Hannover Messe is an annual industrial trade show that has grown to be the largest of its kind. While for many in the technology industry, the likes of CES or MWC are the focal point, this event has more exhibitors and visitors, which is in part due to the size of the manufacturing and industrial sector, but also due to the blend of operational technology (OT) and industrial technology (IT) with IIoT.

Germany was early to define its Industrie 4.0 aspirations, and so its largest companies are able to show their progress on that roadmap at the event. The 200,000+ visitors and 5,000+ companies exhibiting is still a little way from the turn-of-the-century dot-com days with 800,000 visitors to CeBit (at the same German show ground), but size isn't everything. The makeup of the floor helps place IIoT on its adoption timeline. The theme for 2018 was Integrated Industry – Connect & Collaborate, a reminder that partnerships and people are a key component.

The 451 Take

The core elements of this event are of course the large OT companies, but increasingly they are opening up to new ways of working and partnerships, with traditional IT companies and emerging hybrid OT/IT startups. Companies such as Siemens, ABB and Schneider Electric have extensive market presence across all industrial areas, where they are able to focus their digital transformation efforts while also augmenting their approaches with ones more familiar to the IT world. Some IT providers may take a little while to find the right partner ecosystem to engage with, but through standards organizations and consortia, the doors are wide open to work with OT expertise. The event content showed that IIoT is in full flow, not as a 'nice to have' add-on, but as an implementable necessity across all industries. This was very much not a Silicon Valley tech fest, but solid industrial engineering evolving rapidly. We shall explore the status of IIoT in an update to our report Industrial Internet of Things: State of Play soon.

Operational Technology

Siemens was suitably represented at the event with the largest stand, 130 truckloads of equipment with over 500 monitors and screens. Its main message, across its 13 highlighted showcases, was Digital Enterprise – Implement Now. A major part of this approach is the MindSphere 3.0 platform and the ecosystem around it. The company indicated that in 2015, it was representing On the Way to Industrie 4.0. In 2016, it was Driving the Digital Enterprise and 2017 was Discover the Value of the Digital Enterprise – which has now led to Implement Now.

It cited a three-year cycle coming to fruition in technology and awareness. Its approach also discussed the conceptual use of a digital twin across the entire chain, in discrete and process industries – an engineering twin, operation twin and a service twin. The company has also opened up to new forms of collaboration, such as its MindSphere Open Space Challenge, in which is sees partner crowdsource developments in a cooperative competition.

ABB's product set in power delivery was extended with the unveiling of its Terra HP fast charger for electric vehicles, also tied in with its sponsorship of the Formula-e racing championship. After its acquisition of B&R in 2017, the company was able to show integration into its Industrial Automation division, with it now being the Machine and Factory automation unit.

Products such as B&R's Orange Box, a brownfield site advanced-analytics offering for previously isolated machinery, were demonstrated. ABB also announced a global Automation Readiness report that looked at which countries are most prepared for the coming wave of AI and robotics disruption. It was also present across the venue with products such as robot arms on partner stands.

Schneider Electric showed its place in energy management and automation under its branding of EcoStruxure. The applications and services on EcoStruxure are called Advisors. This architecture is focused on the areas of buildings, datacenters, industry and utility infrastructure. Like many other OT companies, it is looking for partner ecosystems, so it can focus on its core competency.

In 2017, Schneider's industrial software business was combined with the UK company AVEVA. This put products such as Wonderware, SimSci and Avantis along with AVEVA's PDMS, Everything3D and NET under the same banner, 60% owned by Schneider Electric. On the stand, AVEVA demonstrated how detailed design time 3-D CAD models of an oil rig could be pulled into an operational setting, allowing engineers to plan work orders and see the real-time instrumentation from the IIoT sensors in situ on the model. It also allows practical solutions to problems, such as an engineer that needs any special equipment, like a ladder, to reach a part to be worked on.


The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) represented its membership across major OT and IT companies, and discussed its 20+ testbed projects. One of these was a common networking theme across the entire show, that of time-sensitive networking (TSN). This, in many ways, is the 5G of the industrial world – software-defined network connectivity across standard connectivity, such as Ethernet, with the focus on delivering high-performance and low-latency quality of service.

EdgeX Foundry was launched at Hannover Messe the year before. The open-sourced framework for IoT edge computing, and its supporting ecosystem, brings together originators such as Dell with open source veterans Canonical and networking startups such as IoTium. The platform's evolution now sees GoLang micro-services in preview, to be able to replace Java components.

OT Startups

FogHorn, the edge intelligence startup, was present across the show floor, including a showing of its IIoT edge-to-cloud partnership with Google Cloud, and presenting its Lightning product as part of the IIC. Litmus Automation showed its IIoT Loop Edge and Loop Cloud platform as part of the USA Pavilion at the event, although the company has a significant presence in Japan now too, with European expansion planned.


Cisco's industrial stand was arranged into Connected Factory Network, providing the software-defined backbone, and also an area for TSN with standard data such as OPC-UA running over it. Enterprise-to-factory security is a key area for the company with identity services, Industrial Network Director and Stealthwatch. In the data space, it showed Cisco Kinetic to help resolve disparate data sources across plants. It also showed uses cases with major partners such as Rockwell Automation and Intel to optimize operations and provide increased reliability.

Huawei showed its industrial IoT focus in particular, with examples of its TSN implementation demonstrating a direct wireless connection to a robot arm balancing a ball, where the networking allows very fast processing to deliver a computed solution close to the edge. It also demonstrated its offering for connected elevators with Schindler, and PSA Groups first connected vehicle with its Connected Vehicle Modular Platform using Huawei's OceanConnect platform.


Microsoft had a broad set of partners and services to show, focused on the digital factory. It aims to reduce setup costs with Automatic Discovery Service for Connected Factory, an open source implementation in Azure IoT Suite Connected Factory that includes an OPC-UA global discovery interface to identify machinery and help configure secure access. Microsoft is a major contributor to the OPC-UA standards.

The company also described its Azure Times Series Insights to unify complex time series data and archive it in the cloud, but still enable complex queries to be run on it, such as connecting to Azure Machine Learning studio or third-party machine learning tools such as Jupyter Notebook. OT companies running platforms on Azure include ABB, Rockwell Automation, Schneider Electric, GEYokogawa and  Honeywell.

AWS was attending for the second year with a very much increased presence and focus. At the end of 2017, the company had announced its AWS IoT Analytics service, and it declared its general availability at the show. This service aids the ingestion of different types of IoT data, with help to prepare and normalize that data for processing. Data can be queried with an SQL style language and also routed to machine learning services. AWS has a flexible pricing model to help scale with customer needs, as with cloud pricing. It is worth noting we have our Cloud Price Index to help compare standard application sets across cloud providers in order to contrast costing, and we are looking into IoT use cases as well.

SAP showed multiple scenarios for digital manufacturing with a focus on the flow of multiple stages of digital twins across the enterprise in manufacturing engineering, creating and flowing 3-D design data to production; manufacturing execution with tight integration between people and machines for maximum efficiency; and distributed manufacturing (such as 3-D printing). The SAP Cloud Platform is a key component used across a significant partner network.

Splunk has found its services used in a number of OT use cases, as we have covered previously, and this year, it was the company's first stand at the show, although as with many of the other IT companies, it had representation as a partner on many others.

Nokia is also a relative newcomer to the show. It showed a private 4G/LTE network and Nokia WING to help communication service providers engage with IoT. Also featured was the Nokia Drone Network; in this case, aimed at first responders providing a fleet of purpose-built observation drones with a backpack 4G/LTE providing on-site connectivity to remote and dangerous areas. We covered the growing number of drone use cases recently.

Arm, besides building chip offerings, is developing a partner ecosystem with the Mbed Platform now consisting of over 300,000 developers and 80 partners. It has added integration with IBM Watson IoT and security companies Cybertrust and GlobalSign. Mbed Cloud and Cloud on Premises allows for device management and provisioning securely at scale.

Gemalto is a digital security specialist, and so plays its part in helping industry secure across IIOT, but it is also a manufacturer that is on the same digital transformation journey as many others. This means it can offer IIoT products already tried and tested on its own lines.

Augmented and virtual reality

Final areas to consider are the people within this mass automation and connectivity, and AR as the user interface for IoT. Across the halls, there were a large number of AR headsets, and some VR headsets too, not simply used for marketing but in practical cases. More detail on this industrial use is in our report Augmented and Virtual Reality: User Interfaces for IoT.

Tulip demonstrated its work order construction and execution for the factory floor. A simple interface allows instructions to be created and then controlled based on the devices and sensors available. A start Factory Kit was announced with a few basic components to get any production up and running. Upskill and its Skylight Augmented Reality platform, like many of the AR providers, is now in the sweet spot of being able to interact with IoT data and weave that into workforce productivity flows. Its case studies run across aviation, healthcare and field services.

Holo-light's stand was noticeable due to its lack of furniture and posters; this was because the stand was a space to use AR on a HoloLens, so much of the product demonstration was experiential. The company has a multi-user 3-D model explorer Holo-View, which can run on other platforms. It has also developed a physical 3-D pen device, the Holo-Stylus, with an external sensor that makes it work with any headset. DAQRI attended the show demonstrating its Worksense software applications to go with its AR smart glasses, something we recently covered.


IIoT was cutting across the entire show, but yet more emerging technology was represented not as a 'nice to have' but as an essential component. The most obvious was with robotics, and often with increased machine vision and AI capability. The other was additive manufacturing, with 3-D printing now a significant movement because it has evolved past the basics of simple plastics to more complex materials. This report presents a slice of some of the companies.
Ian Hughes
Senior Analyst, Internet of Things

Ian Hughes is a Senior Analyst for the Internet of Things practice at 451 Research. He has more than 27 years of experience in emerging technology as a developer, architect and consultant through key technology trends. Ian has 20 years of experience at IBM in cross-industry application development. This included automotive, global sporting events, retail and telecoms.

Jeremy Korn
Research Associate

Jeremy Korn is a Research Associate at 451 Research. He graduated from Brown University with a BA in Biology and East Asian Studies and received a MA in East Asian Studies from Harvard University, where he employed quantitative and qualitative methodologies to study the Chinese film industry.

Aaron Sherrill
Senior Analyst

Aaron Sherrill is a Senior Analyst for 451 Research covering emerging trends, innovation and disruption in the Managed Services and Managed Security Services sectors. Aaron has 20+ years of experience across several industries including serving in IT management for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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