Huawei firmly put its backing behind Europe this week by underlining its partnerships with operators, car manufacturers and others, and placing an emphasis on research and development to help Europe establish a leadership position in future technological developments in business and industry.
At its annual innovation day in Munich this week, the China-based equipment vendor unveiled a new alliance with Vodafone to develop cloud-based and Internet of Things (IoT) services for enterprises. It also underscored its existing alliances with other large operators including BT and Deutsche Telekom, as well as with car manufacturers such as Audi, IT specialists including SAP, research organisations such as Germany's Frauenhofer Institute and projects supported by the European Commission such as Horizon 2020.
"Europe is one of most important markets for Huawei outside China," said William Xu, chief strategy marketing officer at the vendor. Xu added that Europe "is at the frontier" of its innovation work and collaboration with partners. The company has already established 19 joint innovation centres with its partners in the region, as well as 18 of its own R&D centres in eight countries.
Both Huawei and Deutsche Telekom also said they believe Europe is leading the way to what is being termed "Industry 4.0"--a German concept that essentially refers to the transformation of industry through new technology and "digitisation".
In essence, the idea behind Industry 4.0 is to bring what is already happening in the consumer world to the industrial and business world-- that is, transforming products into services and making use of wireless sensors, cloud-based services and the IoT to "digitise the value chain", Dieter Wegener from German industry bodies VDE/DKE explained.
Although Industry 4.0 is still very much a vision, leading proponents of this concept insist that Europe needs to take a lead here. While U.S. companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook are now shaping the consumer world and driving its consumption of digital services and content, the proponents say that Europe has the opportunity to be in the vanguard as business and industry goes through a similar revolution.
Indeed, Europe is already pushing ahead on research into standards for 5G, which Huawei's Xu noted will be a key enabler of Industry 4.0 along with the LTE family of mobile standards, Wi-Fi, cloud data centres and IoT platforms.
Much work lies ahead to realise this vision, but Accenture's global managing director for in-memory solutions, Dr Alexander Zeier, said some industries are already changing. For example, electric car maker Tesla already describes itself as a software company.
"I believe all products will have an IP address," added Christoph Behrendt, SVP of industry and application innovation at SAP. That in turn will enable companies to develop completely different services and business models around their products, he said.
Huawei has set out its own approach to Industry 4.0:
"Huawei's strategy for Industry 4.0 can be summarised as a 1-2-1 strategy," said Xu. "The first '1' refers to a single unified IoT platform. The '2' refers to two access modes--wired and wireless--via industrial switches, industrial Wi-Fi, or eLTE. The last '1' refers to LiteOS, Huawei's own IoT operating system."
- see this Huawei release
Huawei sets out IT and big data ambitions
Huawei, Volkswagen demonstrate MirrorLink connected car applications
Huawei targets 'traditional' industries with SDN-based IoT platform
Huawei says new research facility will boost EU Digital Agenda efforts
Huawei appoints new president for Western Europe