Uli Regenscheit, Stuttgart

Just Test(bed) IT – The Successful Way to Add Value

A review of the Steinbeis Engineering Day 2017

Organized by the Ferdinand Steinbeis Institute (FSTI) in collaboration with the German regional team of the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), this year’s Steinbeis Engineering Day was an invitation to take part in an experiment: Just Test(bed) IT. The aim was to work with the companies at the event to develop a pragmatic approach toward digital transformation and networking (“D&N”) and design cross-industry, value-adding scenarios based on partnership.

The event was an opportunity to introduce delegates to the concept of the testbed by drawing on practical examples supplied by the IIC. It was also a chance for everyone at the event to discuss personal ideas and issues regarding D&N and move forward with the topic. “None of us know where digital transformation and networking will take our companies, and that’s why we want to use the day to start the journey together and play a proactive role in successfully implementing digital solutions and networks.” The opening talk by Professor Dr. Heiner Lasi (director of the FSTI) was an invitation to the audience to take the name of the event to heart – Just Test(bed) IT – and work together to identify a common approach for introducing digital solutions. As Lasi explained, Just Test(bed) IT is about finding ways to recognize opportunities, get involved, and work with others on a pragmatic implementation in the real environment of a company, and perhaps also accept that there is a risk of failure.

The possibilities created by collaboration across companies and different sectors of industry were described in a lively discussion involving Professor Dr. Heiner Lasi, Dr. Marlene Gottwald (FSTI), and Dirk Slama (Bosch Software Innovations, IIC Steering Committee member). Drawing on the example of the Track-and-Trace Testbed coordinated by the IIC, Slama explained the advantages of collaborative, interdisciplinary alliances, showing how the benefits are also there to be enjoyed by big companies. Even for a company like Bosch, there is little point trying to work out and implement ways to solve the problems of the industrial internet of things (IIoT) on its own, said Slama. Success is much more likely if several companies collaborate and work in partnership, across all sectors of industry and different disciplines.

The starting point for the Track-and-Trace Testbed, as well as other testbeds, is a general issue – something that could be solved by drawing on internet solutions and something that could generate even more added value. A central aspect in initiating a testbed is what the IIC likes to call a hotspot. The IIoT is an important enabler for cross-industry interoperability, interconnectivity, and trust. The testbed approach allows companies that want to work with other companies on successful problemsolving scenarios to join forces and tackle interdisciplinary issues together. Sometimes this means that firms will rub shoulders with the competition, and the FSTI has recognized that one key success factor for such testbeds is a safe environment. The aim is to commercialize the companies’ common experiences with web-based and added valuebased ecosystems.

The approach used for the testbeds was described and discussed by using a selection of three IIC Testbeds. Benjamin Mang (TE Connectivity Ltd) emphasized that it is important to work with other parties, particularly when it comes to IIoT. When launching the Smart Manufacturing Connectivity Testbed, which focuses on brown-field sensors, one of the key challenges was connectivity, although there were also issues relating to machines, sensors, software, the cloud, and related communication. These could only be addressed by allowing several companies to work together as partners. Drawing on the example of the IIC Smart Factory Web Testbed, Dr. Kym Watson (Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technology, and Image Exploitation IOSB) highlighted another benefit of testbeds: (international) visibility. All testbeds currently available through the IIC are presented and discussed with a public audience at quarterly consortium meetings, and this has resulted in a variety of valuable contacts at other companies, explains Watson. In his presentation on the IIC Testbed Communication & Control for Microgrid Applications, Reiner Duwe (Real-Time Innovations, Inc) emphasized that the experiences people have had with existing testbeds can be used to work out best practice and that this can be made available to other companies. The pragmatic approach taken with the testbeds also makes it possible to quickly implement any solutions that arise.

“What these examples have in common is not necessarily the technology, but the fact that interdisciplinary and cross-sector collaboration resulted in new added value scenarios,” concludes Lasi. Given this experience, the testbed model is not just important for big companies. Actively becoming involved in a testbed is a particularly good way to apply specialist know-how in a way that adds value, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises, and this allows the tool to become a useful part of a value-oriented ecosystem. To reduce barriers to entry and eliminate potential language barriers, the Ferdinand Steinbeis Institute has been working with the IIC German regional team on a special micro testbed concept for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The second part of the event was a chance for the delegates to introduce their own testbed ideas and enter into new partnerships. To do this, teams involving different companies had already identified hotspots with a particular relevance to SMEs before the event. There was then what the organizers called a testbed bonding session to stimulate lively discussion about the pinpointed hotspots with the aim of being more specific. This resulted in some promising interdisciplinary and crosssector approaches for putting other Testbeds in place. These are now being looked at in more detail by the FSTI and transferred to specific micro testbeds.


Die Mitschnitte der von den Referenten freigegebenen Vortrage finden Sie online in der Steinbeis-Mediathek auf www.steinbeis.de/mediathek

Dr. Marlene Gottwald, Patrick Weber
Ferdinand-Steinbeis-Institute (Stuttgart)