Well Connected

In summer 2006, as part of its work to shape the real-world awareness revolution – in other words, enabling everyday objects or assets to communicate with their environments and among themselves – SAP Research launched the Enterprise Services Community (ES Community) for SensorNets (sensor networks). The community is currently focusing on the wireless version of these nets – wireless sensor networks. A wireless sensor network (WSN) consists of independent devices that use sensors to jointly monitor physical or environmental conditions such as temperature, sound, vibration, pressure, motion, and pollutants at different locations.
The ES Community allows SAP Research to bring together industry leaders such as Intel, Nokia, and Siemens, small and midsized businesses, and promising innovative start-up companies. This provides the ideal conditions for ongoing debate on business models, architectural concepts, and customer opportunities. Currently boasting more than 20 members, the success of the ES Community program has already exceeded expectations.
“The ES Community demonstrates SAP Research’s commitment to creating a long-term communications platform that will help SAP customers and partners in the U.S. and Europe define and communicate their needs to SAP,” explains Stamatis Karnouskos of SAP Research.

Exploring the potential of SensorNets

The Community also raises the profile of SAP’s involvement in wireless sensor network technology and its innovative applications for future enterprises – work that is yet to gain widespread recognition. Thanks to the involvement of SAP customers, the ES Community is at the forefront of development work on SensorNets and is shaping the future of this technology. SAP conducts research on WSNs in projects such as SOCRADES, where wireless sensor networks are being used to monitor and control manufacturing processes, and CoBIs, where they were used for hazardous goods management. Through the latter part of 2006 and in the first few months of 2007, SAP Research hosted several workshops for participants in the Enterprise Service Community for SensorNets in the U.S. and Europe.
One result of the latest workshop, which was held on April 20 in Palo Alto, CA, under the title “Towards the real-time Enterprise”, was the decision to form a Community Advisory Group (CAG). This CAG will work toward a white paper on SensorNets, designed to establish a common understanding throughout the industry. It is expected to be published late 2007 and will be made available to SAP product groups. The white paper will also become the basis for establishing a Community Definition Group (CDG) to define interfaces and services based on the SensorNets that will be commonplace in the product ranges of SAP and the participating companies.
According to Stephen Miles of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “The SAP SensorNets ES Community can play an important role in supporting standards and best practices for interfacing sensor ‘real-world awareness’ with enterprise applications. The need to bring these disparate information streams together is already apparent in industries like health care, where the quality and security of the pharmaceutical supply chain and the delivery of patient care is at stake.”

Staying in touch with customers’ demands

“We follow the principle of co-innovation in all our work. This ensures we are always in touch with the needs of our customers and use academic and corporate connections for our mutual benefit,” explains Lutz Heuser, vice president SAP Research and Chief Development Architect.
SAP Research is regularly invited to give presentations on ongoing projects before the Customer Advisory Councils managed by SAP industry business units. Made up of SAP customers, these councils are instrumental in defining customer needs and communicating these needs to SAP.
“Working with these councils helps us achieve several goals: Firstly, we can provide a preview of our research work, secondly, we can demonstrate SAP’s thought leadership, and thirdly, we can gain a valuable insight into issues such as how work can be made even more relevant to our customers,” comments Petra Hochstein, Director Business Development at SAP Research.
Contact with SAP customers is running along similar lines in an upcoming project on technology for the public security domain. This project is being run jointly by SAP Research, the German Federal Ministry for Research, and a number of technology and academic partners. The project’s Users Advisory Board, which is made up of additional SAP customers and domain users, observes the solutions, providing valuable feedback to ensure that customers will be willing to invest in them further down the line. This boosts the expected benefits for everyone connected to the technologies being explored.

Bridges between academia and business

As part of its work to bring the worlds of academia and business together, SAP Research hosts the yearly International Research Forum (IRF). This year’s forum, which took place in late May in Eltville (Germany), attracted over 30 IT visionaries from industry and universities across the globe under the motto “Service-Oriented Business Transformation.” Pioneering a new, more interactive format that balanced discussion clusters with presentations and face-to-face meetings, the forum enabled participants to get straight to the heart of the topics being discussed: Enterprise 2.0, User-Driven Innovation, Service Grid, and Business Model Transformation.
The event was attended by a good mixture of participants from universities – Carnegie Mellon and MIT in the U.S., the University of Queensland in Australia, and several European universities – and companies including HP, IBM, Intel, McKinsey, Microsoft, and Motorola. Before, during, and after the think tank, an event wiki and blog recorded the ideas under discussion. Feedback from participants on both the format of the event and the choice of topics was outstanding. Most participants expressed an emphatic interest in attending next year’s IRF.

EMEA Curatorship: Another way of gaining valuable insight

For two years, SAP Research has been ‘taking the pulse’ of the IT field with the help of an annual curatorship round table. This platform involves productive discussions on specific topics and summarizes the thoughts of top IT researchers from SAP and external institutions such as big companies, and universities in Germany and Switzerland. This helps SAP Research identify emerging trends and issues with a huge potential impact on technology, business, and society at large. The result is out-of-the-box ideas coupled with important analyses of key developments in software.

Velin Velkov