and analyzing IoT constitutes a major challenge. At the same time, however, 86 percent of them assume that an improvement in this state of affairs will pay immediate dividends for the company. Michael Hummel, ParStream co-founder and CTO, notes in the company’s blog that “due to increased competitive pressures, organizations are forced to optimize processes and products – the key to identifying optimization opportunities and track improvements is in the IoT data.”

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Are SMBs missing out on the Internet of Things?

Infografik_DigitalisierungSmall and midrange businesses (SMBs) are considered to be the backbone of the European economy. They make up nearly 99 percent of business enterprises in the European Union, employ more than two thirds of employees, and account for more than half of the EU’s gross value added. Yet they have so far played only a minor role in digitalization.

Small and flexible with short decision-making routes, SMBs should be predestined to take digitalization forward. The reality, however, is different. In Germany, 61 percent of CEOs feel they are driven rather than drivers, according to the Digital Business Readiness study conducted by IT consultants Crisp Research. In many other European countries the situation is much the same.

The key drivers are, for one, increasingly individual customer needs and, for another, market constellation changes. So far, however, the pressure does not appear to have been strong enough – because at more than half of German SMBs a digitalization strategy exists, at best, on paper.

Digitalization promises competitive edge

Yet the digitalization of in-house corporate processes is seen as a crucial measure to ensure long-term competitiveness in the world market. Digitalize your business processes and you will enjoy clear competitive advantages today. So why wait? The Experton Group has looked into this question and found that for many companies going into digitalization is mainly a matter of resources and knowledge.

The self-assessment by SMBs that they lack sufficient financial resources is a prejudice that M2M and IoT providers regularly encounter in discussions with customers. Yet the fact is that falling sensor and module prices and low-cost mobile data connections have made solutions increasingly affordable in recent years. Costs are frequently geared solely to the number of devices connected. So SMBs can afford to test digitalization without high levels of investment and additional risks.

The challenge of growing complexity

Implementing and operating M2M solutions has also required a high level of specialized knowledge. The more M2M solutions find their way into daily business, the more complicated they are to administer. How is an SMB that in some cases may not even have an IT department of its own to ensure that its devices are configured uniformly and use the latest software? And how is it to connect measurements taken by different devices and to integrate them into its existing corporate IT? These questions have frequently gone unanswered.

Today, cloud-based M2M and IoT platforms provide a tried and tested solution to this dilemma. Their advantage is that they standardize the central functions of M2M applications and transfer them to application-independent development and administration platforms. Ready-made functions for all of the typical aspects of an M2M application make it among other things easier to take an inventory of devices, to evaluate data and to manage alarms. That makes it much easier for small and midrange enterprises to use M2M and IoT solutions extensively.

Economic advantages amount to trillions

The McKinsey Global Institute’s latest report, entitled The Internet of Things: Mapping the value beyond the hype, identifies in addition to these challenges IT security and data protection as action areas. They, however, require integrated solutions. If manufacturers and users collaborate closely on them it can be worthwhile. The McKinsey consultants expect the global economic benefits of the Internet of Things to total up to $11.1 trillion a year from 2025.

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