Siemens showcases eco-friendly travel advisor using AI, blockchain and the IoT

By | 4 minute read | October 20, 2020

electric car

Making the case for AI, or any nascent technology for that matter, can be a struggle for companies today. While large enterprises know they need to be fast, agile and innovation-obsessed to survive disruption, their age-old policies, antiquated systems, disconnected data and entrenched corporate habits can be serious blockers to adoption.

With a century plus-long tradition of engineering excellence, we at Siemens knew we had a challenge to transform ourselves in order to continue to lead in the AI era. Adopting a mindset of risk-taking and innovation from the inside-out had to be a key part of that transformation journey.

Thanks to our recent efforts with the IBM Data Science and AI Elite team, together with the IBM Garage at the Watson IoT Center in Munich, we recently made a critical breakthrough on our journey to AI.

How AI and blockchain can encourage CO2-friendly behavior

Working with IBM and other partners, we developed a proof of concept to showcase how we could harness AI and blockchain to drastically reduce our employees carbon output—not through mandates, but through incentivizing more eco-friendly behavior.

When it comes to reducing CO2, the main culprit of climate change, Siemens maintains that companies have a clear role to play. Prior to the adoption of the Paris Agreement, Siemens made a commitment to achieve a net zero-carbon footprint by 2030 with one clear goal: cutting CO2 in our production facilities in half by 2020.

The Siemens Travel Management department is working intensively on cutting CO2 emissions during business trips—and minimizing the number of journeys—by means of appropriate technologies when planning a trip and the integration of intelligent technologies in cars, but also the increased use of Virtual Collaboration.

With Siemens’ employee travel producing CO2, we knew we were all going to have to re-think the future of work. When our Technology and Security office, within Applications and Digital Platforms, created an innovation arm to pilot blockchain and AI projects to spin out into the rest of the department, we were inspired to apply these technologies toward this goal.

A 6-week sprint to a minimal viable product

We shared some early concepts with IBM, and they quickly got us into an IBM Garage workshop where we came together as one team strengthened by the diversity of ideas. Once we refined the idea for a CO2-friendly travel advisor, we were against a short and swift 6-week sprint to completion of a minimum viable product (MVP).  Our goal was to make the drive from Munich to UK for the Goodwood’s Festival of Speed, the world’s largest motoring garden party, to garner wide attention to our project.

To ensure extra visibility, IBM offered us use of its eye-catching, Watson-branded BMW i8 electric car, which was outfitted with IoT sensors to collect data on all the car’s activities such as location, fuel consumption and battery levels.

A number of partners helped us along the journey, like Sixt, Leolo IT and VR Direct, to help us both create and document this compelling story once we landed in Goodwood. But the true measure of success was the rapid pace from the IBM Data Science and AI Elite team using Watson Assistant to build the virtual agent integrated with live and stored data from IBM Blockchain.

A clearer vision of AI and blockchain

Our showcase has received wide attention and interest throughout Siemens, inspiring a clear vision for blockchain and AI that didn’t exist before. It also inspired an interest in continuing our work with IBM on joint solutions for our data center. While this MVP was merely a proof-of-concept, how would it work if deployed?

Employees who rent a car to visit a client site could use the virtual assistant to book a reservation for their trip and plan their routes. The tool would advise employees to choose an eco-friendly option, both mode of transportation and route, to reach their destination. Employees would then make a reservation, stored in blockchain, by following and replying to the assistant. They could also learn about sightseeing opportunities around the cities they would encounter during their journey. Through the dashboard, they could also see their CO2 emission savings rewards.

This project was just the beginning. Now we’re motivated to see how we can explore and leverage more blockchain technology to turn numeric rewards into actual employee benefits, whether paid time off or discounts on products or services.

Our tradition of engineer excellence has laid the foundation upon which we’re building smart infrastructure solutions to better the world. Working with IBM is enabling us to disrupt with AI, blockchain and IoT to launch us into the next era—and now, we won’t be looking over our shoulder.

Watch IBM and Siemens executives discuss applying AI and blockchain to an eco-friendly travel advisor: