The future of the cloud: Three trail-blazing pilot projects show just what the cloud will be able to do when it “grows up”.
Cloud as Enabler

The unsuspected realms of the cloud.

Cloud computing already forms the cornerstone of digitization. But three trail-blazing pilot projects show just what the cloud will be able to do when it “grows up”. More service, higher sales, greater customer satisfaction.
Author: Sven Hansel
Photos: Christian Houdek, F1 online, JET, plainpicture/Ramesh Amruth, Rimowa
Everyday almost 100,000 parcels around the world get lost, and equally estimates say that around five percent of all letter and parcel shipments fail to reach their destination. Some of them are eventually delivered by a tortuous route but in some cases the loss is irrecoverable – both financially and sentimentally. Companies still have to put up with a matter-of-fact “loss rate”. Scandalous, basically. But rescue is at hand – in the form of the cloud. It is creating a new order, will soon clean up across the board and catapult our economic cycles and networks into spheres as yet undreamt of today. It has already taken its first baby steps, and they are very promising indeed – not just in logistics.
The boot serves as the place to leave parcels.
The boot serves as the place to leave parcels. The parcel courier can open the car via a secure app – the customer drives home in the evening with their parcel.
Real-time “track & trace” has now become a popular feature for private users. Firstly “preparing dispatch”, then “loading parcel van” and finally the magic words: “Your parcel is on its way to you”. This not only heightens your sense of anticipation as you await your new smartphone, it also enhances the level of service. Because the customer can gauge the exact time of the probable delivery. And think of the advantages this would offer business customers too.
If the German supplier had more information at the click of a mouse than merely that his eagerly awaited ten thousand circuit boards from Hong Kong had left port three days ago. If he could trace them in real time to within one sea mile in Colombo, Mumbai or maybe Jeddah, thus enabling him to estimate much more accurately whether his machines would be working to full capacity in the coming days. Because production companies with systems-intensive operations could save a total of more than ten billion euros a year just by achieving a modest increase in their overall systems efficiency of five percent. This is the conclusion reached by a study conducted by the consultancy company, Baker Tilly Roelfs. And as well as repairs to equipment, this figure also includes shortages of material or staff, unscheduled stops, tests and set-ups.
This is where the proactive strength of the cloud comes into its own. The web has already been woven, and now it‘s a question of making it stronger: a spider‘s web relative to its weight, is four times stronger than steel and can be stretched to three times its length without breaking. And this is precisely the elasticity and flexibility that modern cloud architectures, systems and solutions provide in the way they are now being implemented for the first time. Just like the worldwide tracing of goods.
At the forefront are systems such as “BAG2GO”, the joint development of luggage manufacturer RIMOWA, aircraft manufacturer Airbus, and T-Systems. Here it‘s the case which uses a communications module to “talk” to its owner, the airport and the airline‘s systems. This makes lost or delayed cases a thing of the past – even today. And in one or two years if cloud webs continue to be so assiduously woven, whole new vistas open up: “for example, for art forwarders who ship expensive paintings. Every second they are up to date, and thanks to their GPS module, they know exactly where their distinguished works of art are to be found. What‘s more, built-in moisture and vibration sensors will sound the alarm if the valuable cargo should go astray. Most definitely a comforting factor for museums, forwarding agents and also collectors when dealing with art treasures which change hands for collectors‘ prices in the hundreds of thousands if not millions”, says Torsten Chudobba, Account Executive Airbus Group and initiator of BAG2GO.
Lost bags are consigned to history with BAG2GO.
Lost bags are consigned to history with BAG2GO. Passengers always know where their luggage is. Can also be converted to work with other logistical challenges.

Value networks through the cloud

Cloud infrastructures such as the T-Systems service models, Intercloud and Open Telekom Cloud, act as the spider silk in the background: reliable, strong and metaphorically weatherproof, they ensure that traditional value added chains are even capable of spawning modern value networks. But this strength will also be needed. Whereas the works of art described need no more than an RFID chip and a GPS module, industrial cloud processes of the future will require more power. For example, when rigid hardware structures of the past might be replaced by slim, software-based cloud structures. Such as at JET.
The petrol station operator has tested the operation of a genuine petrol station from the cloud in a pilot project. Gone would be the times when a technician had to be dispatched when things went wrong. The system could then be centrally maintained and rebooted, if required. The whole intelligence of the cash register would then reside in a network that is powerful and doubly secured. Maintenance requirements fall and new versions or functions can be rolled out overnight: “Cloud computing promises faster, cheaper and also more secure provision of IT resources. That is why we tested this innovative technology in a pilot project together with our partners: we were able to show that cloud computing basically functions well in a petrol station environment and offers benefits. Although it is hard to tell at this stage whether this could also apply to a larger network of outlets, we are looking forward to the learning curve. Now we want to gain more experience, particularly in aspects such as data security and failsafe operation,” explains Steven Waegenaer from JET Tankstellen Deutschland GmbH.
JET has already tested the operation of a petrol station from the cloud in a pilot project.
JET has already tested the operation of a petrol station from the cloud in a pilot project. The system allowed cash registers and petrol pumps to be centrally maintained.

Genuine added value for companies

But things start to get really interesting when this network is extended to cover downstream processes, and ERP and BI systems, for example, are connected to it. “Scenarios such as this would be worthwhile for all other companies with a widely scattered network of outlets. If your optician can really tell you to the exact second where the frame that seems to be sold out nearly everywhere, can still be had and reserve it for you on the spot, that is genuine added value”, says Torsten Beyer from T-Systems. Another example: The federal states are planning to take steps to prevent tax fraud from the manipulation of cash registers. In particular, the technical manipulation protection envisaged will require massive investment for typical cash register hardware according to current estimates. The German Retail Association (HDE) is expecting initial investment costs of around 150 to 300 euros per cash register. With more than one million cash registers in the retail trade, that will mean investment expenditure of 150 to 300 million euros, according to HDE. This could be achieved for a fraction of the money in the cloud – even if it were necessary from a technical point of view.
The cloud thus acts as an enabler of new services - and in the end also of totally new processes. Recently, for example, the joint project between Österreichische Post AG, the Porsche Group and T-Systems in the logistics sector has caused quite a stir. GPS, a highly secure M2M data connection from the cloud and an identity and access management system also based in the cloud, have turned car boots into a parcel depot. Cars parked in a company car park or at a park-and-ride facility, for example, serve as mobile letter-boxes. The parcel courier is able to open the car once with his delivery device, and the customer drives home in the evening as easy as you like with his eagerly awaited new luggage. Taken together, these are all examples of how the power of the cloud will very soon be in a position to exert an unimagined influence on the whole economy – and, according to Alexander Decker, Innovation Manager at T-Systems, “will definitely do so”.

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