Employees are scurrying through the doorway, carrying equipment and trays into the Maschinenhalle and setting up a huge fireplace near the door. It's 12pm and the first guests are arriving, but stop in their tracks in amazement in the hallway. Is it because of the Christmas lights adorning the staircase? No! Encased by magenta-lit glass panels, a model steam engine clatters and puffs away while bystanders look on, utterly entranced. Next to it, a screen shows bar charts, graphs and data. This is a first sign that today is about more than mere mechanics – whatever the architecture of bricks, steel girders and glass may suggest. A hum of conversation drifts down from the upper floors. Among enormous turbines, guests are networking over coffee, pretzels and sweets, eagerly awaiting the start of the event.
Diving headlong into the digital world
We are on the premises of Zollverein Coal Mine in the north of Essen, the cradle of industrial coal production in the Ruhr area. With Haniel's digital unit Schacht One and Schmiede Zollverein, forward-looking digital ideas are now emerging here. This makes it the perfect setting for the second “deep dive” of the “Maschinenhalle“ event series. As its name suggests, immersion in a digital topic is the aim here. This time, the focal point is the Industrial Internet of Things (Industrial IoT). The term Internet of Things denotes the interconnection of objects with the internet and each other by means of embedded processors and sensors. This enables automated machine-to-machine (M2M) communication. In other words, it's about current and future potential uses of the Internet of Things for industry and production. So take your seats; the keynote speeches are about to start!
Not only, but also
As the participants will soon learn, Industrial IoT aims to provide practical solutions. Smart factories, long-term automation and big data echo the keywords of Industry 4.0, but Manfred Tropper, CEO and founder of mantro, states that IoT means more than shiny, modern production facilities in laboratory-style white. To him, IoT relates to the real world, starts with cooperation between humans and machines and largely seeks to devise small-scale solutions to specific problems. Artificial intelligence and big data are essential to this collaboration. He says it is about gathering data on a large scale and drawing meaningful conclusions for process automation from it through analysis. Retrofit is another keyword. Hitherto analogue solutions are now to be digitised, expanding their potential.
Dr Alexander Lautz, Senior Vice President 5G at Deutsche Telekom, also cites connectivity, the ability to connect various devices wirelessly, as one of the essential requirements of IoT. Lautz hails 5G as a future enabler of these unlimited broadband connections and therefore as a pioneer of the widespread rollout of IoT in Germany. He presents the opportunities of the industrial IoT to the participants, and looks beyond the horizon of machinery. From real-time monitoring of the supply chain or smart control of street lights and rubbish bins to smart car-park management – Industrial IoT can only function properly with an adequate communication network.
Benefits determine business
Every IoT solution is dependent on its use cases. Tropper and Lautz agree on this in their keynote speeches. The practical element of this year's Maschinenhalle event is focused on a detailed perspective: IoT applications from the various divisions of the Haniel Group. Peter Janek, Product Development Manager Mechatronic at CWS-boco, presents “Smart Mate”, a digital washroom manager that gives customers a comprehensive hygiene experience by means of sensors – including in soap dispensers. The “Commander”, presented by Ole Andre Tomren from the Digital Intelligence division of Optimar, acts as a cockpit from which all interim stages and aspects of fish processing can be monitored at sea. Magnus Völkner and Andreas Stanner from EIE Services and Box42 discuss solutions for tasks such as digitalisation of the scrap yard.
Of drones and sensors
While the Christmas market is being set up, start-ups set out their prototypes and products alongside it during a break. They include indestructible and low-cost sensor technology from Zolitron for a host of feasible use cases from smart waste disposal to searching for a parking space. Blik.io enables transparency, tracking and process analysis in logistics. rise.tech gives customers tailored support from thousands of kilometres away, helping companies to save time and travel costs while preserving the environment. Environmentally conscious automated logistics and production robots are the business model of Gideon Brothers from Croatia. The inventAIRy drone from dos.innovation automates stocktaking by hovering above the shelves and scanning barcode. Unfortunately, it is unable to fly in the Maschinenhalle today for safety reasons. To finish with, participants have the chance to discuss their ideas and business models and their scaling with the start-ups and the keynote speakers in small Bar Camps.
After all this input, what better way to finish off the evening than a look around the indoor Christmas market? While it has turned cold and dark outside, the blazing fire in the hearth near the door is lovely and warm. Dimmed down, the fairy lights in the Maschinenhalle are still twinkling away. Sausages, crêpes and mulled wine provide ample sustenance. Some participants sit around networking on sofas, while others are letting their hair down to the live music on the dance floor. The deep dive is over; it's time to resurface.
The “Maschinenhalle” event series deals with digital megatrends and technologies that are already having a lasting impact on us. Schacht One gives employees from Haniel divisions the opportunity to engage with external opinion leaders and specialists.