Dr Philipe Reinisch, CEO and chief explorer of the Silkroad 4.0 project, explores how a journey along Europe’s varying terrain will be the ultimate test for connected technologies.
For more than a thousand years, the ancient Silk Road has connected centres of innovation and production across countries. Traders from all over the world travelled back and forth in order to exchange innovation and goods.
When having a closer look, it reveals that the ancient Silk Road is less a single road or trading route, but a network of interconnected multimodal transport systems – vessels, carts and caravans, as well as sophisticated support systems that were developed and, as a result, made all these trades possible, bringing people and ancient practices closer. All these processes and interconnected activities formed the Silk Road ecosystem.
This interconnectedness is not only typical for the Silk Road, but is also seen in societies and technology, whereby the Internet of Things (IoT) is used as the overarching term for connected devices. But how does this relate to Europe?
A European approach to the Silk Road
Europe currently faces several challenges, including changes in society and technology, and the resulting challenges can leave people insecure. Traditional approaches to cope with the recent developments often have limited success, meanwhile the complexity of technology is difficult to explain to a broader audience.
The initiative Silkroad 4.0 is now following a different approach; the intention of this
pan-European project is to connect European citizens, but also to bring together corresponding technologies, such as IoT, under one explanatory umbrella goal that most Europeans are able to relate to: travelling.
In a well-known context, even complicated technologies can be explained and its implication discussed. This is where IoT comes into play; IoT is the corresponding technology term that brings networking to a technological level.
Protectionism is not a solution. The future of Europe lies in co-innovation, preparing for global competition. Silkroad 4.0 hereby wants to provide a small contribution to unite Europe.
Silkroad 4.0: the initiative
Silkroad 4.0 is a private initiative which is sponsor-driven, establishing a symbolic act for the unity of Europe. Travelling brings people together; under this project, firstly, Europe is symbolically united by connecting different European countries and; secondly, this “united Europe” then travels to China, visiting the eastern centre of the Silk Road network.
This pan-European technology initiative takes us on motorcycle expeditions across Europe and along the Silk Road, starting in Austria and up to the Pole of Inaccessibility in China. We then take this opportunity to put technologies of the future to the test and report about its use.
How is this done? By equipping motorcycles with the most modern technology from Europe, including IoT and connectivity technologies – in the sense of Europe being united by technology – we travel from the end of April 2018 for approximately six months over land, following the old Silk Road. From the heart of Europe – Austria – it goes approximately 10,000km to China, reviving the idea of the exchange of technology and innovation.
In a preparatory tour in August and September 2017, we travelled across 14 countries in Europe and visited partners and supporters along this route – a journey of approximately 6,000 km.
During our motorcycle tours, we hold discussions with academic institutions and stakeholders in the area of IoT and Industry 4.0. An integral part of the tours is also to provide live coverage of the digital technologies used to make the impact of digital innovation on people “personally experienceable” in the context of the journey.
Travel routes of the European Tour in August and September 2017 included:
- Czech Republic;
- The Netherlands; and
The preliminary route of the Eurasian IoT Tour 2018 will see visits to Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and China.
In the future, European IoT tours are planned, and subject to partner requirements, a European IoT Tour 2019 might bring us to the European leaders of IoT technology in a variety of European countries.
What are the goals of the initiative?
- To showcase and promote European technology;
- Demonstrate state-of-the-art solutions from Europe under real conditions, with a particular focus on products and innovations from academic institutions and SMEs; as well as
- Digital training for the general public.
As a result, technology is explained in the context of a modern adventure and constant coverage takes place on several social media channels.
Building European technology alliances
At the most important industrial and academic points of interest along the routes within Europe, but also Asia, Silkroad 4.0 presents European solutions and opens doors for future alliances between the partners visited. It will also present the technology developed in Asia for the European partners.
How are these goals achieved?
- Visits and interviews with partners in countries along the routes introduce modern European innovations and learning more about Asian technology solutions;
- By creating videos and articles that explain to the general public how cutting-edge technology works and how it affects travel; and
- By collaborating with media partners to communicate knowledge and information gathered about the journey itself and the countries visited, as well as about the technologies and visited partners.
Establishing a consortium for the Future of Travel
A consortium is currently being set up which will bring experts of the travel, motorcycle, as well as the IoT industry, to one table to facilitate the opportunities that digitalisation in transport brings. It will work under several aims, including:
- To bring European technology partners together;
- Where interoperability is seen as an opportunity, both technological and procedural; and as
- An integrated showcase and testing platform.
The overarching goal is one connected ecosystem, therefore all technologies that enhance the travel experience of customers are welcome to join.
The project is not only motorcycle related, but is also concerned with:
- Automated video capture;
- Advanced route planning;
- Travel insurance-related technologies;
- Communication (data/ voice)
- Smart textiles; and
- Health tracking, amongst others.
How can people participate in the Silkroad 4.0 initiative?
- Follow our activities on social media:
- Instagram: silkroad4.0live and campingsadventure; or
- Take part in our future European IoT tours;
- Support our private initiative through fund raising;
- Support by giving testimonials from European thought leaders;
- Provide access to European multiplier networks; and
- Participate in the Future of Travel Consortium.
- Follow our activities on social media:
Visit our website www.silkroad40.com to learn more!
Silkroad 4.0 – adventure meets technology
We want to share the adventure of:
- Experiencing the inherent difficulties of the terrain;
- Immersing ourselves in societies we don’t know and getting a better cultural understanding and insights on how they use technology; and
- Transmitting all of these experiences and insights to our audience, showing our feelings, the story behind the travel and our enjoyment doing it.
With that in mind, travelling by motorcycle means smelling the air, feeling the rain; it means no shell between the driver and the people around, and feeling what is around, even though it also means being directly exposed to harsh environmental conditions.
IoT technology can truly help us by making travel easier, more efficient, comfortable, safe, secure, easily maintained, better connected and more fun. We will broadcast our insights about other cultures’ approaches to doing things, of interacting with each other, their use of the internet and the state-of-the-art technology in their industries.
We believe that in order to open the dialogue and business opportunities, it is key to understand the way others are and behave, and it also takes away fears and prejudices. Additionally, we will also share our day-to-day travel challenges as part of the story we are living through written articles and videos.
Our second passion is technology and we want to showcase it along our tours:
Showcase within a story
Silkroad 4.0 showcases products and solutions through engaging motorcycle adventures and real-life demonstrations of the latest IoT solutions in difficult environments, and tests how these technologies ease and enhance the experience of a long-distance motorcycle trip.
Testing solutions in real-life environments
Temperature fluctuations, dust, vibrations and harsh weather conditions all affect product operation in unpredictable ways. Due to the harshness of the terrain, Silkroad 4.0 is a great opportunity for technology partners to put their products to the test and to examine how it behaves in extreme non-simulated circumstances.
Stunning scenery to immerse your campaign
We will have the latest technology filmed in action on motorcycles in the middle of deserts, mountains and exotic villages, so our tech partners can immerse their product campaigns within the beauty of diverse landscapes and foreign cultures.
Periodic updates: a constant media presence of products
With a format of periodic updates designed for social media, we aim to show video clips and short tips on how to put technology on our side, making a difficult trip easier and at the same time allowing users to follow an engaging adventure story.
Planting the seeds for development of Industry 4.0 as the next evolution
We strongly believe that in the following years Industry 4.0 will have a strong impact in the evolution of countries and can reshape the way societies function.
For that reason, we want to bring awareness to this vision and foster co-operation between European and Asian professionals by promoting the ancient Silk Road spirit and enable the open exchange of ideas, knowledge and technology.
Feeling the pulse of Eurasian industry
We also want to feel the pulse of Eurasian Industry 4.0 by visiting local industries and broadcasting video reports and interviews with important local stakeholders. This way we will provide our audience with a vision of the state-of-the-art industry of those countries visited.
Meeting point and directory for local experts
We also will promote local Industry 4.0 by accumulating an online directory of local experts and SMEs where they will be able to describe their capabilities and offer their services to other IoT companies.
Building alliances in Europe and Asia
We will be visiting the main industrial enterprises and academic institutions and will showcase your IoT or Industry 4.0 technology in meetings and presentations to relevant local stakeholders and media, opening doors for future alliances.