By Kim Eun-jung
BONN, Germany, March 7 (Yonhap) -- It is nothing new for people to talk to their televisions to turn on their favorite shows or place grocery delivery orders via Internet-enabled refrigerators at home.
The Telekom Design Gallery at Deutsche Telekom's Bonn headquarters invites visitors to experience how the advanced technology can change their daily life, but it also tries to deliver a more profound message: Technology should enhance, not replace, human interactions.
Its showrooms with themes like smart homes, factories and cities showcase a digitally connected future enabled by artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet-of-Things (IoT) and a rich array of smart gadgets.
A "connected home" showroom decorated in the German telecom firm's signature magenta shows how different products and services are converging ever more closely.
For instance, as a demonstrator opened up a book on a table, the television on the wall automatically went off and the lights switched to a comfortable reading mode.
When he touched a kind of paper touchscreen attached to a ring on a magazine, the TV immediately displayed the product's image along with an explanation of where to buy it.
Putting on a virtual reality headset automatically turned on the TV's VR mode without having to use a switch or talk to the TV. Such feats were all aided by IoT technology.
"We think about using the home without touching and without speaking, just by using the things," Markus Reuter, a program manager at the Telekom Design Gallery, said during a recent trip to company's headquarters by South Korean reporters. "Everybody can use connected devices because it is easy. It's not a rocket science."
In the company's shopping scenario of the future, virtual stores turn shopping into an experience that is customized to the individual. Users can see and interact with themselves on the screen while shopping in a digital replica of a brick-and-mortar store.
"The idea is to bring (the) smart home to the next level, not just connecting the refrigerator screens ... but also on the service level," Reuter said.
In the smart city section, the company demonstrated AI-controlled, low-emission transportation, interactive house walls, eco-friendly utilities and trash collection in an urban environment.
With augmented reality glasses, visitors can experience fixing a component with information presented through the device.
Company officials say the explosion of connected devices and systems associated with the IoT and wearables is spurring its efforts to develop advanced 5G technology with more processing power, faster speeds and improved reliability.
"It's good to have specific use cases because we can work on our network. Otherwise, we would just say the network needs to be fast and has no latency," Reuter said. "But what are we really using for it? That's really necessary to improve the technology."
The key question, he said, is this: How can a telecom company make more money with better experiences?
"We want to provide content that's relevant. Everything should work together," he said. "Otherwise, it's just a boring platform."
Deutsche Telekom said it has been heavily investing in IoT over the past two years to enhance use cases and applications for the next-generation mobile network, as Germany is set to begin a 5G spectrum auction later this month.
"We try to have a lot of discussions with our customers to get advantage from the investment," said Markus Lindemann, head of Digital Guild IoT at T-Systems International, Deutsche Telekom's subsidiary. "(Deutsche) Telekom is investing in this connectivity layer and (has made) big investment in some use cases in (the) last two years."
As part of the efforts, Deutsche Telekom has expanded its partnership with other carriers to develop advanced networks, security and content.
During MWC Barcelona, the world's largest mobile show, Deutsche Telekom and South Korea's SK Telecom signed a memorandum of understanding to expand their strategic partnership on 5G networks, media, security and cloud computing.
The deal is expected to allow Deutsche Telekom to fast-track the development of its own 5G network in Germany, which is expected to come online after 2020.
"We look forward to continuing our successful collaboration with SK Telecom. The expansion of the partnership will help both companies strengthen their global technology leadership and offer 5G and other innovative services to our customers," Tim Hoettges, Deutsche Telekom's CEO, said.
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