At Siemens’ flagship innovation event, a chance to illuminate the real purpose behind the tech

At Siemens’ flagship innovation event, a chance to illuminate the real purpose behind the tech

By: Barbara Humpton, CEO, Siemens USA

To kick off our Spotlight on Innovation event, held in Orlando last month, I asked the crowd: “How will your vision change the world?”


We’re in this moment of incredible exploration and discovery, where technology is both powerful and accessible. Which means that the opportunities to create positive change are more abundant than ever.  


Spotlight on Innovation gave us a way to showcase how we’re working at Siemens to cultivate those opportunities, partnering with cities, industries, entrepreneurs, high schools and universities – even NFL teams. 


It also enabled us to share how we view the real purpose of technology in this time of digital transformation.


As I explained in my opening remarks, we see digital tools like AI and robotics as a way to expand what’s humanly possible. And as our technological capabilities advance, our focus remains squarely on how we can create value for people and society.  


Here’s a video and slightly edited transcript of my remarks. 


Thank you. It is such an exciting afternoon to be here. We have such a fantastic program ahead of us.


And I want to thank all of you for being here with us, and especially the folks who are tuning in online.


In just a moment, you’re going to hear from a stuntman-turned-CEO, who’s reimagining – with video gaming – hot-rodding for the 21st century. You’re going to hear from a chief information officer from Newport News Shipbuilding, who’s going to show us how the Navy is building ships with our digital twin technology. 


And what about Chronicle? A Google moonshot company that’s working with us to fight cyberattacks. And, of course, from the city of Orlando, where our City Performance Tool is helping the community use data to understand how technology can set new pathways to meet their sustainability goals.


And, you know, Orlando is a perfect place for us to hold this event because it’s our energy hub. It’s where we have 4,000 employees. And it’s a community where you can see the diversity of the kinds of projects we’re involved in, from public attractions to the semiconductor industry, all the way to wind energy.


And, in fact, this building that we’re sitting in – the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts – is using our technology to keep the place secure and energy-efficient. So thank you to the Dr. Phillips Center for hosting us today. 


Before we begin, I do want to take a couple of moments and talk a little bit about our broader purpose – the purpose of our technology.   

From the time a human first picked up a rock and used it as a tool, tools have expanded what’s humanly possible.


Now, the rock didn’t take over the job from the human. It just made things faster, or better. And it’s the same thing now with AI. Some people say that robots and AI are going to put humans on the sidelines. But that’s not it at all.


What we’re capable of doing with augmented intelligence and robotics is like a new tool that is elevating the role of the human. This is the spirit that we bring as we work in technology at Siemens.


And it’s the same spirit that you saw from our founder, Werner von Siemens. The ideas he dreamt of in a garage in Berlin 170 years ago dealt with people. He was thinking about how people communicate, how people move from place to place and how they live and work.


We’re bringing this same spirit and this same thinking to our work now as we deal with globalization, with digitalization and with the increasing population growth that we have around the world. 


Now, let me take you back a moment to 2007. In 2007, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone to the world. The columnist Thomas Friedman called this “a pivotal junction in the history of technology – and the world.”


Well, in 2007, we had our own moment. Siemens invested in its first very large software acquisition. And that began what became a “pivotal junction” for us as Siemens to now become one of the top-10 software companies in the world. 


I mention this because Siemens now is at a moment where we’re exploring a new frontier – the intersection of what’s going on with the physical world and the digital. 

And we’re finding out that our capabilities in both digital and physical are making a real difference for our partners, whether that’s cities or industries or infrastructure or the work we’re doing with education – K through 12, with universities and community colleges. The capabilities we bring to the table are actually helping them make real their vision for the future and bringing new technologies to bear. 


Now, in a moment you’re going to see that the new tools we have are quite stunning. Think about the digital tools you probably carried in your pocket or in your pocketbook today as you were coming here. 


When I started my career as a software programmer in 1980, literally, folks, I was using a slide rule. And here we are today with augmented intelligence, with machine learning. We have cloud platforms and edge computing. Tools that our predecessors could not even dream of having at their disposal. 


But the real secret and the real power of the technology we’re working with today is not about the technical, gee-whiz gadgets. It’s about how accessible it is and how it levels the playing field. 


Think about it: It used to be that to get engineering done you had to climb the ivory tower. Now a high school student can download tools onto a laptop in her classroom and go to work inventing things that before took an army of engineers. 


This is the real secret. This is what we’re talking about when we talk about elevating the role of the human and expanding what’s humanly possible. Technology helps us to understand the world around us. It helps us to create space where human ideas can take flight. It helps empower us to actually bring about positive change in the world. 


It’s all available to us now. We are at a brilliant juncture at this moment for the introduction of technology into infrastructure. The capabilities now exist for cars that used to be manufactured in factories to now be designed in software and printed with a 3D printer. 


We’ve got the capability to use real-time data in factories and make sure that maintenance is on-site before a machine even breaks down. We have the ability to help cities understand how to reach their lofty goals. And, you know, we’re learning about a planet that is 140 million miles away because a rover that was designed with Siemens software was able to survive that make-or-break “seven minutes of terror” before landing on the surface of Mars. 


Who knows what’s going to happen next?


Who knows how far we can go?


At Siemens, we’ve chosen to increase our investment in research and development. We’ve increased it by 10 percent over last year for our work here in the United States to $1.4 billion. We have 7,000 people across the country engaged in research and development. And we’re producing 700 inventions a year.  


This is a powerful engine. But we’re not just running with our own ideas. We’re also co-creating with customers. Because what we want to make sure of is that the best technology that can help them with their goals and objectives is brought to the table so they can achieve their visions. 


So, here we are. As you saw in the video, you’ve seen Siemens past and Siemens present – the innovations and the moments that have brought us to become the global company serving a global society that we are. 


But what I’m really excited about is thinking about the highlights reel from 10 years, or 5 years or even just 1 year from now.


Our ability to bring technology to the table, to serve people, is what this is all about. And as we make this technological transformation, let’s remember the core thoughts of Werner Von Siemens in making sure that the technology we bring is put to practical use. Let’s think about not just the technology but the people behind the technology. And let’s ensure that what we do is recognize that it’s people using technology that truly brings value to society.