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Guest Writer
April 28, 2016

The Jungle of Things: Innovations and Investments in IoT

We live in an exciting time where our nature of dealing with physical objects is being woven into the internet, and vice versa. Together they’re creating a new collaborative harmony: the Internet of Things. IoT is all about connecting objects to the internet, but it does more! The data collected by sensors are distributed to smart hard- and software systems, allowing both companies and people to make smarter decisions, reduce waste, and save time. EY is currently running their 2016 Start-up-challenge in betahaus, focused on IoT (read about it here). Reason moreover to ask ourselves; what's happening in various branches and industries, and what kind of innovations are companies investing in?

Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is about connecting ‘things’ to ‘the internet’, but rather than for you personally, Industry 4.0 does so behind the scenes; in factories and manufacturing processes. The industry of tomorrow is not governed by fancy automated gadgets, but by intelligent software systems that streamline processes to near perfection. With product titles such as ‘Predictive Maintenance and Service’, ‘Connected Logistics’, and ‘Connected Manufacturing’, SAP explains the defining innovations of Industry 4.0 in a nutshell. “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” has no place here. The motto is “have it fix itself before it even knows it can break, and make sure the right expert knows about it yesterday”.

The Internet of Food

It might not be as obvious and visible, but industrial ‘IoT’ innovations will be part of our everyday life. Supermarkets such as Lidl and Alnatura are also reaching for the cloud. Can you imagine a grocery store where there’s a constant real-time evaluation of stocks, and your favourite items are always available? Reducing food waste seems to be at the top of the agenda, since it benefits store managers and the environment alike. Food that’s near its expiry date can be moved to restaurants or charity for immediate use, and customers can be alerted via an app whenever groceries are marked for reduction in their local supermarket.Smart Homes

You're on your way from work, it's freezing outside, and all you want to do is snuggle up with a book. Before you get home, you take out your mobile phone and start the heating. Once inside, there's no need to fumble for a light switch - you house senses your movement and lights up the room. Sounds futuristic? It's available right now, even for your standard rented apartment. In years to come, you might be able to use your phone to preheat the oven or turn on the stove, so you can enjoy your dinner the minute you get home. Electricity companies such as RWE are already gathering extensive experience with smart homes. In order to allow various systems, sensors, devices, and ‘things’ to talk to each other, they've created a communication protocol called “Lemonbeat Smart Device Language”. It can be used for any sort of setup, from complex autonomous systems, right down to a simple light switch. Independent of the transmission form, it’s praised as the standardised IoT communication language fit for the future.


What if your car could drive itself out of the garage and to the front door, preheat itself in winter and turn on its air conditioning in summer? This is the direction things are going. Car companies are focused on self-driving cars, but also on connecting your car to your smart house and mobile devices. BMW envisions a virtual personal assistant who knows your morning routines and agenda, listens to your phone calls to schedule meetings in your calendar, and displays route and traffic information on your windscreen. Volkswagen is going into the same direction with ‘Budd-e’, a car they collaborate on with LG and the german startup Bird Home. You’ll be able to see which groceries are in your refrigerator, hear the doorbell ring, and if it’s a parcel delivery you can remotely unlock a special box for the postman - all from your car’s dashboard.



Concerning global transport logistics, the interest in IoT is huge as well. Vehicle competitors like MAN and Daimler are focussing on safety and fuel consumption; Daimler currently has 365,000 of its commercial vehicles connected via telematics, and a myriad of sensors are gathering environmental data about them in real time, worldwide. Up until 2020, Daimler will be using those data and investing around half a billion euros in the complete interconnectedness of trucks with their environment and the transport operators.

The Future of IoT?

At the moment IoT still needs the human factor, at least to some extent: the tap on the app to start the heating, the correct installation of IoT software in factories, the expert to act on a malfunction alarm. Having that said; smart things are becoming smarter. As we continue to develop IoT, for it to analyse our behaviour and adapt to it, 'smart things' might at some point be able to do things without our interference. It's almost inevitable that at some point 'things' and systems will talk to each other directly, and take decisions based on their communications without our input, and without our 'go'.

Interested in getting involved with IoT? EY is currently running their Start-up-challenge at betahaus Berlin. You can read about the participating startups here. Want to meet up with the EY Start-up-Challenge team? They have their headquarters in a private office on the second floor, right wing in the back. Knock & see if they’re in!

Still no membership at betahaus? Click here! 

Article written by Robin

Toni: Currently, we’ve somehow ended up in this niche of building a lot of internal tools for startups and teams. But this is not the only thing we want to do. What I like about it is that we’re starting projects from scratch and we have full control over them. 

Martin: The first project we worked on was a tool for a large scale real estate development company. What they needed was a tool for their Sales people - to be able to mark their different spots and locations at different stages of the sales funnel. So we created a tool that helps them in this process.

Toni: And this one actually served as a starting point for the tool we’ve developed for  betahaus, which aims to allow the Sales and Management team to see which team rooms are occupied right now, which ones are free or will be occupied in a few weeks or months, so no double bookings appear. 

Alex: These two projects were more focused on real estate, let’s say, but we’ve also done more design-heavy projects like the one we did for Artique which is an online artists agency. For them, we built a whole website and an online system to present their artists starting only from their logo. It had to be very flexible, because the artists needed to be able to edit their own profiles, putting their resume, changing colours.

Toni: Honestly, we have skillsets that you don’t usually find in developers. Because we've had lives that were not just about computer science. I think to some extent this is what makes us different. 

Martin: I believe one of the reasons why people pick us over other studios is because it can be very hard working with developers. If you’re not understanding their work, if the communication is not flowing, you, as a client can feel lost. We're easy to communicate with and we’re always open to feedback and we're open to discuss anything. In the end, after all iterations, if you say we need to start the website from scratch and that you don’t like the idea, we won’t take it personally. 

Alex: Also, I think, since we all work as coding teachers, we are officially qualified to explain what coding is to people who don't code, which is actually really rare because a lot of developers, as Martin says, don't want to, or literally just don't know how to articulate what they're doing. Whereas we are trained in articulating what it is that we're doing, why it's meaningful and why it takes a certain amount of time.

Photo by Lea GK

Alex: Zimt & Mehl - the Turkish bakery around the corner. It’s just soo good.

Martin: Oh, there is this Italian restaurant called Ristorante del Arte

Tony: Oh, my God, this place is so funny. It looks like a pretty average Italian restaurant, but the whole interior design inside is just decorated in such a weird way. The entire place is covered in frescoes. They have crystal chandeliers and Easter bunnies. Some Greek columns. It has a different name on the menu, on the side and on the Internet. And it was an ex-shoe-store.

Want to get in touch with Obst Digital? Come around betahaus | Neukölln and meet them here or send them an email to contact@obst.digital !


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