Of Research Drivers and Industry 4.0 - An Interview with Dr. Falko Schmid, Director Research & Innovation

Janosch Nauland, December 15, 2017

All signs point to “smart”. The fourth industrial revolution is in full swing with Ubimax in pole position. To keep the engine of innovation running, the Research & Development Department is critical for providing new impulses.

I took the chance to discuss research at Ubimax, cutting edge technology, and personal insights with Falko.

Janosch: To get started – what is the value of research at Ubimax?

Falko: Research is to some extent Ubimax’s core. Many of our key employees, including co-founder, Hendrik Witt, have several years of research in the field of Wearable Computing and Augmented Reality (AR). This expertise has been directly incorporated into our products. Since the company's founding, continuous research is an essential part of Ubimax. In terms of the products we develop and the services we offer, we always come up against the limits of what is currently possible due to their high degree of innovation. Research projects enable us to think beyond these limitations and try out new ideas in an early stage. As a result, our products are continuously being developed keeping in mind future needs and trends.

How long does it take for those cutting-edge ideas to find their way into the Ubimax portfolio?

Our research results are only offered as part of Ubimax Frontline if they are fully market-ready and robust enough to meet the quality requirements for a scalable product. We often spend years developing a new feature at research level before it is fully developed, luckily it often goes faster.

Are others inspired by Ubimax research and development work?

We are a world market leader in what we offer to our customers. Everyone who is playing in a position like this is kind of a creative director for the field. The products we develop do not yet exist elsewhere in this type and depth of integration. This of course serves as an inspiration for competition and research. It is an interplay of mutual inspiration that is fun and animates you to stand out from your competitors.

With a view to industrial operating processes, AR is a decisive trend. What is Ubimax’s way of contributing to it?

The working world is currently in the midst of a fundamental change. Major buzzwords such as digitalization or Industry 4.0 are often associated with full industrial automation. However, in most industries, the majority of processes is still connected to manual tasks. Here comes Ubimax into play: With our Smart Glass solutions, frontline workers can use both hands for the essential value-adding work steps, without having to spend time and attention on secondary processes. We also regard Wearables and AR as a key for a natural and secure collaboration with cooperative robots – they will be our future colleagues in many fields. In this way, our solutions contribute today and in the future to reconcile manual work with ongoing digitization.

With our product development and the industry focused research, we contribute to defining what's next.

And accordingly, to the reconcilement with numerous challenges connected to the fourth industrial revolution. What other advantages do Wearables offer?

Wearables above all enable hands-free, faster and process-reliable work. But focusing on essential information can also enable efficient knowledge transfer. In addition, the ergonomic advantages reduce physical strain. The latter is also interesting in view of demographic change: Wearables can thus be a key to health prevention.

Therefore, Ubimax contributes to the general development of technology, right?

Yes, you could say that. With our product development and the industry focused research, we contribute to defining what's next. We connect current requirements with innovative ideas and this often leads to new research questions, which leads to developing solutions and implementing them into the form of future products.

Does the implementation always work out?

No, not always. Even though an idea may not be immediately feasible, other opportunities might arise while working on the implementation. Those possibilities allow us to continuously position us as innovation driver.

In terms of research and development, Ubimax always thinks one step ahead. Have the possibilities for innovation been exhausted yet?

Not even close! Strictly speaking, right now we are in the first of many phases regarding the industrial implementation of Wearable Computing and AR. Up until now, the technology was mostly used for implementing research prototypes or pilots. Meanwhile, productive solutions are being converted into critical processes by both our clients and our competitors. We are now witnessing a phase where AR and Wearables have fully arrived.

Fully arrived in terms of ready to hit the ground running?

Absolutely! From a technology perspective, we are in the same position as smartphones about ten years ago: a usable basic concept and the hardware was available - but there was no infrastructure that could be accessed by all users. The same is true for Wearables today. There are already great and reliant components around as well as heterogenous infrastructures, but you cannot yet talk about standards or homogenous device platforms. Ubimax Frontline is a big contributor to this!

Good ideas are rarely a result of pondering in silence.

Do you have personal insight of what you are doing and what is going on around you?

I'm thrilled by the fact that Ubimax always puts people first. We ask ourselves how technology can be developed so that it moves into the background and at the same time is there for people. How can we design technology in such a way that it works for people and not get in their way? How can technology connect people? In this regard, Wearables and AR offer incredible potential and great solutions. This is why I find the research at Ubimax extremely exciting.

Finally, I’d love to hear your personal recipe for a good idea.

Communication! Good ideas are rarely a result of pondering in silence. On the one hand, the regular exchange with our clients and partners is a big help. On the other hand, the exchange within the team is as important. Our team is characterized by creativity, extensive expertise in a wide range of areas and openness to new ideas. This is exactly what a research and development team needs. Ideas then come naturally.