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Internet of Thinks: Munich IoT HQ

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Today I’m attempting the first of a regular monthly column to the new IBM Internet of Things blog. I’m planning to use it to share my thoughts on what’s new, what’s happening and what I’ve been up to recently…

And what a week it’s been, well eleven days actually! I’ve just returned from Munich, my new home away from home. I’m spending about fifty percent of my time there since we announced the opening of our new Watson IoT Headquarters (MHQ) here in August.

It’s been one of the most amazing projects I’ve been part of in my 35 years here at IBM, here’s why I say that:

The Internet of Things team

First of all, It’s not just us we have several companies working with us to make the experience in Munich inspiring and fun. We have the Watson IoT development team, responsible for providing the content – the technology, the stories, the demos that will be the soul of the new center. We have representatives from the sales and marketing team, the research team, and the IBM Real estate team as well. We’ve mixed in the folks who’ve created the very cool client experience at Astor Place, Watson’s home in New York City. And we’ve added the company VokDams – a worldwide events and storytelling team who are working with IBM designers to help tell the story of Watson IoT. We also have UK-based design company MAP, and the Architectural Design company Universal and Schweiser to help us make Munich a showcase of IoT.

I would never have met most of these folks, let alone worked with them, if it had not been for the scope of this Munich project. We got together for the first time in early January, and now we’re so well blended together I sometimes forget who works for whom. We’ve been meeting every other week to build a memorable experience for the clients from the time they arrive in Munich until they leave.

Munich IoT headquarters

The second thing that makes this amazing is the building itself. Outside of Hilight Tower there are really awesome views of Munich with the Alps in the distance. Inside it’s still a construction zone. Cement panels on the floor, paper covering the walls, cardboard Ikea furniture, and mock-ups of display devices we’re building, like the huge round projection table and wall size display.

I can see the place coming together and think it’s going to be amazing. The thing I’m most excited about is the fabrication lab we’re creating (We call it the Department of Wow). We’ll have a fully functional space with rapid prototyping tools (laser cutters, 3D printers, scopes, etc.) to help our development and lab services folks build new Watson IoT demos for Munich and beyond. We’re also going to use it for projects we do with the clients we’ll invite to work with us here in MHQ.

Our work in progress

The third thing is the client connection, the last eleven days were a dry run of the space. We had twenty-four different clients come through for briefings. I attended about 14 of them, and it was really eye opening for me, for the last 35 years I’ve been a developer. I’ve never had this much of a client facing role.

I met with clients from automotive, insurance, electronics, and industrial sectors, even some people from banks and credit card companies. Such smart folks! Every one of them had cool ideas on how to transform their business using IoT. I have to admit I was wondering what clients would make of our ‘work in progress’ space, but I was glad to see that they all embraced it. Several told me that they were very happy to have been invited at the start of our development, and several of clients expressed real interest in basing teams here in MHQ with us once we open in September.

The sessions also showed me how much interest there is in Watson IoT. Folks really seem to resonate with the idea of ‘cognitive IoT’ and they are hungry for details about what we are doing now and in the future. I know we have a ton of work to do here. but we have a great opportunity when deliver!

Personally, I’m loving the experience, the new people the new space, new food, new beer, and even a new language. While most of our meetings are in English my German is getting better! I know when to laugh when someone makes an IoT joke in German, and I can order my own beer!

We’re all working hard to get the center ready for use this August, so please come visit us when you can. In the meantime, I’d really appreciate it if you’d comment below on what you think, and what you’d like to see in future posts on the topic of Munich, or anything else!

Oh, and on my next trip over I am checking out our new IOT course on Coursera. I Just ordered the hardware and plan to do all the exercises. You should take a look too and let us know what you think.

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