The German conglomerate unveiled an array of smart city technology at the Consumer Electronics Show for applications ranging from air quality management to flood monitoring.
Stefan Hartung, a board member at Robert Bosch GmbH, tinkers with IoT technology in his spare time. “I am probably one of the biggest techies on the Bosch board of management,” Hartung declared on stage at the beginning of a CES press conference. “When we entered the smart home business, I made a point of trying out as much technology as I could,” said Hartung, who is a mechanical engineer with a doctorate in industrial quality management. “Some of my neighbors thought I had gone off the deep end,” he joked. But later, he found himself helping neighbors install their own smart home technology.
Hartung has a vested interest in learning about connected technology used in domestic settings as he is responsible for the Bosch smart home business. But he also has oversight over the company’s energy and building technology and industrial technology sectors. The mix of Hartung’s cross technological expertise and interests echoes that of his employer, which is competitive in everything from MEMS to automotive components to home appliances. And as Hartung and Mike Mansuetti, president, Bosch North America, explained in the press conference, the company is betting that its deep and wide technological expertise will be a key to unlocking the quickly expanding smart city technology market. “As one of the companies with the most expansive portfolios of smart city solutions and decades of cross-domain expertise, there is no one better equipped for this job,” Hartung stated.
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Bosch is aiming to help tackle broad challenges such as congestion, pollution and sustainability, which will become more vital as the population of cities skyrockets. “By 2025, 34 cities worldwide will have a population of more than 10 million people,” Hartung said. “By 2050, at least two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in these megacities putting a tremendous amount of pressure on local infrastructure, the environment and ultimately on our quality of life.”
To that end, Bosch has launched 14 smart city technology projects in cities ranging from San Francisco, Singapore, Tianjin, Berlin and Stuttgart, while also partnering with like-minded business partners such as Daimler. Bosch and Daimler are working on community-based parking, where sensors within cars keep tabs of vacant parking spots. The system then transmits that information to the cloud, ultimately sending turn-by-turn instructions for a driver hunting for a parking place. Bosch is testing this service in Germany and plans on rolling it out in a number of U.S. cities in 2018.
Ultimately, the two companies hope to automate parking entirely and have demonstrated the concept of driverless parking at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in the German city of Stuttgart. By using onboard sensors and software in vehicles to automate parking, the companies state up to 20 percent more vehicles can fit in a parking lot.
Keeping tabs on air quality
Also unveiled at the press conference was a product known as Climo, which aims to help city officials keep tabs on air quality. Within roughly five years, Bosch engineers managed to shrink the volume of an air-quality monitoring system the size of a shipping container to one that it fits in a box no bigger than a backpack. The system, which costs one-tenth as much as rival technology, measures a dozen metrics such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, temperature and relative humidity. Three of the devices have been strapped to light posts in Las Vegas for real-time air quality monitoring.
As climate change is leading to an uptick in unpredictable weather, flash flooding is growing more common, according to researchers. To enable quicker warnings to citizens in flood-prone regions, Bosch has developed a flood monitoring system that gauges water levels in rivers and other bodies of water. Leveraging ultrasonic sensor probes and cameras, the technology can measure an uptick in water speed, level and flow. Bosch is testing the system on the Neckar River near Ludwigsburg, Germany.
As global energy consumption ticks upward, a number of cities across the world are looking to cut waste while leveraging more energy from renewable sources. One smart city technology that can help cities with those aims is direct-current microgrid technology, which can support the power needs of large buildings and building clusters. DC microgrids use up to 10 percent less energy than traditional power plants and can work to prevent an outage in the case of a weather- or security-related outage.
When asked about the challenge of unifying such a disparate range of technologies under a single smart cities umbrella, Hartung noted the company maintains a domain-specific focus on verticals, but also engages researchers to integrate various technologies to target essential challenges. “I see that as our task,” he explained, referring to IoT-based projects that combine technologies from multiple Bosch business units. “We have to really intertwine these technologies and look for applications beyond the original domain scope.”