Bosch has expanded its offering beyond the design of home appliances to form a new company, Bosch Connected Devices and Solutions GmbH, for the Internet of things and services: The company will supply compact electronic products and software expertise designed to make devices and objects intelligent and web-enabled across a broad range of applications. It will initially focus on sensor-based applications for intelligently networked homes, or “smart homes,” as well as for activities in the fields of traffic, transportation and logistics.
“From vehicles and smart phones to containers and machines — by 2015, more than six billion things will be connected to the Internet. Entirely new services will emerge that will transform people’s everyday lives and open up huge new business opportunities. These services will rely on the smart networking of devices within wider systems,” says Dr. Volkmar Denner, chairman of the board of management of Robert Bosch GmbH. “Setting up Bosch Connected Devices and Solutions is a key strategic step in our plans to expand our portfolio for the Internet of things and services.”
Bosch Connected Devices and Solutions GmbH is headquartered in Reutlingen, Germany, with sites planned in Coimbatore, India and Suzhou, China, and specializes in the development of networked sensors and actuators. Actuators convert electrical signals from sensors or control units into a physical action, such as automatically switching a light on and off or opening and closing a valve.
Tiny networks of MEMS sensors with their microscopically fine structures can be used to measure acceleration, air pressure, the earth’s magnetic field, yaw rate, noise or temperature. The sensors can be intelligently programmed using software algorithms and equipped with microcontrollers, miniature batteries, and tiny radio chips, enabling them to process measurement data and send it over the Internet to other devices, such as a user’s smart phone. In theory, this makes it possible to bring all the things that people use in their everyday lives online, gradually merging together the real and virtual worlds.
Bosch can draw on many years of expertise in the development and manufacture of electronics and sensor technology. As the world’s largest supplier of MEMS sensors, the company produces more than a billion micromechanical sensors a year for the automotive and consumer electronics markets.
“The introduction of MEMS sensors in automotive electronics in the 1980s and 1990s marked the first wave of growth. The second major wave has been their widespread incorporation in smart phones, tablets, and games consoles since the beginning of the 21st century — and the Internet of things and services now heralds the third wave. We’re convinced that it will far surpass the first two waves,” Denner says. “Sensors, signal processing, batteries, and transmitters have become so small, energy efficient, and inexpensive — even as all-in-one units — that they can be used in their billions. And at the same time radio networks are now available almost everywhere.”
- Using a combination of sensors and software, a smart home can detect that the windows upstairs are open and link this piece of information to a weather forecast from the Internet. To protect the house from an approaching storm, the system would be able to automatically close the windows and lower the shutters.
- “Smart plugs” can be used to switch a nursery’s irrigation system on and off depending on the soil’s moisture content.
- Sensors integrated in packages and consignments of goods can be used to monitor their transportation. The data shows whether the goods have been handled roughly, dropped, left out in the rain, or exposed to unusual temperatures, so responsibilities can be correctly assigned at all times. And if a consignment disappears, the recorded geodata allow the route it took to be easily tracked. With the rapid increase of Internet commerce, this is a fast growing market.
Bosch is presenting many of the possibilities for the home offered by the internet of things and services this week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014 in Las Vegas. Combined in a radio-enabled network, multiple sensors will continuously read and transmit information on their immediate environment. This will enable authorized users to find out which doors are open or closed, how noisy it is, and how the temperature, pressure and humidity have varied over the course of the day at different points in the booth. Bosch says this combination of sensors will turn its trade fair booth into a showcase for devices that maintain radio contact and exchange information with each other.
Also on display this week at CES is Ford’s C-MAX Solar Energi Concept, a first-of-its-kind sun-powered vehicle with the potential to deliver the best features of a plug-in hybrid without relying on the electric grid for fuel. Ford has done its own work in exploring the possibilities of the Internet of Things through its My Energi Lifestyle collaboration, aims to demonstrate how Americans can significantly reduce their electricity bills and carbon footprint by integrating home appliance technology with a plug-in vehicle and solar power to achieve an energy-efficient lifestyle.