World’s smartest buildings: Watson IoT HQ, Munich

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Alice Cruickshank

How can a technology company sell its Internet of Things innovations to global companies such as BMW, Macy’s, Staples and Royal Bank of Scotland? Simple – they should operate from a workspace showcasing exactly what IoT systems have to offer.

With that thought in mind, IBM opened a living laboratory for its IoT tech. The Watson IoT headquarters in Munich has been created to represent the latest smart office technology available, while also providing a testing ground for innovations of the future.

Munich Interior

The Watson IoT building

The headquarters are located in Highlight Towers in Munich, which was designed by Jahn architects. The exterior is a striking, dual mirrored tower design, while the interior architecture has plenty of futuristic flair.

IBM invested $200m into its Munich headquarters, which officially opened in 2017. The 25 floors occupied by IBM were kitted out by Map Project Office industrial designers, with smart building technology created by Siemens to complement the Watson IoT system. The space spans more than 24,000 sq ft and comprises of employee workspaces, tech labs – known as ‘collaboratories’ – and a showcase centre for IoT technology innovations. Current collaborators housed at the Munich tech lab include Avnet, BMW, BNP Paribas, Capgemini and Tech Mahindra.

With over 1,000 employees and clients using the space, the Watson IoT system within the building is optimised for hot desking. IBM’s ‘digital twin’ is key to this. Each person has a unique digital identity, and the system can detect who is in which seat, and sets the heating and lighting conditions to his or her preferences.

IBM MPO Eduardo Perez

IBM’s Universal Design Studio has been designed to provide the ultimate immersive client experience. Image: Eduardo Perez

Using IoT to sell IoT

The jewel in IBM’s sales crown is the Universal Design Studio. Part-showcase, part-meeting room, clients are greeted by a large podium displaying hundreds of IoT-enabled devices.

A custom-built archive unit showcases hundreds of books printed with genuine data captured using Watson IoT sensors, designed to highlight the sheer volume of data available, and the need for an intelligent system to process it.

A plinth made from Corian serves as the main focal point, and displays IoT case studies using mixed reality. When objects are placed on the table, cameras and sensors identify the item, which triggers related videos to start playing on the wall. The plinth then opens to reveal a desk space complete with hidden chairs for further discussions, while curtains are trigged to open to reveal views of the Munich skyline.

Mixed Reality Table Eduardo Perez

This mixed reality table uses cameras and sensors to identify objects and play related videos. Image: Eduardo Perez

IBI’s aim is to emobody the product it’s selling, which is goes a long way towards doing. Their customer-focused Universal Design Studio impress with its tech, but it also showcases how style, innovation and functionality can come together seamlessly.

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