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Norbert Riepl

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Who wants to talk about data while we’re in the grip of the coronavirus?

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The coronavirus pandemic has the world on tenterhooks. At the moment it is difficult to talk about much else, wherever you are in the world. Just when will it go back to normal? The economic crisis will not end when the production halts, restrictions on movement and social distancing measures are lifted. Many processes will have to be started again from scratch. The lead times required for intermediate goods in the automotive industry are just as long as the time needed to install them in a vehicle. Supply chains need to be accommodated and all staff have to be reintegrated into the production process.

The picture shows how data flows in a cart as ones and zeros.

What impact will data have in the future?

You need data for that?

For many companies nowadays, data is the basis on which they build their business models. The systems used are nearly all proprietary, however, In other words, they each have their own ecosystem. They are not made to record others’ data or publish their own. The uncertainty around misuse outweighs any possible benefits. If the necessary data could be exchanged, used, and securely managed between companies, it would do a great deal of good for the companies’ value chains (e.g., collaborative condition monitoring (German only) and bring some life back into the markets.

How can you guarantee data sovereignty?

No one likes the idea of entrusting a competitor with their data – they don’t want to lose their USP, competitive edge, or market share. This is where Deutsche Telekom’s digital data market place comes in. The Data Intelligence Hub (DIH) makes it possible to exchange data without revealing your own business secrets. Take umati (Universal Machine Tool Interface) for example. Launched in 2017 by the German Machine Tool Builders' Association (VDW), it now has over one hundred partners. The data runs via an OPC UA interface (Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture) and can be collected, used or exchanged in the DIH, amongst others. All under the conditions approved in each individual case. "With umati, a quantum leap in the implementation of Industry 4.0 in production has been achieved", explains Dr. Alexander Broos, umati project manager and head of research and technology VDW.

What happens with the data?

One obvious advantage of this procedure is that data can be shared conveniently, without the need for multiple interfaces. It goes directly from source to destination. The DIH not only serves as a data marketplace in this respect, but also as a secure infrastructure for storing and processing the data. High-performance computers, such as the Hawk supercomputer in Stuttgart, are able to analyze data in-depth. Possible outcomes include improved production processes, more efficient supply chains, or the development of artificial intelligence.

Can data help prevent delivery bottlenecks?

Supply chains that are continually monitored. Programming access systems for suppliers. Transmitting machine data. Anything to do with production and logistics can, to a certain extent, be influenced. There is a great deal of data which can be used to determine the necessary steps to reduce any negative impacts. 

Measures relating to the coronavirus pandemic cannot currently be automated. The empirical data on panic buying and staff shortages that would be needed to automatically initiate any steps simply does not exist. The extent to which data generated now could help prevent such problems in the future depends on the cooperation of all those involved. The Federal Government has organized various events, including a hackathon (German only) aimed at bringing creative minds together to discuss aid measures. The data is anonymized and utilized using the DIH.

What impact will data have in the future?

Without the evaluation and processing of gathered data, we would miss out on many opportunities to make the working world of tomorrow more viable for the future. In the long-term, hardly any company, public authority, health organization, etc., will be able ignore this fact without experiencing competitive or strategic disadvantages.

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