Klaus vom Hofe


"Stay human": A stroll across the Digital X

"Be digital. Stay human." - A drift through the Digital X shows how the motto of an event with 50,000 people is also reflected in the supposedly small things. Insights away from the limelight, celebrities, stars and co. at the "World Exhibition of Digitalization" in Cologne.

Escalators in a large building, focus on a luminous advertisement

The Digital X motto - here in a big way at Cologne's Cinedom am Mediapark. Like many other buildings, squares, pubs and restaurants, the cinema was dedicated to Digital X for two days.

The fear of missing out, or "Fomo" for short ... yes, it is present on this September day in Cologne. At an event with 300 exhibitors, partners of Deutsche Telekom as well as startups, it is not absent. Plus a full stage program with celebrities from Abba's Björn Ulvaeus to Amy Webb to - screech alert - George Clooney.

I detach myself from "Fomo". I leave the big highlights to the media stars. I want to drift through the districts where Digital X will be spread out for two days: in pubs and restaurants, on squares as well as in the park. I'm on the lookout for small, fine examples of "Be digital. Stay human." Because the motto also seems important to me personally when it comes to the topic of "digitalization."

Two men at a booth

Johannes Mailänder (l.) and Gregor Giataganas from Lichtwart. At Digital X they received the sustainability award from Deutsche Telekom's "Tech Boost" start-up program: first place among 900 other start-ups. © Deutsche Telekom

"Want to make the starry sky visible again”

And I soon find what I'm looking for at the start-up Lichtwart. With its fist-sized hardware, all kinds of lights adapt to the lighting conditions: "Just like your smartphone at night," clarifies founder Johannes Mailänder to me. Whether it's neon signs or the light in restroom stalls on the highways. So less light smog that clouds the view of the stars, according to the vision: "We want to make the starry sky visible again," says Mailänder. Hand on heart, dear city dwellers: When did you last see the Big Dipper? 

With the Internet-of-Things solution from Lichtwart and Deutsche Telekom, lighting systems can also be monitored remotely - via the cloud from all kinds of devices. If, for example, one of the letters on a neon sign fails, the technicians are informed of the details of the malfunction and have to make fewer trips back and forth to make their diagnoses. I have to smile: Until 2008, our Deutsche Telekom stores were still called "T-Punkt". Back then, the last letter on the illuminated lettering of a store fell out: A "T-Punk" shone into the night, and a photo of it went viral. Just one example. And a rather harmless one at that. But it shows how important it is that the lettering works. In short: cutting costs, protecting the environment, protecting the brand - that's how Lichtwart sums it up. I think of the starry sky for people, of nature, of calmed financial areas and executive floors. And of the technicians who, well informed, can repair better.

A man explains something to others on a monitor

Has developed an app that enables companies to expand more quickly: Sebastian Ehrhardt (right) from Deutsche Telekom. © Deutsche Telekom

Partners for corporate networks

Technology specialists for whom digitization makes their jobs easier - that brings me to my colleague Sebastian Ehrhardt from Service. I know he'll be working at the booth of Deutsche Telekom partner Cisco at Digital X - and I make my way there. Sebastian has developed an app for our technical field service. Deutsche Telekom uses it to get new branches and business customer sites up and running faster: point-of-sale systems, computers, servers and more ... The app brings network information to where it is urgently needed: to those who are helping to set up such new sites. Sebastian works in a team that provides "full managed services" for the IT and telecommunications networks of our enterprise customers. Deutsche Telekom takes over the complete network operation for the customer. Like the Cisco Meraki solution, for example. As a cloud solution, Meraki offers interfaces (APIs), so the necessary information can now flow to the field service via app. It's very busy at Cisco. I can see Sebastian from afar, talking to customers and giving presentations. I decide not to disturb him - and am pleased to see the crowds and the interest in connectivity.

A robot dog and a real dog

Irritating at a first glance: the robo-dog. © Deutsche Telekom

Up close and personal with the robot dogs

There's also interest in robots: they're finding their way into our lives, for example as servers in the restaurant trade. At Digital X, loud stomping in a tent draws me in. Curious people stand at the entrance, but not everyone enters. Inside, two robot dogs run around like crazy. 

Anyone who ventures inside notices that they never get too close to people. One visitor talks to them as if they were real dogs ... Behind this exhibit are  Andrea Anner and Thibault Brevet, both graduates of the Swiss art school ECAL. They are doing research on the interaction between man and machine, especially outside factory halls. Next to the tent with the "dogs," I see robotic arms producing giant soap bubbles. And next to it, two steel arms with a cord invite people to "jump rope." Many join in. These robots are always an eye-catcher. I like the will to sound out early on how we humans will live together with the machines. (By the way, a robot dog can also be seen in Deutsche Telekom's Netzgeschichten video)

Two men and a woman at a booth

Awareness of the momentous first days on the job (from right): Hanna Bartholomä, Michael Klanke and Julian Haak from Equipme. © Deutsche Telekom, Jürgen Schwarz

Something new for the first days in the new job   

Once again, a start-up catches my eye as I pass by: Equipme provides companies with a web app that can be used to order IT, software, office furniture and more - depending on what the employer wants to offer. So virtual yoga classes, fruit baskets, and, and, and ... are also conceivable. 

The portal is also designed to make it easier for new employees to get started and to accommodate them. "This immediately binds them more closely to the company," says Hanna Bartolomä of Equipme. In the race for the best talent, she says, this should not be underestimated. 

What appeals to me is the digital networking role that the startup obviously plays here. As does its close connection to companies and professionals - and its understanding of a point in time that many have their own intense experiences with: the first days in a new job.   

People sitting in a discussion group

New technologies: Orientation urgently needed. The Deutsche Telekom workshop brought together like-minded people from different companies. © Deutsche Telekom

Technology for people: Internal movement spills "out there"

Change of scene. Away from the hustle and bustle outside, into a workshop room at Cologne's Mediapark. Our team from the "Human-centered Technology Movement" had invited Digital-X visitors to discuss this question: "Human values in the digital business world - do we need it or can it be dropped"? This is what the movement is about: Technology should never be an end in itself, but should always benefit humans and never harm them. Accordingly, this should be taken into account in early developments. Negative examples: Social media - once launched with good intentions, the platforms have long since revealed ugly grimaces. Artificial intelligence provides the tools for the "Grandchild Trick 2.0", in that voices and even videos of people can simply be faked. And, and, and ... What can we do, especially in Europe, to ensure that our values do not go down the drain in the face of unleashed technologies?

The workshop room is fully booked. The topic, the crazy speed of developments, moves many. Some report that there is a lack of orientation in dealing with the new technologies - both professionally and privately. That the dangers are underestimated. I'm thinking of the author Ferdinand von Schirach in a Deutsche Telekom talk with Claudia Nemat, Member of the Board of Management for Technology & Innovation. How vehemently he called for new fundamental rights such as digital self-determination in the face of digital developments. How impressed I was by that. I'm delighted that the dialog started a year ago by the human-centered technology movement is now finding its way out within Deutsche Telekom. And how nice: Some participants left their e-mail addresses so that they could continue to participate in the discussion in the future. For example, at next year's Deutsche Telekom Barcamp. The date has already been set: May 29, 2024. Hashtag: #humancenteredtechnology   

A bag of sweets and clothes on a clothes rack

Upcycling of clothing & co: "From old to new" - without shredding. © Deutsche Telekom, Jürgen Schwarz

Against "fast fashion”

Back outside again, one of the start-ups grounds me at the end of the day: MOOT from Berlin makes new things from used textiles without breaking them down into their components. MOOT stands for "Made Out Of Trash." I'm looking forward to checking out their booth as well. I hold a "Katjes" bag in my hand that is now a toiletry bag. A scarf that used to be a running shirt. The team is competing against "fast fashion," the flooding of our closets and trash cans with cheap, short-lived clothes. MOOT is one of my personal stars at Digital X. This one also shows that "Algorithm isn't necessarily everything."

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