IBM Watson IoT Centre with Sign

IBM 'bets big' on Internet of Things with new Munich global HQ

Image credit: IBM

IBM’s largest European investment for decades shows it is “betting big” on the future of the Internet of Things (IoT), spending $200m on a worldwide headquarters for its Watson IoT business in the tallest building in Munich, Germany.

IBM and its partner companies are hiring now in order to staff what it calls the “first-ever cognitive collaboratories”. IBM has hired around 300 IoT experts so far and is aiming for a thousand. 

Several of the centre’s 14 floors are dedicated to showing potential clients why they should embrace IoT technology and helping them to dream up ways of doing so in their businesses. There’s a floor working on ways to use cognitive technology in buildings, a floor dedicated to selling the IoT to visitors, a consulting and design floor and a floor that can make quick prototypes. Everything is close together, so visiting clients can move from idea in the morning to realising it physically in the afternoon. 

Other companies are also putting developers into the Centre. BMW had already committed to co-locate part of its research and development there “to reimagine the driving experience.” Four more companies and a standards body will join them in co-locating development teams in the Watson IoT centre.

Avnet, the IT distributor, will open a new joint development lab to develop and build internet of things systems and work with IBM on joint businesses across smart buildings, smart homes, industry, transportation, medical and consumer markets.

“We’re already seeing tremendous potential in the new IoT applications that we’re developing with out customers, which range from protecting children to preventing Legionnaire’s disease,” said Eric Williams, global vice president of IoT, Avnet.

A BNP Paribas team will work on how IoT and cognitive technologies can transform the banking industry and develop new financial products and investment advice. “Consorsbank, as online bank in the German retail business of BNP Paribas, sees IBM’s new Watson IoT Centre as a way to stay at the forefront of technological innovation,” said Kai Friedrich, Member of the Group Management Board Germany as well as CEO of the Consorsbank business.

Capgemini, the worldwide IT consulting and technology services company, will have a team working on Industry 4.0 developments, with links also between its Munich Applied Innovation Exchange and IBM’s new Customer Experience areas.

Tech Mahindra, the India-based IT and networking company, is one of IBM”s system integrators. Its six developers will work on using IBM’s Watson IoT platform for manufacturing, farming, healthcare, insurance, banking and automotive systems.

“By co-locating in IBM’s Watson IoT Centre, we will not only co-create new solutions and services, but will ensure our proximity to key European clients especially around Industry 4.0 and manufacturing,” said EMEA president Vikram Nair.

EEBus, the IoT standards alliance initiated by the German government, will have a space to build and show IoT technologies using open standards. It has 60 members including Bosch, ABB, SMA, Miele, Schneider, Valliant and European car brands. “We are convinced that the smart use of energy will be one of the major use cases in the future development of the IoT,” said first chairman Peter Kellendork. This will extend to solar power and electric cars as well.

IBM also revealed a number of client projects using its Watson IoT platform and cognitive computing techniques.

Visa is developing technology to embed payment technology into just about any device, from a ring to a car. Jim McCarthy, global head of innovation and strategic partnerships, showed off the wireless payment ring it gave to athletes at the Rio Olympic Games. In the future, you could pay for petrol through your car, or the car could order spare parts when it works out it needs them. The system uses the Visa Token Service, which replaces sensitive account information on payment cards with a unique digital identifier through the Watson IoT platform. 

French National Rail company SNCF manages and maintains 30,000km of track, 15,000 trains and 3,000 stations. Each element will be equipped with thousands of sensors so it can predict when maintenance will be needed. “This collaboration is a true example of how IoT is touching everyone’s lives, in many cases without people even knowing it,” said Harriet Green, General Manager, IBM Watson IoT.

“We have reached a tipping point with IoT innovation: we now have over 6,000 clients and partners around the world, many of whom are now wanting to join us in our new global Watson IoT centre to co-innovate,” said Green. ”Together we are building a new global IoT innovation ecosystem that will explore how cognitive and IoT technologies will transform industries and our daily lives.”

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