On Thursday, February 5, Andreas Storm, the parliamentary secretary of state at the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), officially marked the start of ADiWa – an alliance for the digital flow of goods – in the German city of Darmstadt.
The government-sponsored research project aims to drive the digitalization of flows of goods, ultimately creating universal data collection and analysis, so that companies and consumers can, in the future, tap all the advantages of the Internet of Things. As well as SAP, which is coordinating the project, the main partners are the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the Fraunhofer Institute, IDS Scheer, Software AG, plus the Technical University of Darmstadt and the Technical University of Dresden.
“Data highways are the means of transport of tomorrow. We want to be at the forefront of IT – and we want to achieve this by shaping the Internet of the future,” said SAP Co-CEO Henning Kagermann, underlining the high expectations he has of the ADiWa initiative.
Funded with €17.7 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and €10.4 million from the partners over a three-year period, ADiWa is testimony to the fact that Germany is continuing to invest in groundbreaking research, ensuring that it remains a technological leader and a competitive business location – despite the economic downturn.
The project is part of the high-tech strategy that the German federal government has adopted to transform Germany into one of the most research-friendly countries in the world. With three joint projects SemProM, Aletheia, and ADiWa, the German federal government is investing a total of around €45 million in the Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things is a network in which physical objects communicate with one another, for example, using RFID (radio-frequency identification), whereby small tags are attached to items so that they can be identified and described. With RFID, products and goods contain all the important information – such as origin, age, and expiry date – and can make this information available to their environment. This means that important data that might otherwise impede or slow down the flow of goods can be identified and rectified at an early stage – in some cases by the control software itself.
Experts predict that this technology will fundamentally change the way we live. One vision is the frozen spinach that can complain if it gets too warm, explained Wolfgang Wahlster from the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence at the opening ceremony in Darmstadt. The parcel at the post office that says, “I’m an express delivery and I’ve been hanging around here for six hours already” was another example he gave. According to Wahlster, the technology already exists today, but the costs are still too high for use in our everyday lives.
“Our strengths lie in the area of products, goods, and production. With the Internet of Things, Germany has the opportunity to assume a leading role in shaping the Internet of the future and its applications,” Andreas Storm said at the signing of the cooperation agreement by the project partners. He added, “Only by digitalizing the flow of goods – in other words, by connecting the real flow of goods with digital data streams – can we successfully meet these challenges.”
The goal of the ADiWa research project is therefore to research technologies for business applications that plan, control, and execute complex and dynamic business processes using the Internet of Things, Storm continued.
ADiWa brings together the three software companies SAP, IDS Scheer, and Software AG, plus partners from the academic world: the Fraunhofer Institute, the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, and the Technical Universities of Darmstadt and Dresden. To remain close to the intended end users and ensure that the results can be implemented in practice, renowned industrial companies such as ABB, DB Schenker, and Globus will be involved in designing and evaluating the applications.
Furthermore, midmarket companies such as B2M Software, Sopera, and ubigrate will contribute to the project with specialized solutions.
The ADiWa project itself supplements the Digital Product Memory research alliance, which currently comprises the Aletheia (Semantic Federation of Comprehensive Product Information) and SemProM (Semantic Product Memory) projects sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
ADiWa builds on and integrates these two precursor projects. SeMProm and Aletheia primarily examined questions within the context of products, addressing such topics as “how products keep a diary” and “a holistic view of product-based knowledge.” ADiWa will now draw on these results to investigate their potential for optimizing business processes.
In addition, the project forms part of the German federal government’s high-tech strategy, which aims to help Germany become one of the most research-friendly countries in the world. By the end of 2009, around €15 billion will be pumped into strengthening research and innovation so that Germany – described by Storm as a high-wage country low in natural resources – is prepared for the technologies of the future.