She talks to everyone
She studied computer science, business administration, industrial engineering and electrical engineering, learned about strategy at Boston Consulting, immersed herself in high-tech at ifm, wrote a standard work on Industrie 4.0 before anyone really knew what this term meant. Today she develops IoT solutions at Q-loud.10 Nov 2019
Like no one else, Dr. Myriam Jahn bridges the divide between OT and IT. Like no one else she embodies the new challenges facing industry. She is willing to talk to everyone. "But I prefer to talk to automation specialists, to small and medium-sized companies, where changes mean much more than at a group level," she admits and laughs. She is a mediator between different worlds. She makes connections. The Internet of Things unites her skills.
But is it true to say that IoT and industrial communication are no longer in the media spotlight? In other words, has the entire story already been told? "Yes, you can get that impression. Now everyone is talking about machine learning, AI and neural networks, but they only work on the basis of available data," explains Myriam Jahn, the managing director of the Cologne-based Q-loud. Communication problems still exist. "We have too many protocols, too many standards and too many proprietary systems. Scalability for new business models and products is very difficult." Hardly anyone dares to address the existing processes in their own company or in the customer's company.
Jahn speaks openly: "We ignored this trend for years and merely maintained the status quo. Medium-sized companies are now discovering data analysis for themselves. And this needs to be uncomplicated. And should generate sales." Her customers appreciate her directness and honesty. "Gradually, providers of control technology and IT are rethinking their approach." They realize that more and more automation providers are now bypassing control systems.
Is Myriam Jahn aiming to reconcile ("bring together") OT and IT?" Q-loud is part of the QSC Group – an IT company with telecommunications roots. Jahn is busy developing Q-loud from the OT perspective. She brings her colleagues together in customer projects. The company builds on existing hardware and software and adapts it to digitization requirements with the aid of scalable technology.
Q-loud’s starting point is the machine sensor. The company’s development team ensures that machines and IT systems are able to communicate in a common language. Firstly, this enables the end-to-end encrypted exchange of sensor data and control commands with a given platform. Secondly, it facilitates the scalable mapping of new automation-related business models. In order to connect existing devices and machines, any number of machines can be managed by means of software in the cloud. Q-loud delivers connectivity and encryption, as well as the necessary flexibility and scalability for new business models. In addition to offering innovative services, SMEs are also in a position to bill their customers on a monthly basis. "The control system continues to ensure safety at the machine."
Shouldn’t Q-loud be wary of control providers working on similar projects? "We are masters of both worlds – IT and OT," Jahn explains confidently. Won’t customers prefer to remain with their previous suppliers ("never change a winning team")? "We can develop a working prototype in 100 days. This convinces many medium-sized companies – and we do not touch the existing infrastructure. We set up new processes for digitization." A scalable solution with new business processes is ready after a further nine months. "We often work closely with our IT colleagues at QSC AG in this regard. Once concerns have been dispelled, then added value can be created." The declared goal is to enable customers to generate revenues with the new business model after only one year – without manual processes in the background, whether in the cloud or in the factory.
What language does Myriam Jahn speak in the factory? MQTT – or OPC UA for clean data collection? "We don’t make specifications; we support both languages and are guided by the customer's requirements." Asked to describe Q-loud, Jahn likens it to "a compass": from the south it receives data from the machine, and from the north it supplies the IT world with production data. The developers promise that the collected data will be integrated into the customer's own software systems or, if desired, linked to additional software systems such as analytics, ERP, licence management and billing. The data can then be analysed, modelled and trained with models in the cloud, where QSC has its own data centres. The data is then fed back to the machine. To the controller? "No, edge devices or IPCs should not take priority over the controller," explains Jahn.
"In this case we have combined edge computing with our gateway technology. We are talking about an IoT edge gateway. What does this device do? Not only does it provide flexible data filtering and storage, but it also ensures the necessary preselection and editing of the data – also with the help of AI directly in the edge gateway. This way you can not only learn and decide in the cloud, but also in the gateway."
Although Jahn favours open systems and platforms, she has nonetheless made Q-loud part of an alliance. What distinguishes this alliance is its openness. Twenty-one industrial and software companies have meanwhile joined the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance. The goal is an open, standards-based and compatible offering for Industrie 4.0 embracing machines, products, maintenance and support services. "The Open Industry 4.0 Alliance explicitly aims at avoiding additional regulation. Instead, it focuses consistently on the practical benefits for the client companies," Jahn is convinced.
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