Digital thought leadership

What we do and what you can learn from it

Your contact

Dr. Anna Schwan

Management Board Member for Communication & Marketing | Hamburg@work


New digital world

Innovations & impacts




Glossary

Digital transformation terminology

Agents are “intelligent” computer programs that observe their environment in a target-oriented manner and initiate actions to achieve their goal. The agent goes about this task autonomously and reacts to its environment. Simple examples here are thermostat controls and also autonomous vacuum cleaners.
Augmented reality refers to computer-assisted perception in which real and virtual worlds intermix. Information in the form of graphics or text is superimposed on what is currently being viewed in real time. The possible applications range from information on the immediate environment, via navigation, to games.
Originally developed by Apple, the iBeacon system refers to small devices that communicate via Bluetooth low energy with portable electronic devices over short distances. One field of application for this technology, for example, is tracking within enclosed spaces.
Big data refers to large quantities of data that come from areas such as Internet and mobile telephony, the finance industry, the energy business, healthcare and transport and from sources such as intelligent agents, social media, credit and customer cards, smart metering systems, assistance devices, surveillance cameras as well as aircraft and vehicles and which are stored, processed and evaluated with special solutions.
The term blended learning, also known as hybrid learning, refers to the combination of classical teaching elements associated with presence and the methods of self-tuition using electronic aids such as Internet-based tutorials or exercises. Blended learning has now become the usual form of teaching at modern higher education institutions and in large companies.
Blockchain refers to the fundamental technology and also the key innovation of the bitcoin cryptocurrency. The blockchain represents a decentralized database that exists in the network between a large number of computers. A consensus mechanism used by all computers verifies the legitimacy of transactions and work in progress.
The brain-computer interface is used to describe systems that enable a direct dialogue between humans and machines. Electrodes attached to the scalp measure the electrical activity of the user’s brain. These data are then amplified and transmitted to the computer, which converts them into technical control signals.
Chatbots or bots are computer programs that communicate with users via text or sound. Often the intention is to simulate human conversational behaviour, but there are also chatbots that only react to certain input commands. Admittedly, chatbots are technically related more closely to full-text search engines than to artificial intelligence but, due to the constant growth in data stocks and higher computing performance, they are increasingly able to offer intelligent dialogues.
Cloud computing contains technologies and business models for the dynamic provision of IT resources and the billing of their usage by flexible payment models. Instead of operating IT resources such as servers or application in the company’s own computing centres, they are provided in a needs-oriented and flexible manner in the form of a service-based business model via the Internet or an intranet. This type of provision is leading to an industrialization of IT resources, comparable with the supply of electricity. By using cloud computing, companies are able to reduce long-term investment expenditure on the use of information technology as IT resources provided from a cloud often incur mainly operational costs.
Collaborative robots, known as cobots, are industrial robots that support humans at the workplace without any spatial separation. Hence they differ from conventional robots which carry out their work in specially equipped production departments. Cobots take over work that may be hazardous for humans or hand over workpieces prior to their installation.
Cyber security or information security refers to the properties of systems that process or store information which guarantee the protective targets of confidentiality, availability and integrity. The purpose of information security is to protect against hazards, avoid economic damage and minimize risks.
Cyber-physical systems are systems in which information technology and software components are combined with the mechanical so that data transfer and exchange as well as monitoring and control take place via an infrastructure such as the Internet. Essential constituents are mobile and movable facilities, devices and machines (including robots), embedded systems and connected objects (IoT). Cyber-physical systems have a key function in Industry 4.0.
Deep learning is the name for a special technique of machine learning. in which an attempt is made to imitate the human nervous system within a computer and simulate a learning process like that of a child. On the basis of trial and error as well the experienced gained through trying, deep learning aims to increase artificial intelligence.
Digital divide refers to the gap between industrialized and developing countries in terms of access and use of the international digital communications infrastructure. Only approximately one quarter of the world’s population uses the Internet. In North America, almost 90 per cent of people have Internet access whereas in Africa the figure is only roughly 27 per cent (2016). The reasons for this can be found in the poorly developed infrastructure and the high costs associated with the procurement of suitable hardware.
Digital twin is a computer-modulated replica of a tangible or intangible object, e.g. a process, a product or a service. The coupling of the real and virtual worlds with reference to sensor data or surveys enables systems to be analysed and monitored so that, for example, problems can be identified and remedied before they occur in the real world. Digital twins are therefore in a position to improve the operating or financial performance of an object such as a plant or a service.
Disruptive technologies are those which are driving out and almost completely replacing the previously established technologies and procedures within a relatively short time. They are similarly changing habits in private and professional life. Examples that may be listed here include MP3, digital cameras, smartphones, 3D printers or even cryptocurrencies.
Embedded systems are computer that are integrated into technical systems such as machines, where they perform specific tasks. These may be monitoring, control or regulatory functions. As a general rule, embedded systems carry out their work unnoticed by the user.
Artificial emotional intelligence or emotional AI refers to the type of artificial intelligence that is able to read the users’ emotions and react accordingly. Various specific fields of application are already conceivable. Cars equipped with emotional AI could respond to a driver’s mood, counteract fear or frustration and thus produce safer road traffic. In the health sector, wearables are conceivable that monitor a patient’s mental health and then trigger an alarm in the event of problems.
Gamification refers to the transfer of play-based elements and game design into unrelated applications, such as during work. A progress display or a points system, for instance, is able to motivate users and positively influence their behaviour. The common feature of “gamified” elements is their exploitation of the human urge to play in order to reinforce motivation and product loyalty.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the term used for the networking of objects with the Internet so that these things can then communicate via the Internet and thus deal with various tasks for the owner. The fields of application are many and varied: wearables, for example, provide the user with information on the location, while household appliances fitted with sensors are able to order supplies autonomously via the IoT.
Research into intelligent problem-solving behaviour and the creation of “intelligent” computer systems. Artificial intelligence (AI) is concerned with methods that enable a computer to solve assignments that demand intelligence when solved by a human.
The minimum viable product (MVP) is one that is produced with minimum effort and without all the envisaged functions in order to put it onto the market as quickly as possible. The aim is to improve the MVP after its launch with the aid of customer feedback, particularly from early users.
Firstly, the term API (Application Programming Interface) refers to a software interface via which external users are able to employ a specific functionality, e.g. the input of information. Open API means the property of a specific software item to make an interface available via which the free developers have the opportunity to extend the software through their own efforts. In contrast to open source, it is not possible to modify the source code externally with Open API.
Open innovation refers to the opening of innovation processes for other stakeholders such as customers, higher education establishments and research institutes. OI becomes particularly visible if a company calls on its customers to generate possible solutions for problems or product innovations as part of a crowd sourcing operation. In this process, the objective is innovation through the combination of internal and external competencies.
Software is open source if it is supplied together with all its source codes. The source code may be viewed by everybody and modified at will.
The quick response (QR) code is a two-dimensional further development of the one-dimensional barcode. It comprises a square field with white and black dots. Unlike the barcode, the QR code can still be read when damaged or dirty as the data are contained in multiple form and are protected by an error correction method.
RFID is the acronym for Radio Frequency Identification. Transponders attached to a certain object communicate via an electromagnetic field with a reading station. The reading stations are able to recognize several transponders at the same time (mass detection). This for example enables the stocks of a large quantity of goods to be captured very quickly and processing times can be substantially reduced as a result.
The smart factory is at the centre of Industry 4.0 and refers to the production environment that organizes itself on the basis of cyber-physical systems and the intelligent networking of machines and products. Communication takes place via the Internet of Things (IoT).
The term smart logistics refers to the use of smart products and machines in logistics. In this way, goods and transport companies can communicate with one another and guarantee smooth-running processes. As an example, tracking systems can transmit the precise position of a truck, thus enabling intelligent route planning and ensuring extremely punctual unloading and loading operations.
Smart products are those that are able to communicate with machinery and other systems. To make this possible, products are equipped with sensors and computers that collect data and connect with other systems. In production, for instance, certain data can be deposited on components so that a product is able to communicate the next manufacturing step to a machine. Smart products are an essential part of the smart factory and promise a high level of flexibility in production and supply.
Systems engineering is an interdisciplinary approach to developing and implementing complex technical systems within major projects. Also known as systems research, the term serves as a collective name for all opportunities of natural scientific and interdisciplinary research. In contrast to the interdisciplinary sciences that investigate a specific real area of problems, systems theory shows identical structures in a wide range of object areas.
Virtual reality or VR refers to a computer-generated reality in the form of an image and frequently sound as well. It can be transmitted in special rooms or via screens and virtual reality goggles. Virtual reality plays a role in education and further training (e.g. as a flight simulator), in the transmission of information and in entertainment. Apart from the options describe above for receiving the signals, there are also special input devices, such as VR gloves, which enable the user to interact.
The term wearables (also wearable technology or wearable computers) refers to devices that can contain a computer and be worn on the body for use. They are part of the Internet of Things. Wearables are intended to support activity in the real world with additional information, provide instructions or deliver evaluations.