The day was packed with informative talks in the morning, rich exchanges during the workshop sessions, fruitful interactions with CSEM’s technology demonstrators, and networking opportunities during the lunch break and aperitif.
There was a business buzz in the air as the first participants of CSEM’s Business Day arrived at EPFL’s Microcity. They huddled around the demonstrators and exchanged business cards before heading into the auditorium for the day’s first talks.
To open the day, CSEM CEO Mario El-Khoury set the tone by stating that Switzerland has a central role to play in a highly-connected world because the mastering of key enabling technologies is an important success factor in this emerging new economy. Then Ambassador Mauro Moruzzi, from the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation, focused his short speech on the Neuchatel region’s engagement in developing these technologies with European partners.
Then our distinguished Japanese guest, Yuko Harayama, gave a detailed account of the Japanese context and drew interesting parallels with Switzerland, which she knows quite well. She was followed by Dirk Beernaert from the EU Commission who, in turn, spoke in depth about Europe’s vision of Industry 4.0. Both speakers highlighted the need for across-the-board cooperation between government, industry and citizens to establish a foundation of trust on which a new digital economy can be built.
The Business Day drew an interested and informed crowd from around Europe to share ideas and look for potential business partners.
“I came to Neuchatel today from Paris to see the latest in technology, but also to meet with clients and potential clients, companies that gravitate around CSEM and the technology they develop,” said one enthusiastic participant.
The afternoon World Cafés sessions covered a wide range of trending topics from connected watches to the future of energy, including the Internet of things, augmented manufacturing and personalized digital health. Participants followed short but informative introductions to each topic and spent one hour in small groups working together before presenting their results to everyone at the end of the day.
Chairing the session:
Christian Enz, Director of IMT-EPFL
Michel Despont, VP and Head of MEMS Program at CSEM
Augmented manufacturing benefits from enabling technologies such as additive manufacturing, laser machining and stereo-lithography for rapid prototyping and onsite construction. In the optic of Europe's Industry 4.0 platform, how can we adapt the concept to the Swiss manufacturing hallmarks of high-added value and precision?
In order to benefit from the opportunities afforded by augmented manufacturing such as highly customizable products, industry in Switzerland could take advantage of current know-how to enable advanced digital manufacturing by integrating metrology into the process. Moreover, the focus group raised the issue of better managing both the pre and post-manufacturing to ensure a higher quality product.
And as Switzerland is known for its green-friendly sectors, this kind of technology can be seen as a low-energy-cost manufacturing technique. Saving energy by using the materials needed on site is a real benefit, and if truly look at the real costs of traditional manufacturing (including transport), additive, onsite manufacturing can be a real ecological solution. Switzerland could develop a manufacturing grid and improve both the efficiency and agility of the distribution chain for this personalized form
of high-tech handicraft.
Chairing the session:
Jean-Paul Bardyn, CTO, Semtech
Alain-Serge Porret, VP Integrated and Wireless Systems, CSEM
One of the very hot topics during the Business Day, the IoT raises a lot of questions for Swiss industry. One solution could be to capitalize on Swiss strengths in hardware to create a fully connected ecosystem. By building vertically integrated solutions directly in the hardware—having devices that interact easily between themselves at the deepest architectural level—Switzerland could come out ahead in a typically software driven market.
Another, complementary option, is to bet on the positive image of Switzerland. For there is a lot to be said of Switzerland's stability - economic, political and social - in an ultraglobalized market where data security is a top priority. One way to increase Switzerland's image in connected objects and build technological competence at the same time would be to create a Swiss-wide research program on this topic that includes research institutes, industry and academia.
Chairing the session:
Pascal Koenig, Co-Founder and CEO Ava AG
Jens Krauss, VP Systems, CSEM
As with any emerging consumer technology, there are often more questions than answers. The focus group for connected watches came up with the big question for smart watches during the World Café Session: What is the future of the display on a smart watch, and what are other user interface options? In a world of ever bigger touch screens, what's the best way to interact with all of the technology we can fit on a watch today?
One of the big questions raised throughout many of the afternoon discussions was the security of data. With connected watch there was no exception, and for obvious reasons: Many smart watches, like the ones developed at CSEM, also track health data. Who will own this data and what could it be used for outside personal use, especially in the future? One solution could be that watchmakers develop their own platforms and OS to manage this data. The question of how to develop an easily adopted platform also raises the all important hardware/software integration for services issue for all connected objects.
Chairing the session:
Ralph Mueller, Professor and Head of Department, Health Sciences and Technology at ETHZ
Jacques Beckmann, Head of Clinical Bioinformatics at Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics in Lausanne
Another big question for the connected world is the use, storage and ownership of the data, especially highly personal data for health monitoring. And chairman Jacques Beckmann was pleasantly surprised that many of the questions raised are similar to those that the industry is dealing with on a specialist basis. For people working on these systems, which rely on huge databases, are more often confronted with ethical issues than technological ones.
The obvious question is: What happens to this data and who owns it? But more importantly: Who should not use it and how to protect the citizen from abuse? One conclusion is to put a solid legal system in place, but ethical committees and oversight entities are also necessary.
From a technical point of view, it is not enough to collect data, there needs to be a standardization, and one of high quality. And this data will be collected from birth to death, and even across generations. What about storage of digital data over extremely long periods of time?
Finally, like someone who weighs himself everyday, could the abundance of personal health data lead to an excess of self-diagnosis, leading to an overly hypochondriac society?
Chairing the session:
Daniel Brandt, Head of Technology Center at BKW
Suren Erkman, Director of Institute for Communication and Analysis of Science and Technology and Professor at UNIL
One of the biggest challenges facing society is how to cope with a bigger energy demand and, at the same time, manage energy as the forms of production multiply. The resounding answer from the focus group was: We can do it! The technology is either already developed or in the pipeline. And the sector will be undergoing rapid disruption, so as we see new companies emerge, the old dinosaurs will have to adapt or fade away.
But even if the technological solutions are in sight, the major societal challenges remain: How can we incentivize renewable energies for all members of society? And politically, how do we share the responsibilities within this system? In the end, with a great success of energy efficient products, we could even paradoxically increase energy use.
Throughout the day, Switzerland’s role in the newly emerging economy was in the spotlight, where the industry culture of advanced manufacturing infrastructure produces the highest-quality hardware in many domains but progress still needs to be made in software development and user interface. The question of how can this hardware/software gap can be bridged dominated many of the conversations and is indeed an increasingly important issue since the integration of services and hardware are at the core of digital economy.
But many answers were also proposed; focusing on existing skills in Switzerland’s industry that can both benefit from and boost the new economic paradigm, and Switzerland’s worldwide reputation it rightfully enjoys as a place of economic and political stability as well as technological excellence continues to play in its favor.
In the end, we couldn’t have asked the right questions and proposed some fascinating answers without all the participants who trust in CSEM! We thank you and look forward to another rewarding CSEM Business Day next year.