The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

European cloud network

Industry’s digital offensive for data control and real-time capabilities

Edge computing. Firing the starting shot for a secure cloud infrastructure for German and European industry, the major digital Gaia-X project has been launched to strengthen industry on the international market. The aim is to develop a European cloud for the secure digitalization and networking of industry that will also form the basis for using new artificial intelligence (AI) applications. Partners include the Friedhelm Loh Group, a leading example of Germany’s Mittelstand with global operations. Owner and CEO, Prof. Friedhelm Loh had a key role in launching the Gaia-X project.

Text Christian Abels ––– Photography

The Friedhelm Loh Group has also partnered up with other businesses to establish the first edge cloud for AI-based industrial applications with real-time capabilities. The solution was developed by Rittal with its sister companies German Edge Cloud and IoTOS along with its partner Bosch Connected Industry. Customers can use this innovation to generate added value from their data, process it in near real time, and carry out AI-based analyses without compromising data security. Companies decide for themselves what data they transfer and to whom – along the entire supply chain in Germany and Europe, from real-time usage via intelligent analysis to secure and customer-controlled data transfer in a highly efficient overall environment. 

“German industry needs autonomy over its data and a stable, secure IT infrastructure that is available at all times. ONCITE is our first solution to meet these customer requirements.” Prof. Friedhelm Loh

Industry is increasingly tapping into data

Take, for example, the digitalization strategies of VW and BMW. These car manufacturers require their suppliers to keep data along the entire supply chain and make it transparent. With the help of production data from the suppliers’ facilities, they aim to increase their output rate by up to 30 per cent and identify serial defects at an early stage, with data being exchanged across the entire supply chain via the US platforms Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Now the suppliers are under pressure to take action. With their 100,000 factories, they don’t want to jeopardise their supplier status, but they don’t want to simply give away their valuable data either and allow third parties to access it. After all, US service providers are not subject to the strict EU General Data Protection Regulation; rather, they are governed by the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act. This raises a key point of contention, as the Act entitles US law enforcement agencies to request data from US Internet service providers, even if it is stored on servers outside the United States, such as in Germany.

Data control as a success factor

“The existing cloud solutions have one major drawback – our customers are not free to decide to whom they give which data. Nor can they process data in real time and transfer it to an artificial intelligence system. This requires a decentralised data processing and analysis concept directly at the site where data is generated,” says Prof. Friedhelm Loh, Owner and CEO of the Friedhelm Loh Group, who has already discussed this with the German government. It’s ultimately about securing the future of SMEs as competitors on the international market. “Industry needs autonomy over its data and a stable, secure IT infrastructure that is available at all times.” This is precisely the unique selling point of ONCITE, the solution that Rittal, German Edge Cloud and IoTOS (companies of the Friedhelm Loh Group) developed with Bosch Connected Industry and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and showcased in Haiger in October.

Businesses can use this all-in-one solution for more than just processing and analysing their production data in near-real time directly on site. “Companies remain in control and can decide for themselves whether and how they will transfer the processed data to the various digital production platforms,” explains Dr Sebastian Ritz, CEO of German Edge Cloud. This solution uses the plug-and-produce principle, meaning any manufacturer can set up the mini data centre – about the size of a refrigerator – right at the edge of its production line. It is delivered to customers ready to use, tailored to their particular performance specifications, with a highly customised and scalable cloud-based IT infrastructure and the AI-based applications they need to meet their requirements. 

In a bid to strengthen industry and encourage solutions to the challenges faced by European companies, German Federal Minister Peter Altmaier officially launched the Gaia-X project. The goal is to set up lots of small edge data centres with an open cloud connection at various locations to pave the way for a new class of industrial applications. The project was presented at the Digital Summit hosted by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy in Dortmund.

Learning from your own solutions

“In its discussions with the Federal Ministry, the Friedhelm Loh Group has driven forward Gaia-X from an industrial perspective. Our goal was to make edge and cloud computing accessible for medium-sized industrial companies and lay down the relevant groundwork,” says Prof. Loh, owner and CEO of the Friedhelm Loh Group, adding: “From customers and our own factory operations, we have learned that data sovereignty, real-time capabilities and connection to existing cloud solutions are what matter to industrial SMEs. We contributed this knowledge to the Gaia-X project.” 

The entrepreneur asserts he and his staff know first-hand what is needed from establishing the fully digitally integrated Rittal plant in Haiger. “Since there was still no suitable response to our requirements, we developed a solution together. ONCITE is the first turn-key AI-based edge cloud data centre for the secure, real-time processing and intelligent analysis of data captured in manufacturing environments. It is a solution developed by German industry for German industry – in collaboration with highly skilled partners such as Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft researchers, IT experts, AI specialists and other companies,” says Professor Loh.

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