Behind the scenes at the me Convention

In mid September, in Frankfurt, neighbouring the International Motor Show, SXSW and Mercedes Benz hosted the first ever me Convention. An agenda bursting with inspirational speakers and a buzzing atmosphere, the me Convention is a completely new event which, over three days, brought together creatives from the design and technology industries.

John Cohn: “Work without play is just work”

John Cohn: “Work without play is just work”

From 15th – 17th September, held in the stunning Frankfurt Festhalle, the me Convention was like no other. Since the automotive industry is being tested to redefine transport, with the hottest topics being autonomous driving and electric mobility, this challenge fascinated the SXSW team. Joining forces with Mercedes Benz, the me Convention was designed to attract like-minded individuals to share and exchange out-of-the-box thinking and a passion for innovation.

An astronaut, a rapper, and a CEO discuss the future

Exchanges between Dieter Zetsche (Chairman of Daimler AG) and Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) captivated the audience; so too, did talks from the likes of Buzz Aldrin, A$ AP Rocky, and our very own IBM Fellow John Cohn!

John is decorated with the highest title for IBM’s technical employees, he’s a self-proclaimed mad scientist who has been with IBM for over 36 years. I’ve just had my two-year anniversary, and together we are working on an innovation program for Watson Internet of Things in our global headquarters in Munich. Fortuitously, I was in Frankfurt for the Motor Show last week and could pop over to see John’s talk at the me Convention. Follow me behind the scenes!

John Cohn at the Lufthansa FlyingLab

John Cohn at the Lufthansa FlyingLab

Lufhansa FlyingLab

The me Convention had an unusual start: official partner Lufthansa hosted a pre-event panel discussion like you’ve never seen before. The Lufthansa FlyingLab on flight LH 455 from San Francisco to Frankfurt, at an altitude of over 10,000 across the Atlantic Ocean, six top class speakers boarded the Airbus A380 to deliver presentations. They discussed the future of the six main topics of the me Convention: new creation, new leadership, new realities, new urbanism, and new velocity; this panel was a precursor to the rest of the high-energy and high-spirited convention.

Setting the stage ready for John’s talk

Setting the stage ready for John’s talk

Serious play

What a stirring speech! John’s talk discussed the importance of serious play: “especially when life is at its hardest, you need to play. Play more. Play like nobody is watching! Play for a purpose. It will get you through life.” It’s not perhaps the message you’d expect from an IBM veteran. I really liked how John started his talk in a blue suit jacket, removed it (along with the antiquated IBM stereotypes), and donned his tie-dyed, rainbow-coloured labcoat. Tackling hard and personal topics such as failure and loss, John shared how playing is essential for success. He also referenced IBM founder Thomas J. Watson, who said: if you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.

John Cohn presenting

John Cohn presenting

Having worked with John for over a year now, I know how he feels before a talk: “I’m petrified. I’m always nervous before, it’s paralyzing. No, I’m not kidding!” compared to when I asked how he felt afterwards, “I enjoyed it! I enjoyed it because I could tell it resonated.” Comments I overheard from members of the audience afterwards included: “that’s the best talk I’ve heard” and “life-changing”. On the Twitter-sphere, it was described as the best session, inspiring, and contagious. The audience were dazzled. There were queues afterwards for an autograph or cheeky selfie with John. Oh, and we got one, too!

IBMer selfie outside the stunning Frankfurt Festhalle (left to right: Miriam Oglesby, John Cohn, Sven Semet, Mark Dietrich)

IBMer selfie outside the stunning Frankfurt Festhalle (left to right: Miriam Oglesby, John Cohn, Sven Semet, Mark Dietrich)

Find out more about what John and I are doing in the Watson IoT Center in Munich, in our hive for innovation.

Discover more

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The Secure Connected Car solution at IAA 2017

It’s no news that in any modern car there can be up to 100 computer components. As our cars become increasingly connected, digital, and computerized, the growing number of ECUs (Electronic Control Units) create an expansive and inviting attack surface and vulnerabilities for malicious incidents. Car hacking could include hackers attempting remote exploitation or takeover, for example. This complex network requires a layered, detailed security approach. At the Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA), IBM, HARMAN, Irdeto and Gieseke+Devrient demonstrated our joint automotive solution, the Secure Connected Car, in our booth of the New Mobility World Hall.

State-of-the-art security protection

“With over 30 years’ experience, we bring state-of-the-art security protection. Now we are adapting our solution to automotive,” explains Guiseppe Serio, IBM Solution Executive for Cybersecurity, Global Automotive. This four-layered solution combines the expertise of HARMAN, Gieseke+Devrient (G+D), Irdeto, and IBM. This technology is primarily aimed at OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), but is also useful in other cases, such as Fleet Management.

HARMAN, global leader in connected car technology, detects changes to the vehicle’s network. These can manifest through inside attacks (through USBs or dongles, for example) and outbound attacks (cellular network, WiFi, SMS, Bluetooth, etc). Harman’s SHIELD Platform and two security agents (ECUShield and TCUShield) were integrated with the IBM QRadar Security Intelligence Platform in June 2017 to counteract malicious incidents.

“The automotive cybersecurity space has been transitioning in the last year into its maturity phase, and it’s becoming evident that security is a collaborative effort,” says Asaf Atzmon, HARMAN’s Director for Business Development & Marketing, Automotive Cybersecurity. “As the market leader in this space, HARMAN is pleased to extend our partnership ecosystem, working with three security leaders to deliver an industry-first cybersecurity system that will allow OEMs and fleet managers to benefit from a truly defense-in-depth security solution.”

Irdeto: Daniel Thunberg, Global Head, Automotive (left) & Frank Sattler, Director, Business Development EMEA (right) at the IBM booth, Frankfurt International Auto Show

Irdeto: Daniel Thunberg, Global Head, Automotive (left) & Frank Sattler, Director, Business Development EMEA (right) at the IBM booth, Frankfurt International Auto Show

Irdeto, a Dutch software security company and world leader in digital platform security, forms another layer in the end-to-end solution. It detects changes in the software of ECU (Electronic Control Unit), which provides the vehicle with computing orders and instructions. This protects against malicious behavior, against hardware or from input. “IBM is the first to provide a best of breed end-to-end cybersecurity solution for the automotive industry” says Daniel Thunberg, Global Head, Internet of Things at Ideto, as he explained this layered approach to secure vehicles from malicious attacks.

Giesecke+Devrient is a global company. Mobile Security is their business unit, which serves mobile operators, banks, and enterprises, securing billions of digital identities throughout their entire life cycle. Just expanding into Automotive, G+D Mobile Security offering already holds 50% of the market share for eSIM cards, those which are embedded and programmable in our vehicles. The G+D Automotive Security Management Framework (ASMF) allows role-based access management for cars, using a PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) isometric system.

Demonstrating the security solution to counter malicious behaviour

Demonstrating the security solution to counter malicious behaviour

How do you react to malicious incidents?

IBM Security offers one of the most advanced and integrated portfolios of enterprise security products and services. In this solution, we focus on providing technology for monitoring, in the way that a security guard might watch several different security cameras. The log data is aggregated in the vehicle, IBM’s QRadar is a SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) tool, which collects general information as well as combining all log data from our three partners. This tool monitors the different sources in real-time, correlating and analyzing data, learning patterns of normal behavior.

Like an immune system, working from the inside, this multi-vendor solution protects vehicles from the cyber dangers of its environment. It also brings visibility to abnormal security events from all angles, translating them into actionable insights, to provide robust security technology.

Further resources

If you’re interested in learning more about secure connected vehicles, you might find these resources useful:

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IBM and Nokia develop Aging in Place solution to help elderly in their homes

‘Getting old is not for sissies’, said Bette Davis, famously. That’s certainly true – and for many it’s a subject we prefer to ignore, especially if it’s happening to us. But it’s also true that aging is better than the alternative, and increasingly, technology is helping us see the way to a better quality of life in our old age.

Offering personalized wellness solutions with IoT

One such assistive initiative comes from IBM and Nokia, and it’s called ‘Aging in Place’. The solution is designed to help monitor the health and wellness of elderly people within their own homes, enabling them to stay put for as long as possible and deferring the need for assistive living care.

In December 2016, IBM opened an ‘Aging in Place’ environment in its Austin Research Lab, to try and understand the types of interactions elderly people have in their homes. Using insights from this research, Nokia and IBM have developed the Aging in Place solution, which was announced at this year’s Genius of Things event in Boston. The solution combines motion sensors in the home, a Nokia IoT-enabled wellness watch, Nokia Gateway, IBM Watson IoT Platform and Nokia Wellness applications. Together, these platforms and devices can provide personalized wellness patterns tailored to each individual, and provide early warning notifications if something seems wrong.

People using the system can elect to automatically notify select friends and family as well as care givers at certain points in the day – either to assure them that all is well, or make sure they are on the scene as quickly as possible should the occasion call for it.

Pilot and deployment

While thoroughly tested in laboratory conditions, the solution has yet to hit the market. To ensure that it’s fit for purpose, Aging in Place will be deployed as part of a pilot scheme involving 40 participants, for the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga (EPB) – an internet services provider in Tennessee. Following a successful pilot, the solution will be promoted to EPB’s existing customer base of around 140,000 subscribers.

It’s early days yet, but interest in Aging in Place is high. It could help prevent avoidable accidents and help elderly people keep in touch with loved ones, while giving them a comprehensive care solution that still leaves room for independence and privacy.

Learn more

To learn more about IBM’s work on aging and care of the elderly, visit our website.

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5 genius demonstrations from the Genius of Things Boston

While the Genius of Things event in Boston is over, I’m still pondering. There are so many interesting ways that our customers are using Watson IoT to change the way we live and work. In addition to the great speakers, there were also some very impressive technology demonstrations that our partners and colleagues brought to the event. Below are some of the people and companies we talked to:

Persistent Systems

Meet the Robot Concierge. We did, when we stopped by to chat with the Persistent team. Persistent has been a leader in developing humanoid robots with Watson IoT. Used in banks, retailers, hospitals and hotels, these robots can work tirelessly 24/7. More than that, they can recognize you, converse with you and provide helpful information, all while watching for security threats. They can answer most of the frequently asked questions and learn from their human interactions. Plus, they can work with other connected systems. Of course, a robot concierge is a great photo op, but really, it’s about boosting customer satisfaction and creating that differentiated experience.


We loved the quote from Danillo Elez, senior vice president, KONE at the event. And we were equally delighted to see their innovations in action. KONE is responsible for keeping a billion people moving every day on their elevators and escalators. Yet in a 100-year-old industry, differentiation takes a lot of vision and vigilance. That’s why predictive maintenance matters. To stay ahead of problems, KONE let’s elevators speak their minds. With KONE 24/7 Connected Services and Watson IoT, intelligent real-time (and real!) machine conversations are happening. Data is translated into voice format, allowing us to eavesdrop on elevators in Sweden, Illinois, Finland, Shanghai, France and the Netherlands. Take a listen and see why we were so impressed.

Real-time conversation with an elevator in France, just one of KONE's machine conversations.

A demonstration of the real-time conversation with an elevator in France, just one of KONE’s machine conversations.

IBM IoT for Manufacturing

Visual inspection technology in action. With Legos! Because who doesn’t love Legos? Crafted over 7 weeks, this demo highlighted what we all know…the human eye gets tired.

White balls indicated a good product and orange balls indicated a defective product. The camera captured each ball as it went through the inspection process and identified defects unseen to the human eye. Every 10 seconds, the data reached the dashboard, meaning defective products were quickly analyzed.

In this demo, each ball is inspected via cognitive technology to find defects unseen to the human eye.


The dashboard reflects percent of defective balls.

Ricoh & the Intelligent Workplace

According to Ricoh, we spend an average of 40-50% of our workday in meetings. Yet 1/3 of that time is ineffective. That means that each week we waste the equivalent of an entire day.

But the future of meetings just got brighter. The Intelligent Workplace with Watson helps reduce lost productivity in employee meetings – whether remote or in person – by making it easy for employees to capture and share actions and meeting context. That means better engagement and world-class cognitive collaboration.

How Rita Works

Using the smart whiteboard, known as Rita, you can log attendance, track agenda items, capture minutes and create action items automatically. Rita will transcribe spoken language to create and send communications. And she also captures audio commands from the meeting for follow up. Now that sounds like a worthwhile meeting! What would you do with an extra day of time back each week?

Smart Connect

Smarter transportation, less pollution, better health…all of these were on display at the Smart Connect demo station. The company works with Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, which (no surprise) administers the Golden Gate Bridge and operates Golden Gate Transit. Sensor and camera data is captured from the transit buses and sent through the SmartConnect Gateway to the Watson IoT Platform. All of this data provides not only an “early warning system” for bus health, but when combined with weather information, can lead to less pollution, too. It’s all part of the Smart Connect focus on the Smart City, Smart Transportation, Smart Industrial space. And with initiatives like that, we should all breathe easier.

Golden Gate Transit uses sensors and cameras to keep their buses healthy and in service.

Golden Gate Transit uses sensors and cameras to keep their buses healthy and in service.

Every day, companies are reimagining the world with Watson IoT. These demonstrations are just a tiny sliver of that power of Watson IoT. That’s why over the coming weeks, we’ll share the “best of” from our Genius of Things Summit to help you hone your own inner genius.

For anyone who missed the Boston event, we’ve got all the information you need here.  If you’re ready to learn more about IoT today, take a tour of the solutions page to explore how Watson IoT can help you transform your business.


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Republic Parking System achieves operational excellence with IoT 

Jack Skelton, Vice President of Operations at IBM, spoke at the Genius of Things event in Boston about IBM’s work with Republic Parking System, Inc., – a company providing professional parking management services to airports, cities, hospitals and private businesses across the USA and Central America. Republic has been using IoT data and analytics to bring operational excellence to its customers, so they can bring great customer service to theirs.

Republic: taking the pain out of parking, since 1966

Anyone with a car will be familiar with the misery of the fruitless parking space search. The cruise for a hoped-for space brings with it a plethora of frustrations: wasted time for drivers, congestion in built-up areas and increased emissions, to name just a few.

It isn’t just drivers who suffer, either. When parking is part and parcel of a larger service, say, going to the airport to catch an onward flight, attending a hospital appointment, or visiting a theme park or hotel, the owners of those parking lots can end up with a customer satisfaction problem on their hands. A customer who has wasted 20 minutes trying to park has already had a negative experience before they even begin their main interaction with the company.

How the IoT can make drivers’ lives easier

As the largest operator of municipal parking systems in the USA, Republic are well-aware of these issues. To solve them, they are working with IBM to incorporate IoT data and analytics into their customers’ parking management operations.

As the Watson IoT platform can integrate with parking facility management software and payment gateways, drivers can receive real-time notifications to identify and provide directions to available parking spaces, which they can pay for with their phone. No more trawling for spaces and cursing broken ticket machines.

There’s a payoff for parking lot owners too. Integrated digital systems using Big Data Analytics are constantly using those data to provide better services, and address operational challenges such as:

  • Keeping track of vehicle fleets,
  • Identifying and enforcing parking violations,
  • Auditing and management issues,
  • Communications and logistics to find the most efficient routes for taxis and shuttles,
  • Challenges adopting and integrating new technology.

With the help of Watson IoT, Republic can help their customers identify irregular parking and unusual activity around particular vehicles, spot time limit violations, and process citations efficiently.

Additionally, video analytics and a targeted citation process mean tickets and fines for parking violations can be processed automatically, without the need for manual enforcement, saving parking lot owners time, labour and money.

Further resources

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