LAST YEAR, the energy and building technology business sector sold some 13 million web-enabled devices – everything from connected heating, cooling, and ventilation systems in office buildings, to smart home applications, said Stefan Hartung, a member of Bosch’s board of management, responsible for energy and building technology.
“The Internet of things is and will remain the key driver for our business,” he added,
The company expects the sector’s sales to grow to 5.5 billion euros (Bt 204 billion) in 2018. That amounts to an increase of 2 per cent, or 6 per cent when adjusted for exchange-rate effects. He added that artificial intelligence (AI) will be the key to further advances on the internet of things as well as future growth: “With the help of AI, web-enabled products will become intelligent assistants.”
Where energy and building technology are concerned, connectivity and AI have the potential to boost security, efficiency, and convenience. To give one example: The Building Technologies division offers cameras that use smart image analysis to pinpoint fires. With a direct line of sight on potentially dangerous situations, these cameras spot flames and smoke in seconds – which is even faster than conventional smoke detectors. Smoke does not first need to reach the ceiling before the alarm is raised – and those few extra seconds can help limit the damage and perhaps even save lives.
“Everyone is talking about AI. Bosch is putting it to use,” Hartung said. “In ten years, every Bosch electronic product will either utilise AI itself or will have been developed and manufactured with its help.” The company plans to invest accordingly, with around 300 million euros alone going to expand the Bosch Centre for Artificial Intelligence (BCAI) by 2021. The BCAI currently employs 170 experts globally, and looking ahead, this is expected to rise to 400. They are currently working on some 80 development projects – from automated driving to applications in medicine and manufacturing. Many of these are being carried out in collaboration with academic partners, including the universities of Tubingen, Stuttgart, and Amsterdam.
Bosch is also focusing on platforms and partnerships in its energy and building technology activities. “There are many devices and services from different manufacturers out there in the connected world,” explained Hartung. “We have to get these devices and services to interface. They have to understand one another and be interoperable in order to benefit people.” For this reason, the company set up Security and Safety Things GmbH (SAST) as a wholly owned Bosch subsidiary a few weeks ago. This startup is working on the world's first open IoT platform for security camera apps. SAST wants to deliver something unprecedented – an operating system that programs and controls apps for different types of security cameras. Updating cameras made by different manufacturers will require just one version rather than countless software variants. “SAST is striving to create nothing less than a global marketplace for security camera applications with this open, standardised operating system,” Hartung said.
Change in management
After five years as head of the Energy and Building Technology business sector, Hartung will hand over the reins to Christian Fischer on January 1, 2019. Before joining the Bosch board of management on October 1, 2018, Fischer was a senior partner at the management consultancy Roland Berger. He holds a doctorate in economics. “Bosch began exploring the opportunities offered by the internet of things ten years ago, which has given it a technological head start,” said Fischer at the press conference. “Bosch is extremely well positioned to take on the challenges of digital transformation. I’m looking forward to being a part of that.”