Top learnings from the recent CEBIT show in Hannover

Top learnings from the recent CEBIT show in Hannover

AI, robotics and blockchain were among the biggest talking points at the event

Richard Humphreys |

The new, revamped CEBIT show, which took place in Hannover, Germany from 11-15 June, enjoyed a successful premiere, as more than 2,800 participating companies, over 600 speakers on ten stages, and 370 startups from Europe, Africa and Asia turned Hannover into the world’s digitisation hotspot over a five-day period.

Achim Berg, president of the German Association for Information Technology (Bitkom) set the tone for the event during his welcome: “We are living in exciting times, with our boldest fantasies being overtaken by actual developments at breakneck speed!” he said.

A high-visibility emblem of this phenomenon was the 60-metre tall Ferris wheel erected by SAP, with 40 passenger cabins which, apart from providing a unique aerial view of the digitisation festival, showcased concrete examples of AI, IoT and other innovative technologies.

Self-learning systems were a beacon theme at this year’s CEBIT. Hewlett Packard Enterprise demonstrated how computers will soon be able to compare millions of disease symptoms from a multitude of different sources in order to identify the ideal medication for a particular patient. At the IBM stand, visitors were introduced to a smart assistant, equipped with voice control, cameras and sensors, that is supporting the German astronaut Alexander Gerst during his mission on the ISS space station.

The event also showcased how AI technologies are delivering real benefits in the digital workspace, providing examples of how digital assistants and chatbots respond to human voice instructions to simplify the operation of many new software tools. Numerous exhibitors were also presenting solutions with 360-degree output for complete processes. One of the key topics in this context was data security. Given that many dangerous attacks originate from employee workstations, several exhibitors presented automated security concepts.

Artificial intelligence (AI) looks even more impressive when manifested in quasi-human form – and this was demonstrated with the humanoid robot “Pepper” from SoftBank which reacts to human feelings and answers questions on products and services.

At the interface between research and industry, research institutions were also present at CEBIT to showcase their latest innovations. The Karlsruhe Institute for Technology (KIT) presented its ARMAR-6 robot, which assists its human colleagues in operating power drills and is also capable of learning how to use new tools through simple observation. Meanwhile, the efficient and reliable collaboration between humans and robots in an Industry 4.0 production setting was the subject of an exhibit by the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI).

A standout highlight at this year’s CEBIT was the visionary keynote from Marc Raibert, founder and CEO of the US firm Boston Dynamics, who illustrated the incredible opportunities that are now within reach via a four-legged robot dog, which is capable of moving autonomously over rough terrain.

With the advent of 5G technology, many of the show’s exhibitors were keen to demonstrate how mobile wireless data is now about to take a quantum leap. Real-time data communications now make it possible to instantly implement many of the brand-new IoT applications debuting at this year’s CEBIT. The display at the Vodafone stand, for instance, showed visitors how 5G wireless-connected robots are able to learn from each other, even when physically separated by hundreds of kilometres. In the future, IoT will even include sensor-equipped truck tyres, offering fleet operators the opportunity to remotely monitor temperatures and pressures using an app.

The themes of predictive maintenance and the smart city were also prominent during the event. Huawei presented its intelligent nervous system for metropolitan areas to reduce the problem of increased traffic volumes and environmental pollution. Meanwhile, Software AG showcased a process for dramatically improving waste disposal and the maintenance of faulty street lights, with smart sensors on trashcans and connected street lighting concepts.

In Hall 25, the focus was on smart mobility concepts. Volkswagen was celebrating a world premiere with its Sedric Active robot car. The automotive manufacturer plans to implement the vision of ‘pushbutton mobility’ within a few years. Along with autonomous driving, the displays also focused on topics such as quantum computing and car sharing. The General German Automobile Club (ADAC) presented itself on the scale 11 startup platform as a host for startups and young companies in the mobility sector, while Deutsche Bahn unveiled the regional train of the future, featuring multimedia passenger services. Innovative electric mobility ideas were on display at the e.Go and IONITY stands, with an autonomous electric bus and a virtual reality trip into the e-mobility of the future.

Another vigorously debated theme at this CEBIT was blockchain. Several companies featured exhibits demonstrating that this technology is suitable for secure data transmission in IoT and also for renewable energy trading or car-sharing services. Even administrative actors can benefit from blockchain, as demonstrated by Materna, with its concept of a continuously updated fine particulates map based on citizen input.

In a showcase of a slightly different kind, DXC Technology displayed a robot mixing drinks that had been ordered using a blockchain-based order chain.

From internet pioneer Jaron Lanier, the man who denounced the business model of the giant Internet companies, to “memory hacker” Julia Shaw, who revealed how human memory can be manipulated, and the security expert Mikka Hyppönen, who drew attention to qualitatively new forms of cyberattack – this year’s CEBIT offered an eclectic array of lectures and presentations.

As well as being a high-calibre business event, the new-look CEBIT was a festival for everyone, featuring outdoor concerts by musicians like Jan Delay, Mando Diao and the Giant Rooks, along with other performing acts and DJ sets.


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