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Fall 2003
LOGI ST I CS L I GHT & DI SP L AYS
USABI L I T Y
Flawless Flows
Illumination and Information
The Science of Simplicity
T H E M A G A Z I N E F O R R E S E A R C H A N D I N N O V A T I O N
Pictures of the Future
Scenario 2015: Goods on the Go 6
Trends:A Flawless Flow of Goods 9
Warehousing:Intelligent Stacking, Tracking, and Packing 14
Tracking:Why Transponders Are Making Waves 16
Facts and Forecasts:Boom in Worldwide Product Shipments 18
Postal Automation: The Medium Is the Message 20
Delivery Systems: Many Roads Lead to the Last Mile 22
Baggage Handling:Flying Suitcases 24
Interviews with Dr. Inga-Lena Darkow and Prof. Wilhelm Dangelmaier 26
Simulation and Optimization: Predicting with Precision 27
Innovations:Illusion on Rails, Pedestrian Airbags, Phone Flash 4
University Cooperation:Focusing on Results 30
Business Accelerators:A Partner for Ups and Downs 54
Transmission Systems:More Power to You!78
Researchers and Patents:Smart Antennas, Laser Distance Detection 80
Interview with Dr. Winfried Büttner: In Search of Golden Nuggets 81
Feedback / Preview 82
Cover top right:Light-emitting diodes
(halo) are set to transform illumination,
while light-emitting plastics (mini display)
will blur the distinction between lighting
and display applications. Below left: In tomorrow’s warehouses, autonomous robots will stack boxes on pallets — thereby vastly reducing human
workloads.
L O G I S T I C S
PI CTURES OF THE FUTURE
CONT E NT S
F E A T U R E S
Scenario 2020:Light Entertainment 32
Trends:The Wavelength of Change 35
Light-Emitting Diodes:A Bright Future 38
Facts and Forecasts:Small Lights, Big Impact 42
Interview with Dr. Arpad Bergh: A Bright New Paradigm 43
Organic Light-Emitting Diodes:Brilliant Plastics 45
Adaptive Lighting:A New Architecture of Light 49
3D Displays:Images in Space 51
L I G H T & D I S P L A Y S Scenario 2015:Home Sweet Home 56
User Interface Design:The Science of Simplicity 59
Laboratory Testing:What Customers Want 62
Facts and Forecasts:The Value of Easy-to-Use Products 65
Interview with Prof. Michael Burmester: Adapting Products to People 66
Designafairs: Designing Easy Interfaces 68
Accessibility:An Internet for Everyone 70
Virtual Beings:Creatures in Computers 73
Interview with Martin Edmondson: Designs on Customers 76
U S A B I L I T Y
T
hree-quarters of Siemens sales come from products and technologies
that have been on the market for less than five years. What does that say
about our commitment to innovation? It says that for an innovation to be
meaningful for us, it must have an application. And no potential application
is going to see the light of day if it does not strengthen our customers’ busi-
nesses. To accomplish that it must either improve their performance, grow
their business, or lower their costs. That is the only thing our customers are
willing to pay for. Sure, Siemens is a technology company. But that doesn’t
mean we’re in business to develop new technologies. We are in business to
solve problems effectively by putting our technological muscles to work. T
ake our Postal Automated Redirection System (PARS) contract with the
U.S. Postal Service (page 20). Siemens stands to book as much as $690
million by implementing a new envelope scanning technology that will save
the Post Office millions of working hours and up to $420 million a year in
handling costs when fully implemented. The technology is expected to cut
the time it takes to deliver an incorrectly addressed envelope from days to
hours. Because Siemens gets paid only according to the amount of money it
saves, the Post Office has been able to give Siemens its business even though
it initially had no budget. O
f course, innovations come in all shapes and sizes. There are some,
such as the development a few years ago of totally integrated manu-
facturing, or the fully integrated digital hospital, that promise to revolutionize
entire industries. And there are others that seem small – take the concept of
a designer cell phone, for instance – that are nevertheless extremely signifi-
cant from a business point of view. In short, it’s the application that gives the
innovation meaning.
O
ne of the best known formulas for tapping new ideas is to work closely
with external partners like the world's top universities. As our article on
university cooperation demonstrates (page 30), research goals have become
increasingly focused and cooperative projects are being designed to meet the
specific long-term needs of our operating companies.
A
nother thing to keep in mind about innovations is that no matter how
revolutionary a technology may be, in all likelihood it will have to
compete with existing technologies for years. And those existing techno-
logies are not about to lie down and die. They feed further innovations. Even
as we trumpet the future advantages of a world lit by LEDs (page 38) and
OLEDs (page 45), we have to admit that conventional lighting technologies
keep getting better and better. Y
es, as the name of this publication indicates, research should be based
on a picture of the future, meaning that it must have a vision of where
markets and technologies are headed. But that vision has value only if it is
based on a thorough knowledge of how things work today. I am told that
when Disneyworld opened a journalist remarked to one of Walt’s relatives
that it would have been great if Walt could have lived to see it. And the
relative answered: He did see it. That’s why it’s here today. Walt Disney knew
his customers. We must know ours.
Applications Are Everything
Dr. Klaus Kleinfeld is a
Member of the Board of Siemens AG and is
President and CEO of
Siemens Corporation, USA
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
32
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
PI CTURES OF THE FUTURE
E
DI T OR I AL
On the rails of a united Europe,varying national standards mean that locomo-
tives and their engineers still have to be changed before trains can cross interna-
tional boundaries. This is a major impediment to a planned European high-speed
train network. With this in mind, train manufacturers have developed a prototype
of a standardized engineer’s control panel for cross-border rail traffic in the con-
text of the EU’s European Driver’s Desk (EUDD) project. However, because of safe-
ty and cost reasons, test runs for this project cannot be performed in real loco-
motives. Instead, the consortium has developed a demonstrator for trial trips.
Siemens provided the control engineering and programmed two simulated-
Extremely bright white light-emitting
diodes (LEDs) can now be used in cell-
phone cameras as flashes. Thanks to a
built-in reflector, the LED made by
Osram subsidiary Osram Opto Semi-
conductors can uniformly illuminate its
surroundings within a radius of approxi-
mately two meters. The LED’s shallow
depth of only two millimeters allows it
to be easily integrated into even the
smallest cell phones, while its service
life far exceeds that of most cell
phones. But that is not the only benefit. Unlike
normal discharge-type lamps, the diode
requires no charging time, allowing it to
The Perfect Illusion
Takes to the Rails
Sensor Protects Pedestrians
How to Flash
Your Phone
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54
Pi ct ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
PI CTURES OF THE FUTURE
I NNOVAT I ONS
A new system uses electrical voltage to cleanse
industrial oils. The process, developed by Siemens
subsidiary Mechanik Center Erlangen (Germany)
and U.S.A.-based ISOPur Fluid Technologies, cleans
oil so thoroughly that it can be reused over an
extremely long period of time. Other methods are
not nearly as effective. Oils used in steam turbines,
hydraulic systems and diesel engines can become
contaminated with bits of rubber, penetrating
water, funguses or bacteria. The ISOPur process is
based on electronic fluid dialysis. The oil is separated into two streams, which are routed
past a positive or a negative electrode respectively. All of the foreign particles in the oil
become positively or negatively charged as a result of this process. The separate streams of
oil are then recombined. The particles with unlike charges are drawn to each other, form-
ing clumps of larger particles. These clumps can then be easily segregated. The ISOPur
technology can remove foreign bodies with sizes down to less than 0.1 micrometers —
which even includes bacteria. Conventional filters clog quickly, and such particles as fungus
spores are not removed.na
Researchers at Restrain Systems, a Siemens VDO subsidiary, have developed a sensor
that can lessen the impact on a pedestrian who is hit by the hood of a car. The protection
system, which was displayed at the International Auto Show in Frankfurt, Germany, in Sep-
tember 2003, has been designed to lift the hood just fractions of a second after a collision.
By doing so, it can, in the ideal case, create a flexible crumple zone that prevents the
pedestrian’s head from hitting the hard engine block. The sensor, which is located in the front bumper, consists of optical fibers that have been
covered with a special reflective layer. The coating has been left off at various places,
allowing light to escape. When the fiber is bent even slightly during an accident, the
amount of escaping light changes. Within three milliseconds an ingenious electronic sys-
tem calculates an assortment of data: the expected damage, speed, the point of impact,
weight and even the height of the accident victim. The protective system is activated as
appropriate for the accident with much the same speed as an airbag.na operate extremely quickly. Instead of the
white LED, photographers can also use
multi-colored LEDs that make it possible
to take snapshots with a colored sunset
effect. Siemens subsidiary Osram also
offers two miniature pocket flashlights
equipped with white LEDs. Conventional
flashlight bulbs cannot compete with
these new systems, which effectively
combine small size with long service life
and the LEDs’ extremely low power con-
sumption. na
Throughout Vienna,drivers can now use
their cell phones to pay for parking. M-Park-
ing, a system developed by Siemens and
Mobilkom Austria, is easy to use and avail-
able to everyone. Users provide the numbers
of their cell phones and license plates to an
Internet site (www.m-parking.at) and use
their credit cards to buy a certain amount of
parking time in advance. Drivers who want to
use one of the short-term parking zones in
Vienna can send a text message (SMS) con-
taining the planned length of time to a spe-
cial service number. Seconds later, the driver
receives confirmation, also as an SMS. The
service has one other practical benefit: Ten
minutes before the parking time runs out,
the user receives a warning. But drivers who
have gotten carried away in stores don’t have
Parking by
Numbers
Electrifying
Oil Cleaning
to make a mad dash back to their cars.
Instead, they can leisurely extend their park-
ing time while sitting in a cafe. To keep an
eye on what’s going on, officials use pocket
computers based on the GPRS standard.
After an official punches in the license-plate
number, the system quickly determines
whether the parking charge has been paid. If
not, the PDA spits out a parking ticket, using
its built-in mini-printer.na
In Vienna, drivers can pay for parking
with their cell phones. The confirmation
arrives as a text message (SMS).
A raised hood serves as
a crumple zone. A sen-
sor can determine the
point of impact, the
accident victim’s weight
and height, and distin-
guish between a small
child, a bicycle rider and
a lamppost.
Thanks to a large video screen and professional sound effects, train engineers have
the perfect illusion of driving the real thing.
The new LED flash unit lights up an area
with a radius of about two meters.
stretches. The future engineer’s cab was tested at Siemens’ virtual reality lab in
Munich by almost 40 train engineers from six countries. The test cab provided a
perfect simulation of a train trip. Once the signal turned green and the control
lever was pushed, the locomotive began to roll through the landscape. Train sta-
tions, signals, power poles, mountains and trees — everything was recreated in
minute detail. Three video projectors were used to depict the images on a 180-
degree screen. Even the sounds came from real locomotives. The highlight was an
80-kilometer-stretch through the Tauern region of the Austrian Alps. The train
engineers could choose between a 650-ton freight train or a passenger train. The
engineers were observed throughout each trip and were evaluated along with -
their suggestions for improving the configuration of the display elements, levers
and switches. na
Revolutionary technology.
Oil cleansed by the ISOPur
process (right) can be used for
extremely long periods.
6
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7
Goods on the Go In 2015, a highly optimized logistics chain will incorporate a comprehensive electronic network including automated warehouses that reliably track
goods from an order’s receipt to its delivery.
S C E NAR I O
2015
L O G I S T I C S
LOGISTICS
HIGHLIGHTS
Interviews with Experts
IT networking and good planning will continue to be indispensable to successful logistics.
Baggage Logistics
Thanks to 40 kilometers of con-
veyor belts, nearly 20,000 elec-
tric motors, hundreds of scan-
ners and a high-tech control
room, Munich Airport’s Terminal
2 will be able to handle 500,000
items of luggage daily.
Exact Simulation
Today’s computers can not only
predict sales with astonishing
accuracy;they can also optimize
navigation routes 1,200 times
faster than previously. Postal Automation
PARS (the Postal Automated
Redirection System) will help the
U.S. Postal Service tackle the
problem of undelivered mail —
a headache that costs $1.8 billion every year. Warehousing
In addition to developing trans-
ponder tags that track goods,
Siemens is also working with
partners to produce “thinking”
warehouse robots.
Page 26
Page 27
Page 14
Page 20
Page 24
2015
Computers use software agents to process incoming orders and forward data to suppliers and robot
“workers.” Warehouse operations in
2015 are highly automated, with robots removing merchan-
dise from towering storage bays, packaging orders and even taking
over final assembly of some items.
Transponder tags attached to goods
ensure that orders can be tracked all the way to the customer. I t’s late afternoon, October 15, 2015. Su-
san, managing director of a mail-order
company, leaves her office and heads for the
warehouse. She knows that keeping up with
operations is the best way of improving oper-
ational efficiency. Today she’ll be chatting
with employees, taking a look at the ware-
house setup and checking the quality of the
company’s logistics. Fortunately, the days of
back-breaking warehouse work are now a
thing of the past. Only a few years ago, work-
Like termites (left), companies,
and in particular their warehouse
and distribution centers, need
tightly linked logistics chains.
In a global market, companies with international operations face a real challenge in coordinating streams of materials and information. An optimally organized logistics system is increasingly becoming the key to survival.
main traffic arteries. Each termite is always in
the right place at the right time to pick up a
delivery and transport it to its ultimate desti-
nation. And all of them are highly motivated
to carry out their tasks.
Rolling Jigsaw Puzzles. Logistics specialists
can only dream of such working conditions.
They are more accustomed to facing con-
gested highways and interruptions in the
flow of materials caused by such factors as
delays at cargo-handling facilities. Neverthe-
less, in Germany alone logistics specialists
have to ensure that approximately ten million
tons of goods are transported on time every
day — by truck, train, ship and plane (see in-
sert, p. 10). In their efforts to do so, they
have managed some major achievements. Today’s automotive industry is one good
example. A car in the BMW 3 series can con-
sist of up to 15,000 parts, making it some-
thing akin to a rolling jigsaw puzzle. Every
day, up to 850 vehicles, each built according
to a customer’s individual order, roll off the
A Flawless Flow of Goods
S
moothly supplying a metropolis of two
million inhabitants is no easy feat. In
fact, it’s something of a miracle — especially
when the community lives in a structure
2,000 times the size of the residents who
erected it. In this particular case, the inhabi-
tants are African termites — genus Macroter-
mes — and they build their seven-meter
mounds in the African savanna. The secret of
their success is a flawlessly organized flow of
goods. Supplies run without interruption
from the system’s multi-branch network to its
L O G I S T I C S
S C E NAR I O
2015
ers still had to stack tons of heavy boxes
every day. Today, this part of the operation is
fully automated. Moreover, the robots that
put the boxes on the pallets can work contin-
uously and achieve even greater packing
densities than a human worker. The storage shelving system is fully auto-
matic. At each level, robots whizz along rails
from one bay to the next, placing the goods
onto a conveyor belt, which then takes them
either to the assembly area or straight to the
packaging machine. Customers demand
more customized products than ever before
—and that means everything from personal-
ized cell phones to tailor-made clothing. De-
livery times, too, are very fast, with cus-
tomers expecting orders to arrive within
three days at the latest. On the logistics side, Susan’s company
can now even hold its own with the automo-
bile industry, once the great role model in
this field. In fact, her operation achieves
near-perfect delivery reliability rates. Susan
studies the large, newly purchased OLED
flatscreen displays, which show the entire
process, from the receipt of customer orders
to the delivery of goods. “That’s great. We’ve
achieved 99.5 percent reliability today,” she
says, praising the workforce. “But I’m sure we
can do even better than that,” she adds with
a smile. “Let’s choose a delivery that we can
analyze in detail.” A click of a mouse is all it takes to call up
an order received at 6:45 p.m. on October
12. “One toy robotic dog, one dark-blue de-
signer dress and one household robot,” it
says. A second later, the computer displays
the availability of the goods. The dog is in
stock, but the dress had to be made to order
by a supplier and didn’t arrive until two days
later. In 2015, customers still like to go shop-
ping in fashion boutiques. What’s changed,
though, is that shops now keep only one ex-
ample of a particular item in each size. If a
customer likes a garment, he or she is mea-
sured optically and the article is made to or-
der. Again, the aim is to limit delivery time to
less than three days. Mail-order companies in 2015 not only
maintain gigantic warehouses, but often also
assemble items, such as household robots,
themselves. The October 12 order specified a
robot with a navigation system and vacuum-
ing and window-cleaning functions. The
computer automatically asked suppliers
when the robot’s components would arrive
and then calculated the completion time for
assembly: “October 15, 10:13 a.m.”
“Why did we need 20 minutes to pack-
age the goods and another 20 to reach the
loading bay?” Susan asks the Station 4 super-
visor as she examines output figures. “Why
did it take so long?” The supervisor explains
that he decided to load the truck right to the
roof, once the software agents had calcu-
lated that it would be cheaper to deliver to a
number of destinations on one run. And the
route planner had worked out an optimal
itinerary. “So, more pallets had to be loaded,
and everything took just that much longer.”
Susan nods, aware that sensors record the
times that items enter and leave the ware-
house. Thanks to small radio-operated
transponder tags fixed to the goods, inven-
tory can be checked at any time. More than 10 years ago, Susan was one
of the first in the business to replace bar
codes with intelligent transponder tags.
Since then, the volume of missing merchan-
dise at the company has dwindled to practi-
cally zero. Similarly, satellite technology is
used to determine a truck’s precise position
and track the exact progress of the goods.
Seven years ago, she changed from GPS to
the GALILEO European satellite system,
which had started to offer the same services
at lower cost. A quick glance at Station 7 —
Deliveries — tells Susan that no one was at
home when the order arrived. So the mail-
man left the package in the home delivery
box, a large mailbox built into the wall of the
house. “Good work. It took barely 66 hours
from receipt of the order to delivery of the
goods at the customer’s house,” says Susan,
who already knew this information. That’s
because in this particular case, Susan is the
customer, and at 12:35 p.m. her home deliv-
ery box sent a message to her cell phone
confirming that three packages had arrived.
Just in time, thinks Susan, who is planning
on wearing the new blue dress to the theater
this evening. Ulrike Zechbauer
8
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9
L O G I S T I C S
T R E NDS
assembly line at the BMW factory in Regens-
burg, Germany. Up to 70 percent of the parts
are produced outside of Germany, creating a
huge wave of materials that BMW logistics
specialists have to manage each day. An al-
ternative approach would be longer-term
storage, but the company would have to
build huge warehouses, which would require
employing large numbers of people as well
as generating additional costs. As a result, most parts are delivered to
the assembly line shortly before they are
used — a system called “just in time” or “just
in sequence.” Over the decades, the auto in-
dustry has developed a perfectly synchro-
nized, lean and highly flexible supply struc-
ture. Indeed, when it comes to logistics, the
sector is considered to be a trendsetter. But
today its available potential has to a large ex-
tent been exhausted.
Unrealized savings. Other industries have a
lot of catching up to do. “That is particularly
true in sectors dominated by small and mid-
sized companies, where logistics was looked
on as a trivial detail in the past. It was even
considered a burdensome necessity,” ex-
plains Jörg Scharrenbroich of Siemens’ Logis-
tics Center of Excellence in Duisburg, Ger-
many. Frankfurt-based PRTM, a management
consulting company, reports that such sec-
tors could realize a variety of potential bene-
fits by improving their logistics. For example,
implementation of appropriate measures
could help:
➔ Reduce a company’s total inventories —
its raw materials, goods in process, products
stored in company warehouses and branches
by 50 to 80 percent;
➔ Improve the reliability of all deliveries by
10 to 25 percent. The role model here is the
automotive-industry supply sector. In this
sector, more than 99.5 percent of orders are
delivered on time.
➔ Reduce overdue shipments — that is, de-
liveries made after the agreed-on date — by
90 percent;
➔ Cut order-processing times — from re-
ceipt of the order by the company to delivery
of the product to the customer — by 40 to
75 percent;
➔ Reduce production-cycle time — from
the first value-creation step to the finished
product — by 30 to 90 percent. To cut the
time by more than 40 percent, changes in
the production process (and thus the factory
layout) are usually necessary;
➔ Lower total costs in such areas as admin-
istration and storage by ten percent to 30
percent.
Key to Survival. Many companies have be-
gun to tap into this potential. “But their ef-
forts don’t always achieve the desired results,
particularly when they rely too heavily on
software solutions,” says Wilhelm Dangel-
maier, a professor of business-data process-
ing at the Heinz-Nixdorf Institute of the
University of Paderborn, Germany (see inter-
view, p. 26). “The first priority should be to
identify the company’s goals and develop
corresponding organizational concepts for
suitable delivery structures,” he suggests.
Today, logistics is not just a pure compet-
itive factor. It is increasingly becoming a key
survival factor, particularly for those compa-
nies that have to meet a range of different
challenges. For example:
➔ Customers are increasingly demanding
tailor-made, high-quality products that must
be produced and delivered quickly;
➔ More and more customers are buying
things on the Internet. Items ordered online,
like books, are delivered to customers’
homes, raising storage and transport costs;
➔ Globalization continues to spread, and
producers are buying increasing numbers of
parts from foreign manufacturers.
Custom-Made Products. In order to meet a
customer’s individual needs, products are in-
creasingly being produced only after an order
has been received. In some sectors, that’s
bringing an end to production stockpiles and
the storage of enormous parts inventories. Challenges includeindividually manu-
factured products,Internet orders and
global creation of added value.
Simulating automobile production
at BMW. The auto industry is setting the pace in the exploitation
of logistics. 10
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11
L O G I S T I C S
T R E NDS
It isn’t uncommon for people to spend a couple of minutes placing an
order on the Internet and then spend a couple of weeks waiting for
the merchandise to arrive. The reason for such slow responses is that
limited roads are deluged with traffic. Increasingly, the much-awaited-
delivery truck ends up in a traffic jam, especially in metropolitan areas.
What’s more, the problem is likely to get worse before it gets better.
The Institute for Transport Economics at the University of Cologne,
Germany, estimates that by 2015 there will be roughly a 23 percent in
rease in passenger traffic and a 63 percent increase in freight traffic in
Germany. Targeting Traffic with Telematics. In Germany, one out of six newly
registered cars is pre-equipped with a navigation system. Of those cars,
over half accomplish their dynamic route guidance using TMC (Traffic
Message Channel). Congested areas are identified by the navigation
system at an early stage and factored into the choice of route. In addition, Siemens has developed a concept for a comprehensive, in-
tegrated system under the SITRAFFIC brand. Traffic data is recorded by
induction loops in the road surface or by infrared and video detectors.
Then the data is sent via mobile radio to a central office, where the
flow of traffic is mapped out and automatically evaluated. Depending
on the situation, traffic can then be influenced in such a way that there
are as few jams as possible. Telematics systems in Germany, such as
those using familiar traffic-control equipment, manage traffic on
roughly 3,200 autobahn kilometers and a host of tunnel routes. This
helps protect the environment, and, according to the Federal Ministry
T R AC K I NG T HE GOODS WI T H T E L E MAT I C S
of Transport, Building and Housing, reduces
the number of serious accidents by up to 50
percent. When traffic jams are imminent,
these systems issue speed limits for individ-
ual lanes or specify no-passing zones and
display these instructions on variable mes-
sage signs — large, programmable illumi-
nated panels on highways. The current flow
of traffic can be recorded by measuring sta-
tions, such as Siemens’ “Traffic Eye.” In this
case, an infrared detector measures the traf-
fic in each lane, identifying the number of
vehicles, how fast they are moving and dif-
ferences in speeds. Photovoltaic modules
provide the required power, and data trans-
mission is handled via radio. Similarly effec-
tive are intelligent systems that automati-
cally record and analyze the flow of urban
traffic and regulate it through traffic lights.
Siemens’ MOTION solution, for instance,
which has been used effectively in Graz,
Austria, since 2001, cuts average driving times by more than ten per-
cent while trimming emissions by 15 percent. Another telematics solution is offered by so-called “floating car data”
systems. Here, the vehicles themselves act as traffic sensors. The cur-
rent position and speed of a vehicle is determined through its own on-
board navigation system and transmitted automatically and anony-
mously to a colllection point via mobile radio. To model current and
future traffic flows, between one and five percent of all vehicles must
participate in a system of this kind. Eyes on Fleets.Fleet management systems help fleet operators control
and dispatch vehicles in the best way possible. Siemens offers a system
consisting of an on-board computer, navigation system and office soft-
ware that optimizes communication between fleet managers and indi-
vidual drivers. New jobs or destination addresses can be transmitted di-
rectly to the vehicle via text messages. With the push of a button, these
jobs can be added to the vehicle’s list of destinations by its navigation
system’s route planner. The system also allows drivers to confirm job completions by sending
messages to the main office through their navigation terminals. Dis-
patchers can continuously monitor their vehicles, and because they
know the time required to reach a destination, can therefore reliably in-
form customers of the arrival of a delivery. Using this system, a fleet op-
erator can wrap up its consignments more cost-effectively, dispatch its
fleet efficiently, and reliably deliver products to its customers.
Inside the Munich-Nuremberg Autobahn Traffic Management Center. The Center is
fully equipped with systems from Siemens. tion) systems aren’t affected by such a re-
striction. And that’s why many people believe
that RFID is headed for a promising future.
Small, sturdy data storage systems, known as
tags, are attached to all the parts to be scruti-
nized. Using radio, it is possible to conduct
high-speed read/write operations with the
tags (see p. 16 and Pictures of the Future, Fall
2002, p. 19).
Intelligent Labels. “Radio frequency identifi-
cation systems enable companies to continu-
ously locate and follow every individual part,”
says Maier. “As a result, the entire materials
stream from the supplier to the factory and
finally to the consumer can be traced — and
in real time.” The tags attached to the prod-
ucts store all of the important product data,
as well as information about its transport
route and destination. The readers needed for data exchange
with the radio labels are installed in all of the
important locations in the supplier chain and
on each transport system that carries them.
They register the size and type of each deliv-
ery item and pass this information on to the
next station in the supply chain via cellular
telephony or satellite.
By keeping workers at cargo-handling fa-
cilities informed, for example, regarding the
times and amounts of the next group of de-
liveries, the system gives them time to pre-
pare. As a consequence, they can plan the
optimal arrangement of trucks for the further
transport of materials. “Radio frequency iden-
tifacation technology is gaining ground,”
Maier says. “Its breakthrough will come when
the price of a tag for widespread use falls to
one cent or less.” RFID technology enables companies to
conduct continuous, real-time inventory
management. At the press of a button, all
stocks, both in warehouses and along the en-
tire supplier chain, can be registered and
checked. Companies also can react quickly to
any problems, including theft. “In the future, the tags could be outfitted
with sensors that could monitor the maxi-
mum permitted storage temperature of food
and sound an alarm when the temperature
rises above that level,” Maier forecasts. “In
warehouses equipped with the latest tech-
nologies, the tags can help coordinate the in-
terplay of conveyor belts, robots and driver-
less transport systems. This accelerates
processes, which is a make-or-break factor in
logistical competition.”
Smart Agents. But what good is the fastest
supply chain if a truck is only half full and the
logistics company suffers a drop in profits as
a result? “In the future, small companies in
particular could join forces for the last mile,
and package all their goods into one com-
mon delivery for the customer,” Maier says.
“This could be performed very efficiently if
such companies combined their intranets
and integrated intelligent logistics software
— in other words, agents.” Software agents could determine, for in-
stance, which orders could be combined and
how transport vehicles could be optimally
loaded. They could also work out the short-
est route for the trip while taking a range of
real time factors into account (see Pictures of
the Future, Fall 2001, p. 53). “In the future, there could be Internet-
based logistics networks that have been pro-
grammed on the basis of economic theories.
Such networks would be intelligent enough
to coordinate and oversee the entire flow of
materials and funds largely on their own,”
Maier predicts. The question is: will they ever
be as efficient as the African termite?
Sebastian Moser, Ulrike Zechbauer
Thanks to shelving stackers produced by Siemens Dematic, this soft drink producer has rapid access to all the pallets stored in the ware-
house’s high-rise racks.
RFID makes it possible to followthe entire
flow of goods
from supplier and producer to
consumer — in real time.
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13
L O G I S T I C S
T R E NDS
“This departure from mass-produced arti-
cles has also split up supplier units. They are
getting smaller even as the transport volume
grows,” says Dr. Carl-Udo Maier of Siemens
Corporate Technology in Munich. Maier
heads the Pictures of the Future project for
Automation and Control.
“Nonetheless, transport and storage
costs have to be kept down. At Siemens
we’re providing customers with comprehen-
sive solutions in this area.” A glance at the va-
riety of products offered by Siemens Dematic
explains why. The range includes automation
technology equipment for warehouses, and
equipment for mail-distribution centers and
airport baggage-transfer systems (see articles,
p. 14, 20, 24). “Increasingly, we are presenting ourselves
as much more than ‘just’ a supplier of top-
notch technology,” says Dr. Alexander Ge-
diehn of Siemens Dematic in Offenbach.
“The customer also wants complete planning
and outfitting of facilities. We’re there to of-
fer everything from a single source.”
End-to-End Tracking. “Looking toward fu-
ture developments in logistics, Siemens is fo-
cusing on three technological areas: end-to-
end tracking systems, highly automated
warehouses, and integrated software solu-
tions,” says Maier (see articles, p. 14 and 16).
A visit to an automaker’s production facilities
shows just what these systems are capable of
doing . Such plants resemble a giant organism.
Huge volumes of material are in constant
motion, and they must arrive on time at the
right spot in the assembly line. “End-to-end
tracking systems organize this apparent
chaos by tracing the path that the parts take
through the labyrinth of conveyer belts to the
assembly line and coordinate the resupply
stream with software,” Maier says. This is the reason why many parts are
now labeled with a bar code or alphanumeric
tag that can be scanned and identified by a
bar code reader or an OCR (optical character
recognition) instrument. In these processes,
the labeling and the reading equipment must
always maintain line-of-sight connection.
However, RFID (radio frequency identifica-
R E L AT I V E C OS T S OF L OGI S T I C S
Distribution
Production
Procurement
Development
Disposal
Other
Automotive Consumer goods Retail trade
2005
2005
Depending on the sector, logistics is a major cost factor. In 2002, logistics
services accounted for nearly 28 percent of total costs for German whole-
salers and retailers (the graphic subdivides these costs in six major categories).
Logistics spending totaled nearly 13 percent in the consumer-product indus-
try — that is, for producers of home appliances, mobile phones, toys or writ-
ing materials. The comparatively low total for the automobile industry — about eight per-
cent — is the result of major investments in areas such as research and devel-
opment, and of the comparatively high costs of production and materials.
These expenses collectively reduce the relative cost of logistics. In additon, the
auto industry has been working for years to implement more efficient logistics
concepts in an effort to cut these costs. All three sectors predict that their lo-
gistics expenditures will fall in the future — a clear indication that they expect
to benefit from newly introduced, efficiency-boosting strategies.
Source: Baumgarten, H. and Thoms, J, Trends and Strategies in Logistics, 2002
Major components
of logistics costs:
Logistics as a share of total production costs
26.8%
27.2%
23.4%
7.8%
2.8%
12.0%
64.1%
16.6%
6.5%
3.2%
2.0%
7.7%
53.4%
12.2%
7.6%
2005
17.7%
10.3%
0.3%
5.3%
12.9%
8.2%
12.8%
27.6%
26.7%
2002
2002
2002
Siemens Dematic and German mail order giant Klingel have created the world’s first
fully automatic packaging line. The system folds cardboard boxes, attaches labels, and
sorts socks, sweaters and shirts with unerring ease. For a mail-order company, highly au-
tomated warehousing and vast shelving systems are only half of the story. Packaging is
the other half, and here human hands are normally required. In conventional mail-order
companies, the goods go to packaging tables, where employees first assemble boxes and
then hand-pack socks, pants and skirts until the order is complete. It’s a process that’s
sure to produce errors, and complaints are a certainty. A powerful alternative is the fully automated packing and distribution line that was re-
cently completed in Pforzheim, Germany, by Siemens Dematic, Klingel and Hamburg-
based Pierau Planung. The new system is full of fascinating details. Whereas in the past
cardboard boxes had to be assembled by hand, a machine now does this automatically
and then slides the empty boxes onto a conveyor belt. The merchandise rides along the
same belt and is then packed into the boxes at “hub stations.” There are about 100 such
stations positioned along the conveyor belt, like parking lots on a busy thoroughfare. First
a box is maneuvered into a hub station and lowered on a small platform lift. Then the
contents arrive — shirts and pants, for instance. Thanks to bar code labels, the system
knows which items have to be placed in which boxes. Once the box has been filled, it is
dispatched one level lower onto a second conveyor. There, a catalogue, complimentary
gifts and a printed invoice are also placed in the box. Finally, the box is automatically
sealed, a bar code is applied and an address label attached. Regardless of the order in
which the boxes roll along the belt, the computer is able to identify them by their bar
codes. As many as 30,000 packages leave the new packaging line every day — which
adds up to about 100,000 individual items. “The major challenge involved in creating this new system was to link all the components
with one another,” explains Wilfried Lampe, who is head of Mail Order systems and E-
Commerce at Siemens Dematic in Offenbach. After all, it’s crucial that the various units
— including box assembly, box identification, box sealing and invoice printer — should
harmonize with one another, so that the end result is a perfectly packed and properly ad-
dressed package. Some 800 to 900 “packages” of information must be exchanged be-
tween individual stations in real time before a box has been fully packed.
P UT T I NG PANT S I N T HE R I GHT B OX
bunk beds are nowhere to be found. But with
hundreds of items to remember, mere mor-
tals quickly lose track.
But for warehouse professionals, who
have to handle thousands of articles in hun-
dreds of boxes, packages and containers
every day, things are obviously quite differ-
ent. The pros can cope with chaos, not least
because they are increasingly assisted by so-
phisticated computer programs and inven-
tory management systems. Elevators whizz
up and down towering shelving units. Mov-
ing to the choreography of computer control,
they stack clothing, screws and large appli-
ances such as washing machines onto pallets
and into bays. The computer system records
where everything is located. Different items
are stored according to different criteria. For
example, those in high demand are placed
where they can be easily retrieved. Modern
mail-order companies, such as Germany’s
Otto and Klingel, have as many as five million
articles in stock. Such companies can pack
5,000 parcels per hour, which are then dis-
patched to 5,000 different addresses. And it’s
very rare that one goes astray. Seamless Positioning and Tracking. In the
final analysis, it’s the blanket use of bar codes
that has made such perfect logistics a reality.
Each product, each box and each pallet is
given its own bar code containing product
data, batch numbers and even address infor-
mation. Whenever goods enter or leave a ware-
house, at forks or intersections in the con-
veyor system, the bar codes are automati-
cally read by a laser scanner, just as they are
at any supermarket checkout. In this way,
sweaters or shirts on a conveyor belt can be
assigned to a specific customer order, just as
letters in a mail sorting center are allocated
to a particular zip code. In the most modern warehouses and
shipping facilities, the bar codes once affixed
to products have been replaced by devices
called transponders (see Pictures of the Fu-
ture, Fall 2002, p. 19). In contrast to bar
codes, these new labels are read by radio and
therefore work without any line-of-sight con-
tact. And they are much less sensitive to
physical damage. Individual items even re-
port to the system of their own accord,
thereby ensuring that they never get lost, a
function made possible with special mini-
transmitters developed by Siemens. The sys-
tem, which is known as Moby-R, guarantees
rapid positioning. Moby R’s transponders
consist of a small data chip, a tiny antenna
and a battery. At regular intervals, they trans-
mit an individual radio signal in the mi-
crowave frequency range over a maximum
distance of several hundred meters to a
nearby receiving antenna. Chaotic Containers. By calculating the prop-
agation time of the signal, the central com-
puter can automatically determine the pre-
cise location of an item, which might be, for
example, inside a container in the middle of
a massive shipping terminal. Every five min-
utes or so, the computer updates an on-
screen graphic indicating the position of each
container. “This means that containers can
be stored using the same chaotic principle
that is employed in the high shelving units of
a warehouse,” explains Heinrich Stricker,
head of business development for the Moby
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15
L O G I S T I C S
WAR E HOUS I NG
I
f you’ve ever moved, you know what it’s
like to pack up an entire household into
countless identical boxes — and how long it
takes before everything is finally in its proper
place again. But beware. If the boxes haven’t
been labeled properly, you can expect some
major headaches! That’s when the bottle
opener gets lost, and the screws for the kids’
Warehouses are a blurr of activity. Every day, they dispatch hun-
dreds of packages and thousands of products. Advanced robotic
and computer systems not only locate containers and stack boxes
neatly on pallets;they also ensure that nothing goes astray.
Intelligent Stacking, Tracking and Packing Siemens and Augsburg, Germany-
based Kuka Roboter, have developed a
system that uses robots to optimally
stack boxes of all shapes and sizes on
pallets. The technology has eliminated
many back-breaking tasks. system at Siemens Automation and Drives.
This is because the computer always knows
where everything is. Such a system is of par-
ticular interest wherever there is rapid
turnover of goods and where forklifts con-
stantly have to move containers to make
space for new arrivals. Thanks to the
transponders, time-consuming searches for
lost containers are a thing of the past. More-
over, the new system should also enhance
protection against theft. On the downside, transponders are still
comparatively expensive. That’s why bar
codes are still the labels of choice for identifi-
cation applications. Experts forecast that this
is unlikely to change in coming years, al-
though RFID technologies are making major
inroads in many sectors (see article oppo-
site). After all, to print and attach a bar code
label, all you need is a little paper and film. Stacking Robots. Engineers at Siemens De-
matic in Offenbach, Germany, are also bank-
system functions more or less fully automati-
cally, stacking a stable and tightly packed pal-
let with boxes of many different shapes and
sizes still requires the trained eye and muscle
power of a human worker. “It’s a backbreak-
ing job,” says Gregor Baumeister, head of Ro-
botic Picking Systems at Siemens Dematic
and the person responsible for development
of the fully automated palleting system. “On
any given day, a worker will shift several tons
of goods from the conveyor to the pallet.” The new system is the product of a com-
plex interplay between robots, conveyors and
sophisticated control technology. The princi-
ple calls for a robot to repeatedly take various
boxes from the supplier’s pallet and place
them on a conveyor belt. A second robot re-
moves the boxes and then positions them on
the customer’s pallet. No matter whether the
boxes are large or small, the goods are
stacked into a tightly-packed, stable pallet —
just as if the work had been performed by ex-
pert human hands.
arrange the boxes in such a way that the pal-
let space is used as efficiently as possible.
New box sizes are scanned into the system
upon arrival at the warehouse, ensuring that
they will be recognized later by the robots.
The new system is already achieving
packing densities substantially over 80 per-
cent of the available space. An experienced
human packer will manage a maximum of
75 to 80 percent. The robot, which is about
the size of a horse, first places large boxes at
the pallet corners and then begins to fill the
space in the middle. Finally, any remaining
space is crammed with small boxes. The ro-
bot can stack as many as 350 boxes an hour
without errors. Enhancement of the various
processes involved should increase this num-
ber substantially.
As Baumeister explains, future systems
will be developed to suit specific jobs. “For
example, we’re likely to see individual mod-
ules from the pilot system go into operation
at different warehouses,” he says. Thus the
gripper unit might be used in one area for
unloading pallets and putting boxes on the
conveyor, while the palleting system could be
used in another location. Robots that Navigate. Meanwhile, scientists
at Siemens Corporate Technology (CT) have
developed a robot of a completely different
kind. MobMan — or “Mobile Manipulator” —
is mounted on wheels and is equipped with a
gripper arm. The robot can be used in ware-
houses to remove items from a bay and place
them on a conveyor or hand them to a hu-
man —a feature that obviously saves a lot of
time and effort. A high-tech robotic systemcan place 350
boxes on palletsevery hour — and make
optimal useof available space.
By grasping the right tool —a process that
takes just a few seconds —a robot can pick up boxes of different shapes and sizes. ing on bar codes. Together with Augsburg-
based Kuka Roboter GmbH, they have devel-
oped a pilot robotic system capable of neatly
stacking boxes on pallets. The system is the
first of its kind. At present, Siemens Dematic
is trying out the principle with various cus-
tomers in a range of applications.
The new palleting system is designed for
use in warehouses where goods have to be
moved from a pallet or high shelves and
stacked onto another pallet containing a vari-
ety of items batched for a specific customer
order. This is the case in, for example, an in-
termediate storage center for supermarkets.
Here, goods from a large range of manufac-
turers are constantly arriving. Every day they
have to be sorted into mixed pallets corre-
sponding to the orders from individual super-
markets. Although the warehouse stacking
It sounds simple, but the process is in
fact extremely complicated. First of all, a ro-
bot has to be able to identify the exact posi-
tion of the boxes on the supplier’s pallet so
that it can then pick them off one by one. It
uses a camera for this purpose. The big chal-
lenge was to create software capable of con-
verting a simple camera image into the posi-
tion-related information required to control
the robot gripper. Engineers also had to en-
sure that it was possible to change the ro-
bot’s grippers within a few seconds in order
to quickly handle boxes of different sizes. The
grippers are specially coated metal plates
that use suction to attach themselves to the
boxes. Each box that is picked up is automat-
ically given a bar code label. The robot that
stacks the customer’s pallet then follows in-
telligent and flexible computing rules to
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17
L O G I S T I C S
WAR E HOUS I NG
Automobile manufacturers and logistics companies have been us-
ing transponders for quite some time . Pilot studies show that these
small chip-based labels are set to make inroads into our daily lives and
will soon begin to compete with bar codes. Indeed, the advantages of
transponders are so great that experts agree this technology has a
great future. Unlike bar codes, transponders are both readable and
writable without any line-of-sight contact, and they function even
when they are dirty or have suffered surface scratches. Using
transponders, containers, luggage and even letters can be tagged and
then registered in a fraction of a second. The technology is known as
Radio Frequency Identification — RFID. The major obstacle in the path of large-scale application of RFIDs in re-
tail environment is price. However, costs are falling — so much so, in
fact, that one day mass applications will become a viable option.
Reading Hundreds of Labels Simultaneously. Siemens Venture Capi-
tal has been working with Australia’s Magellan Technology since early
2000. Magellan — one of the leading names in the field of mass
transponder applications — has launched a system comprising various
WHY T R ANS P ONDE R S AR E MAK I NG WAV E S
read/write units plus a range of tags. The system is not only good
value for money but also prevents signal overlapping. This is particu-
larly important, as there are often problems in simultaneously reading
a large number of transponders — for example, when they are
bunched together in a pile of small components. To prevent the radio
signals from overlapping and interfering with one another, Magellan
uses a procedure known as frequency hopping, where the transpon-
ders change frequency at regular intervals. The read/write unit also si-
multaneously transmits and receives radio signals on several channels.
This accelerates data transmission substantially, so that several hun-
dred tags — as might be found in a box full of letters at a mail-sorting
center — each located at a distance of approximately 50 centimeters,
can be read simultaneously in matter of milliseconds. In fact, Japan
plans to use transponders alongside stamps sometime in the foresee-
able future. Transponders in Department Stores. A recently completed pilot pro-
ject conducted by Siemens Business Services and German retailer
Kaufhof involved the use of some 20,000 transponders to label cloth-
ing. Kaufhof was interested to see if the new technology would help
accelerate and simplify its transportation logistics as well as reduce the
loss of goods. Siemens Automation and Drives provided the read/write
units used to transmit and retrieve information to and from the
transponders. The units were installed in a major warehouse to record
incoming and outgoing goods and in a Kaufhof department store,
where they were mounted at check counters. This meant goods could
be tracked over the entire logistics chain. In the store itself, employees
equipped with mobile reader units were able to check on stock levels
within seconds, while reader units mounted on the shelves provided a
digital overview of inventory. Intelligent Toolbox.Transponder technology is currently undergoing
testing in many sectors and has many potential fields of application.
For example, researchers from the Auto ID Center at the Massachu-
setts Institute of Technology (MIT) are investigating which transponder
applications are truly viable and can be realized at acceptable costs. To
this end, various pilot projects have been launched with a number of
companies. An aircraft manufacturer, for example, has helped develop
an “intelligent toolbox” that facilitates jet maintenance. The toolbox
notices if one of the tools, each of which has been equipped with a
transponder, is missing. By sounding an alarm at the end of the shift,
the toolbox eliminates the risk of the tool being left behind in a critical
part of the aircraft. In a move to help accelerate the development of
transponder applications, Siemens is also involved in activities at the
Auto ID Center. In addition, Siemens is a member of various commit-
tees at the German Association of Engineers (VDI) and the German Au-
tomobile Industry Association (VDA), which plan to advance the appli-
cation and standardization of RFID technology.
Transponders, which use radio technology, can simplify sup-
ply logistics by enabling retailers to track goods all the way
from delivery to the checkout counter. Here, the radio an-
tenna is clearly visible on the label.
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19
L O G I S T I C S
FAC T S AND F OR E C AS T S
MobMan is equipped with the Siemens
Navigation System for Autonomous Service
Robots (SINAS), which is considered to be the
world’s most advanced robotic navigation
system (see Pictures of the Future, Fall 2002,
p. 59). Robots equipped with this technology
can find their way around even in a changing
environment. MobMan’s gripper arm is fitted with
laser-controlled proximity sensors that guide
it unerringly toward an object. Similarly, tac-
tile sensors calculate the exact pressure re-
quired for the gripper to firmly hold an object
without crushing it. Gisbert Lawitzky, who is in charge of the
Siemens Robotics team, refuses to speculate
whether warehouses will one day be popu-
lated by hundreds of MobMen. “Whether it
makes economic sense to use one of these
sophisticated pieces of equipment is ulti-
best deal on the market. Some people might
still hesitate at the idea of placing so much
trust in a computer. However, Berger is cer-
tain that agent technology will move in this
direction. “We’re currently involved in a project
with a software producer that is designed to
improve how individual orders are tracked,”
says Berger. “Such a program will make it
easy to determine quickly and precisely
whether goods have been lost, stolen, or are
simply late.” Goods are scanned in at the
manufacturer, at the shipping company, at
the warehouse and at the customer’s loca-
tion. So in theory it would be possible to de-
termine the precise location of an item at any
given time.
The problem at the moment, however, is
that not everyone in the logistics chain uses
the same data-processing system. The result
Digital agentscould be used to negotiate
conditionsand trackthousands of goods. mately a question of cost,” he admits. But
where price is not the decisive factor, such as
in wealthy private households, a simpler ver-
sion of the robot could eventually be put to
use as a kind of electronic butler.
Logistics Agents. Michael Berger, project
manager for Intelligent Autonomous Systems
at CT in Munich, is also interested in digital
assistants. Unlike MobMan, however,
Berger’s inventions consist of bits and bytes
rather than metal and cables. Berger special-
izes in so-called digital agents — computer
programs that manage limited tasks for hu-
mans. The digital agent concept is already
used by Internet auction houses such as
eBay. The prospective buyer merely names a
price, and the software then handles the ne-
gotiations. In the world of warehousing, such
agents could one day help to ensure smooth
and prompt deliveries. For example, they
might be used to negotiate conditions with
shipping companies and look around for the
is often a muddle of faxes, phone calls and e-
mails. Thus, the primary task of a digital
agent would be to communicate with these
various systems and extract the relevant
data. Today, it’s impossible for a shipping
clerk to track thousands of orders at once,
but that’s exactly what a digital agent would
do. For the warehouse clerk, the resulting in-
formation would make a crucial difference,
allowing contingency plans to be made in
case a delivery fails to arrive on time.
In the future, digital agents could even
take over planning for crisis measures and
shipping alternatives. After all, the ultimate
aim is to optimize procedures along the en-
tire logistics chain. This means minimizing in-
ventory, for example, to ensure that capital
isn’t tied up unnecessarily, while also ensur-
ing that shelves are well stocked. The future will determine whether ware-
houses will one day be managed and oper-
ated exclusively by an intelligent combina-
tion of virtual agents and robots.
Tim Schröder
E
ven though the world’s economy re-
mains generally sluggish, logistics is still
a growth market, with Asia serving as a
strong driving force. At the moment, 98 per-
cent of all goods transported between conti-
nents are moved by ship. Furthermore, ac-
cording to a 2002 transportation & logistics
analysis conducted by HVB Equity Research,
this logistics segment is expected to grow by
5.6 percent annually worldwide until 2010.
Starting in 2005, a new generation of mega-
container ships capable of carrying 12,000
TEU containers (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit,
about 6.1 x 2.4 x 2.6 meters) will be ready to
enter service. By comparison, today’s biggest
container ships can carry “only” 7,500 TEU
containers. The air freight segment is expected to regis-
ter a 5.9 percent annual increase worldwide
through 2010, according to HVB Equity Re-
search’s data. Reacting to this boom, Euro-
pean aircraft manufacturer Airbus is planning
to produce a freight version of the huge
A380 jetliner, which will be known as the
A380 Freighter. By 2008, this plane will be
transporting payloads of 150 tons nonstop
over distances of more than 10,000 kilome-
ters — a dramatic advance over the A300F
transporter in use today. This aircraft is capa-
ble of hauling a maximum of 51 tons of
cargo over a distance of nearly 4,800 kilo-
meters, nonstop. Overland freight transport is realized with
trains, barges and trucks. Annual growth ex-
pectations for road transports are 3.3 percent
within Europe through 2010. According to a
forecast for the year 2015 made by the Ger-
man Ministry of Transport, Building and
Housing, the goods transported on roads will
Boom in
Worldwide
Product
Shipments
DE V E L OP ME NT OF WOR L DWI DE C ONTAI NE R T R ANS P OR T
EL ECT RONI C L OGI S T I CS
continue to garner market share, while the
share for goods transported by rail is forecast
to remain just about stable. According to the
study, the share of goods transported by in-
land waterways is expected to decrease.
In order to cut costs and accelerate
processes, increasing numbers of companies
are employing electronic logistics systems.
These include end-to-end tracking systems,
technology for highly automated ware-
houses and software solutions for the
logistics sector. The global market for elec-
tronic logistics is forecast to triple in the
medium term — from $26 billion in 2002 to
$78 billion in 2012. A real boom is expected for end-to-end track-
ing systems, which make it possible to follow
a product’s entire path all the way from sup-
plier to customer. Forecasters predict annual
growth rates of 20 percent for end-to-end
tracking systems, and a sixfold increase to a
total of $10 billion in 2012, as compared
with a global market volume of $1.6 billion in
2002. The global market for automated technolo-
gies for warehouses is expected to nearly
double. Software solutions for logistics ac-
counted for a total market volume of $8.2
billion worldwide last year. Market re-
searchers from AMR Research and Siemens
expect the annual growth rate for such
solutions to reach 17 percent by 2012.
Accordingly, their market volume could in-
crease to as much as $38 billion within the
next ten years. Sebastian Moser, Ulrike Zechbauer
DE V E L OP ME NT OF WOR L DWI DE AI R F R E I GHT
DE V E L OP ME NT OF R OAD T R ANS P OR T VOL UME I N E UR OP E
Growing globalization is reflected in the growth rate of sea freight transport.
Since 1980, transport volume worldwide has increased nearly sevenfold. Sea
freight will also remain a growth market in the future.
Since 1980, the market for air freight has increased fivefold. Following the terror-
ist attacks in the United States in 2001, the market temporarily slumped, but is
expected to recover by 2004. Growth will continue, although at a slower rate
than in the past (based on estimates made since 2002).
Compared with sea and air freight transport, overland shipments in Europe have grown rather slowly — a trend that is expected to continue in the future.
Nonetheless, by 2010, ton-kilometers of goods transported overland in Europe
will have grown by about one-third compared with 2000.
0
3,000
6,000
9,000
12,000
15,000
18,000
21,000
24,000
1980
1982
1984
1986
1988
1990
1992
1994
1996
1998
2000
2002
2004
2006
2008
2010
Thousands of tons
Worldwide
Remaining areas of the world
Triad (Asia, Europe, N. America)
0
50
100
150
200
250
300
350
400
450
500
1980
1982
1984
1986
1988
1990
1992
1994
1996
1998
2000
2002
2004
2006
2008
2010
Millions of TEUs (1 TEU = standard container)
0
200
400
600
800
1,000
1,200
1,400
1,600
1,800
2,000
1980
1982
1984
1986
1988
1990
1992
1994
1996
1998
2000
2002
2004
2006
2008
2010
Billions of ton-kilometers
Total annual growth rate: 3.3% 0
2002 2012
Billions of U.S. dollars
End-to-end
tracking
systems
Highly
automated
warehouses
Integrated
logistical
software 20
40
60
80
78
26
20% p.a.
6.2% p.a.17% p.a.
The world market for electronic logis-
tics will triple through 2012,
according to forecasts.
Sources: ISL, Stinnes, HVB Equity Research, 2002Sources: Merge Global, Airbus, HVB Equity Research, 2002Sources: EU Commission, HVB Equity Research, 2002 Sources: Raymond James & Associates, Inc. 2001; AIM Germany
2002; IDTechEx 2002; Siemens 2002; AMR Research 2002
Siemens’ new Postal Automated Redirection
Technology is set to save the United States Postal
Service hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
20
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
The Medium Is the Message
S
everal years ago Siemens sent a message
to the United States Postal Service that
basically said, “We can save you a bundle on
processing undeliverable mail.” It was a con-
cept the USPS could not afford to ignore.
The U.S. Postal Service delivers some 200
billion letters and packages annually — more
than any other postal service. But about 3
percent, or roughly 4 to 6 billion mail pieces,
are not deliverable as addressed. The price
tag for all that undeliverable mail, including
millions of man-hours and plane-loads of
mail, amounts to $1.8 billion per year. The reason that so much mail is undeli-
verable as addressed is unique to the United
States: Each year, around 16 percent of all
American families move. In 2001, for in-
stance, the USPS registered 44 million
requests for changes of address. Naturally,
most people who move inform everyone
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
21
L O G I S T I C S
P OS TAL AUT OMAT I ON
Once the PARS system is implemented,
rather than being sent to L.A. and then being
redirected to the correct new address as is
currently the case, the envelope will take a
high speed shortcut. Traveling at over three
meters per second (about 11 km per hour)
through a sorting machine, the envelope will
be turned so that it moves through the ma-
chine face up. A digital image will then be
lifted of the entire face of the envelope and
optical character recognition (OCR) techno-
logy will read the target address. As soon as the target address has been
successfully read, the information will be
sent to a PARS server and checked against a
list of moves. “A PARS change of address
server can interrogate a USPS directory of 60
to 80 million address changes in only a few
milliseconds,” says Gert Seidel, Vice President
for PARS systems. “It’s a patented technology
we developed at our Arlington, Texas center.”
Assuming Rick filed a change of address
form, the server will recognize that the
envelope is undeliverable as addressed (UAA)
and only about a second after entering the
sorter, the envelope will slide into a special
stacker for redirection processing. Split-Second Decisions. “At this point all we
know is that the letter is UAA,” says Seidel.
“To find out exactly what to do with it, the
image of the envelope face will be
transmitted to a system called a forwarding
reader. This is a new technology we develo-
ped in Constance, Germany that analyzes the
mail class, the service endorsements, such as
‘Forwarding Service Requested’ and other
information on the mail piece that affects its
final disposition. If information is detected
that can not be determined automatically, it
is entered by specialized personnel using
video encoding at a remote center.” All re-
sults, explains Seidel, whether they are deter-
mined automatically by the forwarding
reader or by video encoding, will be
transmitted to a server called a redirection
image controller. “This is the heart of the
PARS system,” he says. “It takes the coded
information from the envelope image and
analyzes it with reference to nearly 4,000
USPS rules.” The rules govern how the final
disposition of a mail piece and associated
services are affected by mail class,
endorsements and the age of the change of
address record. For instance, suppose the
endorsement on the envelope says “Address
Service Requested,” but the recipient’s
location is confidential because of a court
order. In such a case, the letter would go to
the recipient, but the sender’s request for an
address update would have to be ignored. Within a split second the redirection
image controller makes a decision as to
which rules apply to Rick’s letter. Based on
this decision, it generates an electronic label
that is stored for that particular letter.
Assuming that everything is legible and the
controller does not direct the letter to be
processed manually, Rick’s letter will zip over
to a combined input-output subsystem
(CIOSS) which will scan the envelope for an
identification tag and query the controller for
information. The redirection image controller will, in
turn, transmit its label information for that
particular envelope to CIOSS and, as the
letter whizzes through the machine, it will be
automatically labeled and a barcode tag
representing the controller’s decision and a
new address (if applicable) will be printed on
a yellow label. “The label text and barcode
determine the new disposition of the mail
piece,” says Seidel. “And the bar code tells
other machines down the line whether and
where to forward the letter, return it, or — if
it is third class mail — to treat it as waste.”
In all, a single “production line” of this
sort could process up to 30,000
“undeliverable” mail pieces per hour. Siemens
and the USPS estimate that UAA delivery
times will be reduced from days to hours
thanks to the new technology. All in all, Rick’s
letter is automatically redirected at its point
of origin — Washington — to its new final
destination, Miami.
Although eliminating the full $1.8 billion
price tag for all undeliverable mail is probably
an impossible dream, Siemens expects the
USPS to save millions of working hours and
up to $420 million per year once the PARS
system is fully implemented. “This is an in-
centive-based contract,” says Seidel. “The
more the customer saves, the more we earn.
So you can bet your boots we will continue
improving the system as our technology
evolves.” OArthur F. Pease
from friends to financial institutions of their
new address. They also file change-of-
address forms with the USPS. But until now,
no technology was available to automatically
screen addresses and compare them with the
huge change-of-address database. All that is about to change thanks to the
impending implementation of the Postal Au-
tomated Redirection System (PARS), a com-
bination of software and hardware devel-
oped by Siemens Dematic, that is now
undergoing testing in Virginia and Florida. In the age of the Internet, many people
may wonder if postal services still have a
future. But the answer is a very definite “yes.”
Although the number of letters has certainly
declined in recent years, letters still represent
about 80 percent of all mail. And total mail
volume is stable or increasing. The reason is
the Internet itself. “As more and more people
use the Internet, they tend to make small
purchases that are delivered by mail,” ex-
plains Raj Kumar, an automation equipment
technology acquisition manager who is the
primary interface between Siemens and the
Postal Service for the project’s implemen-
tation. “This also leads to more advertising
volume,” he adds.
High Speed Shortcut. Slap a 37 cent stamp
on an envelope, drop the envelope in a
mailbox anywhere in the U.S., and your
message is on its way. Its first stop will be a
distribution center where mail is separated
according to whether it’s coming in to the
area or going out. Let’s say your letter origi-
nates in Washington, D.C. and is addressed to
your old school buddy Rick in Los Angeles.
The only problem is that Rick recently retired
and moved to Florida. Image only
Outgoing Primary
P&DC
Outgoing Primary
P&DC
Incoming Secondary
P&DC
Incoming Secondary
P&DC
Redirection
Processing
PARS
Redirection
Processing
Delivery
unit
Delivery
unit
Carrier
Former
Address
Carrier
New Address
Pick-Up
Today’s Mail Redirection process
New address
Identification as
UAA mailpiece
Manual & Mechanized
mail redirection processing
New
Mail Redirection process with PARS
Old Address
New Address
HOW PAR S S AV E S T I ME AND MONE Y
PARS will provide automatic processing and labeling of “undeliverable as
addressed” (UAA) letters at postal and distribution centers (P&DC). The next
step will be to apply the technology to parcels and large envelopes.
Source: Siemens Dematic
An envelope flies through a
scanner in a fraction of a second
– enough time to compare its
information to a database of 60
to 80 million address changes.
How can delivery costs for letters and packages be lowered in the age of e-commerce? In the race
to find the best solution for the “last mile,” experts are examining several competing systems.
22
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
Many Roads
Lead to the Last Mile
W
e no longer have to personally accept
deliveries, but the articles are still
stored safely and securely.” It’s impossible not
to notice Daniel Steiner’s enthusiasm when
he discusses SkyBox, a combination locker-
refrigerator. Since he and his family began
living as test subjects in “Futurelife,” a house
outfitted with Siemens technology near
Hüneburg, Switzerland, they have been or-
dering everyday items from a major Swiss
supermarket chain — over the Internet.
Thanks to SkyBox, no one has to hang
around the house waiting for an order to be
delivered. The two-section container, which
is the size of a washing machine, is built into
the house’s facade and can be opened from
the inside or outside. The delivery person just
needs a smart card and a PIN — perishables
can then be packed in the refrigerator, and
the rest goes into the bottom compartment.
Last Mile Logistics. Such service is only a
dream for the average consumer. But courier
and package services are working hard to
make the delivery process more efficient.
“The question is how the customer can get
the product in the cheapest and fastest way,”
says Matthias Krause of Siemens Dematic
Postal Automation in Constance, Germany.
“After all, the delivery process is responsible
for 50 to 70 percent of transport costs for
letters and packages.” The remaining costs
are generated by “in-house” operations. Even today, a letter carrier working at the
post office has to search through several
shelves for his or her letters and parcels, and
then map out a delivery route based on their
addresses. “Logistics specialists have to find a
solution for the problem of the last mile as
quickly as possible,” says Krause
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
23
L O G I S T I C S
DE L I V E R Y S YS T E MS
alone, more than 1.5 billion packages were
delivered in 2002. A major portion of these
parcels was generated by Internet shoppers
— and the trend is growing. The Fraunhofer
Institute for Material Flow and Logistics (IML)
in Dortmund, Germany, estimates that by
2006, electronic trade will generate about
600 million packages in German-speaking
countries. Logistics specialists will therefore
have to adjust their strategies to meet this
changing mail pattern, which will produce
more and smaller packages. For online busi-
ness to be successful, efficient but economi-
cal sales and delivery systems are indispens-
able. Currently,three approaches are being
tested:box systems, pick-up stations, and
locker facilities. All are interesting for urban
areas. “That’s because the delivery points are
strategically located near the customer,” -
Krause says.
Box Systems.Systems like SkyBox serve
homes much as mail boxes do. Condelsys, a
company in Dortmund, Germany, employs
such a system. When a customer places an
online order, he or she simply has to add a
delivery code to the address. The code will be
added to the address sticker, and the delivery
person will automatically have the right
information at his or her fingertips. Using this
combination of numbers, the delivery person
can unlock the empty box and place the
package inside. The recipient then uses his or
her own personal identification number to
open the box. The system’s drawbacks are
that the customer has to buy the box, pay-
ment is made through an online dealer and
there are no arrangements for returns.
Pack Stations. Pick-up stations require cus-
tomers to retrieve their packages. Potential
retieval points could include filling stations,
newsstands and video stores. Currently, Ger-
many has about 1,700 collection sites and
the service is offered by PickPoint, among
others. In the United Kingdom and Ireland,
there are about 3,400 so-called Collect-
points. Parcel recipients are notified of deliv-
eries by text-message or e-mail. If the pack-
age is not picked up within ten days, it is
returned to the sender. But here too there are obstacles. Not
every filling station operator or store owner
offers the additional service. The customer is
also tied to the opening hours of the retrieval
station, and not every station will accept re-
turns.
Automated retrieval stations eliminate
these problems. At the end of 2001, Ger-
many’s national postal service began a large-
scale test of such a system in several major
cities. The service involves about 90 “pack
stations” that are open around the clock in
places like train stations,shopping centers
and universities. The pack stations are used
for packages that are no bigger than two
cases of wine. Customers can also send pre-
stamped goods and can return packages. Af-
ter registering once, the customer is in-
formed of the delivery via a text message or
an e-mail and can then pick up the package
within nine days. In the future, Deutsche Post will use the
pack-stations to offer additional services. “We
can imagine that rental-car drivers would
want to drop off car keys, mechanics might
want to pick up replacement parts, and peo-
ple heading for the opera might like to get
their tickets,” says Boris Mayer, who is in
charge of the test, in which more than
60,000 customers have already participated. The Fraunhofer IML wants to tap into the
same potential with Tower24, a 10-meter
structure that can hold 200 packages. But
unlike the pack station, it has two tempera-
ture zones: one compartment at a normal
temperature and one for fresh products that
is cooled to between two and seven degrees
Celsius. The cooling occurs naturally because
Tower24 extends four meters below ground.
An automatic conveyor system carries the
products to the distribution area after a deliv-
ery person has deposited them inside.
Real-life Test.“Right now, all versions are in
the evaluation phase. But most likely, all of
them will be used in the future,” Krause pre-
dicts. It is also possible that independent ser-
vice companies would operate a network of
package stations — similar to the coopera-
tive arrangements that banks have created
for their cash machines — to allow small lo-
gistics providers to gain access to the facili-
ties for a fee.
One thing is certain, however. Because
of deregulation, all participants can expect to
face increased competition in the years
ahead. “They can do that only by bringing
their delivery costs under control and offer-
ing customers new individual services,”
Krause says. He adds that “the company with the
biggest competitive edge is the one that will
be the first to drive down the costs of the last
mile. ” OEvdoxia Tsakiridou
The term ‘last mile’ originated in telecom-
munications and refers to the distance be-
tween a telecommunications company’s local
distribution box and the customer’s home. In
logistics, the term applies to urban pick-up
and delivery traffic. Transporting physical
goods is much more complicated than trans-
mitting electronic data, and the task will not
become easier in the future. What’s more,
demographic trends such as the rising num-
ber of single households and increased mobi-
lity will worsen the problem. Customers who
surf the Web’s “stores” know no shopping
hours, and when they have to pay for pur-
chases immediately, they expect speedy de-
livery and no additional charges. In Germany
Pick-up station Tower24 (above and left).
The facility created by the Fraunhofer In-
stitute for Material Flow and Logistics
even has a cooling area, which is located
a few meters underground. A 40-kilometer conveyor network has been installed in the
new Terminal 2 at Munich Airport. Not only does it allow bag-
gage to reach its destination at high speed, it also makes the
airport one of the world’s fastest for connecting flights. 24
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
Flying Suitcases S
ince the end of June 2003, passengers at
Munich Airport have been enjoying the
benefits of even smoother, more rapid bag-
gage hadling processes. It now takes as little
as 30 minutes for transfer passengers to
catch a connecting flight, a new European
record. And yet most passengers are unlikely
to notice the outstanding logistical achieve-
ments that make all this possible. In an area
coveing some 50,000 square meters in the
basement of Terminal 2, their baggage is
zipped at 25 kilometers per hour from one
conveyor belt to another. The system, which
was built by Siemens, is based on a com-
pletely new concept and can transport up to
15,000 baggage items per hour. Each bag or
suitcase is loaded into a small plastic tub that
can be tipped to the left or right to ensure
that the luggage is expelled at the right
place. “With the tub system, we can be sure
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
25
L O G I S T I C S
B AGGAGE HANDL I NG
that none of the suitcases get stuck. What’s
more, it’s faster than conventional conveyor-
belt systems,” explains project manager Peter
Wachendorfer from Siemens Dematic. In the
last three years, about 1,000 Siemens em-
ployees have been busy developing and im-
plementing the system at the Terminal 2 con-
struction site and at the company’s location
in Fürth. The system was developed in coop-
eration with consortium partner Crisplant. Shortest Routes. The new transport system
makes use of a redundant computer system,
almost 200 Simatic S7 controls and over
19,000 frequency-controlled electric motors
— all from Siemens. “For every single piece
of luggage, the computer determines the
shortest route from the point where it is
tipped into the baggage-transport system to
the final belt for the right departing flight,”
says Wachendorfer. “Or, in the other direc-
tion, to the correct conveyor for an incoming
plane.” When a suitcase is tipped in, scanners
register the barcodes on the baggage label
and the tub, recording the suitcase and its
container as one transport unit. From this
point on, the only thing that’s relevant to the
system is the barcode on the tub, which is at-
tached on every side and is easily readable.
“This is another reason that the system in
Munich is faster than conventional conveyor-
belt systems, where the labels attached to
the baggage sometimes get twisted, making
them difficult to read,” explains Wachendor-
fer. About 27,500 photoelectric barriers and
400 container scanners are employed at a to-
tal of 500 junctions to ensure that the bags
are correctly guided through the system. “If a
problem is registered in a particular part of
the route,” says Wachendorfer, “the computer
comes up with an alternative and redirects
the baggage.”
Since the beginning of the year, airport
requirements have called for every individual
bag or suitcase to be checked. This process is
somewhat faster in Terminal 2 than in Termi-
nal 1. “We’ve completely integrated the secu-
rity checks into the new system,” reports
Wachendorfer. “On its journey, all baggage
automatically goes through the first X-ray
stage. If anything unusual is spotted, it goes
through stages two and three as well. Mean-
while, the computers check whether each
item in the hold can be assigned to a passen-
ger on board the plane.” All of the logistical
threads behind the high-speed conveyor sys-
tem are pulled together in the baggage con-
trol center, which was also installed by
Siemens. Here, every step of the process is
clearly displayed on two enormous wall-
mounted screens, and up to six employees
monitor processes around the clock.
The new terminal will be used by
Lufthansa, along with Star Alliance airlines
and other partners. And thanks to the new
terminal, Lufthansa intends to intensify its
use of Munich Airport as its central hub in
the future. Indeed, when the Siemens con-
veyor system is further expanded, it should
be able to handle up to half a million pieces
of baggage on the busiest days. OUlrike Zechbauer
A new terminal doubles the annual capa-
city of Munich Airport to 50 million passengers.
About 1,300 employees are involved in making
baggage handling as smooth as possible.
Up to 15,000 items of baggage can be
transported with the new system every
hour. The logistics behind it are moni-
tored in the Siemens baggage control
center (below).
Siemens has developed route-planning software that is
1,200 times faster than previous technology. It has also come up with a process capable of predicting product sales figures that’s up to 85 percent accurate.
stretch across many national borders. In order
to optimally organize procurement, produc-
tion, storage and sales with suppliers and cus-
tomers, a company needs to know exactly
how many cell phones, washing machines,
televisions or automobiles it will sell in the
coming weeks and months.
In this context, cumputer-based simula-
tion models could serve as an important deci-
sion-making tool. Conventional processes em-
ploy such mathematical methods of analysis
as linear regression, progressive averages, and
exponential smoothing. But a faster, better
technology for simulating dynamic systems is
neural networks. Neural networks have been
used for a long time to produce sales, liquidity
and stock forecasts. In this area, the Compe-
tence Center for Neural Computation at
Siemens Corporate Technology (CT) is working
with so-called recurrent neural networks (see
box, p. 28).“Our systems can produce three-
month sales forecasts that are 75 to 85 per-
cent accurate,” says Dr. Ralph Neuneier, who is
in charge of the “Learning Systems in Business
Processes” section at CT. “Conventional time
series analysis, on the other hand, is only 55 to
60 percent accurate.” Many Factors. In an effort to improve sales
forecasts, additional information about the
value-creation chain is integrated into neural
networks. The use of this information ensures
Predicting with Precision
C
ompany sales representatives are only too
aware that fear and insecurity can have a
tremendous market impact. For instance, wor-
ries about the war against Iraq and SARS
slowed cell phone sales, forcing companies to
cut their sales forecasts for 2003. This, in turn,
led to a drop in demand for flash memory
chips, and many other items. So imagine how
helpful it would be if up-to-date sales forecasts
that instantly took account of such external
factors could be created at the push of a but-
ton! There isn’t a business on earth that would-
n’t embrace such a technology. Indeed, com-
panies are having more and more trouble stay-
ing on top of supply chains that frequently
1st 2nd 3rd 4th Quarter
2000
1st 2nd 3rd 4th Quarter
2001
1st 2nd 3rd 4th Quarter
2002
Sales in
millions
of units
10
20
30
40
1st 2nd Quarter
2003
Precise sales forecasts, produced with the help of simulation programs, help optimize the value-creation chain for all types of products. The actual sales figures for Siemens mobile phones, including the effect of Christmas, are shown below. L O G I S T I C S
SI MUL ATI ON AND OPTI MI ZATI ON
Professor Wilhelm Dan-
gelmaier, 53, is Professor
of Business Computing at
the Heinz Nixdorf Insti-
tute at the University of
Paderborn, Germany. He
also heads the Fraun-
hofer Application Center
for Logistics-Oriented
Business Administration
in Paderborn.
26
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
Technology Can’t Replace Good Planning
IT Networking Is the Key Automakers are increasingly offering customers a chance to
modify their new vehicles’ equipment — even shortly before
the delivery date. With tens of thousands of individual parts in-
volved, the logistics chain must be optimally organized. Are
other industries facing the same challenge?
Absolutely. And more will follow. For example, I’m sitting on an of-
fice chair that’s theoretically available in millions of variations. The
chair was custom-produced to my specifications and could still be
delivered in just a few days. Especially industries that are switching
from catalogue retailing to selling custom-configured products will
have to rethink their operations and reorganize. What impact is this having on companies?
Since short delivery times allow hardly any leeway, a company must
operate under conditions that require working around the clock this
week and taking next week off. Global competition demands flexi-
ble working hours. But what’s perhaps more important is that each
company must adapt its organization, strategies and processes to
the new demands. That is, it must clearly define its goals, decide
how extensive it wants its product range to be, and determine what
delivery times it can manage with what degree of vertical integra-
tion. After that, the company can choose its hardware and software
from the bottom up. In practice, though, the picture is often different...
Yes, unfortunately. Many companies rely on complex technology
that is often incorrectly configured. Then, when things go wrong,
the system is blamed, although it was management that failed to first
define its goals and processes. With an integrated organizational con-
cept and a uniform problem-solving approach, the latest technology
isn’t always absolutely necessary to deliver the information flow
needed for a good logistics chain. !Interview by Sebastian Moser
Many logistics chains — such as those in the automotive indus-
try — appear remarkably optimized. Can they be further im-
proved?
Every stage in the value-creation chain has achieved a high degree
of optimization, but the interfaces are a major problem. Companies
that skillfully network their systems, and manage to motivate their
employees at the same time, create an enormous competitive ad-
vantage for themselves because they are faster, more flexible and
less expensive than their competitors. What’s your view on congested communications? Are they the
bottleneck in the logistics chain?
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Congested communica-
tions produce backlogs, waste resources and result in higher trans-
port costs — for companies and for the economy. In many logistics
chains, though, there are still buffers that can compensate for the
delays created by backlogs, which as a rule can be measured in
hours. In chains where time is a critical factor, however, such as in
the delivery of fresh food products or spare parts or in high-speed e-
commerce, hours can make or break a company’s ability to com-
pete. This factor — and also the debate on the introduction of a
truck toll system on German highways — is why companies are be-
coming increasingly sensitized to the transportation issue, even
though transportation costs represent only a few percent of total
costs on average.
Will the logistics chain be fully automated in 50 years?
No, because even 50 years from now we still will not have perfect
networking of IT systems. And when different systems communi-
cate, translation errors sometimes occur. In responding to these in-
stances, human input simply has to play a role. Human beings will
always be indispensable. !Interview by Ulrike Zechbauer
L O G I S T I C S
I NT E R V I E WS WI T H E XP E R T S
Since 1997, Dr. Inga-Lena
Darkow, 32, a business
consultant and university
lecturer, has been analyzing logistics at the
Institute of Technology
and Management at the Technical University of
Berlin, Germany.
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
27
!Logistics is facing many challenges:
the globally networked business world,
e-commerce, and individually manu-
factured products that result in steadily
shrinking batch sizes. Solutions include
extensive electronic networking of the
value-creation chain, automated ware-
houses, robotics technology, route op-
timization, and “intelligent” transpon-
der tags for goods. (p. 9)
!Transponder tags will compete with
bar codes. Not only can they ensure
seamless tracking of entire streams of
goods — they also make it possible to
monitor warehouse inventories in real
time. (pp. 13, 16)
!The day is coming when warehouse
robots will assemble pallets of goods
for delivery according to customers’
wishes. Siemens and Kuka Roboter
GmbH are currently testing a pilot operation. (p. 14)
!A new automatic mail-forwarding
system from Siemens will be inte-
grated into mail-sorting operations
and help the U.S. Postal Service
save hundreds of millions of dollars
annually. (p. 20)
!In the age of e-commerce, small
deliveries will become increasingly
common. For future delivery of
goods in urban areas — when no
one’s at home — there will be a
choice of three concepts: box sys-
tems, pick-up stations, and auto-
matic storage lockers like Tower24.
(p. 22)
!Air travel will soon become faster
and easier. Innovative baggage con-
veyor systems like the one at Mu-
nich Airport’s Terminal 2 enable
travelers to make connecting flights
in as little as 30 minutes. (p. 24)
!A forecasting model based on
neural networks can predict prod-
uct sales with 85 percent accuracy.
The right reaction to sudden
change is vital. That’s why tomor-
row’s software will factor in the dy-
namics of the entire logistics chain.
Siemens’ route planner ensures that
a delivery travels the shortest and
fastest route to the customer,
thanks to calculations that are
1,200 times faster than with con-
ventional processes. (p. 27)
PEOPLE
Pictures of the Future for
Automation and Control:
Dr. Carl-Udo Maier, CT SM ICA carl-udo.maier@siemens.com Radio Frequency Identification (RFID):
Michael Schuldes, SBS
michael.schuldes@siemens.com
Heinrich Stricker, A&D
heinrich.stricker@siemens.com
Warehouse facility, robots:
Gregor Baumeister, SD
gregor.baumeister@siemens.com
MobMan, SINAS, robots:
Dr. Gisbert Lawitzky, CT IC 6 gisbert.lawitzky@siemens.com
Digital assistants:
Dr. Michael Berger, CT IC 6
m.berger@siemens.com
Postal Automation:
Gert Seidel, SD, USA
gert.seidel@siemens.com
Last mile, automated mail delivery:
Matthias Krause, SD
matthias.krause@siemens.com
Airport baggage handling:
Winfried Wittmann, SD
winfried.wittmann@siemens.com
Learning systems, forecasts:
Dr. Ralph Neuneier, CT IC 4
ralph.neuneier@siemens.com Dr. Rudolf Sollacher, CT IC 4 rudolf.sollacher@siemens.com
Route planning:
Prof. Ulrich Lauther, CT SE 6 ulrich.lauther@siemens.com
Telematics:
Wieland Simon, CC P I&S wieland.simon@siemens.com
Enno Pflug, SV enno.pflug@siemens.com
LINKS
Siemens Dematic, Material Handling
Automation Europe/Americas:
www.ma.siemens-dematic.com
www.siemens-dematic.us/ma
MOBY RF identification systems:
www.ad.siemens.de/moby
Automated mail delivery:
www.postalautomation.de
SkyBox, Futurelife house: www.futurelife.ch/en/home/interaktiv/ interaktiv_skyboxmat.htm
Siemens Telematics:
www.siemens.com/telematics
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Chopra, Sunil; Meindl, Peter, Supply Chain Management, Strategy, Planning and Operation
Prentice Hall (2003)
In Brief…
the start (or whenever the digital map
changes because of things like blocked roads
or traffic jams). Afterward, though, the route
calculation system works 1,200 times faster
than conventional methods do. Admittedly — because the 20-minute set-
up period is impractical — the software is not
really equipped to deal with the requirements
of vehicle navigation systems. However, the software is ideal for a sys-
tem based on a central computer that can reg-
ularly integrate the latest traffic reports into
new calculations. A server of this sort could,
for instance, be used in a logistics company or
a trucking operation, or it could be used on
the Internet for route planning purposes. Such
cost factors as tolls or time windows for deliv-
eries to customers can also be taken into con-
sideration. Preferred Roads.One problem with the use
of digital maps is what actually constitutes a
preferred road. “These are not always express-
ways or federal highways, because situations
arise that lead to long detours when these par-
ticular routes are used,” Lauther says. That’s why Siemens is working on soft-
ware that will find the important roads for op-
timal route planning independent of the infor-
mation provided by map makers. If one
highway regularly appears in various route cal-
culations, it is particularly important and is
highlighted on the digital map. It thus gains
priority in the route planning that follows. As a
result, the reliability of the road classification
rises compared with the information provided
by the map maker.
A licensee is already using Siemens’ route
planner to optimize the trips of a logistics
company. But the route planner is not just suited for
highways. It also can be used in communica-
tions networks. After all, there are many
routes that a message can take. A communi-
cations network can therefore be considered
to be a map and the various network junctions
can be seen as intersections. Thus, a defective
or heavily used cable can be integrated like a
blocked street into route precalculations in or-
der to produce the optimal cable connection.
!Sylvia Trage 28
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29
L O G I S T I C S
SI MUL ATI ON AND OPTI MI ZATI ON
Neural networks that are based on the structure of the human brain are ideally suited
for simulations that involve non-linear, complex situations. In general, artificial neu-
rons are divided into three categories: input, hidden and output neurons. External data
covering such things as economic factors flow through the input neurons. The hidden
neurons, which can be arranged in several layers, process this data, and the output
neurons provide the conclusion — the level of future sales, for instance. Every neuron
within a layer is connected to all of the neurons in the next layer by network parame-
ters. Neural networks learn from the data of the past. More specifically, the input neurons
constantly receive sales updates: daily reports on total sales, prices, weather factors
such as rain that send customers rushing into department stores, or seasonal factors
such as Christmas. The neural network stores the business information in the network
parameters. In the training mode, the learning algorithm changes the parameters until
the network produces forecasts that deviate as little as possible from actual sales totals,
and the input of additional information leads to no further improvement. At this point,
the neural network is ready to make future sales forecasts.
Siemens uses “recurrent” networks in place of the widely used “feed-forward” networks
to make sales forecasts. In feed-forward networks, the data flows in only one direction
— from the input layer to the output. In recurrent networks, on the other hand, signals
from one layer are sent back to the one behind it. This makes the models more resistant
to disruptive factors, and the network can be trained using less data. B E T T E R F OR E C AS T S WI T H NE UR AL NE T WOR K S
that the forecast doesn’t simply rely on such
past data as previous sales totals. Instead,
new information focuses on such factors as
long-term supply contracts, use of production
capacity, current inventory and the typical
buying habits of major customers, who often
place orders at the end of the quarter. The market model is also given informa-
tion about special seasonal events such as
Christmas or planned marketing campaigns,
along with economic indicators that measure
such things as the business climate for sectors
and companies. Neural networks can sort
through all these factors and produce more
accurate forecasts than competing systems.
Today, many CEOs and top managers are
looking forward to switching from monthly to
weekly planning cycles. “But this is still too
long a period to react to sudden changes that
could result in bottlenecks or delays and cause
back-ups that stretch all the way to the end of
the value-creation chain,” says Dr. Rudolf Sol-
lacher, who is in charge of self-organizing sys-
tems at Siemens CT. To eliminate this bull-
whip effect, all of the partners in a process
A route planwith 500,000 sections from
Moscowto the Canary Islandscan be pro-
duced in under a thousandth of a second.
chain should be able to communicate directly
and quickly with one another. In addition, as-
sociated software must be able to simulate
not only the dynamics of the entire supply
chain but also fluctuations in production and
even the utilization level of individual ma-
chines. Changes should be recorded quickly and
automatically. This is the only way to take
still have to arrive at the right place and at the
right time. In order to accomplish this, the
route has to be optimally planned. The prob-
lem is that today’s delivery vehicle-based navi-
gation systems take the route step by step be-
cause their on-board computers have limited
capacity — a feature that can greatly restrict
the search area depending on the dynamics of
a situation. For example, such systems may first direct
a driver from a downtown area to a beltway,
then to a major artery, and finally to an inter-
state highway. The computer only begins to
refine the search once the driver approaches
his or her destination. “This method rarely
shows the driver the shortest or quickest
route,” says Professor Ulrich Lauther, who is in
charge of Efficient Algorithms in Networks at
Siemens CT.
With these problems in mind, Lauther’s
team has developed a new process that is ca-
pable of computing the optimal route from
the Canary Islands to Moscow within a milli-
second on a notebook — that’s all the time it
takes for a new route planner to handle the
500,000 sections of the trip, including metro-
politan areas, roads, bridges and ferry connec-
tions (see graphic above). In the process, virtual signposts are set up
at every fork in the road, pointing out the
highways that will produce the shortest and
fastest trip. It takes about 20 minutes to set up
the signs. This process must be performed at
countermeasures that can prevent disruptions
from turning into major problems. Siemens
has already developed simulation software
that can do the job.
Shorter, Faster Routes.Even when the right
sales forecast has been put together, products
Siemens Corporate Research works closely with top universities worldwide. The result? A focused R&D program, close cooperation with Siemens’ operating
companies, concrete insights into new technologies, and top notch students who decide to stick with Siemens. 30
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
Focusing on Results
PI CTURES OF THE FUTURE
UNI V E R S I T Y COOP E R AT I ON
W
ith many installations, such as military
bases and subway systems, having
thousands of cameras and relatively few se-
curity personnel, the need for quality visual
data is growing by leaps and bounds. It’s a
trend that is followed closely at Siemens
Corporate Research (SCR), in Princeton, New
Jersey. Indeed, SCR’s Real-Time Vision and
Modeling Technology Department is a world-
class center of excellence in the machine
vision field (see Pictures of the Future,
Spring, 2003, p. 44).
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
31
CMU’s Tsin electronically
pastes 44 images together.
Seamless registration results
in invisible stitches, resulting
in an apparently continuous,
wide angle view. To keep an eye on what’s happening
throughout this high-stakes area, SCR main-
tains close ties with top universities in the
U.S. and Europe. And, like the smart vision
systems the department is developing, re-
search projects have become increasingly
focused. “In the mid-‘90s, the research we
conducted in collaboration with universities
was purely academic,” explains Dr. Visvana-
than Ramesh, who heads the Real-Time Vi-
sion Department. “Today, the model is very
different. We work closely with Siemens’
operating companies to find out what their
customers would like to have. Then we target
top universities and develop highly focused
research projects to bolster our own work in
that direction. We are definitely getting more
bang for out bucks than ever before.” Face Zooming. One of the many combined
SCR-university research projects that have
paid valuable dividends involves video
supervisor. For me, it was the right mix of
basic science and practical applications.” The work focused on analyzing the stabi-
lity of algorithms used in detecting people
and acquiring images of their faces by means
of intelligent zooming under varying lighting
conditions. Greiffenhagen performed a
unique, systematic design and analysis of the
performance limits of the system. In addition
to estimating where people are in an area at
any given time, his system is also able to tell
how accurate its person location function is
so that a second camera can adaptively zoom
in on the person’s face. “The project gave us
several insights into design of practical video
monitoring systems, thus influencing our
commercial products in the related field of
traffic monitoring,” says Ramesh.
Seeing the Big Picture. Yanghai Tsin is a
graduating Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon
University’s (CMU) School of Robotics in
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Since 1999, he has
worked on projects with Dr. Ramesh. But all
the projects have one thing in common: they
have to do with building statistical models
that take into account the physics of the
image formation process to build physics-
based video surveillance systems.
As anyone who has taken pictures of the
same scene with different apertures knows,
the aperture determines the level of detail.
Shoot “wide open” and you’ll get washed out
bright areas, but rich detail in unlit areas of
the image. Shut the exposure down, and
you’ll get no detail in dark areas, but plenty
where the scene is bright. But if a camera
could take a vast range of exposures for
every picture and then seamlessly piece the
best exposures together into a single image,
it would be technically possible to have
unlimited corner-to-corner detail. That’s the
general idea behind Tsin’s concept of a “high
dynamic range image.” Guided by Prof. Takeo
Kanade at Carnegie Mellon and Ramesh,
who is on Tsin’s Ph.D. committee, the project
combines the best of academia with far-
signed industrial goals. While the concept of “high dynamic
range images” is not new, Tsin’s work has
concentrated on developing a complete
statistical model of the camera and using
that model to accurately estimate the high-
dynamic range image along with its
uncertainty. Tsin uses this technique to
monitor a parking lot and determine the
differences between two pictures due to
physical or illumination changes. As part of
his work, Tsin also developed a system that
stitches together several images taken with
a pan-tilt camera to give a high-resolution
overview of a large area. The work holds the
potential of developing surveillance tech-
nology to monitor wide open spaces that
would never be blinded by reflections, and
would never miss events, regardless of the
level of contrast and illumination variations
in a scene. “The work that is being conducted by
students such as Greiffenhagen and Tsin
gives us an understanding of what the state
of the art is,” says Ramesh. “And because it is
a joint effort, each party — the student, the
university, SCR and the operating company
— comes out of the process with a better
handle on the problem’s potential solutions.” Ramesh points out that SCR now ear-
marks approximately three to four percent of
its funds for university cooperation. Projects
typically involve one or two professors at a
target university and one or two students per
project. To date, projects have been success-
fully executed at the University of Rochester
in Rochester, New York, where a student
worked on 3D image reconstruction from
video; Lehigh University in Bethlehem,
Pennsylvania, where two students analyzed
how to quantify the performance of video
analysis systems; and Princeton University in
Princeton, New Jersey, where the emphasis
was on pattern representations. Meanwhile, other projects are underway
at Columbia University in Manhattan, Brown
University in Providence, Rhode Island, the
University of Maryland, and Michigan State
University. “Is our method good for
Siemens?” asks Ramesh. “Absolutely, because
it puts us in the mainstream for a very
modest price. Is it good for the students?
Absolutely, because it gives them the big
picture and allows them to solve real world
problems. The poof of the pudding is that
several students we have funded have
decided to join SCR.” OArthur F. Pease
monitoring with multiple cameras to detect
people, localize them and zoom in on their
faces. Part of the project was conducted by
Dr. Michael Greiffenhagen, a Ph.D. student
from the University of Erlangen, who was
with SCR for four years. “My work was a
perfect model of communication,” recalls
Greiffenhagen, who now works for Siemens
Information and Communication Networks
Group. “My professor in Germany knewwhat I
was doing at SCR and felt that it was high
quality work; but Dr. Ramesh was my local
32
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33
S C E NAR I O
2020
L I G H T & D I S P L A Y S
Light Entertainment
Tomorrow’s lighting will open entirely new worlds. In
additon to today’s light sources, new technologies will be
available that will blur the distinctions between lighting,
entertainment, and information. Welcome to a hotel in
2020 that has specialized in the best of everything.
E
ven in the blazing summer sunlight we
could see it. The huge sign proclaiming
in a cool blue ”Honeymoon Hideaways” gave
way to an image of water and palm trees and
then morphed back into words. The low,
circular hotel, which seemed to be
surrounded by sand and sea as we drove
along the island coast, looked exactly like the
oasis we needed after the heat and hectic
atmosphere of the wedding. “We’ve made it,”
I shouted triumphantly to Laura, who looked
gorgeous in her long white gown. “Oh, Ray,”
LIGHT & DISPLAYS
HIGHLIGHTS
Brilliant Plastics
Displays made of organic light
emitting diodes (OLEDs) produce
their own light, are efficient, rich
in contrast, flat and ideal for
video imaging.
A Bright New Paradigm
Leds and OLEDs could revolu-
tionize lighting and display tech-
nologies. The President of the
Optoelectronics Industry Association comments.
A New Architecture of Light
By automatically adapting artifi-
cial light to natural light, scien-
tists expect to improve workplace
productivity. Bright Future
Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are
finding their way into more and
more applications. By 2015, they
could be powerful and cheap
enough to use as normal room
light sources.
The Wavelength of Change
Tomorrow’s light sources will not
only be intelligently networked —
they’ll also be more efficient and
environmentally friendly. Pages 45
Page 49
Page 35
Page 38
Page 43
2020
Laura and Ray have just gotten mar-
ried. For their honeymoon they’ve
chosen a hotel that’s the last word in
high tech. Their room features lumi-
nescent walls capable of displaying
everything from Internet TV and
video telephony to programmable ex-
periences. And naturally, the lighting
adapts automatically to ambient conditions. There’s even a holo-
graphic bouquet of flowers.
34
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
35
A researcher examines the color
rendition of a Powerball high intensity
discharge lamp. Osram scientists are
investigating how mercury-free
versions of these highly efficient
lamps could be produced. In 20 years or so, the most advanced light sources will blur the distinction between light and
information. Long before that happens, existing light sources will merge into intelligent networks that
automatically alter their brightness and color in harmony with each other and the environment. Figuring out and controlling the processes that produce light is the first step down a long, bright path.
The Wavelength of Change
S
trange things are happening in the lamps
that light stores and factories — things
that even lighting experts are hard pressed to
explain. High above racks of dark suits and
production lines pumping out everything
from servers to frozen soufflés, so-called high
intensity discharge lamps or HIDs, produce a
symphony of wavelengths approaching the
spectral richness of sunlight. HIDs produce
more and better light per unit of power than
any other commercially available light
source. Yet scientists do not yet fully
understand the reactions that take place
inside these workhorses of the workplace.
Figuring out their underlying physics — and
learning how to modulate the complex
patterns of gases that make these light
sources so effective — could improve the
environment, the economy and the way we
see and feel. Like fluorescent lamps, HIDs produce
light by exciting a gas and various metal
compounds (see table, p. 36). But unlike
fluorescents, they produce light directly, and
thus more efficiently. HIDs operate at much
higher pressure than fluorescent sources and
generally employ no phosphor coatings,
making them much brighter than necessary
for residential use, but ideal wherever a great
deal of high quality light is needed. When the power is switched on in an HID
lamp, an electric arc — essentially a flow of
charged particles — is struck between two
tungsten electrodes inside a sphere within an
outer bulb. As the gas within the sphere
heats up and becomes a plasma, the lamp
body gradually reaches an operating tem-
perature of 1,200° C, — enough to evapo-
rate metal compounds. The energized metal
atoms, and other substances in the gas, such
as metal halides, collide with the electrons in
the plasma causing them to give off photons,
which we perceive as visible light. And HIDs produce plenty of white light — up to 120 lumens per watt. For the
sake of comparison, conventional incandes-
cent bulbs (including tungsten halogen)
produce only 6 to 24 lumens per watt, while
low pressure discharge lamps — such as
fluorescents — produce up to 104. Thus, the
energy efficiency of discharge lamps makes
them more environmentally friendly than
incandescent bulbs. But HIDs, like
fluorescents, have a significant shortcoming:
they rely on mercury, a dangerous, non-
biodegradable poison. In fluorescent lamps,
for instance, excited mercury vapor
efficiently transforms nearly 75 percent of
the electrical energy consumed by the lamp
into ultraviolet radiation, which is received by
the lamp’s phosphor coating and converted
into visible light. In HIDs, on the other hand,
mercury is essential in order to cause metal
atoms to produce photons under high pres-
sure and to stabilize the resulting gas. In
these light sources, up to 35 percent of the
electrical energy is converted into visible
light. Efficient though it is in lamps, no one
wants mercury in the environment. That’s
why OSRAM GmbH, Siemens’ fully owned
lighting subsidiary and one of the world’s
leading lighting products manufacturers, is
determined to find alternatives. Mercury-Free Future?“If we can develop
the technology to run these lamps mercury-
free without sacrificing lumens, we will be
doing the environment — as well as man-
ufacturers and users — a big favor because
the lamps will not have to be recycled,” says
Scott Butler, who manages the HID Systems
Lab at OSRAM’s U.S. R&D headquarters in
Beverly, Massachusetts. What’s more, since
HIDs and fluorescents share much of the
same technology, the road to a mercury-free
future may not be that far away. Interestingly, the goal of developing
mercury-free products in the lighting
industry intersects with another major trend
L I G H T & D I S P L A Y S
S C E NAR I O
2020
she said as she got closer to me, “It looks
even better than the brochure!”
After the car had parked itself and a
smart trolley had followed us with our
suitcases to the reception area, we were
escorted by a tall bellman, who introduced
himself as Riccardo, to an elevator. When we reached our floor, lights em-
bedded in the bluish carpeting signaled the
direction to our room and soon we noticed
the playful greeting “Welcome to Sweet 901”
glowing on the floor ahead of us. The trolley
with our suitcases had already arrived and
had parked itself next to the bed. Heart-
shaped lights glowed in the floor marking a
path to a heart-shaped bed. Beyond the bed
a picture window framed a view of the beach
and sea. As we stepped into the room the
lighting seemed to change so that the walls
emanated a cool glow that mixed perfectly
with the late afternoon sunlight.
“Oh, Ray,” Laura murmured, “isn’t this
just the loveliest...” “Ma’am, sir,” Riccardo interrupted. “Excuse
me, but I’d like to acquaint you with some of
the unique features of this suite.” “Right,” I said, already fishing for the bills
in my pocket that would get Riccardo out the
door. I expected the usual spiel about the
mini bar being here and the TV being there.
But before I could stop him, Riccardo had
produced a sleek looking device and had slid
the room’s lovecard into it. As he did so, the
wall next to the window seemed to dis-
appear. Looking forward to being alone with
my new bride though I was, I remembered
that in addition to the hotel’s location, the
factor that had gotten me to decide on this
particular place was its “Light Entertainment”
advertising. As the manager of a lighting
products sales team, I was naturally curious.
“Ma’am, sir,” Riccardo repeated, “This
room is equipped with entire walls of lumi-
nescent plastic — the same material most TV
screens are made of. And this here is your
personalized remote control assistant. It will
provide whatever entertainment, atmos-
phere, or environment you desire. You have
your choice of Internet TV, video phone,
movies, adult fantasies, sound and light, or
— our most popular new service — expe-
riences. Just a word of caution, though;
they’re very realistic.”
“I’ll try the experiences,” Laura said giving
me a wink. A menu appeared on what had
been the wall. There were items such as
“Beach Paradise,” “Mountain Wilderness,” “Ice
Dream,” “Soaring Skies,” and “Personal
Planet.” “I’ll take that Mountain Wilderness,” said
Laura as she squeezed my hand. “It’s been
such a hot day.”
A scene of rugged mountains, forests
and roaring brooks appeared. Squirrels dart-
ed up trees. Deer and rabbits wandered
through the scene, all accompanied by the
sounds of wind and rushing water. The first
menu became an icon and was replaced by a
new menu showing categories such as “Sea-
son,” “Time,” and “Weather.” “Once you’ve chosen your category of
experience,” Riccardo continued, “you can
tailor the scene…”
“We’d like a cozy evening,” said Laura.
Getting the message, Riccardo made a few
adjustments and soon the grass had been
replaced by snow, and the water and sky had
an icy, late winter feel. “Looks great,” I said,
getting up from the bed and handing
Riccardo a hefty tip. The big bellman placed
the RC device in my hand. “You can use the
assistant to order all our services,” he added.
“Oh, and sir, the illumination is optimized to
balance the light from outside or from the
display. But if you want to personalize it, just
play with the assistant.”
“Thanks,” I said, as he left. Suddenly a
blood-curdling growling came from behind
me, and Laura screamed. A mountain lion
had edged into the scene and had attacked
one of the deer. Horrible bellows of pain
came from the attacked animal as it fell.
“Turn it off!” Laura begged as the grisly
images and sounds ticked by.
I snapped the lovecard out of the device
and the scene was instantly replaced by a
gentle blue glow. The room lighting returned
to normal and the window, with its view of
sea and sand, brightened
“Oh, Ray,” said Laura with relief. “Maybe
we’d be better off creating our own expe-
rience.” OArthur F. Pease
L I G H T & D I S P L A Y S
T R E NDS
appear to be scattered; but a number of
trends are bringing developments together
into a sharp, new focus. Spurred by the quest
for mercury-free products and the resulting
research in electronic ballasts, lamps are
becoming smaller, lighter, more energy-
efficient, more environmentally friendly,
more dimmable and more capable of
producing white light over a longer lifetime. What these trends add up to is that
lamps are likely to become responsive, net-
worked objects. Combined with sensors that
measure light on the work surface, and stan-
dards such as DALI (Digitally Addressable
Lighting Interface), that allow lighting
products from different manufacturers to
communicate with a building’s management
system, a new vision of lighting is emerging. “Until now, interior lighting was not
expected to look particularly natural. But
thanks to the convergence of a number of
technologies, this is changing and we are
moving toward a new concept called adap-
tive lighting,” says Dr Reinhard Weitzel, head
of light sources research at OSRAM, Munich. The idea is that artificial lighting will
adapt to and merge with natural light and
that these combined sources will change in
harmony with daily and seasonal light levels.
If broadly implemented, such a technology
would save energy while improving worker
productivity (see p. 49). In the U.S. alone,
lighting-related energy consumption amounts
to some 60 GW per year, with each GW being
the energy equivalent of four million tons of
coal. By automatically dimming lighting in
response to sunlight, a huge amount of
lighting energy would be saved. Flat Light. Already, the quest for mercury-
free products is paying off. PLANON, a
revolutionary, flat fluorescent white light
source recently introduced by OSRAM, is 100
percent mercury-free. Although not as bright
as conventional fluorescent sources, the new
lamp’s patented pulsed excitation technology
delivers an extraordinary 100,000 hours of
service. Furthermore, to enhance its bright-
ness, OSRAM researchers, in conjunction
with Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education
and Research, are studying the development
of new phosphors that could produce two
visible light photons in response to each
ultraviolet photon they are struck by. “This
has been a dream in the lighting industry for
years,” says research director Weitzel. “But we
are still very far away from realizing it.” Meanwhile, OSRAM researchers are mul-
ling over the possibility of building LEDs into
fluorescent lamps. The idea is to allow them
to alter their color rendition as naturally as
dimming alters their light output. “The
problem is that LEDs cannot withstand the
temperatures in some areas within fluorescent
lamps,” explains Weitzel. Inside or out, LEDs are set to revolution-
ize the lighting landscape. Already in vehicles
and traffic lights around the world, they mark
a fundamental transition in the evolution of
lighting. “Instead of burning a tungsten
filament or a gas, LEDs produce light directly
from electrons,” says Dr. Makarand H.
Chipalkatti, Director, Lamp Modules, North
America, at OSRAM Opto Semiconductors in
Danvers, Massachusetts. Chipalkatti foresees
that in the next decades, in addition to
traditional lighting fixtures, there will be
more and more LED-based systems and that
they will be integrated into walls and
ceilings. “Some LEDs already have a 100,000-
hour life span. And LEDs can be combined to
create any imaginable color. Furthermore,
they have the potential to reach 100 lumens
per watt and more,” says Chipalkatti. “If we
can get the price per lumen down, we’ll be
able to have our cake and eat it too.”
Like the computer industry of the 1970s,
today’s lighting products industry is heading
in the direction of smaller, more versatile,
more efficient, hybrid and, ultimately, net-
worked products. Eventually, OLEDs — pa-
per-thin electro phosphorescent sheets sand-
wiched between conductors (see p. 45) —
will blur the distinction between light and
information, allowing us to live in virtual
worlds in which walls of light effortlessly give
way to video telephony, television and much
more. Understanding the arcane physics of
the lights on factory and department store
ceilings is simply the first step down that
long, bright path. OArthur F. Pease
Chips for LEDs are produced in
Regensburg, Germany and assembled
at an OSRAM facility in Malaysia.
WORLD LIGHTING MARKET
25
0
2002 2007
Billions e
Opto Semiconduc-
tors (LED & OLED)
Electronic Ballasts
Photo/Optic
Lighting
Automotive
Lighting
1
General Lighting
1)
excluding automotive
lighting assemblies
18.2
25.3
26
5
10
15
20
15%
12%
4%
9%
60%
28%
12%
4%
8%
48%
+17%
+8.1%
+4.7%
+3.7%
+2.1%
LEDs, OLEDs and electronic
components are the largest growth
areas in the world lighting market.
Light Source
Incandescent
Halogen
Fluorescent
(including compact)
High Intensity Discharge
(HID)
Light-Emitting Diode
(LED)
Organic Light-Emitting
Diode (OLED)
Lighting Principle
Electricity causes tungsten filament to glow
Tungsten filament glows / halogen gas regenerates
filament and blocks deposits on glass
Electrons in low pressure tube ionize mercury vapor creating ultraviolet radiation, which is changed into visible light by phosphors
Electric arc between tungsten electrodes in high
pressure heats gas & metals
Visible radiation produced through recombination of
electrons and holes in a semiconductor Current causes plastic materials to glow
Power / W
15 to 1,000
5 to 2,000
4 to 150
38 to 2,100
about 1W
Condition-
dependent
Lumens / W
6 to 12
12 to 24
60 to104
70 to 120
20 to 30
Condition-
dependent
Lifespan / hrs
1,000
2,000 to 4,000
8,000 to 60,000
6,000 to 20,000
20,000 to
100,000
Condition-
dependent
Application
General Residential / commercial
Office / industrial / residential
Commercial / industrial
Taillights, traffic lights, signage,
backlighting, signalling
Small displays, cell phones, white goods
36
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
37
L I G H T & D I S P L A Y S
T R E NDS
— namely the development of electronic sys-
tems to control processes inside lamps. Ask
Dr. John Gustafson, who is in charge of
OSRAM’s U.S. research activities, what the
most exciting development in his field is and
he says, “Electronics. With a view to kicking
the mercury habit, we are developing elec-
tronic systems that can control the flow pat-
terns of gases and change the way photon-
emitting substances in the gas mix. Fine
tuning the electronics is one possible way of
doing without mercury and still having an
efficient white light source.”
To accomplish this, OSRAM researchers
have replaced the magnetic ballast —
basically copper wire wrapped around an
iron core that limits lamp current — with an
electronic equivalent weighing only one third
as much. Inside is a microchip that can, says
Butler, “change the temperature profile of the
gas, make the temperature more uniform,
and increase efficiency because the gas flow
can be controlled by pulses. We believe that
this research has the potential to lead to
mercury-free HID lamps in the mid term that
are comparable in efficiency to today’s
(mercury-based) lamps, yet have the same
wattage and color rendition.”
But getting HID lamps to work without
mercury is like trying to start a fire without
oxygen. In fact, if trial and error were the
only route to an answer, such lamps might
still be decades away. But steadily increasing
computational speed has shortened the
wavelength of change. “We can now under-
stand things that we were only guessing at in
the past,” says David Bay, manager of the
Fluorescent Systems Lab in Beverly. “Our
ability to simulate the complex temperature,
chemical and flow properties inside a dis-
charge lamp are improving steadily. ”
amount of power throughout the life of the
lamp,” explains Butler. OSRAM researchers in Beverly, Berlin and
Munich would like to do even more with
Powerball. For instance, right now, the bur-
ner is a translucent, milky white, which is ex-
cellent for illumination. But if it were trans-
parent, the product could also be used in the
C H A R AC T E R I S T I C S A N D A P P L I C AT I ON S OF C U R R E N T WH I T E L I G H T S OU R C E S
Electronic ballasts could make it possible
to produce bright, mercury-free lights
that are also highly efficient.
Transparent Ceramics. Indeed, simulation
has already paid off for the OSRAM Powerball
HID metal halide lamp. The lamp’s ceramic
burner — an inner sphere that contains the
electric arc and gases — is the first in the
industry to be round instead of cylindrical.
The new shape allows much higher
temperatures to be attained than with older
quartz burners because ceramic materials
can operate at temperatures that exceed the
capabilities of quartz. Furthermore, the
burner’s round shape provides a much more
uniform temperature than can be obtained
with a cylindrical shape. “The higher
temperature means that we get better color
rendering and more light for the same
rapidly growing beamer and automotive
headlight markets. The question is: how do
you make a ceramic object transparent?
Today, the burners are made of particles that
are fused together. But each particle tends to
scatter light. “So what we need to do,” says
Gustafson, “is either make the particles so
small they can’t scatter light, or make them
so large they act like sapphire crystals.” In
either case it will not be a question of getting
more light out of an HID, but of being able to
focus it exactly where it’s needed.
Converging Beams. Like the light from
today’s ceramic burners, research develop-
ments in the lighting products market may
Source:Osram Light-emitting diodes are outstanding performers. They have a long
lifespan, use little energy and produce lots of light. In a few years,
they might even compete with the incandescent bulb.
other illustrious brands are mentioned. All of
these exhibits have one thing in common:
They’re illuminated by light-emitting diodes,
or LEDs. We’re all quite familiar with these
tiny light sources that tell us which washing
machine program has been selected or
whether the airbag in our car is operational,
and provide safety illumination on bicycles
even when the bike isn’t moving. But in the
future these tiny starlets will also be used
more and more in applications served by in-
candescent or fluorescent bulbs today: as
38
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
A Bright Future
I
t’s gloomy and cool in the unlit room. Dr.
Norbert Stath throws a switch and sud-
denly everything appears to be bathed in the
light of glittering stars. Hundreds of tiny dots
of light illuminate arrangements of plastic
roses. A lighting console plays a combination
of colors and sounds, and a slot machine
blinks on, inviting us to try our luck. Of
course, more serious applications are also be-
ing demonstrated in the showroom of Osram
Opto Semiconductors in Regensburg,Ger-
many — like a traffic light or an emergency
exit sign. Stath, who’s in charge of innova-
tion management, points out several unique
automobile taillights. Phaeton, Maybach and
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
39
L I G H T & D I S P L A Y S
L I GHT
-
E MI T T I NG DI ODE S
Some 84,000 Osram light emitting diodes
have given a new look to the glass facade of
Aquarius Hall at the Park Hotel Weggis, near
Lake Lucerne. LEDs are also finding a wide
range of applications as indicator lamps and
in backlighting (bottom right) . headlights in cars, as flash units in cell phone
cameras (see article, p. 4), or even to illumi-
nate rooms.
Market researchers predict double-digit
growth rates for optical semiconductors.
Osram president Dr. Wolf-Dieter Bopst pro-
jects a world market of about seven billion
euros by 2007. This excellent outlook was
one reason why Osram opened the world’s
most advanced optical chip factory near
Regensburg in April 2003. The plant will
enable Osram to double its capacity for
opto-chips by 2005.
But before LEDs can achieve the status of
a universally used light source, scientists still
have some work to do. While the life span of
red LEDs can be as long as 100,000 hours
(compared with1,000 hours for an incandes-
cent bulb), their brightness is still insufficient
for many applications. In particular, the
highly popular white LEDs — which incorpo-
rate additional fluorescent materials to create
yellow wavelengths besides blue to produce
white light — generate much less brightness
than conventional light sources. LEDs for the Olympics.LEDs already leave
other technologies in the dust when it comes
to advertising billboards and sports stadiums.
Their power consumption is moderate, so
they produce little heat. Moreover, individual
LEDs for individual image pixels can be con-
trolled independently of one another. As a re-
sult, the image screen can be bent in any di-
rection, or even reach around a corner. The
organizers of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing
are planning to set up LED image screens
hundreds of square meters in size on the
outer walls of the stadiums, on which the ac-
tion will be displayed. Among the three basic
colors of red, green and blue, it’s the green
LEDs that remain a source of concern due to
their low efficiency.
Product development engineers are pur-
suing several strategies to increase the light
output of LEDs.
➔ Chip materials: Optimized manufacturing
processes will allow improved control of ma-
terial properties and minimize material de-
fects. Here, an important factor is develop-
ment of precision methods of doping the
semiconductors with foreign atoms. When
an electron and a hole recombine in an
atom, light is emitted. But if the doping is im-
perfect, many electrons can’t contribute to
the generation of light, because they are cap-
tured by the “wrong” atoms. The quantum ef-
ficiency — the yield during the conversion of
electrons into photons — presently ranges
from 15 to 30 percent depending on the
wavelength, and scientists are striving to in-
crease that to somewhere near 50 percent. A
higher quantum efficiency would also reduce
heat losses. Heat could cause problems in
dense arrays of LEDs — for instance in auto
taillights. An accumulation of heat also low-
ers semiconductor efficiency, thus giving rise
to a vicious circle.
➔ Chip design: To the naked eye, small
LEDs look like tiny cubes a few tenths of a
millimeter in size. But under the microscope
they reveal themselves to be much more in-
tricate structures. Scientists are working with
new shapes — some of them bizarre like an
inverted pyramid — to increase light output.
That’s because only a small portion of the
light photons find their way out of the chip,
since the semiconductor material has a high
refractive index, sometimes above 3.0, which
results in a higher proportion of total reflec-
tion at the boundary layers (see illustration,
p. 41). Light that would otherwise strike the
surface at a shallow angle is reflected back
into the interior, where it’s absorbed — much
like light from a diver’s lamp that’s directed at
a small angle against the water’s surface. Two years ago Osram achieved a break-
through that helped alleviate this problem.
Normally the light-emitting semiconductor
layers are grown on a layer of gallium ar-
senide, silicon carbide or sapphire, which
then serves as a substrate for the completed
LED. The Osram researchers, however, re-
moved the light-absorbing substrate and de-
posited a metallic coating that serves both as
a mirror and as a bonding material for a for-
eign substrate. “This thin-film technology has
suddenly enabled us to double the light
yield,” says Stath. Compared to the efficiencyof LEDs,
incandescent lampsare simply heating
elements that also emit a little light.
40
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
41
L I G H T & D I S P L A Y S
L I GHT
-
E MI T T I NG DI ODE S
➔ Housing design: Other light losses occur
at the boundary with the plastic sealing ma-
terial. This material has a refractive index of
1.5 — only about half that of the semicon-
ductor. But the refractive indices should be as
identical as possible to minimize total reflec-
tion. Even a small increase in the refractive
index of the sealing material would greatly
improve the proportion of emerging light. High Potential.If all goes well, it should be
possible in ten years to produce white LEDs
that yield 100 lumens per watt (lm/W). To-
day’s best LEDs manage 25 to 30 lm/W, and
Osram’s new Golden Dragon LEDs deliver 40
with a lifespan of 50,000 hours. According to
Stath, models with a yield of 50 lm/W will
enter the market in 2005. By comparison, a
12 lm/W incandescent bulb with an effi-
ciency of only five percent is merely a heat-
ing element that also emits a little light. The-
oretically, the maximum yield in LEDs is as
high as 200 lm/W. “The practical limit is prob-
ably somewhat lower,” says Stath.
Power laser diodes are an especially hot
development. What distinguishes these
diodes is an optical resonator that greatly
amplifies the intensity of the light. Osram al-
ready has laboratory models for infrared light
to build 40 large power plants. “I’m con-
vinced that LEDs will revolutionize lighting
technology and become the dominant light
source,” he asserts. LEDs for Dinner. Many industries are only
now discovering the potential uses and bene-
fits of light-emitting diodes. Furniture design-
ers and architects are already using LEDs for
accent lighting, marker beacons and special
lighting effects. For example, the Park Hotel
in Weggis, Switzerland, uses 84,000 red,
green and blue LEDs — and changing light
patterns — to create different moods in the
dining room. New design choices along with durability
also appeal to automakers. Siemens VDO
alone installs 700 million LEDs annually to il-
luminate car dashboards. Some 320 LEDs
glow in every Audi A8. The trend, however, is
away from fully saturated colors like Volkswa-
gen-blue or BMW-orange, and toward mixed
colors — or even white, as in the latest Mer-
cedes E-Class, says Dr. Heinrich Noll, Depart-
ment Manager Optics/Light Technology at
Siemens VDO. Ophthalmologists believe that
light with a broader spectrum of wavelengths,
such as white, creates less eye fatigue. The next trend might be the introduction
of LEDs in black-panel displays. Already popu-
lar in Japan, these displays are characterized
by instruments that are illuminated by partic-
ularly bright LEDs. Especially bright light-emitting diodes are
also used in new automotive head-up dis-
plays. For instance, in the new 5-Series
BMWs information is reflected from the
windshield. Siemens VDO has even intro-
duced cockpits in which the driver can
choose a favorite color. “When the fuel level
gets low, the gas gauge could change color
from green to red,” says Noll.
LED Headlights.The greatest challenge fac-
ing automotive lighting engineers involves
headlights. “We’re convinced that the futuris-
tic LED headlight will hit the road before the
end of the decade,” predicts Osram CEO
Wolf-Dieter Bopst. That would please not
only automotive designers, but also lighting
engineers, who could develop headlights
that would illuminate the roadway much
more precisely and even change beam direc-
tion in curves. Where cost isn’t the key factor,
white LEDs are already used in headlights, as
in the Siemens 189-model-series Europa Lo-
comotive. Since the locomotive is designed for use in
14 European countries, it must be able to
adapt to meet different regulations in individ-
ual countries. Depending on the country and
the activity (forward, reverse, switchyard op-
eration, etc.) the triple headlights must oper-
HOW LI GHT ESCAPES FROMA A LI GHT
-
EMI TTI NG DI ODE
ate and flash with various patterns and col-
ors. “Each of our headlights contains 248
white, 66 green and 102 red LEDs — all of
them very bright,” says Christian Thoma, pro-
ject manager at Siemens Transportation Sys-
tems. Although all LED technical hurdles ap-
pear surmountable, it will be quite a while
before conventional lamps disappear from
the market. “LEDs will have to work their way
up the ladder,” says Norbert Stath. Wherever
the advantages of LEDs make a difference —
small size, color, lamp life — they will catch
on. But it will be a long time before the LED
replaces the incandescent lamp, 15 billion of
which are sold every year. Of course, the in-
candescent lamp hasn’t totally replaced its
predecessor yet either. In Germany alone,
114,000 tons of candles are still sold every
year. OBernd Müller
Electrical contact
Electrical
contact
Window layer
Active layer
Substrate
Siemens has developed a special headlight for the new BR 189 Europa Locomotive. The
headlight consists of over 400 LEDs that can produce a wide variety of patterns. In conventional LEDs only a few photons succeed in escaping from
the surface. Many are reflected or absorbed within the substrate.
But there’s a way out: A reflecting metallic film beneath the active
layer doubles the light yield to 50 lm/W (right). — tiny rods measuring 1x10 millimeters —
that can produce an optical output of 80
watts in continuous operation with an effi-
ciency of 50 percent and must therefore be
water-cooled. Continental Temic has used
such pulse lasers in developing an automatic
distance control system for automobiles
that’s less costly than radar-based versions.
“You can also employ infrared lasers to illumi-
nate the roadway and use a night-vision sys-
tem to turn night into day,” says Stath. But Osram researchers won’t settle for in-
frared light. They intend to use the extremely
high light yield of power lasers for visible
wavelengths, especially for blue and green
light. In pursuit of this goal, they’re experi-
menting with optical crystals that produce
0.5 watts of visible light from every three
watts of infrared light. This approach has al-
ready been successful in the lab, Stath notes,
and work is progressing on miniaturization. If successful, these lasers could find
widespread application in projection technol-
ogy. This might, for instance, turn laser TV —
once so highly touted, only to be pro-
nounced dead — into a hot item after all.
Small semiconductor lasers would take the
place of large, costly solid-state lasers, paving
the way for large-screen projection television.
Moore’s Law II? Roland Haitz, former head
of research at Agilent, has noted the applica-
bility of Moore’s law to microchips. He calcu-
lates that the light yield of red LEDs has
grown 20-fold every ten years since the late
1960s. At the same time, says Haitz, the
price per lumen drops to one-tenth every
decade.
The trend is similar for white LEDs (see il-
lustration below). Heitz predicts that by 2015
white LEDs will be available at price and
power levels that make them attractive as
general light sources. Considering its much
longer life and lower power consumption,
the “LED bulb” should be affordable by the
end of the decade. A 75-watt incandescent
bulb produces about 900 lumens. In white
LEDs this output will be reached around
2006 — but at a power consumption of only
25 watts. By 2020, lamps with arrays of LEDs
will be producing up to 100,000 lumens —
enough, according to Haitz, to “attack” appli-
cations such as lighting up sports stadiums. But everything is taking too long for
Haitz, who is challenging the governments of
the industrial nations to invest more money
in LED development. His rationale: In the U.S.
alone, replacing all conventional light
sources with LEDs would eliminate the need
T R E N D P R OJ E C T I ON S F OR R E D A N D WH I T E L I G H T
-
E MI T T I N G D I OD E S
0.001
Cost per lumen ($/lm)
Red LEDs
+20 x per decade
Competing with traditional illumination
White LEDs
1965
Optical Power Output and Cost
0.01
0.1
1
10
100
1,000
10,000
100,000
1970
1975
1980
1985
1990
1995
2000
2005
2010
2015
2020
Luminous flux
per lamp (lm)
-10 x per decade
1
Luminous flux (lm)
Trend curve for
red LEDs
Luminous flux in rela-
tion to
power (lm/W)
Electric power (W)
2000
Predicted Performance of White LEDs
10
100
1,000
10,000
100,000
2005
2010
2015
2020
Light-emitting diodes aren’t limited to special applications. Both in terms of light output and of costs, light-emitting diodes are making great
strides as they approach the regions (marked yellow) in which LED-equipped lamps can compete with conventional light sources. A lumen is
the measure of the radiated power emitted in all directions by a light source as perceived by the human eye.
Source for both graphic illustrations: Presentation by Roland Haitz
before the German Physical Society, March 2003.
What is your vision of lighting ten to
twenty years from now?
Bergh:There will be a new lighting para-
digm, which will constitute solid-state tech-
nology's third major transition. The first
transition came about when transistors
replaced electron tubes. The next was when
flat panel liquid crystal displays began re-
placing cathode ray tubes. The third will
come when today's lighting — incandescent
and fluorescent glass vacuum tubes — will
be replaced by solid state LEDs and 0LEDs. When will that transition take place? Bergh: There are two main categories of
lighting. The distinction is whether one
looks at the light source, or at the reflected
light. The first area involves signage,
signaling, and large area outdoor displays
where LEDs are currently making inroads.
This is because LEDs are very efficient at
producing certain colors, like the ones used
in traffic lights. Lighting for illumination,
however, requires white light. This is not yet
efficient for reasons ranging from
insufficient brightness to the different
voltage requirements and aging
characteristics of the various color LEDs. But LEDs are ideal for mobile platforms, cars,
airplanes, ships, and trains, where they are
also beginning to be used because of their
long life, small size, rugged nature, and the
readily available low voltage (3.5 volts) DC
current at which they operate. But LEDs will
not be used as reflected light sources for at
least another ten to twenty years. When do you expect OLEDs to make their
commercial debut?
Bergh: OLEDs have only been around for ten
years, while LEDs have been in existence for
30 years. As a result, OLEDs have not yet
reached the point where practical applica-
tions can be demonstrated. To make a light
source you need efficient light, long life, and
color control. All of these have been
demonstrated in OLEDs, but not in the same
structure. OLEDs have another problem in
that the material used in them is sensitive to
oxygen and water vapor, so they must be
sealed. If the seal breaks, they immediately
degrade. Nonetheless, OLEDs are ready to
enter the market in small displays, such as
cell phones, where little light is needed. Do OLEDs have any advantages over LEDs?
Bergh: Their primary advantage is low cost.
Organic materials — plastics — are
inexpensive, and they can be produced in
large formats. You can cover walls or ceilings
with OLEDs. Unlike LEDs that are made of
expensive materials and provide
concentrated light, OLEDs are not very
bright, but they generate light over very
large areas. Furthermore, they have great
potential as a display medium since they are
fast, capable of displaying video and, unlike
today's liquid crystal displays, have a wide
viewing angle. What forms might solid-state lighting
eventually take? Bergh: Most people imagine the new light
sources as one-to-one replacements of the
old ones, but that is incorrect. Sixty years
ago the radio was a large box full of electron
tubes. Today you can have one in your
wristwatch, and it is no longer expensive.
Just as transistor radios did not replace the
old boxes, but rather the function, the same
type of major paradigm shift is coming in
lighting. We will not be replacing light bulbs,
we will be replacing lighting. Today's light bulbs require volume. There are
fixtures for bulbs in ceilings, and major sec-
tions of car bodies are cut out for lamps.
Solid-state light sources will be much smal-
ler. We will move from 3-D to 2-D, and the
new lights will be virtually everywhere. They
will be intrinsic parts of structures, and in-
trinsic parts of anything inside the
structures. They will be built into furniture,
into walls and ceilings, and they will be
permanent parts of these structures because
their lifetimes will be extremely long. What is required before LEDs can be used
for general illumination?
Bergh: Efficiency is a major issue. At 20 to
30 lumens per watt LED efficiency already
exceeds that of incandescent lamps, which
is around 16 lumens per watt. But before
LEDs can become useful for general illumi-
nation they have to beat fluorescent lamps,
which offer some 85 to 100 lumens per
watt. To become really attractive, LEDs will
have to reach something on the order of 200
lumens per watt. The fundamental problem
with LEDs is not generating light, but getting
the light out of them. Light is generated
inside a semiconductor material, which has
a very high index of refraction. What's
important is how many photons are derived
from every electron sent into that structure.
That's called the internal quantum efficiency
Dr. Arpad Bergh is President of the Opto-
electronics Industry Development Associa-
tion (OIDA), Washington, D.C., which repre-
sents the North American optoelectronics
industry. A physical chemist, Bergh spent
many years at Bell Laboratories and Bellcore
working on lasers, LEDs, and other photonic
devices. While at Bell Labs he co-authored a
book entitled Light Emitting Diodes. Pub-
lished in 1976, this pioneering work is still
used as a university text.
A Bright New Paradigm
Signals
etc. 2%
Illumination
5%
Other 12%
Automotive
18%
Information displays
23%
Mobile appliances
40%
U
ntil recently, light-emitting diodes (LEDs)
were best known as the ubiquitous
on/off indicator lights on computer monitors,
printers and remote controls. But recent ad-
vances in materials and production processes
(see p. 38) are now paving the way for new
LED applications that will transform a wide
range of activities.
Thanks to their small dimensions, high
efficiency and long lifetime, LEDs will make
significant inroads into lighting applications
that have traditionally been dominated by
other light sources. While LEDs cost more per
lumen (the unit of luminous flux) than incan-
descent or fluorescent lighting, they are ideal
for applications like traffic lights, railroad sig-
nals and airfield lighting — places where a
burned-out bulb can pose a serious safety
concern and where replacement is expen-
sive.
Cell Phones and Automotive Applications.
Light-emitting diodes are increasingly being
used in the automotive sector for instrument
panel lighting, taillights and, in the future,
for headlights. They serve as backlighting for
the LCDs (liquid crystal displays) in mobile
phones, PDAs, digital cameras and cam-
corders. Indeed, high-brightness LEDs have
been a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy
market for semiconductors and optical com-
ponents of all types, notes Robert Steele, Di-
rector of Optoelectronics at Strategies Unlim-
ited, a U.S.-based market research and
consulting company. While the markets for most electronic
and optical components have been going
downhill since the boom year 2000, Steele’s
researchers have revealed that the market for
high-brightness LEDs reached an impressive
1.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2002. “This spectacu-
lar growth was led by a dramatic ramp–up in
the use of high-brightness LEDs in backlight-
ing for LCDs, for example in cell phones,”
Steele observes. Based on continuing “posi-
Small Lights,
Big Impact
42
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L I G H T & D I S P L A Y S
FAC T S AND F OR E C AS T S
tive trends in this dynamic industry,” Steele
forecasts the market for high-brightness LEDs
will grow by almost 20 percent a year to
reach in excess of 4 billion U.S. dollars by
2007.
According to Osram, the market for LEDs
and LED modules amounted to some 2.7 bil-
lion euros in 2002 and is forecast to reach
around 7 billion euros by 2007.
But the total market volume of LEDs is
still a modest 15 percent of the world market
for conventional lamps and lighting fixtures
— with growth expected to reach 28 percent
by 2007. Over the same period, the global
market for lighting will increase from today’s
18.2 billion euros to 25.3 billion euros (see il-
lustration on p. 37).
Future Markets for LEDs.Residential and in-
dustrial lighting are the largest potential mar-
kets for LEDs, but first the industry has to sig-
nificantly raise lumen output per watt and
cut costs (see p. 40) , notes Robert Moran, an
industry analyst at Business Communications
Company, Inc., a U.S.-based industry re-
search firm. “In ten to 20 years LEDs will lead
the pack,” he predicts.
In the near term, Moran believes that
“further dramatic improvements in light out-
put slated for the next year” could spur LED
use in a wide variety of novel applications
ranging from dentistry and diagnostics to in-
terior design. Global technology consultant Frost & Sul-
livan also believes that improvements in LEDs
will offer customers real competitive advan-
tages within the next decade. It further be-
lieves that the potential benefit to the envi-
ronment offered by LEDs’ high efficiency,
long service life and low power consumption
will be a major factor driving the widespread
adoption of white LEDs.
No wonder Roland Haitz, an indepen-
dent consultant and former head of R&D at
Agilent Technologies, calls light emitting
diodes “the third major revolution in electric-
ity-based lighting” after the incandescent
bulb and the fluorescent tube. In the United.States, the Next Generation
Lighting Initiative, which includes the world’s
largest LED manufacturers, intends to pro-
mote the increased use of LEDs. The U.S.
government is also convinced that LEDs are
headed for a bright future. It is considering
legislation to provide 500 million dollars in
funding for the study and improvement of
white LEDs over the next ten years.
OPeggy Salz
Change AAGR*
2001 2002 2001–2002 2007 2002–2007
LEDs 1,266.1 1,454.1 14.8 % 3,398.8 18.5 %
Substrate materials 265.9 305.3 14.8 % 741.3 19.4 %
Total 1,532.0 1,759.4 14.8 % 4,141.1 18.7 %
WORLDWIDE HIGH-BRIGHTNESS LED MARKET, 2007 FORECAST ($ MILLIONS) Source: Business Communications Company Inc. (2002) *Average annual growth rate
The application spectrum of
high-brightness LEDs is al-
ready extensive (left) — and
still growing, as is the mar-
ket for these components
(below). The world market
for LEDs and LED modules
amounted to around 2.7 bil-
lion euros in 2002. Leading
the way were Nichia and Osram with market shares of
19% and 11% respectively.
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43
L I G H T & D I S P L A Y S
I NT E R V I E W
Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) could revolutionize the
market for displays. OLEDs are self-luminous, rich in contrast, extremely flat, and video-capable. Numerous manufacturers have
now introduced their own brands for OLED products, including Osram Opto Semiconductors.
Brilliant Plastics
T
his is the future of displays,” says Dr.
Bernhard Stapp as he places a miniature
TV on the table of his office in Regensburg,
Germany. The housing fits on the surface of
a credit card. It is only a few centimeters
high, and attached to it is a mount with a
thin display that shows a film with impres-
sions of Paris. “I don’t mean that future dis-
plays will be this small, but they will be this
Mini-TV in sight. Bernhard Stapp,
head of Research and Development
at Osram Opto Semiconductors, pre-
sents a vivid OLED display capable of
showing videos. In the Malaysian
city of Penang, 30,000 square me-
ters of glass can now be converted
into OLEDs every year.
thin and this vivid,” says Stapp, head of Re-
search and Development at Osram Opto
Semiconductors, the opto-electronics unit of
Osram, a Siemens company. As the film is
playing, Stapp rotates the housing. Unlike liq-
uid crystal displays (LCDs), which provide a
good picture only when viewed from the
front, the display seems razor-sharp and full
of contrast from any angle. In addition, it
L I G H T & D I S P L A Y S
I NT E R V I E W
which for some LEDs can be close to 100
percent. The problem comes with getting
the photons out of the structure. High index
refraction materials have very narrow escape
cones, or angles. If a light beam hits the
surface outside that escape cone, it is
reflected internally. Typically, only about 20
percent of the light escapes from an LED.
Structures allowing 50 percent of the light to
emerge have been demonstrated, but they
are elaborate and expensive. What makes LEDs efficient for signals? Bergh: Color. Consider a red stoplight that
uses a red filter in front of an incandescent
lamp that generates 16 lumens per watt.
The red part of that light is only about ten
percent of the total, so you end up with 1.6
lumens per watt output. With a red LED only
red light is generated, making LEDs much
more efficient than filtered white light. How will LEDs change our lives?
Bergh: The lighting industry has been left
out of the information age. When it does
catch up, lighting will be used intermittently
for illumination and information displays,
and it will be intelligent. Built-in light dis-
plays will flash information virtually every-
where. And because LEDs can be easily
mounted on integrated circuits, they will
become smart lights that will turn on when
and where they are needed, and they will
give the type of lighting required. They will
be able to adjust their color, brightness, and
directionality. What additonal benefits do you foresee?
Bergh: A major benefit will be energy sav-
ings, which means environmental improve-
ment. Also, with the new lighting para-
digm, the type of light needed will be gene-
rated where it is needed, when it is needed.
And the small size of LEDs will give design-
ers the freedom to provide light in places we
don't think of today, such as at keyholes. How big could energy savings be? Bergh: It has been estimated that total U.S.
lighting-related energy consumption
amounts to eight quads, in other words
eight quadrillion British thermal units (that’s
equivalent to 288 million tons of coal or
about eight percent of total U.S. energy
use). If solid state lights could squeeze 150-
200 lumens out of each watt, the maximum
potential savings would amount to four
quads, or half the current lighting-related
energy consumption of the U.S. The Depart-
ment of Energy's most optimistic replace-
ment scenario estimates a potential cumula-
tive saving of 16.6 Quads between 2000
and 2020 with a cumulative saving of
$112.8 billion to the consumer. Do you envision virtual environments?
Bergh: They are not going to be virtual; they
are going to be ideal environments. During
the day the color of light outdoors changes.
It is reddish in the morning and at night, and
bluish during the daytime. Experiments have
shown that people respond well to these
changes. Solid-state lighting provides oppor-
tunities to create indoor environments that
imitate the natural outdoor environment.
That's going to have positive psychological
effects on people, and improve productivity. What does the future hold for the ”old”
lighting technologies?
Bergh: They will fight back, which they are
already doing very successfully. Compact
fluorescent lamps that reach up to 60-80
lumens per watt have been developed to
replace incandescent bulbs. Because of this
and existing installations, I think the old
technologies will be around for a long, long
time. LEDs will first be used to perform func-
tions the old technologies cannot, and they
will replace the old technologies on mobile
platforms within 10 to 15 years. Those
applications will have to generate large
volume usage so that the price comes down,
before they totally replace current lighting
sources. LEDs will have to reach a price of
under $3 per thousand lumens before they
can successfully compete with conventional
light sources for general illumination. On
stationary platforms that will happen gra-
dually, first for special applications, and in
mass when today's buildings are replaced by
new ones. The primary point is, don't have a
replacement mentality because you will mis-
judge what is to come. Think of a new para-
digm. OInterview by Victor Chase
Potential savings could amount to half
the current
lighting-related energy consumption
of the United States.
LED ceilings. Insbruck’s Bartenbach lab installed the world’s first fully LED-lit room in
2000. The room uses 14,000 white and color LEDs from Osram Opto Semiconductors.
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ORGANI C LI GHT
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EMI TTI NG DI ODES
OLED products. Displays made by Pioneer for
car stereos and cell phones have been on the
market for some time already. Philips now
has a shaver with an OLED display in its prod-
uct line and Kodak has a digital camera. With
its Pictiva brand, Osram OS is targeting the
display market for flip phones, car stereos,
household appliances — and all areas in
which self-luminous and extremely flat dis-
plays are needed. “The range of uses is extra-
ordinarily broad,” says Stapp. “There are ap-
plications that no one has even seriously
considered yet, like displays that have to
work at low temperatures, or divers’ watches.
There could even be costume jewelry with
OLED displays.” 15,000 Hours. Siemens’ Osram subsidiary
has built a mass-production facility for small
polymer OLED displays in Penang, Malaysia.
“We can convert 30,000 square meters of
glass into displays per year,” says Production
Director David Lacey. The small, yellowish-
green displays don’t seem all that impressive
compared with the full-color models of the
competition — but appearances can be de-
ceptive. “We produce robust displays of con-
sistently high quality; their service life is
15,000 hours,” says Lacey proudly. “You can’t
even place an order yet for the large displays
shown at the trade shows.” A chemist him-
self, Lacey knows what he is talking about.
He has been working in the field for almost
ten years. “It was fascinating to experience
the developments in OLEDs from the very
start, from the time when they stayed lighted
only a few hours to the point where they
were ready for the market,” he adds.
OLEDs consist of several thin layers, each
of which has a unique structure. During pro-
duction, a substrate glass that has already
been coated with a transparent anode of in-
dium tin oxide (ITO) is covered with a metallic
structure that makes electrical contacts possi-
ble. The displays are then created by means
of photolithography, initially appearing as
patterns of tiny conductor paths on the glass
surface. Then two layers of polymer are ap-
plied one after the other. A drop at a time,
the synthetic material — which is either dis-
persed in water or dissolved in an organic
solvent — falls onto the very rapidly rotating
pane and spreads itself uniformly across the
entire surface. After this “spin coating,” a
laser removes the polymer from the spots
that will serve as contacts and are necessary
for sealing. The conductor paths for the cath-
ode consist of a mixture of barium and alu-
minum; in a final step, the glass is encapsu-
lated. An individual square pixel has a side
length of about 0.3 millimeters. “We’ve auto-
mated the production process to a great ex-
tent,” says Lacey. “A lot of know-how went
into our process, since there are a lot of fac-
tors that have a really critical impact on re-
producibility and service life.”
Ink Jet OLEDs. “The next step is to produce
full-color displays,” says Lacey. The first or-
ange and green OLEDs are scheduled to go
into production in Penang in early 2004.
Meanwhile, Osram Opto’s research lab in San
Jose, California, has already succeeded in
manufacturing full-color, video-capable dis-
plays. There, scientists are using a process
that is similar to the way an ink-jet printer op-
erates. The pixel pattern is created by 128
nozzles that spray tiny amounts of polymer
into recesses. In this process, the three pri-
mary colors of a pixel are applied one after
the other in their own sections. But the technology is not yet ready for
large scale production. For instance, a tech-
nique is yet to be found to deposit the poly-
mer with the uniform thickness required.
Currently, globular drops tend to form. But
the researchers are confident that they will
be able to develop a reproducible technique
over the next few years.
OLEDs have a very complex structure.
Cleanliness standards for their produc-
tion approach those for semiconductors.
An OLED display covered with glass. The displays are manufac-
tured in Malaysia in a largely auto-
mated process. Layers of polymers
and metals are applied during several stages. As early as 2004, Osram intends to offer displays in orange and green.
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ORGANI C LI GHT
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EMI TTI NG DI ODES
shines without delay all by itself. LCD dis-
plays, on the other hand, must be illumi-
nated from behind, which accounts for about
90 percent of their total energy consumption
— more than half is absorbed by polarization
filters alone. The new display is made of plas-
tic, metal and glass; its luminescent layer has
a thickness of less than half a thousandth of
a millimeter. Such displays use OLEDs (or-
ganic light-emitting diodes), which are now
hiting the market and are likely to compete
with LCDs in a number of fields.
When researchers at Kodak created the
first small-molecule OLED in the mid-’80s, a
torrent of development ensued. Shortly
thereafter, Cambridge Display Technology
made OLEDs from polymers, or long-chain
plastics. Today, researchers know of a large
number of organic materials that emit light
when a voltage is applied to them. The light-
might be yellow, green, red or blue — all are
possible. But the road from successful labora-
tory tests to large-scale industrial production
may be rocky. OLED diodes are extremely
sensitive to moisture and oxygen and must
therefore be encapsulated behind glass.
Standards of cleanliness during manufactur-
ing are as stringent as those in the semicon-
ductor industry. And scientists are still at-
tempting to identify the optimal materials.
Not all colors are emitted with the same effi-
ciency, which drives up power consumption,
shortens life-span and thereby hinders wide-
spread use of large, full-color displays for the
time being.
Market Potential. Twenty years after their in-
vention, OLEDs are now on the verge of a
commercial breakthrough. According to a
study conducted by the U.S. market research
firm iSuppli, sales of OLED displays will in-
crease in volume from $500 million in 2004
to almost $2.5 billion in 2009. At the SID
trade show in Baltimore this year, the Asian
company International Display Technology
and its partner IBM introduced a prototype
color display with a 50-centimeter diagonal.
And Sony presented a display measuring 60
centimeters, but composed of four adjacent
pieces. In 2003, DuPont, Philips, Kodak and
Osram introduced their own brands for their
A SPECTRUM OF COMPETI NG TECHNOL OGI ES
OLEDs are divided in two worlds. Two types of organic chemicals emit light when a
voltage is applied to them: long-chain polymers and small molecules. Furthermore,
two underlying phenomena are involved: fluorescence and phosphorescence. And in
the field of display technology, there are two contrasting architectures: active-matrix
and passive-matrix. Osram Opto Semiconductors is currently producing only passive-
matrix displays made of polymers. Here, the anode and cathode consist of narrow con-
ductor paths that cross at 90 degrees and enclose the polymer layer (see graphic). The
points at which these electrodes intersect form pixels. Light is radiated outward
through a transparent electrode made of indium tin oxide. Passive-matrix displays are
relatively easy to manufacture, but because of losses in their electrical conductors, they
are limited in size to screen diagonals of about five centimeters. This limitation is ab-
sent in active-matrix displays, which are more complex. Here, each pixel is individually
activated, which requires an integrated circuit at the display level. The ideal solution
would be thin-film transistors made of polycrystalline silicon, but they are not yet
widely available. If integrated circuits use competing amorphous silicon technology,
however, power consumption is too high.
In a passive-ma-
trix display the
cathode and an-
ode form a square
grid. Pixels made
of OLED material
are excited by an
electrical current,
causing them to
emit light.
Glass cover
Light
Light
emitting
plastic
Conductive
plastic
Glass
Cathode
Transparent
anode
Current
flow
Full-color displays are manufactured almost exclusively with OLEDs made of small
molecules that offer the needed color spectrum. The molecules are applied in the form
of a powder, often a material known as Alq3 (tris(8-hydroxy-quinoline)aluminum).
For blue light, the “spiro compounds,” which consist of cross-linked biphenyls or oligo-
phenyls, can be used. These OLEDs are created by vacuum-depositing the layers
through a mask, but this technique could entail problems for mass production or for
larger displays. However, polyphenylene vinylene (PPV) or polyethylenedioxythiophene
(PEDT:PSS), which are used by Osram, can be applied to large surfaces using “spin coat-
ing” technology.
Currently, laboratories are finding that the most efficient approach is to use small mol-
ecules, which are sometimes capable of both opto-electric excitation states: fluores-
cence and phosphorescence. In the past, polymer OLEDs have used only what scien-
tists call the “singlet state.” This state arises when the voltage pumps energy into the
polymer’s electrons, which then release this energy as visible radiation when they re-
turn to the ground state — the phenomenon of fluorescence. At the same time, elec-
trons are excited to the “triplet state,” which occurs three times as often but has less
energy. When these electrons fall back to the ground state, they also give off radiation,
but it is usually invisible; this is phosphorescence. Techniques like the use of certain
doping agents can be used to activate the triplet state and incorporate it into the emis-
sion, which could increase the efficiency of polymer OLEDs by a factor of up to four.
Smart cards,
intelligent
labels
Audio
Games
White goods
Medicine,
consumer
products
Camcorders,
cameras
TV
Lighting
Automobiles
High
Information
density and
display size
Reliability (failure rate and service life)
Low
Low High
Cell phones /
wireless phones
PC/Notebooks
Requires higher service life
Requires active-m
atrix
technology
Requires large-scale
production
PDAs
The right lighting can improve health and productivity. Intelligent light management technology and new light
sources ensure an optimal mix of daylight and artificial light. A New Architecture of Light
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
49
L I G H T & D I S P L A Y S
ADAP T I V E L I GHT I NG
T
he quality of a light source is convention-
ally measured in terms of its luminous ef-
ficiency and service life. Today, however,
there’s an increasing focus on the connection
between light and health,” says Reinhard
Weitzel, head of light source research at Os-
ram. As he explains, good lighting and the
right color of light are both important for
well-being. For example, a worker on a night
shift needs a different quality of light than
someone at home reading a book. Studies
conducted by Austrian lighting expert Prof.
Christian Bartenbach show that a badly lit
workplace causes stress and harms produc-
tivity. “We tested around 1,600 people over
the course of five years. Bad lighting reduces
productivity by 30 percent,” he reports.
Today, artificial light makes up between
60 and 80 percent of the lighting in office
buildings. But according to Bartenbach, chan-
neling daylight indoors could cut the need
for artificial light to 20 percent. Depending
on the weather, artificial light would be used
to supplement lighting and replicate natural
light conditions during the course of the day.
Experts agree that daylight is the best light
for people. We are used to about 100,000 lux
in summer sunlight and 20,000 lux on
cloudy days (one lux equals one lumen per
square meter; see p. 40). Indoors, however,
things don’t have to be quite so bright. In
Germany, the law stipulates a minimum of
500 lux for office work and 300 lux for rough
machine work. “But that’s not really enough,”
says Weitzel, who bases his conclusion on
current studies by ergonomists.
Smart Networking.Today, many light
sources are in use — mainly filament, fluo-
rescent and high intensity discharge lamps.
“All types of light have their virtues. What’s
A model of the Putrajaya Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is tested for uses of daylight illumination at Christian Bartenbach’s lab .
can be used to connect the ballasts required
to operate discharge lamps, for example. Bal-
lasts play a vital role in light management,
guaranteeing high switching stability with
variable lamp operation. When fluorescent
lamps are combined with motion detectors,
it is crucial that they continue to be reliable
even when switched on and off at frequent
intervals. A ballast can be compared to a
diesel engine’s glow plug: It ensures the nec-
essary warm start.
A lighting system equipped with DALI
can switch on, switch off and dim individual
light components or groups of components,
and it can communicate with a high-level
building management system. This not only
means that switching can be centralized and
status queries about failed lamps can be
processed; it also makes possible the creation
of an adaptive lighting system. If the natural
light outdoors is very bright, the artificial
light component can be automatically re-
been lacking, however, is the realization that
they need to be combined and controlled in
order to create optimal lighting. What we
need is a new architecture of light,” explains
Weitzel. In the future, lighting systems
should be able to adapt to people’s individual
requirements.
Intelligent management of light can be
used to meet such needs. But this requires
adjustable lamps and intelligent, electronic
operating units — including all the compo-
nents to control and regulate lighting — plus
light and motion sensors. And of course all
these elements must be networked. With this
in mind, the European lighting industry has
come up with DALI, meaning Digital Address-
able Lighting Interface. The DALI standard
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ORGANI C LI GHT
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EMI TTI NG DI ODES
world of liquid-crystal displays, in which col-
ors are produced in a similar fashion. “One
disadvantage, of course, is lower efficiency,”
Rogler admits. The problem is that every filter absorbs
light, which ultimately means higher power
consumption or a shorter service life. One so-
lution could be polymers with a higher light
yield, and Siemens CT is conducting research
on those as well. As its long-term goal, the
company is aiming for organic light-emitting
diodes that have a luminosity akin to their in-
organic cousins and which could even serve
as light sources in the future. That would re-
quire raising the current efficiency rating of
three to six lumens per watt to a competitive
level.
“But right now we’re concentrating on
extending service life,” says Joe Carr, head of
the OLED unit of Osram Opto Semiconduc-
tors in San Jose, California. It might be possi-
ble to achieve this through improved encap-
sulation, in addition to optimized materials.
Here too, the OLED researchers have a vision:
flexible displays that could one day depict an
electronic newspaper or, as curved screens,
represent the automobile cockpit of tomor-
row. Handcrafted demonstration models al-
ready exist, but they quickly become perme-
able and therefore work for only a few hours.
Carr thinks it will be about ten years before a
breakthrough is made in flexible encapsula-
tions. Adds research director Stapp, “That’s
still far away. But we know how to get there.”
O Norbert Aschenbrenner
Filtered Colors. Dr. Wolfgang Rogler of
Siemens Corporate Technology (CT) in Erlan-
gen is also working on full-color displays. To-
gether with Osram and materials manufac-
turer Covion, he is researching OLEDs that
emit white light. The work is being con-
ducted in the framework of a project spon-
sored by the German Federal Ministry of Re-
search and Education. The project’s partners intend to create
colors with optical filters. The advantages of
this approach are simpler design, since only
one sort of OLED material is required, and fil-
ter technology that can be adopted from the
The flexible OLED display is a realistic
vision. It is a long way off, but the way
there is already known.
EVOL UTI ON OF OL ED APPL I C ATI ONS
OLED applications will depend on improved reliability, and the technologies that will make higher information density and larger
display sizes possible. For television, delicately structured active-matrix displays will be needed. OLEDs in smart cards will require
development of new mass-production processes, and lighting applications will demand stability and long life.
Although it’s completely natural for humans to see in three dimensions, most displays can still show only two-dimensional images. Nevertheless, some 3D displays have been developed,
and their potential applications range from chemistry labs to Internet shopping and 3D television.
Images in Space
I
n a familiar scene from Star Wars, Luke
Skywalker is busy repairing the robot R2-
D2, when suddenly a 3D image of Princess
Leia appears before him. As it happens, she
has actually mistaken Luke for someone else:
“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you are my only
hope!” she pleads. In the realm of science fic-
tion, 3D multimedia communications are
rather old hat. So old, in fact, that such tech-
nology could soon be a part of our everyday
lives. Indeed, some TV viewers are already fa-
miliar with 3D broadcasts, although these re-
quire the use of special glasses, and as a rule
the results are less than impressive. But in
the future, it should be easier to generate 3D
images of a much higher quality.
In fact, it’s pretty simple to fool the hu-
man brain into thinking that it’s receiving a
3D image. Our eyes give a sense of depth to
everything we see. This is because one eye
focuses on the object in question at a slightly
different angle than the other. The brain then
combines the two images and calculates the
distance to the object observed. Might not
this principle be used for 3D displays?
Screens that alternate at a frequency of 120
hertz between one image for the right eye
and one for the left are relatively common to-
day. Special shutter glasses prevent one eye
from seeing the image destined for the other,
so that each eye in fact sees only 60 images
per second. The brain is unable to resolve
this rapid alternation and therefore con-
structs an image in three dimensions. But
how many of us want to wear an unwieldy
pair of glasses to watch TV?
3D for Your Eyes Only.Considerably more
comfortable are the auto-stereoscopic 3D
LCD displays sold by major manufacturers
such as Philips, Sanyo and Samsung and
smaller firms like Germany’s Dresden-based
SeeReal Technologies and 4D-Vision in Jena.
Research institutes such as the Heinrich Hertz
Institute (HHI) in Berlin are currently working
to enhance this technology. The principle is
simple. A grid of rod-shaped cylinder lenses
or prisms is mounted in front of an LCD dis-
play. The grid directs the light from one row
of pixels to one eye and the light from the
neighboring row to the other eye. The
viewer’s brain then combines the two images
in such a way that a 3D effect is produced. If the viewer moves forward or back-
ward, however, or only a few centimeters to
the right or left, the impression of depth de-
teriorates substantially. And it can even be re-
versed so that the horizon of the picture sud-
denly appears closer than the tree in the
foreground. To correct this, special follow-up
systems have been developed to move the
grid of lenses to one side whenever the
viewer moves his or her head. “But viewers
instinctively keep still as soon as they notice
that any movement diminishes the quality of
the 3D effect. After an hour, they’re guaran-
teed to have a stiff neck,” explains Thomas
Riegel, a researcher in multimedia communi-
cations at Siemens who closely follows the
latest developments in the world of 3D dis-
plays. Another drawback of the movable lens
grid is that it can only be used to compensate
What looks like a scene straight out of
Star Trekor Star Warsis in fact part of a
medical technology exhibition at the
SiemensForum in Munich. L I G H T & D I S P L A Y S
3
D DI S P L AYS
50
Pi c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
L I G H T & D I S P L A Y S
ADAP T I V E L I GHT I NG
duced. But when it is cloudy, or evening or
winter, the level of artificial light is increased.
Moreover, preprogrammed lighting moods
for meetings or presentations can also be
recreated at the push of a button. Yet intelli-
gent light management is only half of the
story. “In the future, lamps will need to be
highly efficient and have a long service life,
excellent color reproduction and flexible
color temperature,” forecasts Germany’s Fed-
eral Ministry of Education and Research
(BMBF) in a report on the “Optical Technolo-
gies of the 21st Century.” While some light
sources boast several of these qualities, none
can as yet combine all of them. The ideal sit-
uation, though, would be to have one lamp
capable of meeting every single need. Built-in LEDs. And such a lamp is exactly
what the experts at Osram are planning to
create — a hybrid light source. “Fluorescent
lamps are very efficient, but it’s difficult to al-
ter their color temperature. Our intention is
to combine them with LEDs to add an extra
blue or red component to the white light,”
explains Weitzel. One compact hybrid lamp
could then continually alter the color of the
light and thereby create a lighting mood cor-
responding to the natural changes in daylight
during the course of a day. But the high-performance LEDs required
for such a product (see p. 38) are not only ex-
pensive; they are also less efficient and have
a shorter service life when operated at tem-
peratures over 65 degrees Celsius. The latter
is a problem, since the LEDs would be used
inside fluorescent lamps, where tempera-
tures can reach 100 degrees Celsius near the
electrodes. Nevertheless, Osram researchers
are sure such difficulties can be solved with
suitable heat discharge measures and intelli-
gent component positioning. Furthermore,
they are developing technologies to make
fluorescent lamps more efficient and less de-
pendent on mercury. Indeed, the BMBF has
given its approval to a research program de-
signed to investigate exactly these goals. The
project is to run for three years. By then the
researchers hope they will be able to present
the first lamp that can light up even the
dreaiest of days.OEvdoxia Tsakiridou
Prof. Christian Bartenbach has been
studying the psychology of light for
over 40 years. In 1976, he estab-
lished a ground-breaking lighting
business near Innsbruck, Austria de-
signed to take the psychological as-
pects of illumnation into account.
Designing Light for
Healthy Living
How does light affect the psyche?
Bartenbach:Humans are “visual ani-
mals.” Ninety percent of our percep-
tion is visual, and many autonomic
processes are also controlled by light.
Reflected light is especially important.
When I work at my PC, I see not only
the screen but also the desk, the walls
of my office, the windows and the
world outside. I need to take into ac-
count their brightness as well.
What kind of impact can bad light-
ing have?
Bartenbach:I’ll give you a simple ex-
ample: If you work at a PC near a win-
dow, the light is blinding. The difficulty
in adjusting leads to a given level of
mental strain. As a result, you’ll notice
certain stress symptoms like sweating
and tension. You make mistakes, work
slower and become tired more quickly.
That’s something we’ve noticed in all
of our studies. For optimal comfort,
the illuminated area must have the
right dimensions, and you also need
good shielding against the sun and
glare. And other elements in the set-
ting have to be right as well. The desk,
for example, should be medium gray
or wood-tone, and the ceiling, walls
and floor mustn’t be too light, in order
to prevent any reflections from shiny
surfaces. What kinds of lighting are best at
different times of the day?
Bartenbach:The light in the morning
has the highest color temperature —
it’s slightly bluish. In the evenings,
there’s more red. The spectrum used in
artificial lighting should take this into
account. In the morning, it should pep
you up — the best color for desk work
is a bluish white. For the evening, on
the other hand, I recommend a warm,
low-intensity reddish light.
What kind of lighting technologies
will we see in the next two decades? Bartenbach:We’ll see increased use of
systems to channel sunlight under-
ground — into subways, for example,
or into courtyards, narrow streets and
voluminous spaces in larger buildings.
Similarly, the LED will play an increas-
ingly important role in artificial light-
ing. It has a long service life, is very
economical and can be used to regu-
late the brightness and even the spec-
tral composition of lighting. This will
make it possible to create new interior
lighting moods as well as open up new
areas of application. New light sources
and innovative lighting systems are go-
ing to play a significant role in fulfilling
society’s growing demand for healthy
living. OInterview: Evdoxia Tsakiridou
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
51
OImportant trends in lighting research
include making light sources smaller,
longer-lived, more efficient and more
environmentally friendly. Future divi-
dends could include the elimination of
mercury from high intensity gas dis-
charge lamps thanks to a better under-
standing of the physical-chemical
processes in their interior and new
electronic ballasts. (p. 35)
ODifferent light sources can be inte-
grated into intelligent networks and
combined with natural light in the
“adaptive lighting” concept, which offers both energy savings and in-
creased comfort. The sensors and
communications standards needed for
this are already available. Osram is
also developing a discharge lamp in
which LEDs are used to provide vari-
able color rendition. (p. 37, 49)
OLEDs can achieve lifespans of up to
100,000 hours, and are being intro-
duced into a growing number of applications, such as display panels, automobile headlights and flash units
for cell-phone cameras. White LEDs
could reach conversion efficiencies of 100 lumens per watt within ten to
15 years, opening the door to their
use in general lighting applications.
(p. 38)
OAnnual growth rates of 17 percent
and more could lead to LEDs having a
market volume of around seven billion
euros in 2007 — which would corre-
spond to 28 percent of the world light-
ing market. Opened in Regensburg by
Osram in April 2003, the world’s most
modern optical chip plant will enable
the company to double its production
capacity of optical semiconductors by
2005. (p. 42)
OProspects for organic LEDs (OLEDs)
are also bright. These self-luminous,
high-contrast, extremely flat and
video-capable plastics could revolu-
tionize the market for displays. Osram
recently established a mass produc-
tion facility for OLEDs in Penang,
Malaysia. (p. 45)
OA wide range of applications awaits
displays capable of representing im-
ages in three dimensions. Examples in-
clude chemistry, factory design, and In-
ternet shopping. Concepts are currently
being developed. (p. 51)
CONTACTS:
OSRAM R&D in USA:
John Gustafson, OSRAM Sylvania
john.gustafson@sylvania.com
Osram Ligh Source Research:
Dr. Reinhard Weitzel, Osram
r.weitzel@osram.de
High-Intensity Discharge Lamps:
Scott Butler, Osram Sylvania
scott.butler@sylvania.com
Alfred Wacker, Osram a.wacker@osram.de
Fluorescent Systems Lab, USA:
David L. Bay, OSRAM Sylvania
David.bay@sylvania.com
Osram Opto Semiconductors, R&D:
Dr. Bernhard Stapp, Osram OS
bernhard.stapp@osram-os.com
Osram Innovation Management:
Dr. Norbert Stath, OSRAM OS
norbert.stath@osram-os.com
OLED R&D at Corporate Technology:
Dr. Wolfgang Rogler, CT MM 1
wolfgang.rogler@siemens.com
OLED Operations, San José, USA:
Joseph Carr, Osram OS joseph.carr@osram-os.com
OLED Production, Malaysia:
David Lacey, davidl@osram-os.com
3D-Displays:
Thomas Riegel, CT IC 2
thomas.riegel@siemens.com
Prof. Christian Bartenbach:
info@bartenbach.com
Dr. Arpad Bergh:
bergh@oida.org
LINKS:
OSRAM: www.osram.com
Osram Opto Semiconductors:
www.osram-os.com
Encyclopedia of Light:
www.osram.com/lightatwork
Osram OLED:www.pictiva.com
Optoelectronics Industry Development Association:
www.oida.org
Electric Power Research Institute:
www.epri.com
Energy User News:
www.energyusernews.com
3D-Displays:www.felix3d.com
LITERATURE:
Schubert, Fred E., Light-Emitting
Diodes, Cambridge University Press (2003)
Zukauskas, Artauras, Introduction to Solid State Lighting, John Wiley & Sons Inc. (2002)
In Brief…
are moved quickly enough, it is possible to il-
luminate each point of the volume covered
by the rotating helix, thereby generating a
3D image. Such a 3D display, which seem-
ingly floats in the air, would be useful for
monitoring air space, since air traffic con-
trollers could then see both the course and
the altitude of an aircraft simultaneously.
This principle was first exploited in the mid-
1980s and has since been developed by a
number of companies.
Eyeing Projections.A new technique pre-
sented by the Heinrich Hertz Institute at
CeBIT 2003 dispenses with the use of a
screen-type device completely. Here, two
small projectors are used to project a left-
hand and a right-hand image directly into
each of the viewer’s eyes. The viewer then
sees a 3D object floating directly before his or
her eyes. With the aid of a computer-con-
trolled mechanical glove-like device, the user
can even handle the image, move it around
and feel its texture and consistency. This pro-
cedure is ideal for testing how people will re-
act to a planned product. In other words, it is
no longer absolutely necessary to build a
model — all that’s needed is to convert de-
sign data into a 3D image. Similarly, the tech-
nology would also bring benefits for Internet
users. In the virtual 3D shop of the future, for
instance, customers will not only be able to
inspect a comfortable new bed from every
angle, but will also be able to feel its softness
and quality. “One particularly interesting as-
pect of this technology is that the image is
completely private,” explains Dr. Siegmund
Pastoor from HHI. “Anyone standing outside
the projection beam can’t see why the user is
groping around in mid-air.”
And when will we be able to emulate R2-
D2 and summon an image of Princess Leia to
appear? “Sure, that would be possible,” says
Siemens researcher Thomas Riegel. “It’s like
creating a mirage. All you need to do is cre-
ate a suitable boundary layer in the air — say,
through a pressure or temperature gradient
— upon which you can then scatter light.”
Unfortunately, no one knows just how to
manage that; but maybe George Lucas can
suggest a solution.OBernhard Gerl
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L I G H T & D I S P L A Y S
3
D DI S P L AYS
for the movement of one person. On the
other hand, fixed lens grids can be designed
and mounted in such a way that a group of
viewers — between five and nine, at present,
depending on the manufacturer — can use
such a screen as long as they don’t move. 3D TV. A number of companies are therefore
looking at alternative 3D technologies, not
least because there are certainly enough po-
tential applications. At a meeting of the
MPEG4 standardization group, held in the
Japanese city of Awaji at the end of 2002,
there were predictions that the next ten
years could well see 3D technology usher in
the next big revolution in the TV industry.
Meanwhile in Europe, the ATTEST consor-
tium (Advanced Three-dimensional Televi-
sion System Technologies), a project involv-
ing European companies and institutes, is
currently setting the stage. Any future 3D TV
system has to be compatible with current 2D
reproduction, and its implementation must
be affordable. There is also big potential for
3D applications in the field of medicine.
“We’ve been supplying surgical microscopes
since the 1990s that enable physicians wear-
ing shutter glasses to view the images on a
3D monitor,” says Peter Andrews, Sales Man-
ager at German optics specialist Zeiss. “Auto-
stereoscopic displays may well bring the de-
finitive breakthrough here.” Because they
show the physician the precise location of
the surgical instruments, detailed 3D images
would also be highly useful for minimally in-
vasive operations. Virtual Factories. In plant engineering, 3D
imaging results in both cost and time bene-
fits. Siemens, for example, uses large 180-de-
gree stereo projection surfaces to generate
virtual 3D representations of power plants,
new factories and other large installations.
“In the past, customers needed three to four
weeks to check the plans for a new power
plant — with virtual reality it now only takes
three to four days,” says Dr. Detlev Teich-
mann, Project Manager for Production
Processes at Corporate Technology. What’s
more, this method is less costly. Several years
ago it cost five million euros to produce a
model of a new ICE high-speed train. A vir-
tual projection would have cost only a frac-
tion of that sum. Chemists, too, could make
good use of 3D images — to view biomole-
cules, for example. And, last but not least,
the Internet is bursting with potential appli-
cations. After all, people buying online like to
take a good look at a product before purchas-
ing — for instance in a virtual 3D shop. Fi-
nally, software producers such as Adobe,
Macromedia and others see big market po-
tential for 3D chat rooms, where participants
can select their own representative (avatar)
and then move this figure at will with a com-
puter mouse. In today’s chat rooms, a 3D ef-
fect is merely simulated through the mobility
of the figures.
Laser Holography. Could holography be the
key to 3D? This involves illuminating an ob-
ject with a laser and then photographically
recording the pattern that is produced as the
reflected light interferes with a reference
beam. Illuminating this interference pattern
with a laser beam produces a 3D image of
the object floating in space. Unfortunately,
this process is really only suitable for small,
stationary objects. In the 1990s, a technique
known as electro-holography was developed
at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
in Boston. The technique can even produce
holographic videos, because acoustical-opti-
cal elements exert so much influence on the
laser beams in real time that the overlapping
waves generate a 3D image for the viewer.
Thus it is also possible to produce 3D images
of models stored in computers. However,
there is still no satisfactory way to supply the
computing power needed to process the
massive data volumes involved.
An alternative solution was proposed
back in the 1970s by Rüdiger Hartwig from
the University of Heidelberg. This involves us-
ing colored lasers to illuminate a transparent
helix of Plexiglas rotating at 1,200 revolu-
tions per minute. At such speeds, the helix it-
self is invisible, so that only the points hit by
the laser beams can be seen. If the beams
German high-school students re-
cently used a laser to “draw” the pixels of a 3D object on a rotating
projection field.
Internet shopping is one of many potential applications for 3D displays.
Siemens Technology Accelerator GmbH helps Corporate Technology employees to establish
their own companies. Such a partner is crucial to a company’s survival in the start-up phase.
EnOcean is STA’s most successful project to
date (see Pictures of the Future,Spring 2002,
p. 70). The company’s basic idea is to intelli-
gently convert energy already present in na-
ture and to use it to transmit radio signals.
To demonstrate this concept, Schneider at-
taches a light switch to a tree and pushes the
button; a far-off garden lamp comes on. “The
switch doesn’t have any batteries,” he says.
“The transmission module only needs the
energy that is released when you flip the
switch.” Here, EnOcean uses piezo technology;
for its sensor applications, it employs small
solar cells. Its most recent development is a
radio sensor that monitors the tire pressure
and temperature in a car. The sensor’s
power comes from the vibration of those
very same tires. “In this area, EnOcean has
even progressed further than its business
plan,“ says Lackner. “Its entry into the auto
supply business was actually scheduled for a
later time.” The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.But the
road that led to this success was filled with
obstacles and potholes. First, the Groups had
to be convinced that the move to the market
was a good idea. Finally, STA won over the
Automation and Drives Group as a strong
backer. Joyous times followed as the com-
pany gradually took shape. But then the
primary customer suddenly backed out,
despite a previous commitment from top
management.
“Nobody saw it coming,” Lackner says.
“Everyone’s belief in the marketability of the
entire technology was shaken.” But STA stood
by this fledgling company in its time of trou-
ble. “We called a crisis meeting and decided to
go to ELTEC, a leading trade fair for building
technology, switching devices and industrial
control systems that is held in Nuremberg,”
recalls Lackner. The presentation was a re-
sounding success. More than 30 new cus-
tomers expressed interest in the technology,
and EnOcean was officially named the com-
pany with the most innovative product at the
fair. “It was STA that stood by us in our time
of need and pointed the way to the future,”
says Schneider.
The Right Customer.The newest company
STA has taken under its wing is Panoratio
GmbH. “The original idea was for the devel-
opment team to transfer to a Group,” ex-
plains Chief Scientific Officer Michael Haft.
“But that fell apart.” Disappointed, Haft and
his colleagues called on Lackner’s team. A
short time later, STA won over German re-
tailer Karstadt/Quelle as a pilot customer. It
was just what Haft needed. “The people at
STA were open to our ideas,” he recalls.
“That’s important, because when you take
over a technology at such an early stage, risk is
always involved.” Nonetheless, Panoratio’s
54
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
A Partner for
Ups and Downs
PI CTURES OF THE FUTURE
B US I NE S S AC C E L E R AT OR S
D
evelopment times and business plan-
ning cycles don’t always mesh,” says Dr.
Thomas Lackner, Managing Director of Sie-
mens Technology Accelerators (STA). “That’s
why researchers at Corporate Technology
have sometimes completed a development
project with excellent results, only to find out
that the Group originally interested in the idea
has shifted its investment priorities.“ However,
if Siemens doesn’t pick up on a technology,
but sees a promising opportunity in the ex-
ternal market, start-up companies founded
by former Siemens employees can take over
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
55
The databases of large retail chains, insurance companies and manufacturers contain
mountains of information on millions of customers — data that can amount to several
terabytes (1,000 gigabytes). But before these data can be effectively used in a market-
ing campaign, for example, dozens of parameters have to be identified as relevant and
linked to each other. Such statistical evaluations are usually carried out by experts in a
computer center. But many sales and management employees need up-to-date infor-
mation right at their fingertips.
To make such a service possible, a group of specialists led by Dirk Owerfeldt, CEO of
Panoratio GmbH, has developed a type of MP3 for databases. The MP3 process elimi-
nates the signals from music data that are irrelevant to the listener. Panoratio uses an
analogous procedure that makes a copy of the database containing only the informa-
tion that is needed for analytical purposes. This applies, for example, to interrelation-
ships, while the names of people or streets — information that takes up a lot of space in a
database — are not needed. The remaining information is compressed in a new,
patented process that allows a lightning-fast analysis to be performed with unprece-
dented depth on a standard PC. The original terabytes of information are thus shrunk by
a factor of millions to between 800 kilobytes and 20 megabytes in the copy. “We are
now in the area of in-RAM solutions,” Owerfeldt says. “These are programs that run en-
tirely in RAM during application. Our complete data model is in RAM.”
This process and the ability to answer questions in real time are two distinguishing fea-
tures for Panoratio. But the company has markets in mind with even higher demands.
Conventional analyses have 15 to 20 parameters. But that’s not the case at Panoratio;
here, the numbers are much higher.A development agreement with Siemens Power
Generation (PG), for instance, calls for more than 1,000 parameters to be considered.
“To allow plant operations to be optimized, PG evaluates huge amounts of sensor-gener-
ated data,” Owerfeldt reports. “Our customers want to know the optimal operating state
under certain conditions — and they want this information at the press of a button on a
laptop right next to the turbine.” In other words,anybody should be able to conduct the
query. To prove his point, a smiling Owerfeldt pushes his notebook over the table and
asks the interviewer: “What is the optimal operating state when the CO
2
sensor regis-
ters low levels of the gas, the combustion chamber temperature is high and the vibra-
tion transducer is reporting no turbine hum?”
PANOR AT I O
— MP3
F OR DATAB AS E S
OV E R V I E W OF E NOC E AN
’
S DE V E L OP ME NT F R OM C ONC E P T T O P R ODUC T
solution turned out to be just what the
customer was looking for. “Since then, we
haven’t suffered any setbacks,” Haft says.
Projects with Siemens Power Generation and
Siemens Health Services are already in the
bag, and STA is negotiating with a number of
venture-capital providers. “It’s going to be a
challenge to get capital at reasonable
conditions,” says Haft. But Panoratio has full
confidence in its business partner. “STA
brought enormous stability in the early
phase,” says Dirk Owerfeldt, Panoratio’s CEO.
“After all, these are professional managers
who really know the ropes.” Guido Weber
the further development of the concept. “The
Groups gladly hand over the technology to
another company if they don’t want to invest
in it for the reasons mentioned and if a busi-
ness relationship with the start-up company
would be of mutual interest,“ says Lackner.
Big Guide.EnOcean and Panoratio are two
of the five start-ups established by STA since
2001. The researchers behind their innova-
tions have two things going for them: They
have developed something remarkable, and
they have that characteristic known as
“technopreneurship” — the drive to bring
their creation to market. STA sees itself as a
guide. “Of course, we make financing avail-
able,” Lackner says. “But much more impor-
tant is the additional help we provide.” Adds Andreas Schneider, Vice President
Sales at EnOcean, “When you create a com-
pany and have to look for customers, finan-
cial backers and cooperation partners, you
always suffer setbacks. Today, we’re strong
enough to roll with the punches without any
problems. But it was a completely different
story at the start.”
Success
Failure January 01 July 01 July 02January 02 January 03
Proposal at STA
Most innovative
product at
the ELTEC Fair
Bavarian
Innovation Award
2002
First prototypes
and customer contracts
First deliveries
Veto by Group
Main customer
backs out
Agreement with
Groups
Deal restructuring
Main customer
cancels memorandum of understanding
Fund raising
The ups and downs experienced by start-ups such as EnOcean GmbH can be more easily dealt with when an experienced partner
like Siemens Technology Accelerator (STA) is there to help.
En-Ocean’s self-
powered light switch can even be attached to a tree. Source:EnOcean USABI L I T Y
HIGHLIGHTS
Universal Design Older people and the handi-
capped present special challen-
ges, but an easy-to-operate product benefits everyone.
Easy Interfaces
Product development at
Siemens brings technicians, designers, psychologists and
anthropologists together.
Creatures in Computers
Virtual characters are helping to
make our lives easier — particu-
larly when it comes to cell
phones and the Internet.
Focusing on the User
“Technolo
gy has to be adapted to humans, not the
other way around,” says Prof.
Michael Burmester.
Page 66
Everyday Use Usability tests are helping design experts gain insights into what customers want.
Page 70
Page 73
Learning from the Game Makers “An emotional appeal to the user is not always effective,” says top computer game designer Martin Edmondson. Page 76
Page 62
Page 68
2015
Growing old at home in 2015. The big screen is a television, a computer monitor and an information
display board, all in one unit. Informa-
tion and home technology are combined
in a multimedia system that can be operated by remote control or voice command. Avatars have become easy-to-
operate interfaces that mediate between
users and technology. To ensure their
safety, seniors can transmit their health
data to a medical service center. 56
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57
S C E NAR I O
2015
U S A B I L I T Y
Home, Sweet Home
May 2015. A universal remote control
device and an avatar help 78-year-old
Olivia Berger manage her life.
T
he video call arrives just after break-
fast. Olivia Berger pushes the receiver
button on her remote control and sees
the worried face of her son Bernd. “Hi,
Mom,” he says. “How are you doing?”
“Fine,” Olivia says, without pressing the
control that transmits her own picture.
After all, she has just emerged from the
shower and is sitting with a mass of tan-
gled gray hair in front of the big screen in
her living room. “I went to the theater last
night and saw a ballet of Goethe’s Faust,”
Olivia says. “What’s up?“ “I’m giving you a
call because I just had a bad feeling yes-
terday,” Bernd answers evasively. “That’s
58
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59
At Siemens’ Usability Lab in Munich,
experts watch through a one-way
window and on monitors as test
subjects put a washing machine
through its paces. The goal is to determine how well the subjects can operate the machine.
Product design should focus on meeting user needs. In the
future, devices will be operated by voice commands and user
enjoyment will become increasingly important.
The Science of Simplicity
W
hether it’s a cell phone or a home cin-
ema, a production site or a power-plant
control room, the things that play a role in
our everyday lives do have their annoying
side. Devices are dotted with buttons, menus
are perplexing and websites are intricate. To-
day’s users, however, expect products to
work reliably, have an appealing design at a
good price and be easy to use. User-friendli-
ness, also known as “usability” in professional
circles, is becoming a powerful sales tool.
Software makers, in particular, have seen
the signs of the times and have poured
money into usability research. They are
reacting to alarming statements like one is-
sued by the Nielsen Norman Group, a Califor-
nia-based consulting firm, that reported that
e-commerce companies are losing half of
their potential sales because website visitors
are having a hard time finding their way
around.
At such U.S. companies as Oracle, Mi-
crosoft and usability consultant Human Fac-
tors International, hundreds of psychologists,
designers and engineers are busy working on
user-friendliness, as well as methods of pre-
senting software. Despite the economic po-
tential of this area (see p. 65), only a few ma-
jor companies, along with the online sector,
have actually paid serious attention to the
question of user-friendliness. “It has only
been in the past three years that large num-
bers of companies have recognized what this
is all about,” says Kerstin Röse, Assistant Pro-
fessor for user-focused product development
at the University of Kaiserslautern, Germany.
“And we are still a long way from the optimal
implementation of usability.”
Putting the User in the Product.“Technol-
ogy should be designed with the needs and
wishes of the users in mind,” says Prof.
Michael Burmester, a usability expert at the
Hochschule der Medien in Stuttgart, Ger-
many (see interview on p. 66). Stefan
Schoen, head of the User Interface Design
(UID) Center at Siemens Corporate Technol-
ogy, agrees. His experience has produced a
creed. “The technology can be tremendously
impressive. But if it is not easy to operate, it
means nothing to the user,” he says.
Siemens experts have been working on
the ergonomy of devices and workstations
for more than 30 years. In the 1980s they
also turned their focus to user interface
design. Schoen and his team, deeply im-
mersed in development processes, serve as
advisers to the Siemens Groups. They analyze
customers’ needs by watching them in their
daily lives and asking them questions. After-
wards, they put together user interfaces —
the parts of machines that users interact with
— from concept to prototype and finally to
implementation, regardless of whether the
product is a cell phone, a computer tomo-
graph or automation software. The UID Cen-
U S A B I L I T Y
S C E NAR I O
2015
nice of you,” she replies, “but everything
was OK. I just had to lie down for a
while.” “Good,” says Bernd, “then I don’t
have anything to worry about. You really
sound fine. Say, do you have any plans
for Saturday?” “No,” Olivia says, her heart
skipping a beat. “Do you want me to take
care of the kids?” “That’d be great,” Bernd
says, his image flashing a big smile.
“Then we could go to a garden party.” “No
problem,” she assures, “just call before
you bring the kids over.” “OK, Mom, will
do,” Bernd closes. “Thanks a lot.”
Olivia shoos her cat Pebbles away
from a chest of drawers, and her eye is
drawn to her electronic portrait. Yes, in-
deed,yesterday’s “ball” was actually
smaller and paler than the others. It’s no
wonder that Bernd called. The balls rep-
resent her daily activities. At first, she
was very mistrustful of this technology.
But she has learned that it works well. The goal of the system is to allow
older people to continue to live in their
own homes. Sensors record Olivia’s mo-
vements, including her use of the home
network and household appliances.
Based on this data, the Home Care Sys-
tem formulates an activity pattern, ren-
ders it in the form of a colored ball and
transmits an encoded version of it to her
three sons, who have the same por-
traits. If she was a little less active yester-
day, the ball would appear faded. Her
sons notice the change and then check
to see how their mother is doing. Once a
day, Olivia uses a small diagnostic device
that measures her pulse, blood pressure
and several blood values before trans-
mitting the findings to a central medical
office. If any abnormalities are reported,
a doctor calls. Yesterday, the sensors detected that
Olivia hadn’t moved around for several
hours and was out in the evening. She
had forgotten to tell the system that she
planned to be out. “Frankie!” she calls to
the screen, and the comic figure of her
avatar appears. “Something up, Olivia?“
asks Frankie, who is named after an actor
from Olivia’s youth. “Frankie, the next
time I lie down or go out for the evening,
be sure to turn off the Home Care Sys-
tem’s data transmission for me. I always
seem to forget to do it. And send e-mails
to my sons Dominic and Thomas to let
them know I’m fine.” She has to use the
name of her media system’s avatar to
begin each command so that he knows
she is speaking to him. “Understood,”
Frankie says. “Please confirm with the re-
mote control.“ The remote control is a
small pocket computer with a display
that Olivia uses to control practically
everything in her home: alarm system,
blinds, lights, heating, Arnie, the domes-
tic robot and, of course, the media sys-
tem that combines music, video, televi-
sion, telephone and the Internet. In the
past, each of these activities required its
own remote control unit. Today, Olivia
can even use the device to make phone
calls with its language option and can
attach it to her cane. She looks quizzically at Pebbles and
shakes her head, laughing:“You must
be the first cat in the world who purrs
around a robot, asking to be stroked.”
“Olivia,” Frankie says, interrupting her
musings. “You wanted me to track down
the Columbo episode from 1968 about a
psychiatrist. It’s on Channel 461 today.”
“Frankie, please record it for me,” Olivia
says. “OK,” Frankie replies. “Please con-
firm.” Olivia confirms her request and
then studies her food order. A large pur-
chase of groceries, including frozen
food, has already been delivered to her
SkyBox, which can be filled from out-
side. Olivia can get bread and milk her-
self, but she wants to have candy and ice
cream ready for her grandchildren. She
dials into the system and orders choco-
late and a liter of vanilla ice cream. Olivia
is already looking forward to seeing the
two children romp through her apart-
ment and turn the folding ramp on the
stairs into a slide again. “That will leave
a huge color ball on the Home Care Sys-
tem,” she says to herself —and smiles.
Norbert Aschenbrenner
U S A B I L I T Y
US E R
-
I NT E R FAC E DE S I GN
three directions. “The design is self-explana-
tory to doctors,” Platz says. The work that
went into conceiving syngo yielded huge
amounts of knowledge, which will be benefi-
cial for future projects, regardless of which
Siemens Group is involved. Automation ex-
perts have already started working with Platz
on innovative user-interface concepts.
“As I see it, we aren’t building. We’re
making things disappear,”says Platz. “If we do
our work well, it’s nearly invisible.” His state-
ments clearly show that good user-interface
design is dependent on soft factors, a fact
equipped to recognize everyday speech. In
the context of a German research project
known as “Embassi,” which was completed in
June, participants developed a living room of
the future in which the video recorder,
television, fan, light and blinds obeyed spo-
ken commands. Users can supplement their
verbal commands by pointing to or using a
remote control to do things like turn on
lights. These combinable input options can
be supported by avatars, which serve as inter-
faces to the Internet (see p. 73). A role is also
being played by the integration of
“fun of use” makes a crucial contribution to a
product’s attractiveness.
“It’s still unclear how you can produce
things that are fun to work with,” says
Michael Burmester. In the quest to find out,
usability tests are gaining more and more sig-
nificance. In so-called “Wizard of Oz” tests, a
user is made to believe that the system is
outfitted with complete voice control. This is
a way of testing the everyday usability of to-
morrow’s technology. An interesting finding:
Many users are simply not ready to have a di-
alogue with a computer. Instead of using
syngo, a comprehensive platform for imaging processes developed
at Siemens Medical Solutions, can be operated intuitively (left). For
example, designer Axel Platz selected a radically new spatial repre-
sentation (right) to superimpose computer images. In the past,
doctors had to use complicated control levers and push buttons to
perfom the same functions (above).
that requires a sixth sense. As a result, a par-
ticularly striking look can actually have a bad
effect because users might not take the prod-
uct seriously. “The connection between
function and design has to be evident,” ex-
plains Platz. “But we also have to create
something that doesn’t look as if it is just be-
ing driven by operational requirements.”
The shackles are loosening, though.
Technology is advancing and giving usability
experts more leeway — but it is also creating
new challenges. The easiest way to operate
devices or computers would be with spoken
commands. Today, voice-operated cell
phones and automotive navigation systems
are already available. But experts predict that
it will be several years before systems will be
communication devices. In a few years, users
will be able to download music from the In-
ternet to their cell phones, PDAs, notebooks,
personal computers, car computers and even
televisions.
Personalized Products. One trend that is be-
ing taken seriously by experts at Siemens’
UID Center and by many others is product
personalization. Today, individual ring tones
for cell phones are a big hit. In the future,
products will have even more design
possibilities. Such devices are attractive and
fun to use, whether it is the unique way that
a cell phone rings or computers that recog-
nize a user’s voices and then load the appro-
priate programs. Researchers have found that
normal sentences — which many systems
can process today — they used clipped one-
word commands. But that’s not the only sur-
prise. In the area of usability, a lot of psychol-
ogy is at work. Humans often act differently
from the way they say they will. And the
work of designers is sometimes in vain. From
a usability point of view, it would be desir-
able to create a cell phone with a simple de-
sign. That would help many users (see p. 70).
But when standing in a store, forced to
choose between a phone with 50 functions
and one with 100, a customer is likely to buy
the more complex phone, even if it is more
difficult to use. Unless that changes, complex
interfaces may be with us for a long time.
Norbert Aschenbrenner
ter has locations in Munich, Princeton, New
Jersey and Beijing and has about 40 employ-
ees.
“It does very little good when a techni-
cian drops by to see us with some nearly fin-
ished software in his hand and then asks us
to do something to improve its usability,” says
Nuray Aykin, head of the UID Center in
Princeton. “Usability only works when it is in-
tegrated into all phases of development.”
That’s when it pays off, Aykin says. The prod-
uct can be brought to market faster because
solid research has identified early in the
process how the user interface has to be de-
signed. Last-minute changes that can drasti-
cally slow the product’s introduction can of-
ten be avoided. “The quality of the product is
also better when the user’s needs are taken
into consideration from the start,” adds
Schoen (see p. 62). Exacting Demands.In June, more than 100
experts from nearly all Siemens Groups gath-
ered in New York to discuss their efforts to
design user interfaces with the consumer in
mind. Everything from cell phones and med-
ical equipment to operator menus for build-
ing management systems was on the
agenda. “As a technology leader, Siemens has to
meet exacting design demands,” says Ruth
Soenius, whose focal point is the presenta-
nance tomography, has the same operating
interface. In more than 45 medical-technol-
ogy systems, syngo helps users to become
oriented and learn the equipment’s opera-
tion more quickly. Doctors can manage their
patients’ radiological data and evaluate -
images in order to gain additional informa-
tion regarding conditions such as tumors.
Soarian is based on the principles of the syngo
design. This comprehensive software for hos-
pitals focuses on work flow and synchronizes
all stages of treatment in a way that makes
medical and economic sense.
Added to these criteria are the requirements
of developers, who want to pack in as many
functions as possible, and the expectations
of users, who want to have an easy-to-use
product. People like Platz have to take this
jumble of contradictory demands and trans-
form it into a link between technology and
human beings that is also appealing to the
eye.
As far as syngo is concerned, it proved
possible to meet all these demands. As an ex-
ample, Platz shows an input mask with which
doctors can superimpose two computer im-
U S A B I L I T Y
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60
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P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
61
User enjoyment is a decisive factor in making a product attractive.
Axel Platz of Siemens Corporate Technol-
ogy conceived syngo with the help of med-
ical technology experts. “Design is all about
dancing with shackles on,” he says. Platz uses
this quotation from Bauhaus founder Walter
Gropius to describe his work. That is because
superior usability is governed by stringent cri-
teria. ISO norms even require that, among
other things, systems must be self-descrip-
tive and controllable. That means that a
computer program should tell the user what
sort of input it expects at certain junctures.
ages (see illustrations, above right). The user
must be able to turn and move the image in
all three directions. The original design con-
sisted of six control levers with a vague de-
scription and countless buttons. “Of course,
we could have made the headings more
readable, the buttons bigger and the colors
different,” Platz says. But this approach would
have restricted the optimal operation of the
system. To make meaningful improvements,
totally new ways of thinking are necessary.
Now, a stylized patient has been added to
the button display. With the help of advanced
graphics, the patient appears to be floating in
a ball. Located on the ball are three con-
trollers that can rotate the image, while the
three controllers used to shift it point in the
tion of the Siemens brand. Soenius wants all
Siemens products to have a distinct design.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case to-
day at Siemens. But the advantages of such a
commitment can be decisive. Microsoft, for
instance, has created a valuable identity for
its brand , Soenius points out. This concept has been applied to syngo
and Soarian, software platforms from
Siemens Medical Solutions. Each imaging
process, whether designed for computer to-
mography, angiography, or magnetic reso-
The magic formula for satisfied, enthusiastic customers is called “user-focused design.” Siemens experts integrate users in the development process, determining the requirements
a product must fulfill and how it should look.
62
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
What Customers Want
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
63
I
n the movie What Women Want, the pro-
tagonist suddenly discovers what women
really prefer and desire, thus conquering
their hearts. The character, played by Mel
Gibson, is able to pull off this trick after re-
ceiving an electric shock, which gives him
the power to read the mind of any female in
his vicinity. Developers and product man-
agers are in a similar, but far more difficult
situation. They need to know what
customers want — but they can’t read any-
one’s mind. But they don’t have to work com-
pletely in the dark. One proven way of testing
a product on potential buyers before its mar-
ket introduction is the usability test.
“Oh, no,” says Olga Tsotsokou. “This
U S A B I L I T Y
L AB OR AT OR Y T E S T I NG
makes you feel like you’re three years old.”
Tsotsokou is one of 15 people who are test-
ing a new text and graphics input device for
use with cell phones. The tests are being con-
ducted at Siemens Information and Com-
munication Mobile (ICM) Usability Laboratory
at Munich. “This thing obviously hasn’t
reached maturity yet. Will the knob stay up
on top?” she asks. The test supervisor, Volker
Bogacki, offers her an explanation: “No, this
is only a prototype. When the stylus hits the
market,it will be much more elegant — and
much thinner.” “This one is really bulky,” Tsot-
sokou replies before selecting the design that
she finds most appealing from among the
five available versions.
“We prefer to hear candid answers from
our test participants rather than polite
replies,” says Lutz Groh, who heads the Mu-
nich Usability Lab. Within the laboratory’s
walls, people of all ages test cell phones, ac-
cessories and cordless phones in all stages of
product development. “We’re integrated in
the entire process,” Groh explains. “Nothing
is kept secret. Even poor test results help de-
velopers improve their products.” Through a
one-way window, Groh observes a woman in
the next room who is inputting a sentence
with the stylus. The device is an innovation
of the User Interface Competence Center at
the ICM, to which the usability laboratory
also belongs.
Magic Stylus.Customers can use the stylus
to write on any surface — even on their own
pants, just as if they were using a ball-point
passing it on. The user can input words by
typing them letter by letter on a keyboard
that appears on the display. Handwritten
symbols, like a mark on a map to identify a
meeting location, can be transmitted as well.
The stylus, which uses Bluetooth to transmit
its data to the cell phone, is currently being
developed to the point where it is suitable for
market launch.
“Hey, this is getting to be fun,” Tsotsokou
says. After just a few minutes, she has gotten
used to the stylus and begins to type the sen-
tence again —but much faster this time
around. And test supervisor Bogacki can also
objectively measure this progress. Unseen by
Tsotsokou, he records the time required for
every activity. “You know, I would buy some-
thing like this,” Tsotsokou says at last. “It’s
perfect for a Palm personal organizer.” Now, it’s time for the new M55 cell
phone to be put through its paces. The
know what she thinks. “Tell us everything
that comes to mind,” he says encouragingly.
“That feature isn’t bad,” she says. “It’s particu-
larly handy for the deaf because they can see
when it rings.”
“Of course, the product manager is the
person who makes the final call about a new
cell phone’s appearance and functions,” says
usability expert Groh. “But based on our find-
ings, we have a pretty good idea about what
people will like and won’t like.” Take the M55, for instance. Experiments
with a plastic model determined that the test
persons had problems with the planned de-
sign of the keys. “As a result, the keys were
slightly rearranged and the keystroke
lengthened,” Groh says (see photographs,
p. 64).
Customers in the Lab. A usability test begins
long before the first test participant takes a
seat in the laboratory — and it ends long af-
ter the last one has left. “We keep an eye on
consumers to see how and where they use the
the product in order to create typical user sce-
narios and demands,” says Stefan Schoen,
head of the User Interface Design Center at
Siemens Corporate Technology. Experts also
interview users. “What we’re after is to know
who does what, in which way, and with what
goal in mind,” says Schoen in summarizing
the catalogue of queries. The Soarian hospital information system
shows just how indispensable contact with
users is. To upgrade the system, medical doc-
tors from Siemens visit hospitals, where they
meet with physicians and other personnel
and discuss their needs. And this pays off. As
of September, 2003, over 50 hospitals had
ordered the software platform. With Soarian,
doctors can immediately sees what they
need to do with each patient. The most ur-
gent medical information is at the top of the
list. Physicians also have instant access to
We prefercandid answers rather than polite replies. Honest answers help developers
improve their products.
pen. But the words that are written don’t ap-
pear on that surface. Instead, they turn up on
a cell-phone display. During the test, a com-
puter monitor is used because the software
has not yet been integrated into the cell
phone. The stylus uses a sensor that is con-
nected to a complex electronic system, and
the system registers every movement before
New cell phones, including proto-
types, and accessories like input sty-
luses are tested (large photo) at
Siemens’ Usability Laboratory. Test
supervisors use video cameras to see
how a test participant manages with
the equipment (far right). model comes equipped with a function
called Dynamic Lights, which announces the
arrival of calls or text messages with a rhyth-
mically flashing red light signal that appears
both on the side and on the front of the
phone. “Interesting,” Tsotsokou announces
dryly. Bogacki tells her to try all of the various
blinking patterns and then let the researchers
I
t’s hard to measure the market potential of
user-friendliness. Experts agree, however,
that poor usability can hurt sales and that in
many cases a lack of user-friendliness in con-
sumer articles has a direct impact on ven-
dors’ balance sheets. Hard-to-use items can
lead to unmanageable demand for customer
support and overburdened hotlines, which
drive costs up and can cause sales to stag-
nate . “Companies that invest in user-friendli-
ness tap into considerable potential for in-
creased sales and cost savings,” says Frank
Heidmann of the Fraunhofer Institute for
Work Sciences and Technology Management
(IAO) in Stuttgart.
In 1999, for example, computer manu-
facturer IBM succeeded in increasing its on-
line sales by 400 percent after implementing
a uniform design for 200,000 of its corporate
webpages. PC producer Dell increased its av-
erage daily sales from $1 million to $34 mil-
lion by relaunching its website in 1999. Returns on usability are considerable in
the online sector. U.S. market research firm
Nielsen Norman Group, which specializes in
usability issues, estimates that companies
can make a product twice as user-friendly by
spending ten percent of the project budget
on improved usability. Furthermore, every
dollar that a company invests in the usability
of its websites produces a ten- to hundred-
fold return, according to IBM.
For non-online sectors, however, experts
are still struggling to measure the current
and future impact of high degrees of user-
friendliness on sales and profits. According to
a study conducted by market research firm
Frost & Sullivan, for example, suppliers of in-
telligent house-automation equipment and
software are likely to earn $399 million in Eu-
rope in 2009, a good 130 percent more than
in 2002. How much of that is the result of a
commitment to usability remains unclear,
however.
The Value of
Easy-to-Use
Products
U S A B I L I T Y
FAC T S AND F OR E C AS T S
Usability has also been an important con-
cern for years when it comes to developing
telecommunications products, automation
systems and medical devices. The focus is
normally on ease-of-use, clear user interfaces
and a high level of “learnability,” which to-
gether allow efficient and effective deploy-
ment of the technology. In 2004, for exam-
ple, Siemens Hearing Solutions will launch
Connexx 5.0, an improved software applica-
tion for adjusting hearing aids. The company
hopes the software will reach new target
groups. Part of the motivation behind this de-
velopment is the fact that, in many countries,
hearing aids are adjusted by dealers and not
by trained acousticians.
“With the new software, Siemens now
hopes to make the tuning of the devices eas-
ier for non-specialized hearing aid vendors,”
experience, many companies budget insuffi-
cient resources for this area, or none at all,”
says usability expert Kerstin Röse, who is an
assistant professor for user-centered product
development at the University of Kaiser-
slautern and president of the German chapter
of the Usability Professionals’ Association
(www.gc-upa.de). “In contrast to the PC and
online sector, many manufacturers of indus-
trial goods still view investments in improved
ease-of-use as a nice addition, but not really
necessary. And that’s a serious mistake,” says
Röse.
The software industry, on the other hand,
has known since the late 1990s that poor us-
ability costs the U.S. economy around $30 bil-
lion per year in productivity losses, according
to the Nielsen Norman Group. Manufacturers
hurt themselves not only by neglecting us-
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
65
Initial concepts Implementation Application
Cost of
changes
Number of
possible designs
says Stefan Schoen, head of the Siemens
User Interface Design Center. “We expect that the new software will
help us to increase our sales and profits,” says
Eduard Kaiser, product manager at Siemens
Hearing Solutions. “But,” he adds with a note
of caution. “It will be very difficult to quantify
the effect precisely, since other factors also
play a role.” Measuring Usability. Usually, however, com-
panies lack usability-related sales and cost
data. “But without figures drawn from past
ability entirely but also by attending to it too
late in the design process. “The later user-
friendliness changes are taken into account
during product development, the more ex-
pensive they are for a company,” says Fraun-
hofer expert Heidmann. Conversely, compa-
nies reap extra gains from considering
usability early. Indeed, as far back as the mid
1990s, renowned American usability consul-
tant Deborah Mayhew discovered that user-
friendliness testing helped reduce develop-
ment times at one U.S. company by up to 40
percent. Anette Freise
Requirements
analysis
Conceptual
design
Mock-ups and
prototypes
Implementa-
tion
Market launch
After product
launch
Usability engineering is possible
with user participation in all phases
1e
10e
100e
1,000e
10,000e
Time
The further along a project is, the greater is the investment required for improved
user-friendliness. On the other hand, getting usability experts involved early leads
more quickly to objective assertions about which product customers would accept.
(Euro figures on right are relative values.)
Source: Fraunhofer Institute for Work Sciences and Technology Management
each patient’s diagnoses. If the doctor deter-
mines that other examinations are needed,
the systemdraws up a list of the most med-
ically beneficial and economic approaches.
And, in a single step, the physician can make
notations in the patient’s electronic file and
prescribe medications. In all other software
products now on the market, the doctor can
do this only by jumping between two user in-
terfaces.
Siemens’ usability experts also take a crit-
ical look at products. In Connexx software,
for instance, which is used to fit hearing aids,
Schoen’s team recognized something at
once. Hearing-aid acousticians had to use ex-
ternal equipment in order to obtain examples
of sounds. In the new version, which will hit
the market in 2004, sound data for various
listening situations is built into the software.
The software also helps retailers select and
order the right hearing aids, and customers
can view pictures of the hearing aid as it
would look on them if they were wearing it. Selecting Test Candidates. The actual usabi-
lity test is conducted following a preliminary
examination. All previous results are used in
drawing up its concept, including the selec-
tion of test candidates, their backgrounds,
was too complex for use by dealers who did-
n’t have any specilized training. But trained
hearing-aid acousticians wanted to be able to
perform sophisticated fine tuning of the aids.
Today, both possibilities exist. One step al-
lows the hearing aid to be tuned auto-
matically to a great extent, with the dealer
having to enter fewer than ten parameters.
An additional step allows expert users to
work with the full spectrum of more than 50
parameters.
Good Grades. At the ICM usability lab, test
participant Tsotsokou has reached the end of
her interviews. She was the last of the 15
people tested. Now, Groh and his team will
get down to the job of evaluating the find-
ings. For the stylus, the usability tests prove
to be helpful. For one thing, the test group
gave high grades to the stylus on ease of use,
a finding that supports the decision to offer it
as an accessory. “People would like to use
something like this,” Groh says. “Data entry
even gives them a certain amount of plea-
sure.” All of the test persons tended to like
one particular design. Tsotsokou had a lot of
fun taking the test. “At the start, it seemed a
bit weird to me, like a real test,” she says. But
Groh pointed her in the right direction: “Just
tell yourself we aren’t testing you. You are
conducting tests for us.”
Norbert Aschenbrenner
U S A B I L I T Y
L AB OR AT OR Y T E S T I NG
64
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
The Soarian hospital information system is designed to handle the demands of a
clinic. Doctors and other medical staff know at once what has to be performed and
in which sequence. education and possible experience with pre-
vious versions of the product that will be
tested. “We invite about five people from each
target group to participate,” says Schoen. The
usability team uses the testers’ observations
and answers to create suggestions for im-
provements.How urgent are the changes
and what sort of costs will they generate?
Tests on Connexx software showed that it
Several models of the M55 cell phone were developed in an effort to make the lay-
out and keystroke length as ergonomic as possible.
66
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
For years, usability experts have been
preaching how products can be designed
to be more user-friendly. Yet many prod-
ucts are just as tough to use as ever. Isn’t
anyone listening?
Burmester:Product developers design de-
vices and their user interfaces. They make
decisions about functions. That is the tradi-
tional view, which still enjoys widespread ac-
ceptance. Usability engineering, on the
other hand, is all about the interests of the
user. But because of immense cost pres-
sures, usability is frequently not even
planned into the budget. In view of this, I
would place the blame for poor user-friendli-
ness on management. O.K. Cost pressures and managers who
give too little importance to usability are
the problem. But what’s the solution?
Burmester:People have to start coming to
the realization that technology has to be de-
signed with the needs and wishes of users in
mind, and not the other way around. The
leading American usability researcher, Don-
ald Norman, really got the attention of a
group of engineers when he told them dur-
ing an address that in the future they won’t
be the ones who define technology — that it
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
67
U S A B I L I T Y
I NT E R V I E WS WI T H E XP E R T S
Xelibri cell phones have been given an unusually sensual design. Some observers
even claim they will compete with jewelry.
will more likely be defined by social -
scientists. That’s the right direction. After all,
today’s primary concern is not to sort out
what is technically feasible. Instead, the fo-
cus is on figuring out what technology users
need and how they can best handle it. It’s
wrong to develop something and then start
asking what you can do with it. When prod-
uct managers shape their products the way
they think users would like them to be, bias
creeps in. If the image of the user is off-
base, the newly created products won’t suit
the needs of the target group. The products
have to be adapted to humans, and not the
other way around. You sound pretty negative. Hasn’t user-
friendliness improved at all over the last
few years?
Burmester:As an information designer, I’ve
seen considerable improvements in soft-
ware. A huge stride was taken about 20
years ago with the transition from alphanu-
meric representations to graphic surfaces,
and this improvement could be measured
objectively. Users made fewer mistakes and
could work more efficiently. Is the need for user friendliness growing?
Burmester:One of today’s biggest trends is
the transfer of computer intelligence into
more and more products. Computers are
now everywhere, networking is increasing —
in cars, at home, at work and in leisure activ-
ities.And the need for usability is growing
along with the complexity of technologies.
Usability researchers are wondering whether
technology could offer something more, like
enjoyment or fun.
Wasn’t that always a goal?
Burmester:Not necessarily. Ten years ago,
the dominant issue was the user’s ability to
get a good handle on the equipment and do
things like operate a video recorder better.
As far as research goes, we have this issue
behind us. But that is not the case for practi-
cal applications. Today, usability researchers
are asking themselves how the joy of use
can be systematically enhanced and lead to
products that will excite and captivate cus-
tomers — products that they like to work
with. The emotional aspect is playing a big-
ger and bigger role.
Is that a controversial issue among usability experts?
Burmester:Yes. The opponents of this way
of thinking are calling for rational thinking
and no emotions — at least when it comes
to software. I can understand such thinking
when you’re talking about running a power
plant or flying an airplane. But this rejection
is being applied to all products, and I don’t
think that’s right.
Still, isn’t there a risk of alienating users if
designers carry emotion too far? Pop up
figures, for instance, can be distracting.
Burmester:On this issue, I’m really cautious.
During our joy-of-use research, we learned
that it’s possible to do the absolutely wrong
thing. Comic figures that pop up on the
screen are considered to be totally out of
place when serious work is being done. They
make users feel that their work is being trivi-
alized.
Then how do you design products that
are fun to use?
Burmester:That’s something we still don’t
know today. All over the world, there are re-
searchers devoted to creating fun. They are
hunting for systematic approaches that
could be applied to products.
For example?
Burmester:There’s a birdhouse that uses
the learning principles drawn from behavior
research to teach birds how to sing the bird-
house owner’s favorite song. Such a product
doesn’t really have any purpose. It’s just a lot
of fun because it allows the user to have an
effect on his or her surroundings. Another
example is a study conducted by the Philips
company in cooperation with the Technical
University of Delft.It developed a pager with
the special feature of “sensuality” for young
women. Siemens’ Xelibri designer cell
phones are also heading in that direction. When it comes to the interaction be-
tween humans and technology, many
people are focusing on avatars that simu-
late a human contact person.
Burmester:You really have to think hard to
determine which fields of application are ap-
propriate for something like this. One thing
is certain. The trend is moving in the direc-
tion of making communications between
humans and machines more natural —
through language, through gestures and
through the computer’s ability to recognize
facial expressions in order to properly under-
stand things like ironic comments.
What are some other applications?
Burmester:Devices or software could be de-
signed in such a way that they would build
on everything that humans can already do
— things like interactive knowledge that the
user has already gained with other devices.
There are also metaphors that structure
information. Take a book, for instance. It’s
made up of a table of contents and chapters.
If I want to convey information by using the
metaphor of a book,I can draw on a lot of
knowledge that the user already has.
When it comes to global marketing, what
kinds of usability problems are develop-
ers facing?
Burmester:When I design with the user in
mind and pay attention to the user context,
then the user’s culture naturally flows into
the process. A cell phone for Germany should
ring softly because people don’t want to at-
tract attention. In China, on the other hand,
it can ring loudly because people want oth-
ers to know they own a cell phone. Product
developers should know target markets and
respond creatively to cultural differences.
For example, they could make products with
interchangeable modules that would alter
their characteristics depending on the mar-
kets in which they were used. What about the usability of products for
certain target groups, such as the elderly? Burmester:The EU’s recently released Se-
nior Watch study determined that informa-
tion technology products don’t address the
needs of older people.
Did that surprise you?
Burmester:No, it didn’t. The requirements
of this target group in terms of information,
functions and operation are disregarded
when many devices and applications are de-
signed. In the area of operation, designers
need to address people’s changing cognitive
abilities. We know, for instance, that as peo-
ple age they tend to become more careful
and methodical.
What does that mean for usability?
Burmester:Older people have to be given a
feeling of security when they operate a de-
vice. Some interactions simply work better
when they guide the user step by step. That,
by the way, is often also a very good strat-
egy for younger target groups. The result of
such an approach is that designers who keep
the needs of older people in mind are creat-
ing products that are suited to all age
groups. The major flops are the products
that were specially made for seniors. After
all, who thinks of himself or herself as being
old? So-called “design for all” grows out of
this experience. Unfortunately, we have not
Prof. Michael Burmester, 42, has been exploring the interactions between humans and machines since he completed his degree in psychology. After working at Siemens, he joined consulting firm User Interface Design GmbH (UID), where he is Manager for Research and Innovation. In addition, he
teaches ergonomy and usability in an information design course at the College of Media in Stuttgart.
Adapting Products
to People arrived there in practice, even though we
know how to improve the situation. Wouldn’t you be making yourself obso-
lete if all of your demands were actually
put into practice?
Burmester:We’ve also asked ourselves this
question. The answer is a definite “no.” Tech-
nology is undergoing constant change. In
addition, usability is increasing. More and
more, the design of interactions between
humans and technology is being driven by
individual human characteristics, wishes and
behavior patterns. User-interface researcher
Ben Shneiderman of the University of Mary-
land got it right when he said, “The old com-
puting was about what computers could do;
the new computing is about what users can
do.” If we keep that in mind, we still have a
lot of work ahead of us. Interview by Rolf Sterbak.
68
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
Designing Easy
Interfaces
A
group of experts is huddled around a PC,
discussing the control panel of a wash-
ing machine. “If we replace the control dial
with buttons, the options menu will have to
change,” says psychologist Julia Körner,
pointing to a flow chart on the computer
screen. “What about using two dials instead,
one for the temperature and one for setting
the wash cycles?” asks anthropologist Gitta
Rüscher. “That would significantly alter the
look of the control panel,” states designer
Claude Toussaint, who heads the Interface
Design Working Group at designafairs in
Munich. designafairs was created from Siemens’
Design Department back in 1997. It is in-
volved in the design of many products, in-
cluding most of Siemens’ cell phones and
planned UMTS devices. Other customers in-
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
69
into different cultural approaches.” When sug-
gestions have been made, Toussaint discusses
them with his team and can then see at an
early stage whether they are technically fea-
sible. Together with other interface designers,
he is ultimately responsible for the overall design of the control panels. Product Development Limits. But not every-
thing that makes ergonomic sense or is techni-
smart machines that can “talk” to smart
clothing. A transponder sewn into a silk
shirt, for example (see p. 16), could commu-
nicate the message that it should not be
spun. Alternatively, the machine could tell
the user: “I can wash your clothes quickly.
But if you’re not in a hurry, I can choose a
program that takes longer but uses less wa-
ter and electricity.” Michael Lang
U S A B I L I T Y
DE S I GNAFAI R S
Top:Julia Körner, Claude Toussaint and
Gitta Rüscher discuss washing machine
control panel designs. Below: Whether
you have simple dials or more complex
switches, the most important thing is
ease of operation. Blue LEDs or electrolu-
minescent film signal recommended or
previously set functions. clude automakers and manufacturers of
lamps and office furniture. At the moment,
Toussaint’s team is working on a uniform
control-panel concept for a range of washing
machines. “Our job is to suggest possible variations.
The customer will then decide which is best,”
explains Toussaint. His team relies on collab-
oration between many disciplines. The result
is that instead of being completed sequen-
tially, the steps in the product development
process are subject to continuous feedback.
Designers contribute their expertise as early
as the analysis phase, for example, while spe-
cialists in ergonomics are involved through-
out an entire project. Profiling Consumer Behavior. Still on the
subject of the control panel for the washing
machines, Rüscher explains that different
habits are prevalent in different countries. “In
Scandinavia, a high-speed spin setting is very
important, because otherwise it would take
too long to dry clothes made of thick materials
in the cool climate. People in southern Europe,
on the other hand, put more emphasis on
low-temperature programs,” she says. Based on existing norms, Rüscher is re-
searching how the options menu should be
structured, and how various dials should be
designed and where they should be placed in
order to make operation as effective as possi-
ble. Meanwhile, Körner is responsible for en-
suring that the options menus for new input
devices are structured in a logical way. “We’ve
shown the manufacturer how the hardware
correlates with the software,” she says. If a dial
is replaced by buttons, for example, the layout
of the menu changes too. Körner’s specialty is to find out how peo-
ple process information and solve different
tasks —but she sometimes has a hard time
convincing the engineers that they should en-
trust the design of an operation menu to a
psychologist. “At times, it’s like a collision of
two worlds,” says Rüscher. “The engineers like
to think they can do everything themselves.”
But their approach to problem-solving can
lead to machines that seem to have been built
only for engineers.
Körner offers another explanation as to
why many devices are not ergonomically de-
signed. In development laboratories, hardware
and software specialists often work separately,
without taking into account the fact that both
areas influence each other. “We don’t presume to claim that we know
how everyone thinks,” says Rüscher. “But
through our training, we’ve gained an insight
cally feasible makes it to the product develop-
ment stage. For instance, the client may im-
pose certain restrictions. Indeed, customer
habits and preferences naturally play an im-
portant role in product development.
Today’s problem of sorting the laundry to
take into account dozens of temperature,
washing and special settings, however, could
easily be simplified. “For instance,” says
Körner, “A door-mounted scanner would make
it extremely simple to sort clothing. The scan-
ner would simply read the symbols sewn in-
side each item. That would ensure excellent
results. But there are two problems with this
approach. First, many consumers are unlikely
to trust this kind of technology, at least at the
start. And second, a machine with just one
button would probably appeal to only a rela-
tively small, technophile target group — say
single men, for instance.
Consumers are also extremely interested
comes obvious just how complex they are.
“We need larger displays in order to commu-
nicate important information clearly,” says
Rüscher. Toussaint suggests using organic
LEDs, as this information could be presented
in color, making it as vivid as on a computer
screen (see p. 45). However, it will be years
before this technology becomes available at
a reasonable cost. In the mean time, elec-
tronic ink would be a viable alternative, “be-
cause it should be ready for large scale pro-
duction in 2004,” says Toussaint. Electronic
ink enables displays to be large and relatively
inexpensive. Furthermore, consumers will be
amazed when “writing suddenly appears on
an apparently normal product surface where
there are usually buttons. And this writing
will still be legible after the power is switched
off,” says Toussaint, who calls this the “magic
effect.” in washing machines that offer environmental
information, such as how much water and
power they use. But Toussaint notes that “Un-
fortunately, too little information on the con-
sumption patterns of various programs is of-
fered. Our task here is to create greater
transparency.”
Once Körner has come up with several
variations on the options menu theme, it be-
Smart Washing Machines. Toussaint’s aim
is for people and machines to communicate
with one another. “It’s already technically
possible to be notified via text messaging
when your washing machine has reached
the end of its cycle,” he says. “What I’d like to
see now is a washing machine that automat-
ically recognizes clothing and chooses the
correct program for it.” Toussaint envisions
Psychologists, anthropologists, designers and
engineers are working together at designafairs
to develop operating concepts that could make
all the difference for product sales.
70
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
An Internet for Everyone
K
laus-Peter Wegge strokes the keypad of
my cell phone. “The nubble on the ‘5’ is
in the right place — that must be one of the
newer models,” he says; and he’s right. My
Siemens S55 is in fact only a few weeks old.
You can also hear the acknowledgment tone
as soon as the phone is switched on, Wegge
observes. “With the first software release,
blind users didn’t know if the phone was on
or off, or when they should enter a PIN.”
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
71
U S A B I L I T Y
AC C E S S I B I L I T Y
Klaus-Peter Wegge heads the Accessibility team at C-LAB in Paderborn,
Germany. In 1994 he developed a pio-
neering Internet browser for the blind.
Wegge knows what he’s talking about.
Not only is he an IT specialist, he’s blind.
Wegge heads a small team at C-LAB, a joint
research and development laboratory run by
Siemens and the University of Paderborn in
Germany. Wegge’s team concentrates on ac-
cessibility, the quality that makes technology
easy to use for older and physically chal-
lenged users. It’s often the small things that
cause problems for the disabled when they
want to make a call or use a washing ma-
chine. A classic example was the lack of an
acknowledgment tone in the first S55 cell
phones. That’s something that just slipped
past the developers, Wegge surmises. To pre-
vent a repeat performance, Wegge, 43, has
built up a network with other disabled peo-
ple who report back to the Siemens Accessi-
bility Competence Center whenever they dis-
cover a hidden weakness in a product. For
instance, an acquaintance drew his attention
to the fact that in areas close to the German
border, there’s no way of knowing if a cell
phone has logged into a domestic network or
a more expensive one in the neighboring
country. “We’re working on a solution for our
next generation models,” says Wegge, leav-
ing open whether the answer is different ac-
knowledgment tones or simply blocking for-
eign networks. “We advise developers, but
we don’t tell them what to do,” he adds. Be-
sides, Wegge often comes up with solutions
as soon as he becomes aware that a problem
exists. Speaking of Text Messages. The specialists
from C-LAB are particularly proud of the in-
terface used in Siemens cell phones. It meets
all the standards and has also been incorpo-
rated, in a trimmed-down version, in the new
Siemens cordless Gigaset 5000 Micro. To
demonstrate, Wegge plugs a keypad the size
of a pair of glasses into my S55 and pushes a
few buttons. A female voice begins to read
out my saved text messages. “I hope you
don’t have anything obscene on this,” he says
with a grin. It was Wegge who caused a sen-
sation at the 1994 CeBIT computer trade fair
with an Internet browser that could convert
websites into simple text files, thereby mak-
ing them accessible to the blind via a Braille
display. When Siemens Corporate Technology
first set up the Access Initiative back in 1998,
Wegge was immediately asked to come on
board. Since then, he has been the com-
pany’s expert for technology oriented to the
needs of the disabled. And it’s an effort that
pays off. Wegge estimates that at least 65
percent of all blind cell phone owners use
Siemens phones. And that figure could in-
crease. The new SX1 can be equipped with
software from Switzerland’s Svox that reads
out menu items and text messages. At almost all Siemens Groups there is
now a contact person responsible for accessi-
bility issues. However, convincing them is not
always easy, says Wegge. Apparently, it’s
much easier to get an engineer interested in
a problem — and sometimes even carried
away — than a product manager who is of-
The needs of elderly and disabled people are playing an increas-
ingly important role in the development of cell phones, washing
machines and websites. But ease of operation benefits all users. ten skeptical about features that don’t seem
to be commercially viable. Here Wegge has a
persuasive response. “In Germany alone, ten
percent of the population is disabled in some
way or other. That’s eight million people. Can
you really afford to neglect them?” he says.
And as far as mass-produced goods are con-
cerned, Wegge also emphasizes the benefits
for the non-disabled. “Design for all” is his
motto. That such an approach bears fruit is evi-
denced by the new cordless Gigaset E150
phone from Siemens which was launched in
October, 2003. It was a project in which
Wegge’s team played a major role. The
phone features large keys, a louder handset
and ringing tone, an emergency call button,
and large print for the display. Says Wegge,
“It wasn’t always certain that the unit would
make it to the market.” But he is convinced
that the phone should not be marketed with
a “suitable for senior citizens or the disabled”
also want to have the latest technology. A
number of BSH household appliances have
already won the Breaking Barriers Award, in-
cluding the EK 79054 glass-ceramic range
top. The burners are positioned so that pans
don’t have to be lifted over one another
when being removed from the range. Ac-
cording to Stolz, the non-disabled also appre-
ciate pyrolytic ovens that clean themselves
and burners that automatically switch off as
soon as a pan is removed. BSH also has a
model kitchen at an exhibition staged by the
German Society for Gerontotechnology
(GGT) in Iserlohn. Throughout Germany, the
GGT currently has some 650 senior citizens
who test products for user-friendliness on be-
half of manufacturers. The tests are carried
out both at the exhibition, where they are
monitored by GGT engineers, and under
everyday conditions at home. Afterwards,
participants are asked to complete question-
naires about the products. Testers usually
tag, because that stigmatizes people and is
bad for sales.
“Universal design is there to serve every-
one, including the non-disabled,” says Profes-
sor Christian Bühler from the Research Insti-
tute for Technology to Help the Disabled in
Volmarstein, Germany. “After all, as far as hu-
mans are concerned, diversity is the norm.”
That’s why design that ensures easy opera-
tion is highly attractive to both young and
old, disabled and non-disabled. In fact,
achieving such designs is a process that
Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH (BSH),
which sells white goods, has refined into a
fine art. Right from the development stage,
checklists help ensure that products meet the
needs of the disabled. “But total accessibility
must not be allowed to affect functionality,”
warns Susanne Stolz, who develops stove ap-
plications at BSH. After all, disabled people
find fault with minor details, which are then
remedied in the development process. Some-
times, though, more substantial changes are
necessary. For example, while the large keys
on a phone won praise, the cable was con-
sidered bothersome. The manufacturer re-
sponded to the criticism by offering a cord-
less version.
Strict Regulations. Accessibility has become
a hot issue since legislation in the U.S. intro-
duced strict penalties for companies failing to
ensure that their products meet the needs of
the disabled, while also meeting the latest
technological standards. For example, if the
Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
were to determine that a Siemens cell phone
was incompatible with hearing aids, the
company would be automatically excluded
from bidding for public contracts in the tur-
Universal designserves everyone. The
“suitable for senior citizens” label stigmatizes the aged and is bad for sales. Supported by virtual characters, sophisticated devices will do
our bidding and adapt to our personal needs. These computer-
generated creatures will not only provide data and carry out
assignments;they will also live their own lives. Creatures in Computers
T
heir names are Cora, Liam, Cyberella and
Womble. They are small, globular and
green. They advise customers at banks and
call centers, guide visitors through ministries
and research institutes, and teach at schools
and universities. They can also read cell-
phone SMS messages out loud, as in the lat-
est development from Siemens Information
and Communication Mobile (ICM) in Munich.
But in spite of their many capabilities, their
speech comprehension is still limited and
only truly effective in narrowly defined con-
versational situations. Welcome to the
world of avatars, creatures
that exist only in com-
puters. They are as varied
as the tasks they perform. But
they have one thing in common:
They are all supposed to facilitate
access to systems and information. Originally, these creatures made
of pixels and polygons were in-
tended to act as the Internet chat
butterflies or just blow bubbles. Further-
more, in the not-too-distant future, Womble
will not only get mail but read it out loud —
with matching gestures and facial expres-
sions. Moreover, he is expected to play a ma-
jor role in a fun multimedia cell phone for
young people to be launched in the spring of
2004. Womble is made possible by a 3-D en-
gine that portrays a three-dimensional model
in real time and uses light and shadow to
bring it to life. Such engines are already built
into some cell phone games and could be
used to create avatars regardless of which
cell phone model is involved. E-Mail Avatars. Womble already works in
demonstrations. He acts as an interface to
identities of their flesh-and-blood counter-
parts. But today they prefer to romp around
in computer games and educational soft-
ware. The emotional, personal way in which
they address users, their independent lives
and, last but not least, the fun factor that
goes along with them, add zest to even
the driest topics. But
what’s really impor-
tant is that virtual as-
sistants can make it signifi-
cantly easier to operate a great
variety of devices and systems.
Whereas avatars are the “face” pre-
sented to the customer, the actual
work is performed by software
agents (see Pictures of the Future,
Developer Bernd Holz auf der Heide displays an avatar on a demonstration
model of the new SX1 cell phone.
72
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
USABILITY
AC C E S S I B I L I T Y
Older people place special demands on their surroundings. In Germany’s Sentha project,
which was devoted to household technology for senior citizens, a team of workplace re-
searchers, social scientists, designers and engineers worked together with senior citizens
to devise technologies that help seniors live more safely, comfortably and independently
(www.sentha.tu-berlin.de). The project, which ended in August 2003, was organized by
Berlin Technical University. Senior citizens, including retired Siemens employees, were
asked to test products with respect to user-friendliness and safety. One finding from the
“smart home” subproject, in which researchers from the University of Cottbus developed
a home communications network, was that well-designed touchscreens are better than
voice-activated control systems. Elderly test persons preferred menus with small symbols
— e.g., a light bulb to control the lighting — rather than text. Siemens Automation and
Drives contributed the installation technology for the smart home project, including an
EIB instabus control system. Older people give safety high priority, which means more
than just protection against break-ins. Detectors to report water damage, overheating or
smoke are also in demand. Also useful is a panic button that switches lights on through-
out a house, raises blinds and dials an emergency telephone number. Networked house-
hold appliances also offer enhanced comfort: “Are the potatoes still cooking? Did I switch
the coffee machine off?” Such questions can be easily answered by a quick glance at a
central display showing the status of appliances throughout the house.
WHY S E NI OR S VAL UE S AF E T Y
bine or medical technology sectors. “That’s
like making the whole family liable for some-
thing committed by one member,” says
Wegge. Not that Siemens has ever found it-
self in such a situation. But even well-inten-
tioned measures can miss the mark. While
drinking coffee in a fast-food restaurant at a
Chicago airport, he discovered something
written in Braille on the cup. But the cup was
so hot that he had burned his fingers before
he could read it. Later, when the cup was
empty, he was able to make out the warning:
“Careful, hot!” A nice thought, says Wegge. Sanctions are less drastic in Germany,
where the Equal Opportunities for the Dis-
abled Act has been in force since May 2002.
The law stipulates that the disabled must not
be excluded from using the Internet and
other technologies. “All federal agencies
must make their websites suitable for use by
the disabled by 2005 at the latest,” explains
Stefan Berninger from the “Web for All” asso-
ciation in Heidelberg. The organization ad-
vises companies and public authorities on
how to design their websites. For Berninger,
a wheelchair user, hindrances in the Web are
just like a high curb on the sidewalk: “It’s not
me who’s disabled; it’s what’s disabling me
that counts,” he says. Even seemingly minor
hindrances can become insurmountable ob-
stacles. For example, the instruction “Click
the red button” is of no use to someone
who’s color-blind — yet as many as eight percent of all men have this disability. A survey by the German Ministry of Eco-
nomics found that 43 percent of disabled
persons have legibility and navigation prob-
lems on the Internet. That’s regrettable given
that the Internet is an ideal means of contact
for many disabled and elderly people. In-
deed, around 80 percent of disabled people
use the Web. By contrast, for the population
as a whole, the proportion is only 50 percent.
Moreover, a truly accessible website needn’t
require more work to create, provided that
this is taken into account from the very be-
ginning. The people from “Web for All” rec-
ommend the use of style sheets that allow
design to be separated from content, which
can be listened to with voice software or read
via a Braille display. It’s also important that
pictures, logos and buttons should also be
equipped with text that appears when
clicked.
Exemplary Search Engine.Anna Courtpoza-
nis, who tests Internet sites at “Web for All,”
had to grin at the well-intentioned advice she
found on the website of a municipal utility:
“If you can’t see the text, please click here.”
However, Courtpozanis couldn’t see the text
or click the button because she’s blind. Less
than ten percent of all websites are gen-
uinely accessible to the blind, although 80
percent of them can be used with a little pa-
tience and experience. The Google search
engine is an exemplary site in this regard. On
the other hand, those sites where new win-
dows continually open of their own accord
are annoying. As Courtpozanis says, these
can be links to sex sites or simply advertising
that pops up. Back at C-LAB, Klaus-Peter
Wegge recently discovered a highly disabled-
friendly site for a chain of adult stores. He
grins: “Even so, it’s sites like these that really
make you regret being blind!” Bernd Müller
U S A B I L I T Y
V I R T UAL B E I NGS
Fall 2001, p. 50). The latter race through the
Internet like bloodhounds and search for in-
formation in databases, flight schedules, or
instruction manuals. They give their spoils to
avatars, who then present them to users.
“‘Living Characters’ is our expression for
assistants and avatars in the virtual world,”
says Bernd Holz auf der Heide, manager of
the Living Characters project and an expert in
user interface innovations at Siemens Infor-
mation Communications Mobile (ICM). Holz
Auf der Heide and his team were the first to
develop avatars that live in cell phones. No
later than next year, a cute, big-footed crea-
ture named Womble will hop, splash, pout
and make merry on the display of the
Siemens SX1 cell phone. Womble will make
using a cell phone more fun. For instance,
when the battery is recharging, Womble’s
body will display a rainbow of stripes. When
not in use, Womble will juggle balls, watch
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
73
and unneeded query structures are therefore
omitted. A user who knows the system and
specifies the necessary information in one
sentence gets the answer he or she needs
very quickly. In the case of ambiguous input, as is of-
ten provided by inexperienced users, the dia-
log engine simply requests more informa-
tion. A dialog interpreter also recognizes
when it can no longer provide help, and in
that case routes the caller to a human agent. Heide, who is a trained psychologist. Sight,
hearing, feeling — all of these human facul-
ties are addressed by virtual characters in or-
der to make it easier to operate equipment.
But to ensure virtual helpers don’t arouse our
displeasure, people have to be able to rely on
avatars and speak with them. Their actions
must be comprehensible, says Holz auf der
Heide. And yet, it is precisely their self-willed
personalities and their unpredictability that
exert a certain fascination, as is the case with
Because of the increasing complexity of
many systems, demand for user-friendly as-
sistance systems will continue to grow. Com-
puters in cars, stereos and video systems (see
box on p. 74) are only the beginning. Avatars
will one day recognize emotions, too, and re-
member the likes and dislikes of their users.
If a user is afraid of flying, for instance, a
train will be chosen when possible. And
when a restaurant is selected, the user’s pref-
erences will be weighed into the decision,
along with location and availability informa-
tion. Ideally, avatars will change their behav-
ior on the basis of experience. Avatars will also serve as an aid to inter-
personal communication. They could appear
on the cell phone display of the person you
are calling as a three-dimensional likeness of
yourself or some imaginary character and
smilingly accept an invitation to a concert,
for example. Technically, it is already possible
for someone to send their photo as an image
file to a software service on the Internet and
have the image transformed into an ani-
mated model. At that point the user will have
created a virtual twin of himself or herself (see
Pictures of the Future Spring 2003, p. 30).
Avatars can also acquire knowledge of
the real world via cell phone-mounted cam-
eras, microphones and sensors. Genuine in-
teraction is thus possible between humans
and virtual entities. “The Womble of tomor-
row will put on sunglasses, lick an ice-cream
cone and ask me whether I want one too.
And then he will show me the way to the
nearest ice-cream parlor,” says Holz auf der
Heide. “But the actual intelligence that makes
these actions possible in the first place
comes from the mobile network infrastruc-
ture. Today’s cell phones lack the computing
power to run the software.” And intelli-
gence is important because these virtual
characters have many applications. All in all, avatars will be able to relieve
us of so many routine virtual
world tasks that we will
probably have more
time to enjoy the
attractions of the
real world.
Birgitt Salamon
Sensors put an avatar in touch with the real world and allow genuine
interaction with humans.
When it comes to appliances such as
washing machines, ranges and refrigerators,
however, things are different. Since these
systems do not have a PC interface, it is diffi-
cult to integrate natural-language-based op-
erating instructions into their other controls.
“For the time being, the best solution for
such appliances is for the manufacturer to of-
fer a natural-language help desk of the sort
we’ve developed as a customer service,” says
Block.
How Much Personality?“Virtual assistants
always walk along a razor’s edge between ac-
ceptance and rejection,” says Holz auf der
human beings. They shouldn’t act on their
own authority too much, however, and non-
sensical questioning can be an annoyance,
according to the unanimous view of experts
and users. Since virtual assistants act on
behalf of their masters, security is a top
priority — particularly when it comes to
legally binding transactions. “But a digi-
tal signature ensures the authen-
ticity and integrity of the
agent, and the assistant
can be uniquely as-
signed to its user,” ex-
plains Kai Fischer, a secu-
rity expert at CT in Munich. Womble, the green pear-shaped
character, not
only reads out e-mail and helps
users, but also
plays around on the display
when nothing is
happening. An-
other avatar in
the form of a
young man helps
users get to
know the cell-
phone’s features. software agents; he reads messages from the
Internet and takes part in auctions on eBay.
By the same token, stars, news anchors and
stock market gurus could one day read out
their “breaking news” on cell phones, or
Michael Jordan could send a “personal” good-
bye to his fans. “It’s technically feasible , but
third-party service providers still don’t have
this technology,” laments Holz auf der Heide.
When this hurdle is overcome and the speci-
fications for avatars are standardized, it will
be possible to send them from a server to
many network users or from partner to part-
ner — the prerequisite for spreading them
further. Currently, a consortium led by
Siemens and Nokia is developing a standard
that will define all the current requirements
connected with the use of 3-D animations.
The preconditions for a world of avatars are
therefore taking shape. Smart Manuals.Wouldn’t it be nice, when
some device or appliance isn’t working, to be
able simply to call up a personal assistant
who would tell you what to do? Well, so-
called “natural-language dialogue systems”
are in fact already available. “We have a
voice-based user manual for the Hicom tele-
phone optiset,” says Dr. Hans-Ulrich Block, a
linguist from the Interaction Technologies de-
partment at Siemens Corporate Technology
(CT) in Munich. “The manual can be called up
for almost 200 pieces of support informa-
tion,” The system’s Virtual Call Center Agent
(ViCA) voice dialogue system, which he
helped develop, is designed to allow cus-
tomers or co-workers to access complex sup-
port services. All the caller has to do is to ask questions
in natural language. The system asks follow-
up questions in order to fill in any missing pa-
rameters. The caller is spared time-consum-
ing enumerations of options, such as, “For
yes, press one; for no, press two...” If the
question is, “How can I turn off the calling
signal?” the dialogue partner reacts with the
information unit “Calling Signal.” A reply
might be: “To turn off the calling signal for
your telephone, pick up the receiver and
press star 97.” At each stage of the dialogue,
the menu tree is dynamically recalculated,
U S A B I L I T Y
V I R T UAL B E I NGS
74
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
75
“Hi, Embassi,could you please put on ‘Out of Africa’?” A personal avatar appears on the
screen. “Of course,” it replies, and the digital video recorder starts to hum. A pie-in-the-
sky vision? “No,” says Thomas Heider, a computer scientist at the Fraunhofer Institute for
Computer Graphics in Rostock, Germany. “In the Embassi project’s model living room, it
already works.” Embassi — a German acronym that stands for “multimodal assistance for
infotainment and service infrastructures” — is a pilot project of the German Ministry of
Education and Research (BMBF). Heider worked for four years with other specialists on
new user-control systems for home electronics devices that can be operated by means of
gestures, facial expressions, text input or voice commands. The Embassi planning assis-
tant even develops strategies for multiple devices. It can, for example, adjust the room
lighting and TV screen brightness, and when a video title is called out, the system locates
the right media resource, adjusts the brightness and plays the film. But hurdles still exist.
If the word “dark” is spoken in conversation, for example, the lights shouldn’t go out.
Hence, users try to address the system with “Embassi, please...” (software components
can be downloaded at www.embassi.de/ open_ embassi/). At Siemens Corporate Technol-
ogy (CT) in Munich, Hans Röttger
is designing a multimodal commu-
nications booth for SmartKom-Pub-
lic, part of the SmartKom (www.
smartkom.org) project. Here, the
good old telephone booth will be
upgraded with a videophone, doc-
ument camera and Internet access.
Natural language, graphic-user in-
terfaces and gesture recognition
will make it easier to do things like
reserve movie tickets. In a natural-
language dialogue with an avatar,
users will be able to inquire about films, ask for directions, or reserve tickets. SmartKom
will use SIVIT gesture-recognition technology (Siemens Virtual Touchscreen) to replace the
mouse at some public information points. In 2002, an interactive shopping window (pic-
ture above) was tested in Düsseldorf. The technology allows customers to point to articles
in a display window to obtain information without having to go inside. The computer rec-
ognizes gestures via video camera and translates them into mouse clicks. Similarly, cars may eventually have computers that can be personalized, “but it will
probably be ten years before that happens,” predicts Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Rühl, who is
responsible for automotive voice module integration at Siemens VDO. A navigation sys-
tem designed by Rühl recognizes 2,000 words. In three years, it will probably be able to
recognized over 8,000. “In five years, drivers may be able to say: ‘destination Hamburg,
radio station FFN,’ without having to press a button or remember any special com-
mands,” says Rühl. But in a loud automotive environment, the system has to be far
more robust than systems built for home use. Voice recognition systems must listen to
the driver and not the children in the back seat. But Rühl is convinced that “in a few
years it will be possible to operate any infotainment, navigation or e-mail system in a
vehicle cockpit by voice.” S HAP I NG T HE E NV I R ONME NT WI T H WOR DS AND GE S T UR E S
76
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
Designs on Customers
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
77
U S A B I L I T Y
I NT E R V I E W
What have been the most important ad-
vances in computer games since you
broke into the field in the 1980s? Edmondson: The way we communicate
with computers is more or less the same
now as it was back then. Most players today
are still using a joystick or a mouse. But what
appears on the monitor is radically different
than in the ‘80s. Today it’s 3D imagery seen
from the perspective of the individual player.
That means that we now interact with a
game as if we were really an integral part of it, rather than just observing a representa-
tion.
What makes a computer game intuitive —
that is, easy to use?
Edmondson: Realism. The more realistic a
game is, the easier it is for players to antici-
pate the effects of their responses. In turn, it
Screen shots from Martin Edmondson’s hit computer game “Driver.” Players have to steer their vehicles in virtual scenarios — through
narrow streets, on country roads and as stunt drivers in a sports stadium.
Martin Edmondson, 35, founder of Reflec-
tions Interactive, released his first computer
game in 1984 — when he was still in grade
school. By the time his “Driver” game hit the
market in 1999, he was already considered
to be one of the world’s experts in his field.
Behind the huge success of his games — 8 million of which have been sold — is a com-
mitment to simplicity that many industrial
designers would be well advised to emulate.
Edmondson lives in Newcastle, England.
becomes possible to learn to play faster and
with more skill. That way people can sub-
merge themselves in the virtual world and
lose themselves in the game. Take auto rac-
ing games, for example. Today, when you
crash into a virtual lamppost, the structural
damage is very realistically depicted.
Does this account for the addictive effect
of games?
Edmondson: A player’s becoming “hooked”
has a lot to do with challenge and gratifica-
tion, but the usability, the sheer ease of play-
ing a game, also plays a big role. In the case
of auto racing, that’s obvious. If the car’s
steering doesn’t function perfectly and the
vehicle reacts a little unpredictably, players
will quickly be turned off. In my experience,
the way a game handles is usually even
more important than brilliant graphics.
How do you determine if a game is enjoy-
able to use?
Edmondson: To be quite honest, it’s almost
like black magic. Unfortunately, target-group
tests aren’t very reliable. There’s always one
test participant who likes the game while
someone else thinks it’s horrible. In other
words, we trust our instincts when testing
games.
What about everyday technologies? Are
there products that you would make more
user-friendly?
Edmondson: Cell phones. And especially
when I want to use the phone in a hurry and
need information fast. I find the user menus
of many cell phones complicated, and the
eye isn’t immediately drawn to the most im-
portant functions. It’s really a bunch of small
annoyances that I, as a game designer,
would never allow. My customers don’t want
to be aggravated; they want to have fun. Or
take, for example, video and DVD recorders.
They have so many small buttons and ob-
scure functions. I’d prefer to speak to the
device, to tell it: “Record this program at 12
o’clock.” I’m sure that’s how we’re going to
be using electronic devices maybe even in
just a few years. There are already computer
games that can be voice-controlled.
So industrial designers can learn from the
designers of computer games?
Edmondson: Yes, I’m sure they can, espe-
cially when it comes to device usability.
Industrial designers would do well to thor-
oughly analyze every game known for its
user-friendliness. They should try to figure
out which game features or functions could
be applied in practical devices for everyday
use. I say that as a software designer, as
someone who knows how easily these
things can work. Let’s consider navigation
systems, for instance. Voice-recognition
controls would be ideal. If these systems
had touch screens or could be controlled
with gestures, they could be used intu-
itively. It would be possible to just point to a
region, or a city or street, and continuously
zoom in. But unfortunately industrial de-
signers are often technicians, and they think
along the lines of their training — instead
of thinking about the human beings who
are supposed to eventually use a device.
Good design adheres to a philosophy that
treats the customer as the central factor.
I think it’s best when my customers can
start up a game without having to read the
instructions.
Are there any examples of industrial de-
signers learning from game designers? Edmondson: A few telephone companies
have contracts with the game industry. But
it’s unfortunate that the companies are only
loading little games into their cell phones —
instead of studying the games to learn how
cell phone use could be made more attrac-
tive for customers.
How important are feelings in usability?
Edmondson: For games they’re essential.
But they can also have a detrimental effect
with everyday devices. There were a few no-
table technical hybrids that were conceived
with the idea of using the emotional factor
to make boring objects exciting. For instance, we had the refrigerator with an
integrated television. Only no one could fig-
ure out what it was good for. You can’t load
your customers up with things that they just
don’t want. When I open my refrigerator, it
should be keeping my food cold. And my
washing machine should ensure that I’ve got
a supply of clean clothes. I don’t need these
appliances to address my feelings. Or would
you like your washing machine to make
jokes about your dirty underwear?
Interview by Andreas Kleinschmidt
Technologies should be designed to
meet user needs. The decisive factor in
usability is user interface (UI) design. A
good user interface often determines
whether a product becomes a success
or a failure. User interface experts must be
integrated into the development
process from the start. They can inter-
view and observe users,analyze pro-
ducts and conduct usability tests, gain-
ing insights into the way they should
design a user interface. Another impor-
tant factor is the interactive work con-
ducted by various disciplines, from psy-
chologists to designers and from
anthropologists to engineers. (pp. 59, 62, 68)
At Siemens Corporate Technology,
about 40 employees in Munich, Prince-
ton and Beijing are focusing on usabil-
ity. They are working on all phases of
user interfaces — from concepts to
prototypes to final implementation.
They are conducting their efforts in
close cooperation with usability ex-
perts from other units, like Medical
Solutions and Automation & Drives. (p. 62)
The future will create new chal-
lenges for usability. The operation of
devices will become multimodal,
meaning they can be controlled
through voice, gestures, keyboards or
remote controls. This will require development of new operating
interfaces. (p. 59, 62, 68)
The fun factor is playing a growing
role in product acceptance and eye ap-
peal. Personalized features are also be-
coming a major trend. Users can shape
their interfaces to a limited extent to
suit their individual tastes.
(p. 59, 73)
In the future, virtual characters will
be able to perform routine tasks and
intuitively direct the user. Starting in
2004, avatars will be included in new
Siemens cell phones.(p. 73)
Handicapped and older people have
special needs that developers will in-
creasingly have to take into considera-
tion when they design products. Help-
ful devices that are easy to operate
enable aging people to remain in their
own homes. (p. 70)
PEOPLE
CT User Interface Design Center:
Stefan Schoen, CT IC 7,
stefan.schoen@siemens.com
syngoand Soarian Software:
Claus Knapheide, SMED, Malvern, PA
claus.knapheide@siemens.com
ICM User Interface Design Center:
Lutz Groh, ICM
Lutz.groh@siemens.com
Living Characters:
Bernd Holz auf der Heide, ICM
Bernd.hadh@siemens.com Language Dialogue Systems:
Dr. Hans-Ulrich Block, CT IC 5
hans-ulrich.block@siemens.com
Gesture Recognition:
Hans Röttger, CT IC 5
hans.roettger@siemens.com
Biometrics:
Dr. Bernhard Kämmerer, CT IC 5
bernhard.kaemmerer@siemens.com
Interface Design:
Axel Platz, CT IC 7
axel.platz@siemens.com
Claude Toussaint, designafairs
claude.toussaint@designafairs.com
Accessibility:
Klaus-Peter Wegge, C-LAB wegge@c-lab.de
Prof. Michael Burmester, Hochschule der Medien, Stuttgart
burmester@hdm-stuttgart.de
The Embassi Project:
The Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics (IGD), Rostock, Thomas Heider
theider@rostock.igd.fhg.de
LINKS
Society for Technical Communication:
www.stcsig.org/usability
U.S. Government usability website:
www.usability.gov
Usability Professionals Association:
www.upassoc.org
Accessibility at C-LAB:
www.c-lab.de/home/de/offers/services/
AccessibilityCompetenceCenter.html
The WebforALL association:
www.webforall.info
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Lidwell, Will, et al,
Universal Principles of Design, 1000 Ways to Influence Usability
Rockport Publishers, (2003)
Jakob Nielsen,Usability Engineering, Morgan Kaufmann Publishers (1994)
In Brief…
Siemens is using cutting-edge semiconductor technology to bring new life to high voltage direct current transmission technology — and
to efficiently transmit renewable energy over greater distances. test facility was destroyed during the war,
and Soviet forces dismantled sections of the
other link for use in a test facility outside
Moscow. In Germany, researchers didn’t resume
work on HVDCT until 1963, when they began
experimenting with new silicon-based con-
verter valves. The first big contract came in
1969 when Portuguese engineers began
considering how to transmit electricity pro-
duced at the Cahora Bassa hydroelectric
plant in Mozambique to Johannesburg,
South Africa, 1,420 kilometers away. That
was quite a feat. Even now, few transmission
routes stretch that far.
Deciding on Thyristors. Siemens, which,
among others, contributed to the project,
suggested a risky approach. Its engineers
wanted to use a recently developed semicon-
ductor element, the thyristor, in place of mer-
cury-arc valves. There were two basic reasons
for the suggestion. Arc valves were expensive
to produce and were not always trouble-free
in operation. When control problems oc-
curred, they could even destroy transformers
and cable as a result of the huge amounts of
energy involved. In fact, that was one reason
for the power utility’s doubts about high volt-
age direct current transmission. International
experts rejected the plan at first. “They didn’t
even want to discuss the idea of thyristor
valves,” says Arnold Hofmann, then general
representative for Siemens-Schuckertwerke,
in his report. Only after Sweden’s ASEA with-
drew from the project were Siemens techni-
cians allowed to introduce “their” semicon-
ductor valves.
A total of 48 double valves rose into the
sky, outfitted with 48,384 thyristors. Such a
large number was necessary because of the
relatively low load capacity of thyristors at
the time. However, the engineers' boldness
paid off. The system worked exceptionally
well. Once Cahora Bassa entered service,
people no longer wanted mercury-arc based
valves for their HVDCT systems. And as the
capacity of semiconductors rose, engineers
were able to cut the number of thyristors
needed. This, in turn, resulted in more
HVDCT orders. Thus, in 1984 Siemens re-
ceived an order from Canada and another in
1987 from the U.S. Today, the company is
working on the 3,000-megawatt Gui-Guang
project in China. The project is scheduled to
be completed in 2005 and will require only
3,744 thyristors.
Back in the 1980s, HVDCT was an exotic
creature for the energy utilities, which were
accustomed to using alternating current. But
rising energy prices and growing environ-
mental awareness increased pressure to use
all types of energy resources, especially hy-
dro power. Since the late ‘90s, HVDCT has
been experiencing a boom. Between 1993
and 2002, Siemens completed seven major
projects in Europe, Asia and the U.S., includ-
ing the 1,800-MW Tianshengqiao to
Guangzhou link in China and the East-South
Interconnector II in India, which transmits
2,000 MW over a 1,400-kilometer network.
In 2001, Northern Ireland was hooked up to
Scotland via a 64-kilometer submarine cable,
and an HVDCT submarine cable is now being
78
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
More Power to You!
PI CTURES OF THE FUTURE
P OWE R T R ANS MI S S I ON
Y
ou can’t just pull a kilowatt off the shelf.
Once produced, electrical energy has to
be used. Short-term storage is expensive,
while long-distance transmission requires in-
telligent solutions, otherwise insufficient
amounts of usable energy come trickling out
at the end of the line. The high-voltage alternating-power
transmission systems whose towers dot land-
scapes do the job of connecting regional net-
works. The voltage alternates its polarity 50
to 60 times per second, just like power from
a wall socket, but it is much higher because
the losses produced by heating of the con-
ductor climb as increasing amounts of cur-
rent flow. Because the consumer is only in-
terested in power — the product of voltage
and current — these losses can be drastically
reduced if the voltage is transformed to a
much higher value. The current then sinks
accordingly. There is just one problem: Over
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
79
HVDCT is much more complex than normal alternating-current high-voltage transmission.
On the other hand, it has some major benefits. Here’s why:
➔ It is the only way to transmit electricity economically over great distances. For over-
head lines, HVDCT is worthwhile at distances circa 600 km. For submarine cables, it
is competitive from around 50–60 km and the only solution for long distances;
➔ HVDCT line costs are lower than for conventional overland electricity lines because only two conductors have to be used instead of three (for three-phase current). The towers can also be more slender;
➔ All alternating current losses, both inductive and capacitive, are eliminated;
➔ There is no phase shift between current and voltage. With alternating current, this
flaw has to be eliminated using controlling elements in an energy-intensive process. ➔ In direct current, electrons use the entire cross-sectional conductor area; in alternat-
ing current, they flow only in a thin layer on the conductor’s surface;
➔ HVDCT is the only way to connect technically incompatible electricity networks with
different control procedures and network frequencies — an important factor in
places like India, which has four incompatible regional networks; ➔ With its ability to quickly regulate power, HVDCT helps stabilize the existing three-
phase current networks that it connects. THE ADVANTAGES OF HIGH
-
VOLTAGE DIRECT
-
CURRENT TRANSMISSION
laid between Australia and Tasmania. “HVDCT
took more than half a century to evolve from
an exotic idea into a reliable product,” says
Mukherjee. For projects in the 100-million- to
300-million-euro range, HVDCT is now a
profitable business, in which Siemens has
captured about 40 percent of the market.
Since 1995, Siemens has been backing
another innovative technology: light-con-
trolled semiconductors. “Our new thyristors
are no longer operated using a current
pulse,” says Hans-Peter Lips, technical direc-
tor at PTD. “We now use a 10-milliwatt laser
flash.” Costly electromagnetic screening and
control elements are no longer needed. The
controller is located well away from the high-
voltage section, to which it is connected by a
fiber optic cable. “This has allowed us to cut
the number of electronic parts in the valve by
80 percent,” says Lips. The valves are easy to
maintain and have an expected life span of
more than 30 years, which is why they are
used in all of Siemens’ new HVDCT facilities.
And there’s more good news. Transmittable
power is expected to rise from today’s maxi-
mum of 2,000 to 3,000 megawatts to as
much as , 5,000 MW in the near future — if
that is what the market requires.
Bernd Schöne
ated using alternating current, are subject to
substantial losses when they reach a length
of 60 kilometers,” explains Asok Mukherjee
from Siemens Power Transmission and Distri-
bution (PTD) in Erlangen.
As a result, many countries are turning to
a modern version of a technology that has
been around for a long time: high-voltage di-
rect-current transmission, or HVDCT. With
HVDCT, direct current flows through a cable
(without alternating) just as in a battery. The
first electricity transmission in 1882 em-
ployed direct current. Back then power was
transmitted from the town of Miesbach, Ger-
many to an electricity exhibition in Munich.
Sixteen years earlier, Werner von Siemens
had built the first dynamo, which marked the
birth of power-current technology.
But HVDCT has its price. It doesn’t just
need two transformers, as alternating cur-
rent does. Instead, the current has to be recti-
fied at one end of the connection and con-
verted back into alternating current at the
other. This is performed by converter valves,
which switch through segments of the same
polarity in rhythm with the three-phase cur-
rent, thus converting alternating current into
direct current. At the other end, they “chop
up” the direct current in synch with the net-
work frequency.
In 1933, Siemens’ dynamo plant sup-
plied the first commercially usable mercury-
arc rectifier. A four-megawatt test facility was
subsequently opened in Berlin, and a com-
mercial 60-MW link was built between
Vockerode on the Elbe River and Berlin. The
long stretches, the electrical oscillation
phases of current and voltage begin to drift
apart, which causes losses in the amount of
useable electricity.
Such transmission losses restrict the
kinds of energy sources that can be used. In
Asia, for instance, major industrial areas are
situated far from hydroelectric power reser-
voirs. And in Europe many people would like
to use the solar radiation of the Sahara to
produce electricity. But “alternating current
networks that stretch over more than 1,000
kilometers are not economical,” notes Michail
von Dolivo-Dobrowolsky, one of the pioneers
of electrical engineering. Furthermore, this
problem is even more acute for submarine
cables, such as those that connect islands
with the mainland. “Such cables, when oper-
Earthquake-resistant thyristor valve
towers used in HVDC transmission
lines in China (below) and an 1882 di-
rect-current transmission line (right).
Once a year, Siemens honors
outstanding employees for
their patent registrations
with the “Inventors of the
Year” award. The prize win-
ners (usually 12 in number)
are chosen from thousands
of researchers and develop-
ers throughout Siemens.
About 600 inventions are
credited to last year’s 12
winners alone. Representa-
tive of this impressive
achievement are two inven-
tors responsible for impor-
tant advances in the fields of
multimedia mobile commu-
nication systems and sensor
technology.
Antennas that Combine
Their Signals
80
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
PI CTURES OF THE FUTURE
R E S E AR C HE R S AND PAT E NT S
PATENTS
W
ith more than 230 million cell phone customers, China is the world’s biggest mobile
communications market. Considering this, Siemens has not only chosen Shanghai
as its second worldwide production location for UMTS technology, it is also jointly develop-
ing the TD-SCDMA 3G standard with Chinese partners. This mobile communications stan-
dard makes it possible to use one common network to provide data services that are just as
economical as audio and video services. TD-SCDMA increases system capacity (fewer base
stations for the same number of users) and makes fewer demands on cell-phone signal
A
rtificial “eyes” with the capacity for de-
tailed spatial vision could some day help
to prevent traffic accidents or make alarm de-
vices more reliable. Thanks to an innovative
measurement principle developed by Dr. Pe-
ter Mengel and his team in cooperation with
Stefan Bahrenburg is developing the building blocks of multimedia mobile communications at Siemens in Shanghai.
A sensor from Dr. Peter Mengel and
his team can detect object locations
with an accuracy of one centimeter.
processing. Dr. Stefan Bahrenburg
played a vital role in the design of this
standard and is a driving force behind
its continued development. One of his
latest projects is the adaptation of
smart antenna technology to TD-
SCDMA requirements. Smart antennas
consist of a number of antennas that
automatically combine their signals
into an optimal transmission/reception
beam and are focused, so to speak, on
the receiver. The advantage is a greater
range for base stations and improved
reception quality, even in high-speed
vehicles. Laser Flash Detects Distance
are currently testing possible applications for
the 3D sensor. One of the first systems suit-
able for large scale production could be an
intelligent airbag that triggers and orients it-
self according to the sitting positions of dri-
ver or passenger.
the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic
Circuits (IMS) in Duisburg, Germany, cost-ef-
fective mass production of such sensors is
nearly within reach. In daylight or the dark of
night, and at distances up to 30 meters, the
new 3D sensor requires only a few thou-
sandths of a second to accurately detect the
location of objects to within one centimeter
— even if they are moving rapidly. This per-
formance is made possible by light-sensitive
semiconductor components (CMOS image
converters). The sensors have extremely
short exposure times (a few millionths of a
second), which are exactly synchronized with
a controlled laser-flash illumination. The sen-
sor simultaneously measures the laser-flash
light reflected from the detected object for
some 1,000 pixels. Using the times it takes
the reflected light to arrive, the chip calcu-
lates a spatial image. Mengel and his team
T H E VA L U E OF P AT E N T S
In 1995, Siemens launched a patent initiative
aimed at increasing the number of inventions an-
nounced by the company. By establishing the “In-
ventor of the Year” award (see related stories on
this page), the company succeeded in significantly
improving the image of innovation within
Siemens. The number of patent registrations each
year has actually doubled since then. Meanwhile,
the focus has shifted slightly. Today, efforts are di-
rected at further improving the quality and the
value of patents. One method of measuring
progress here is provided by the value of license
exchange contracts with other companies. License
agreements prevent other companies from
launching patent attacks. If this form of protection
did not exist, a certain percentage of sales would
have to be set aside to cover license costs. Seen in
this way, Siemens’ intellectual property has pro-
duced a significant yield, whose value has also
nearly doubled in recent years. With over 40,000 patents worldwide,
Siemens has a strong competitive posi-
tion. But is the number of patents the de-
cisive factor?
Büttner:Such a large portfolio of patents
does represent a form of protection against
competitors and serves as a valuable form of
currency for things like license exchange
contracts, company takeovers and sell-offs.
In order to raise the quality of our patents,
improve their usage and optimize the regis-
tration process, we have joined forces with
the Siemens Groups to launch IP
+
projects.
Given the fact that we reformulate our entire
portfolio of patents roughly every five to six
years, we are talking about some 7,000 in-
ventions that have to be registered every
year. The key patents in this process are
what we call golden nuggets.
What do you consider to be a key patent?
Büttner: These are patents that guarantee
us the long-term opportunity to apply key
technologies without interference. They also
prevent competitors from entering a certain
business sector without paying a license fee.
They are basically patents that the competi-
tion can not circumvent. One special aspect
of these patents is that they’ve been includ-
ed in an international standard or have set a
defacto standard. In the area of mobile com-
munications, for instance, our “GSM/GPRS
portfolio”’ has a series of such key patents.
But I would say this group of patents also includes ideas that can be used far beyond
Siemens’ current requirements.
For example?
Büttner: I’m thinking of things like long-dis-
tance maintenance and remote service.
These patents describe, for instance, how a software product can be updated over a
long-distance line or how fault diagnosis
can be conducted without sending techni-
cians to the local site. Such technologies
can be used for power plants, industrial facilities, hospitals and communications facilities. They combine cost savings with
major benefits for the customer, creating
competitive advantages as a result. Other
examples are patents for control engineer-
ing, network management and operator interfaces.
Can you plan the development of key
patents?
Büttner: Yes. That is also part of our IP
+
ini-
tiative with the Groups. During an “Inven-
tion-on-Demand’’ workshop, the Power Gen-
eration Group determined the areas where
additional lines of defense against important
competitors need to be added. This work-
shop alone produced 200 invention an-
nouncements. By the way, that’s not nearly
as difficult as it sounds: It’s frequently a
question of intelligently combining known
technologies into new functions that no one
has thought of before. Things like micropay-
In Search of Golden Nuggets
Dr. Winfried Büttner is head of Corporate Intellectual Property and Functions.
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
81
PICTURES OF THE FUTURE
I NT E R V I E W
ment with remote service or the utilization
of certain elements from the world of
speech communication in the Internet. We
have a high level of innovative potential —
in other words, we want to pan golden
nuggets from the minds of our employees.
Our job is to challenge these creative minds
and point them in the right direction.
What about the fact that the value of
patents can change as the technological
landscape evolves?
Büttner: That’s why we reassess our patents
once a year to determine how they measure
up in comparison with the competition, in-
ternational standardization processes and
synergy potential. That’s in addition to evaluating them in terms of “Pictures of the
Future” predictions. Here, the focus is on
those technologies that will have a signifi-
cant impact on our future business. And every business sector develops its
own patent strategy?
Büttner: That’s necessary — naturally within
a corporate IP strategy that establishes basic
rules. Such a strategy must also expand
Siemens’ patent position — particularly with
regard to trend-setting technologies and
Siemens-wide cross-sectoral technologies.
It’s a fact of life that the patent strategy for
the automotive sector has to be different
from the strategy for the medical technology
sector. In the medical area, we primarily em-
ploy our very strong IP position to stay ahead
of the competition. In the automotive sector,
on the other hand, our customers — the au-
tomakers — want to buy this competitive
protection with the product itself. In other
words, it has to be patented. Then there are
areas with major service activity where
patents for the design of a process or the organization of a business model are impor-
tant. Particularly in the United States,
patents play a major role with regard to soft-
ware, processes and, increasingly, business
models. With the establishment of a task
force for first registrations in these areas, we
are giving new protective cover to our innov-
ative ideas in the U.S. market. Interview by Ulrich Eberl
IP stands for intellectual property
R E C Y C L E D W O R L D
Tomorrow’s key technologies are automatic
information processing and knowledge gen-
eration. But what can processes like data
mining, search engines and smart filters
really do? Will computers actually draw
conclusions? What are the implications of
an Internet that becomes mankind’s primary
knowledge pool? How will we meet these
challenges — by becoming life-long learn-
ers, forming worldwide communities online
and redefining the work-life balance?
The world is finite — in terms of raw materi-
als, usable energy and what the environ-
ment can bare. The question is: can increas-
ing levels of efficiency keep extending the
limits of growth? What technologies will al-
low us to exploit previously unreachable en-
ergy resources? How can raw materials and
energy sources be used in a more efficient
and environmentally-friendly way? How can
the emission of pollutants be reduced or
even eliminated? And what innovations can
open the way to reducing overall consump-
tion of energy and raw materials?
Around the world, people continue to pour
into cities. But what will the megacities of the
future have to do in order to provide their resi-
dents with a high quality of life? What solu-
tions to traffic problems will be available —
from driverless trains to traffic management
and intelligent mobility services? Can new
technologies ensure the supply of raw materi-
als and the environmentally friendly disposal
of its wastes? In short, how will people live in
the tomorrow’s cities?
THE KNOWLEDGE SOCI ETY
T O M O R R O W’ S C I T I E S
PI CTURES OF THE FUTURE
P R E V I E W
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PICTURES OF THE FUTURE
F E E DB AC K AND S E R V I C E
Published issues of Pictures of the Future:
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
8382
P i c t ur es of t he Fut ur e | Fal l 2003
Publisher: Siemens AG Corporate Communications (CC) and Corporate Technology (CT) Wittelsbacherplatz 2, 80333 Munich For the publisher: Dr. Ulrich Eberl (CC), Dr. Dietmar Theis (CT)
ulrich.eberl@siemens.com, dietmar.theis@siemens.com
Editorial Office:
Arthur F. Pease (afp) Editor-in-Chief Dr. Ulrich Eberl (ue) Editor-in-Chief German Edition
Dr. Norbert Aschenbrenner (na) Ulrike Zechbauer (uz)
Additional Authors in this issue:
Victor Chase, Anette Freise, Bernhard Gerl, Andreas Kleinschmidt, Dr. Michael Lang, Sebastian Moser, Bernd Müller, Dr. Birgitt Salamon, Peggy Salz, Bernd Schöne, Tim Schröder, Rolf Sterbak, Dr. Sylvia Trage, Dr. Evdoxia Tsakiridou, Guido Weber Picture Editing: Judith Egelhof, Julia Berg
Photography:Kurt Bauer, Bernd Müller, Volker Steger
Layout / Lithography: Rigobert Ratschke, Büro Seufferle, Stuttgart
Illustrations:Natascha Römer, Stuttgart
Graphics:Jochen Haller, Büro Seufferle
Translations: TransForm GmbH, Cologne
Printing: BechtleDruckZentrum, Esslingen
Printed in Germany. Reproduction of articles in whole or in part requires the permission of the
editorial office. This also applies to storage in electronic databases, on the
Internet and reproduction on CD-ROM.
For further information: www.siemens.com/pof
Picture Credits: Frans Lanting / mindenpictures (8, 9 l.), Bernd Müller / Ver-
lagsgruppe Weltbild (9), BMW press picture (11), Garry Weber press picture /
Siemens AG (16), SSi Schäfer Noell (22-23), Airport Munich GmbH / Werner
Hennies (24), Yanghai Tsin / Carnegie Mellon University (30-31), Park Hotel
Weggis (38), Bartenbach Lichtlabor / Peter Bartenbach (44, 49, 50), Knut Lang-
hans / felix3d (52), EnOcean GmbH (54), designafairs (68 b., 69), Reflections
interactive (76 b.), private (26, 43, 76), The German Museum, Munich (79).
Copyright of all other images is held by Siemens AG. © 2003 by Siemens AG. All rights reserved. Siemens Aktiengesellschaft
Order number:A19100-F-P94-X-7600
ISSN 1618-5498
The content of the reports in this publication does not necessarily reflect the
opinions of the publisher. This magazine contains forward-looking state-
ments, the accuracy of which Siemens is not able to guarantee in any way.
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