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Hannover. HANNOVER MESSE 2017 opens in about ten weeks' time. The show, which runs from 24 to 28 April, will sport a rich array of highlights, including a record 500-plus Industry 4.0 applications, self-learning robots with near-human touch sensitivity, and advanced technology solutions for a more sustainable energy future. "The technologies needed for the successful digitalization of industrial production are fully developed and ready to go," commented Deutsche Messe Managing Board member Jochen Köckler." "The task now is to ensure that decision makers from industry and the energy sector understand the direct, long-term benefits that digitalization can offer them and their organizations, business models and employees," he added. "Challenging people to 'think outside the box,' highlighting all the various ways in which digitalization can add value, and opening up new markets - that's what this year's HANNOVER MESSE is all about, with its lead theme of Integrated Industry - Creating Value ." The show will have around 6,500 exhibitors and feature Poland as its official Partner Country.

With Industry 4.0, integrated energy , digital twins, machine learning, predictive maintenance , smart materials, and networked and collaborative robots (cobots), companies of all sizes today have a multitude of high-tech solutions to choose from. But often they find it difficult to predict what value these sorts of solutions might add. Which is where HANNOVER MESSE 2017 comes in. Köckler: "The world's leading trade fair for industrial technology will present solutions for all parts of the industrial landscape. It's a landscape in which mechanical engineering and IT are converging. This is digitalization, and HANNOVER MESSE will show visitors how to recognize its benefits and make them their own."

Predictive maintenance through machine learning

Digitalized production processes generate vast quantities of data which are then analyzed by various upstream and downstream systems. In the not-too-distant future, manufacturing systems will incorporate machine-learning technologies that analyze this data centrally and feed the results back to the production machines in question, thereby enabling them to learn and self-optimize. As such, machine learning is fundamental to predictive maintenance - a highly promising aspect of Industry 4.0 that will feature prominently at the upcoming HANNOVER MESSE.

Putting people first

However, despite the ongoing and rapid spread of digitalization, people will always be absolutely critical to success in industry. Industry 4.0 technologies will help make factory workers' duties more interesting and varied. Instead of focusing on repetitive manual tasks, factory employees will increasingly be called upon to solve problems, make decisions, innovate and drive value-adding initiatives. But this will not happen in a vacuum. Manufacturers need to invest in upskilling and education measures to prepare their workforces for Workplace 4.0. "In tomorrow's agile, flexible factories, employees will be experts in the use of virtual reality, augmented reality, smart glasses and tablets. All of these exiting new digital factory tools will feature prominently at HANNOVER MESSE 2017," Köckler explained.

Cobots - the intuitive usability of a smartphone

Prominence will also be given to collaborative robots. Today's cobots , as they are known, are as simple to operate as a smartphone. Moreover, they are self-learning and connected to the cloud. As time goes on, they are getting cleverer and cheaper to buy, making them a cost-effective gateway to the benefits of Industry 4.0, particularly for smaller companies. Much like drones today, cobots will eventually develop into a mass market that will give rise to a wealth of totally new business ideas.

Digitalization as a driver of new business models

Integrated Industry will reach far beyond the walls of smart factories. The goods produced by smart factories will stay connected with their manufacturers throughout their service lives, supplying a constant stream of valuable data. This data will enable the manufacturers to develop additional web-based services and to pursue new business opportunities outside the confines of their traditional industries. At the upcoming HANNOVER MESSE, industrial subcontractors will demonstrate how digitalization helps them to offer innovative and highly customized solutions more quickly than ever before. "The biggest value-adding potential of digitalization lies in the development of completely new business models and in the markets these business models tap into," explained Köckler. "HANNOVER MESSE is increasingly turning into a platform for previously unheard-of partnerships. For instance, partnerships between IT companies and engineering firms, or between startups and major corporations. From radical, highly disruptive new business ideas to proven 4.0 business models - it will all be there this April."

Technologies for the energy transition

Digitalization is also transforming the energy industry. Without digitalization, it will not be possible to make the switch from today's outmoded centralized power plants to modern, highly efficient energy systems that are based on renewables and distributed generation structures. Under the "Integrated Energy" banner at the upcoming HANNOVER MESSE, the world's leading providers will highlight the changes the energy industry will undergo as well as the individual technologies that will play a critical role in this transformation. "HANNOVER MESSE will showcase integrated solutions all along the energy value chain - from generation, transmission, distribution and storage, right through to alternative mobility solutions," explained Köckler.

Poland: a strong partner in Europe

Innovation and growth - two key areas in which Poland is set to shine as the official Partner Country at HANNOVER MESSE 2017. This April at the world's leading trade for industrial technology, Poland will be stepping out on stage in front of an international audience to make its case as an attractive partner in a large and diverse range of industries. Apart from domestic reindustrialization, the country's main economic focus is on opening up foreign markets and supporting innovative Polish companies. Around 150 of these companies will feature at this year's HANNOVER MESSE. Together, they will mount a Partner Country showcase that will center on the themes of energy and IT. HANNOVER MESSE 2017 will be officially opened by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo.

Köckler: "In light of the current geopolitical situation, Poland's participation as Partner Country sends an important signal about the strength of the European Community. HANNOVER MESSE turns 60 this year. Now, more than at any other time in its history, it is a platform for free and fair trade - both in Europe and around the world."