Chinese communications equipment manufacturer Huawei has risen rapidly from relative obscurity to become a first ranked player in the global telecoms infrastructure market so it should come as no surprise that it is aiming to be lead player in the Internet of Things. Its acquisition of Neul last September has now been followed by a series of moves. Here’s a summary of Huawei’s IoT journey to date.
Huawei’s most recent, and well-publicised, initiative was revealed at CeBit on 17 March when Huawei announced an extension of its existing partnership with SAP to include “joint innovation efforts [that] will focus on establishing a technical collaboration … and to advance research on the Internet of Things (IoT) to provide new solutions to market.”
Specifically the two companies will work on integrating Huawei’s ICT infrastructure and connectivity products with the SAP HANA cloud platform, SAP applications and analytic tools. According to Huawei: “The initial stage of Huawei and SAP’s collaboration will focus on developing agile manufacturing, smart energy and transportation solutions with SAP HANA cloud platform. This encompasses hardware and connected equipment integration, and applications and analytics tools integration, respectively.”
SAP HANA ideal for analysing IoT data
According to SAP, HANA “has completely transformed the database industry by combining database, data processing, and application platform capabilities in a single in-memory platform. … [that] makes it possible for applications and analytics to be rethought without information processing latency, and [for] sense-and-response solutions [to] work on massive quantities of real-time data for immediate answers without building pre-aggregates.”
In other words, a technology well-suited to analysing the masses of data generated by connected ‘things’.
Another, less well-reported, announcement from Huawei at CeBit was that it will work with NXP Semiconductors to jointly explore the Chinese and global Industry 4.0 market. “Through technical cooperation and joint innovation, the two companies will create an open, robust and secure Industry 4.0 information and communication technology platform,” Huawei said.
Huawei says it will collaborate with NXP in physical layer, network layer, and cyber security. “The partnership will fully integrate Huawei’s ICT infrastructure and connectivity solutions and NXP’s secure connectivity solutions for Industry 4.0. Collaboration will focus on Industry 4.0 applications, such as factory automation, logistics 4.0, wireless secure connections, and sensor networks.”
The two companies plan to develop “a global leading Industry 4.0 networking solution that creates sustainable value for customers in Greater China region and potentially across the globe.”
NXP: an into Industry 4.0
Industry 4.0 originated as a forward-looking project under the German Government’s High-Tech Strategy. It focussed on information and communication technology (informatics) and has been developed further to include production research and user industries.
According to Wikipedia it is now a generic collective term for technologies and concepts of value chain organisation. SAP announced early in March that it had joined the Industrial Internet Consortium, an Industry 4.0 focussed open membership organisation formed to accelerate the development, adoption and widespread use of interconnected machines and devices, intelligent analytics and people at work.
According to Huawei, “IHS predicts that, by 2025, Industry 4.0 will connect over 80 billion devices to the Internet. China plans to invest EUR1.2 trillion ($A1.67t) over the next three years in modernising and transforming the nation’s industry, with the aim of shifting from ‘A big manufacturing country’ to ‘A powerful manufacturing country’.”
Underpinning all these initiatives is Huawei’s acquisition last September of Cambridge, UK based Neul, reportedly for £25m ($A48m). Huawei made no announcement of the acquisition. The UK’s Business Weekly, which broke the story said: “Huawei recently told [UK] Business Secretary Vince Cable that it was investing £1.3 billion in the UK but at the time declined to say whether this would be at its current Ipswich facility or in expansion into Cambridge.”
Neul: the core of Huawei’s IoT ambitions
Business Weekly later reported, “Huawei intends to invest tens of millions of dollars in Cambridge to build a global Internet of Things stronghold around the newly-acquired Neul.” A source close to the deal told Business Weekly: “Huawei has very big plans for the Internet of Things and for Cambridge – and Neul will be the centre of that strategy.”
Huawei has maintained Neul (the name means ‘cloud’ in Gaelic) as a discrete entity. It still has its own web site. The company provides solutions for the connection of ‘things’. According to the web site “Neul develops and supplies the technology to allow network operators to provide a scalable, low power network service to connect small low power devices to their online digital presence in the Cloud. Designed to be an excellent neighbour and to offer a 20dB coverage advantage over GPRS, our technology can operate in virtually any licensed spectrum below 1 GHz, whether licensed or license-exempt, with the potential for further bands in the future.”
Neul says it is supplying “small, high performance wireless endpoint modules that attach to each ‘thing’, initially in the form of development kits with high volume production supported by our partners.”
It lists its products as:
– NeulNet basestations to provide an access point to the wireless network
– NeulCloud, a state-of-the-art cloud-based device management; platform that provides authentication, account management, policy management, billing and simple APIs that allow users to easily fetch and push data to things;
The Internet of Things—or of Everything as Cisco calls it—encompasses the sensors and devices that enable things to be connected, the technologies that enable these things to communicate and the systems to collect, analyse and extract intelligence from the masses of data generated. With its partnerships with SAP, NXP and its acquisition of Neul Huawei has got at least a foothold in each of these areas. But you can be sure there will be much more to come.