Exhibitors & Products
Events & Speakers

In fact, that was precisely why she was brought in: to observe developments, anticipate trends and develop new products. Rahman is cosmopolitan: born in Germany and raised in London, she has lived in Zürich, studied in Cologne and gained an MBA before working in Singapore and enjoying career success with SAP. Today she is CEO of ifm solutions. Rahman has a solid background in the IT world and brings her know-how in OT to the ifm business.

Returning to that tweet. Speaking to us, Rahman qualified the tweet: “Everything we do is about developing new business ideas.” This sounds more pro-active, even defiant. ifm has long since moved on from exclusively supplying hardware, she explains. With ifm solutions they are again breaking new ground, offering customers software that gives them added value while using ifm hardware.

“We connect our hardware to an ERP system, offer a platform, data analytics and customer support in analysis.” How sales are conducted in this sector has changed. Services and software are now more important and the ifm group sells its software via its hardware. Sales activities now involve a lot more information and explanation of the solutions, demanding a more profound understanding of customer experience and interaction. Simply confining sales to selling components cannot generate any growth. Rahman adds that to do this “... it is necessary to train our colleagues”. We asked why ifm felt it necessary to build a new platform when there were already enough excellent systems around. Does the user have to open the tenth browser tab?

Providing APIs

“No, because the data also flows into the ERP. We offer a platform as a service but also engage in other ecosystems.” ifm is one of the founding members of the Open Industrie 4.0 Alliance, which was launched at the last Hannover Messe. Its first tangible result was an open architectural model based on RAMI 4.0, which incorporates device connectivity, Edge, Operator Cloud and Cloud Central.

“Our customers demand interoperability. That means we must also be open to Mindsphere or Adamos, we must provide application programming interfaces,” says Rahman. This is true of everyone on the marketplace. But she does not think it is enough to simply provide the solution. “We want to work with the customer.”

ifm solutions focus on analytics and machine learning. Will the sensor be linked to the Edge, will ML models be connected to the sensor? This would increase computing power. “Yes, we will be able to apply small models directly to the sensor. That’s where we are heading right now.” The sensor industry and with it ifm and Nadine Rahman are researching at the sensor-oriented AI. One approach, for example, would be to no longer send all raw data to the cloud for evaluation, but simply to transfer the results from the machine learning ‒ embedded systems make this possible. One thing is certain: companies will be using more software, which is music to the ears of Nadine Rahman and her colleagues. The proportion of software in the sensor will increase and Fraunhofer researchers are already training models on the sensor.

But the developers still face a lot of work. In order to develop small applications it is necessary to collect, analyze and feature data for training and the result must then be examined by domain experts. Rahman suggests: “This is done either with an on-premise server or in the cloud. We move from Big Data to Smart Data.”

In the ifm world it is the colleagues from the subsidiary Statmath who deal with all this. They are specialists in the analysis, evaluation and intelligent use of large volumes of data. Using intelligent algorithms they develop software solutions, modular software components and individual solutions for diverse business sectors ‒ Daimler, BMW, Mondi, Achenbach Buschhütten and Vetter now rank among the list of clients.

As the tweet made clear: counter measures work. Rahman and her colleagues offer competence in both the fields of hardware and software and are thus a step ahead of companies offering data analytics alone.