deutsche ict + medienakademie / eco Academy

Three sound bites set the tone for the 2022 programme of the German ict + medienakademie. To quote a major corporation board member at a board meeting: “Renewable energies should never account for more than 30 per cent of German electricity generation, because that would lead to a collapse of the Internet and this cannot be electronically regulated.” Or, as stated by the CEO of an automobile company: “By 2022, all new cars in Germany will be fully autonomous on the roads.” Or, as commented on by an AI expert in 2022: “Really good AI is still 50 years away.”

These examples show how important it is to have better (i.e., more in-depth and balanced) information on tech topics than the more common scenario, with this possibly being necessary even for the survival of companies. For more than twenty years, the German ict + medienakademie has been the think tank of the leading experts on tech topics concerning the Internet, IT, telecommunications, microelectronics – in short, everything digital. As a company of the eco Group, it is also responsible for those parts of the eco Academy which offer members of the association and other interested parties the optimal mix of neutral professional development at the highest level and expertise in the daily business of the Internet industry.

The Academy’s renowned core format is set in its so-called “Executive Roundtables”. These involve on-site discussion rounds with 30 to 50 executives with very diverse backgrounds and opinions. Based on keynote statements, they intensively discuss complex topics over a six-hour period. In 2022, the 450th roundtable was held, with around 19,000 executives having participated to date. While such small-scale but intensive exchange of ideas might be more laborious than large events – the latter which merely scratch the surface of difficult topics – the rounds are more than worth it. Ultimately, in going home at the end of the day, practically all participants are certain that they have learned about all of the key pressure points and levers on the respective topic.

In addition, in 2022, formats such as in-house training & coaching, which took place both on-site and hybrid or online-only, were again on the programme – for example, a train-the-trainer course on AI.

Executive Roundtables

In 2022, 20 roundtables focused on digital infrastructure (e.g., Future Networks, Next-Gen Internet, City Networks, Fixed-Mobile Convergence, Narrowband & IoT), digital tools (e.g., Assistants/Bots, Automation, Metaverse) and specific sectors such as Connected Car, Digital Health or VideoTech. Here a few highlights:

Industry: High or full automation, AI factory or even autonomous?

(29 February 22) It is not without reason that, for many years, Industry 4.0 has ranked right after digitalisation and disruptive transformation among the most commonly used digital buzzwords. According to a recent study, 90 per cent of German industrial companies are working or planning to work with Industry 4.0 applications, framed by many accompanying tech terms such as automation, CPS, embedded systems, AI, M2M, robotics, the end-to-end connected factory and, for some time now, the recently emerged Industry 5.0.

Nonetheless, according to another survey, only about half of German mechanical engineers are utilising robot technology in their companies, and only a third intend to further expand this approach, even if the issue of “job losses” does not play a major role. A sign of the limits of automation? In this exchange of ideas, not only different strategies of industrial companies became clear, but also the fact that a sharpened pencil is needed to determine the calculable degree of automation.

Digital Twins in company processes: Real upheaval or hype around what has long been known?

(23 March 22) Simulations have been around for a very long time, both in the industry and other business sectors. What has nonetheless surged in recent years – partly due to AI advances – is the goal of producing complete digital replicas of increasingly larger parts of single or even multiple value-added processes. Advocates of digital twins argue that these replicas would make it much easier to optimise the processes from the outset or to thoroughly examine complex processes and their planned changes in advance.

This expert round which took place on the 16th floor of the TÜV Rheinland headquarters in Cologne was highly stimulating, as it was attended by leading figures from many different fields, including the president of the newly founded Digital Twin Association. To sum it up, the conclusion drawn was the following: despite some marginal prophecies of doom, the digital twin is likely to succeed – initially in all areas where the investment is high and the results are difficult to predict, but then also in many other areas. In other words, digital twins are likely to become ubiquitous.

Goal of 1,000Gbps, 0.1msec and AI everywhere? 6G is not a no-brainer

In the past, everything was different. It took years for discussions about new mobile communications generations to take place in circles outside the insider scene, and if someone did bring it up, they got to hear – why so soon? With 6G, things seem to be different, but things have unfolded in a different manner. While 5G is still in the start-up phase, there is already widespread talk across Europe about the options and possibilities of 6G, even to the point of the headline “6G delivers what 5G promised”.

What is the crux of the matter? In the exchange of ideas, it was clear that there is still a lot of groundwork to be done, both in terms of the necessary transmission technology and many other worksites, and not least the sometimes highly visionary applications, such as the transmission of sensors or senses.

HPC, quantum and bio-computing – research-as-usual or “Is there something en route faster than previously expected?”

(14 September 2022) Questions around the topic of “computing” have engaged the German ict + medienakademie from a very early stage and on many occasions – for example, in 2015, at IBM in Cologne under the title of “How fast will cognitive computing arrive?”. On 14 September 2022, the fifth dma roundtable on “Future Computing” took place, this time at the Innovation Centre at Hewlett Packard Enterprises in Böblingen.

Top German researchers, the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) and four Fraunhofer Institutes were present, as were representatives from universities and the industry. The focus was less on cognitive computing, psychological and social implications, but rather on the simple question of whether HPC and quantum computing compete or complement each other. The answer was somewhat surprising – hybrid approaches could well be a viable path, provided that quantum computing continues along the path that first became visible in 2022; this would involve eliminating extreme cooling and adopting small installation dimensions, even for motor vehicles.