Smart People: Interview with Dr. Myriam Jahn, CEO of Q-loud

Dr. Myriam Jahn Q-loud: Not many Companies Can Do that

Q-loud was formed in 2016 as a spin-off from QSC, the large German broadband and data center operator, but you remain part of the QSC family – why?

Because QSC has seen that IoT is the future – not just for the industry but for the company. QSC has three verticals: cloud computing and data centers, ERP consulting, and Q-loud as the industrial Internet of Things provider. Together these are perfect to support and enable the new business models of the German Mittelstand – the medium-sized companies in engineering and manufacturing that are the backbone of the German economy.

Germans, of course, see things differently to the rest of the world. While many people talk about the third industrial revolution, why do Germans like to talk about Industry 4.0?

The companies in Germany engaged in operational technology (OT) – electrical engineering and automation, for instance – are the ones already driving Industry 3.0, the third industrial revolution. For them, this is really a new industrial revolution, namely the bringing together of IT and OT as the fourth one.

Your mission statement at Q-loud is We Connect Things. Please explain.

Connecting things doesn’t look all that difficult. Hooking sensors up to IT shouldn’t be that hard, don’t you think? But the deeper you go, the harder it gets. Wireless or cable? How much data do we have to handle? A typical machine tool nowadays produces up to 70 terabytes of data per year – and that’s just a single machine. Besides all this, there aren’t just physical connections, there are also software connections and very real physical constraints for them. That makes stuff really tricky.

Hooking sensors up to It shouldn’t be that hard, but the deeper you go, the harder it gets.

Dr. Myriam Jahn

Smart People: Gabrielle La Rue,  Q-loud - IoT startup


What are the biggest obstacles today to making IoT happen in enterprises around the world?

Communication. There are companies that understand the IT world, but they know nothing about the OT world, and vice versa. IoT is about bringing the two together. There aren’t very many companies that can speak both languages and provide solutions for both sides.

There don’t seem to be many female CEOs in IoT companies. Why is that?

I can only speak for Germany and, here, less than 10 percent of students enrolling in engineering or technology are women. If understanding both the IT and the OT world is crucial for being a CEO, you need a good scientific background and there aren’t many women around who fit the bill.

Do women have a different approach to IoT than their male colleagues?

Definitely! In order to understand the strange but exciting world we are entering into right now, you have to be able to listen a lot. Listening – pardon the cliché – is not exactly the biggest strength of most of my male colleagues.

Your bosses at QSC are men. Is that a problem?

No, not at all because they think in terms of business administration. That’s pretty neutral. They have the strategic perspective and they leave the technical details to me.

Where will IoT be in, say, 2030?

That’s a good one. Will there even be anything called IoT anymore? I think there will be a new layer within industrial IoT which will be Edge Computing. Both IT and OT are coming together right now out there on the edge, and this will replace the way we think about IoT.

Most managers, especially at medium-sized companies, worry that IoT introduces new threats and risks. What do you say to them?

We will solve that problem – because we have to. IoT needs end-to-end security; security on the shop floor and security all the way to the cloud. This is completely different to securing a data center. Blockchain will play a big role here, for example, in linking both edge and cloud in a secure fashion.

Would you agree that establishing trust in IoT should be the first priority?

That’s the most important challenge we face. It’s also the reason the IT and the OT worlds still speak different languages. You know, according to the very strict German data protection laws, machine-generated data belong to the operator of the cloud where they’re being stored. That’s unbelievable because, with AI and self-learning algorithms, the USP [unique selling point] of every machine will rest in the cloud. That makes it absolutely essential that there is trust between the cloud operator on the one hand and the machine builder on the other. Only this way will new business models for the Industrial IoT thrive.

The Smart People 1/2019


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