Bosch IoT Hackathon 2017: Interviews with Stefan Ferber and Marita Klein

Bosch has wrapped up its 2017 ConnectedWorld Internet of Things conference, taking a whole lot of innovative IoT projects with it. We sat down with Bosch Software’s Stefan Ferber, Vice President for Engineering, and software developer Marita Klein to get their insight on the hackathon and the state of IoT. We talked innovation blockers, standardization, and Bluetooth beacons.
Klein assisted in the Hackathon’s Building and City segment, focusing on making lives better indoors.

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“I read that we spend 90% of our time inside of buildings,” she said. “Think about how many opportunities you have to improve people’s’ lives. During the hackathon, think about what services, experiences, and features can add value to each day.”
“This is why automation is so important–because it’s smart. With temperature, you shouldn’t have to say ‘hey, I’m warm, make it cooler.’ The room should just notice it’s too warm, and should regulate it.
“I always think about it like the room shouldn’t want to just adjust to something like temperature or light. It should be able to tell you why you’re happy. If you say ‘today was okay, or I wasn’t so happy,’ technology can learn from you and can improve your day.”

What are some of the best projects you’ve seen thus far?

Ferber: The Kids Hackathon I found very astonishing. They accomplish so much in a very short amount of time, and they have something they can carry home. They are so ruthless, just doing what they think is right. They don’t care about what is going on outside of them. I feel our experiences hinder us from doing things.
Klein: We have three projects that are quite cool. The office use case—well-being in the office and how do you make people more happy in the office considering temperature, light, and noise. Then there’s also an evacuation use case, using technology to help people get out in case of an emergency or to find people still in the building. The third is more about distributed buildings and areas. You can tell people ‘maybe you should go to this place’ because there are less people there. You may know about one museum or sight-seeing place, but maybe it’s really full, so you’re told about other areas you can go to instead.

Why do we want to hack the IoT? Why invest in it?

Ferber: We expect to need close to 5 million IoT developers in 2020. There’s no company on planet Earth able to hire that many developers. So in order to make people move in this direction and get them exposed to the technology and become interested and make this part of their personal career, you need touchpoints to developers. I think the best touchpoint for developers are cool software running in the internet and then next one is a hackathon—that’s why ‘cool software’ we do everyday—and a hackathon, which we do—a big one—once a year, and many more over the course of the year.
Event goers were classified by their lanyard. While the hackers all wore green, the other executive and managerial attendees were outfitted with blue. Ferber observed:
“All of the blue lanyard guys want to get in here. None of the green guys want to get out there, but the blue guys want to get in.”
Hacking is part of technology in general. You can see this if you go to DreamForce conference organized by Salesforce. They have a huge mechanism to enroll developers. And Microsoft is basically the example of how you develop a developer and how you develop an ecosystem or keep developer happy. This has been there 20, 30 years. It’s not new, what’s new is bringing the physical and digital together.

Will Bluetooth be the standard of IoT?

Ferber: I don’t think there will be any one standard. Neither communication protocol nor anything else. Imagine you take this bottle. Is the business case to put a Bluetooth beacon on this bottle? Probably not. It’s a QR code or a barcode that makes more sense. If somebody finds a way to make Bluetooth devices as cheap as a printed piece of paper, then it might change.
I don’t believe there will be one single solution for all these different use cases. That’s why we build in open source. We build open standards, develop software in open source. If you look at one of our projects, the Eclipse IoT Hono—a project where the goal is to provide all the protocols the world can dream of—it’s not so different from what we expect in the world. Look at electrical sockets. Is the world aiming to standardize sockets? Would it be a good idea to standardize it today? With the electric vehicle this becomes a topic again. But there is not a single car in the world that will be traveling from Japan to Europe, so it doesn’t matter if Japan has a different socket. It impacts the cost, but from a pure usability point of view, overstandardization is not always necessary.
Standardization isn’t ideal, because it’s like if everybody in the world would just speak English. Thinking and language, it’s very much alike. Each and every coding language has it’s advantages and disadvantages.
For a problem you have the right language. Of course, you might have a favorite. But each has advantages and disadvantages.


What new opportunities does beacon data bring consumers?

Klein: What I like is this use case with the card beacon. Since the technology is really cheap now so you can just give everybody a beacon. What is new for us is that there’s no longer this fixed point and then everybody can go everywhere and you never know where they are really are. Plus, the good thing with Bluetooth is also that it’s in every mobile device so everybody has it.

What are the big blockers we’ll have to face as the IoT develops?

Ferber: The pairing problem is one that will continue to cause a lot of grey hair in IoT. Pairing wrong, or when something happens and suddenly your neighbor is controlling your device, these are big problems. The pairing process is also different from use case to use case. Sometimes it’s paired by an installer sometimes by an end-user. Sometimes you have pairing processes when you don’t have internet.
Recycling is also a problem. Nobody is thinking about it. Today we do recycling mostly with the physical pieces, but these devices come back and there’s a lot of data on it. There’s information you would never want to disclose and data others could make use of. This is clear today of PCs, phones, and laptops, but the magnitude of the problem is much bigger. You might think “oh, this device doesn’t matter,” but maybe it has WiFi passwords. If someone collects enough, they’d have a lot of passwords.
If you think ‘just make this use case happen’ you miss the whole life cycle of the technology.
The #BCX17 hackathon featured toys and tools from Bosch, SigFox, Microsoft, Zumtobel, and Hackers got to play with beacons and Location Engine in order to leverage location data and connect the physical and digital worlds.iot