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IBM invests $200m in Munich HQ for Watson IoT business

Steve Rogerson
October 4, 2016
IBM is investing US$200m in the new global headquarters for its Watson IoT business in Munich, IoT capabilities around blockchain and security, and an array of clients that are driving real outcomes by using Watson IoT technologies to draw insights from billions of sensors embedded in machines, cars, drones, ball bearings, pieces of equipment and hospitals.
As part of a global investment of $3bn to bring Watson cognitive computing to the IoT, IBM has allocated more than $200m to its global Watson IoT headquarters in Munich. The investment, one of the company’s largest ever in Europe, is in response to escalating demand from its customers who are looking to transform their operations using a combination of IoT and artificial intelligence. IBM has 6000 clients globally who are tapping Watson IoT, up from 4000 eight months ago.
The Watson IoT headquarters will be home to the first ever cognitive IoT Collaboratories – hands-on industry laboratories where clients and partners can work together with IBM’s 1000 Munich-based researchers, engineers, developers and business experts to drive collaborative innovation in the automotive, electronics, manufacturing, healthcare and insurance industries. Together, they will tackle challenges in their respective industries; apply concepts and technologies to build IoT services; and develop and test business models and services.
“IBM is making tremendous strides to ensure that businesses around the world are able to take advantage of this incredible period of technological transformation and develop new products and services that really change people’s lives,” said Harriet Green, global head of IBM’s Watson IoT business. “Germany is at the forefront of the Industry 4.0 initiative and, by inviting our clients and partners to join us in Munich, we are opening up our talent and technologies to help deliver on the promise of IoT and establishing a global hotbed for collaborative innovation.”
Companies around the world continue to demonstrate real business outcomes through Watson IoT. New engagements include German automotive and industrial supplier Schaeffler, which has signed a multi-year strategic partnership agreement with IBM to accelerate the digital transformation of its entire operations using Watson’s cognitive intelligence and insight from billions of sensors. Schaeffler’s goal is to be the world’s leading manufacturer of cognitive products that keep the world moving.
Tapping the connectivity and analytics capabilities of the Watson IoT platform, Schaeffler will analyse huge amounts of data from millions of sensors and devices across its operations and provide insight to help it be more flexible, make faster decisions and optimise the performance of equipment in the field.
Aerialtronics, a Netherlands-based designer and producer of unmanned aircraft systems for industry, has announced the first commercial drones featuring cognitive computing capabilities from the IBM Watson IoT platform on IBM Cloud. Aerialtronics vehicles can provide high-quality inspection services for global organisations across multiple industries, from monitoring city traffic patterns to inspecting wind turbines, oil rigs and cell tower optimisation.
Now, rather than climbing towers, inspecting key areas and reporting back findings, teams can deploy Aerialtronics drones from the ground and, through high definition cameras and Watson visual recognition analytics, immediately gain a complete 360Ëš, high resolution overview while understanding what it’s seeing.
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, a 957 acute care bed facility that is part of Jefferson Health in Philadelphia, is working with IBM to launch cognitive hospital rooms powered by IBM Watson that enhance the patient experience and help bring deeper levels of personalised, agile and responsive care. With the ability to talk to and interact with in-room speakers that are connected to the IoT platform, patients can take control over their hospital stay and the overall experience – operating lights, window blinds, asking questions about hospital facilities or even getting background information on their physician.
IBM’s position in the IoT was recently highlighted by industry analyst IDC, which surveyed more than 4500 business decision makers in 25 countries around the world.
“With 55 per cent of respondents stating that IoT is strategic to their business, we can see that the market is pivoting away from proof of concept projects to scalable deployments that are incorporating cloud, analytics and security capabilities,” said Vernon Turner, senior vice president at IDC. “In our research, IBM came across as a major player in nearly every aspect of the IoT market with clear leadership for its IoT platform, software and systems integration. IBM’s investment to bring its Watson cognitive computing technologies to the IoT is clearly gaining traction with companies around the world which are launching their own IoT solutions.”
IBM is also announcing a number of offerings to benefit IoT customers and developers such as Watson IoT and blockchain, a capability that connects IoT data to blockchain through IBM Watson. Businesses can share IoT data in a secure, private blockchain to reduce the costs and complexities of doing business across a network of people and goods.
Kouvola Innovation (Kinno), an economic development company based in Finland, used the platform to connect devices to a blockchain. Using the technology, Kinno is developing a way to track, monitor and report on container status and location, and optimise packing and transfer of shipments through shipping lanes.
A set of IoT security and services has been added to help companies proactively identify potential risks and protect their devices from compromise. Enhanced security features in the platform will provide visibility to potential exposures across the network, alerts for immediate notification, and automatic operational responses tailored to individual customer environments. The service offerings will also include security assessment, threat intelligence to identify anomalies, and data anonymisation to ensure data privacy while increasing data utility.
Users can tap Watson IoT to develop voice interfaces for customers – in homes, cars, stores, hotels and offices. For example, Local Motors uses a Watson powered natural language interface for Olli, a self-driving vehicle capable of a natural language interaction with its passengers.
A resource has been added that includes recipes for developers containing code and best practice approaches for solving cognitive IoT problems using Watson’s natural language APIs.