Inside IBM Watson’s Munich HQ: The World’s Foremost Industrial IoT Playground

Soft opened a year ago and officially launched last month, IBM’s worldwide Watson IoT Headquarters in Munich is an area of keen interest for companies with vested interests in connected technologies.

This hub for IoT energy and innovation, “swarming with IBMers, clients and partners from all over the world”, is seeing around $3 billion in investment and has been tipped as the number one site to watch for industrial IoT (IIoT) innovation in 2017.

Nicola Villa is an IBM veteran who currently fills two job roles for the tech behemoth. Previously a leader for IBM’s IoT business and services in Europe, he’s now transitioning to a role as a global leader for digital platforms for the public sector. Villa was also part of the core team involved with getting Watson’s Munich HQ up and running in 2016.

On top of that, Villa is also a key member of the team at Internet of Things World Europe, sitting on the advisory board that guides the annual vision and strategy for the event. Ahead of June’s Internet of Things World Europe conference, he talked IoT World News through IBM’s Bavarian-based IoT playground.

WATSON COLLABORATES INTERNATIONALLY OUT OF MUNICH

If first impressions are anything to go by, Villa is as excited about Watson’s latest IoT hub as anyone. He says the center hosts roughly 3,000 people, only half of whom are employed as IBM staff.

“We’ve got consultants, scientists, engineers, solutions architects,” he tells me, “while the other half come from co-located partners and clients.”

And that’s just a small percentage of the total number of partners and companies looking to collocate with IBM in Munich, to collaborate on their efforts to “drive from IoT concept to reality”, as Villa puts it.

The high levels of interest are partially driven by the sheer number of sectors already being worked on there.

“We’ve got a Watson IoT solution for consumer electronics, for automation, for insurance,” Villa says, skimming the surface of what his team has on offer. “Over the next few months we’ll draw them all into specific sectors. We are creating specific architectures and platforms for specific markets, with a number of solutions sitting on top of that.”

These solutions address mainstream concerns like maintenance and quality, along with more niche applications like smart energy management. The older IBM’s center becomes, the more granular these solutions are likely to get.

Villa lists some of the more noteworthy projects that are being worked on currently: highlights include work with Schaffler — “helping them carve data out from client assets and create additional valuable services like location analytics and maintenance” — BMW (cognitive cars), Local Motors (3D-printed, electric autonomous vehicles) and KONE — “connecting millions of assets like elevators across client sites for predictive maintenance and improved product quality”

 

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