Ready for IoT: Bosch and S&ST Count on Open Platforms as Driver of Innovation
Interview with Tanja Rückert, CEO Bosch Building Technologies, and Hartmut Schaper, CEO Security & Safety Things (S&ST)
GIT SECURITY: Ms. Rückert, when you started with Bosch for the Building Technologies division, you were known as an IoT expert focused on driving forward and implementing the strategy of connectivity. In what situation do you see Bosch Building Technologies today?
Tanja Rückert: We have already been successful making the life of our users safer, more convenient and more efficient through the ‘network of technology’ powered through connectivity. As an example, I am talking here about our solution that combines the fire alarm and the evacuation systems and ensures that everything runs smoothly when every second counts. Or we could take the integrated solution of access control and video systems that makes it possible to enter a building simply, securely, and contact-free. The fact that we can access our systems remotely and that they report on their operational status – keywords ‘Remote Services’ and ‘Predictive Maintenance’ – are very good examples that demonstrate that connectivity is an integral part of our portfolio.
But the subject of connectivity must be thought through further, so at Bosch we speak of ‘AIoT’, which is the connectivity of physical products and the application of artificial intelligence. This enables us to ask completely new questions and to solve problems. An example is our VdS-certified video-based Aviotec fire detection system, which enables us to detect incipient fires much faster than would be possible with a conventional fire detector, thanks to its intelligent algorithms. In its latest version, Aviotec can reliably detect smoke and flames through its infrared sensitivity, even at 0 Lux – that is total darkness. Our numerous connected solutions are taking us generally in the direction of the ‘automated building’. If we look even further into the future, we will have ‘thinking buildings’ that adapt to our individual needs and connect with each other.
How would this future actually look, Ms. Rückert?
Tanja Rückert: I can well imagine the following scenarios: privately, your car will drive you to your chosen destination autonomously, whether it is a hospital, a shopping mall, an office or a factory. The building already knows that you are on the way and prepares itself for your arrival. As soon as you leave your car, it parks itself automatically, the doors to the building open for you and the elevator is already waiting to bring you to the right floor. The same applies to production systems that adapt to the needs of the respective production process through intelligent connectivity. Data analysis can lead to a significant reduction in energy consumption, for example by generating less compressed air when less is needed, or by using less heating when the machines produce more waste heat.
How far are we along this road already?
Tanja Rückert: In general, I believe that it is often overestimated what can be achieved within a year, and often underestimated how much can be achieved in five years. Bosch is already successfully implementing future-oriented technologies in the present day. But to stay with the future scenarios mentioned above, Bosch has recently started a pilot project together with Mercedes-Benz and Apcoa in a multi-storey car park at Stuttgart airport in which fully automatic and driverless parking is being tested in practice. An intelligent camera infrastructure from Bosch Building Technologies is being used for the so-called ‘Automated Valet Parking’, abbr. AVP. The cameras can identify vacant parking spaces, monitor the driving aisle and detect obstacles or people in the aisle so that a car can be controlled without a driver. There is an impressive video available showing this. We at Bosch are already building this future solution.
With regard to the increasing connectivity that you mentioned, are manufacturer-specific products still relevant or do you see the future in open platforms?
Tanja Rückert: In my opinion, the era of manufacturer-specific solutions is over. Open ecosystems that bring hardware manufacturers, software developers, integrators, planners, consultants, users and others together are much more flexible and bring great advantages for everyone: Together we can simply achieve more than each one of us alone! We can offer suitable solutions for the needs of our customers much faster on the grounds of open platforms, and naturally also optimize and individualize them together with our customers. But differentiating features will remain. For the Bosch video systems unit, this means that we will continue focusing on security and trust as well as on built-in artificial intelligence. Having AI ‘at the edge’, that means in the end device, will continue to distinguish our products significantly from those of other providers now and in the future. In the case of video data, this is often critical and sensitive information so we will follow a systematic approach to maximize data security. An important component is that the data is being already encrypted at the hardware level. The corresponding key for this is securely stored in a unique integrated ‘Trusted Platform Module’, abbr. TPM, or ‘Secure Element’.
You founded the Open Security & Safety Alliance (OSSA) together with other leading companies from the video security industry to develop standards and specifications for IoT applications in security technology. Ms. Rückert, how successful has this been so far?
Tanja Rückert: Together with our partners in video security, we have defined standards and specifications for an open camera platform concept within the framework of the vendor-independent Open Security & Safety Alliance. To date, a whole row of well-known camera manufacturers have joined, from whom many already have ‘Driven by OSSA’ products on the market or will be releasing them soon. Other industry members, in particular system integrators, are interested in this ecosystem and have joined up. At the same time, this open system alliance is now expanding its scope beyond the area of video security and is already in advanced talks on this. All in all, this has currently led to some 40 leading companies working together in OSSA to drive forward innovation in the security industry – way beyond the limits of each individual organization.
Hartmut Schaper: We at Security & Safety Things GmbH, abbr. S&ST, have developed an open operating system on the basis of the OSSA standards, make it available to the manufacturers taking part, set up an Application Store and provide a comprehensive software infrastructure for the ecosystem. Customers and integrators can purchase software applications for various purposes and industries there and load them onto cameras that use the S&ST operating system. This works in a similar way as apps on smartphones.
Mr. Schaper, what does this idea from S&ST bring for end users?
Hartmut Schaper: There are three main points to mention here. First, dependence on particular hardware and software is being reduced as supported cameras can be flexibly equipped with software apps for various video analytics use cases via our Application Store, just like you can let your smartphone do different jobs by installing multiple apps on it.
Secondly, every camera that uses our operating system can run more than one application in parallel. In the past, customers have mostly needed one video analysis application for each type of camera, whereas now they can run various applications in parallel on one device. For example, ‘License Plate Recognition’ can be combined simply with the automatic recognition of the vehicle color and the model in order to allow more comprehensive and deeper analysis.
Thirdly, and probably most importantly, these cameras can be equipped with new apps at any time and thus be made more powerful or used for totally different purposes. One has the flexibility to adapt the function of a camera over its lifetime through its applications to best fulfill its specific purpose.
How does that look in practice?
Hartmut Schaper: Let’s take an example scenario with a direct link to the pandemic: say, an electronics shop purchases several cameras with our operating system. Before the pandemic starts, they install some cameras at the entrance to count the number of customers coming in. Others are equipped either by them or the integrator to analyze customer traffic in the shop and simultaneously report empty shelves that need filling. Other cameras are set up so that they recognize potential theft or accidents, such as someone falling over, and report these to the staff. As new health directives come into force because of the pandemic, the customer can now quickly adapt their cameras at the entrances through the Application Store so that on top of counting people, they can now also check for facemasks being worn. Cameras above the sales area can be equipped with apps that now recognize the formation of groups and alert the staff.
It is worth mentioning that the number of available apps in the Application Store is growing continuously. Even if a needed application is not yet available, it can be developed and made available within weeks, depending on its complexity. In such cases we also mediate between app developers, integrators and end customers, in particular if it is an application that could be useful for other customers. Our development partners are very interested to develop for our platform, and thereby for a global clientèle. And that is exactly why we are convinced that ever more applications will become available in the future within ever shorter periods of time.
Bosch Building Technologies is one of the partners that already works with the operating system from S&ST. Will all Bosch cameras be equipped with this in the future and be able to use the apps?
Tanja Rückert: We have just developed our ‘Inteox’ Bosch camera platform. As a completely open camera platform, it combines Bosch intelligent video analytics with the open operating system from S&ST. This gives our customers access to the S&ST Application Store and correspondingly the ability to add software applications as required. We are already implementing pilot projects with some of our key customers in order to gain more real-life experience. For a start, the moving Inteox cameras, that is Mic and Autodome, and early next year the fixed cameras, the Dinion and Flexidome, will be offered to meet the different requirements of our customers.
For which target group of resellers and users is the Inteox intended and which applications are already available?
Tanja Rückert: Thanks to the constantly growing variety of software applications in the Application Store, Bosch integrators can respond to customer requirements in projects much more flexibly than before. If there are special requirements when installing the cameras that are not covered as standard, the corresponding software application can be made available via the Application Store or we can even bring in our software partners to develop a suitable solution for very special needs. For example in the entrance area, as Mr. Schaper explained, where we can combine multiple apps with our intelligent video analytics as required. Our Inteox range enables us to approach a much wider range of users than before.
How are your open operating system and the Application Store developing, Mr. Schaper?
Hartmut Schaper: More than 30 app development companies have already produced more than 70 apps for cameras that use our operating system – making our Application Store the fastest-growing marketplace for camera apps. We can currently offer these in 19 countries and will add more next year. Together with the cameras that are already available or expected his year from seven manufacturers, it is evident that the market has bought into the idea of our platform. In fact, cameras with corresponding apps are already being used by customers delivering value, for example in the context of ‘Retail Analytics’ or ‘Parking Management’, to mention two concrete application examples.
In the next step we would like to extend our ecosystem and on-board new partners. And since we consider ourselves a platform for innovation, we will always be looking for exciting new areas of application for AI-enabled video analytics. This will often go beyond the traditional domains of security and safety. We can envisage applications in totally new areas, such as in manufacturing, healthcare or agriculture or by improving the spectator experience in the area of sport or entertainment. In such areas edge-based analytics can provide innovative AI solutions while at the same time protecting privacy in a much better way.
Tanja Rückert: The analysis of data in the device ‘at the edge’ that Mr. Schaper mentioned is supported by us wholeheartedly. This technology has already been in use at Bosch Building Technologies for some years in all of our cameras as standard and is being used successfully by our customers. But we also offer cloud-based analytics, depending on the particular purpose and requirements of the customer.
Ms. Rückert, what is your formula for success in reaching the right ratio of differentiation and system openness in competition for market share?
Tanja Rückert: The cake is large enough for all of us. It will become even larger with common standards and a continuously growing number of attractive solutions because we are not only creating significant added value in security, but also contributing to optimizing complex processes. Nevertheless, it must still be possible for every manufacturer to differentiate its products. The standard built-in intelligent video analytics from Bosch continues to be an integral part of our Inteox cameras – and remains a key differentiator. We will also continue to maintain high standards of security in hardware and software during our product development. All this combined with an open ecosystem represents Inteox. An open ecosystem is much more attractive for the app-developer community than an individual manufacturer can ever be. That enables us to offer customers from a wide range of industries great added value – both in the area of security and beyond.