From winning the first Nobel Prize in 1901 to its recent crowning as the world’s most innovative nation, Germany has long been a place of impressive technical expertise. And the country is on track to retain that status after announcing an increase to its research budgets over the next decade, a move described as “an extraordinarily positive and encouraging signal for science”.
As well as facilitating exceptional technological progress on home soil, German inventions have also helped transform lives around the world. Here are three examples of Teutonic tech that have taken the world by storm.
Multinational software corporation SAP was founded in Weinheim, northwest Baden-Württemberg in 1972. An acronym for ‘Systems, Applications & Products in Data Processing’, the company is responsible for an enterprise software which allows businesses to better manage their operations and customer relations.
ERP was SAP’s most famous product, as well as the first software they released commercially. It offers companies one shared system to manage multiple tasks through a central database, from inventory management to human resources. Information can also be easily shared between different divisions of a company, like accounting and sales, and teams can pull reports from the same system.
With further developments, this product eventually went on to be known as SAP R/1. Other SAP offerings include SAP Cloud Platform for creating or extending applications in a secure cloud environment, and SAP HANA, a database server that performs advanced analytics. And this software yields results — one survey saw organisations take in an average five-year ROI of 575% through the increased innovation the software helped them bring in.
The company has more than 440,000 customers in over 180 countries, and given that 77% of global transaction revenue involves SAP, you can see just how monumental it has been for businesses around the world. Experts in this technology continue to flock to Germany for work, with SAP recruitment agency Eursap pinpointing North Rhine-Westphalia, containing Cologne, Düsseldorf, Dortmund and Essen, as the main hubs of opportunity.
MP3, the common coding format for digital audio. was developed by Karlheinz Brandenburg along with others of The Fraunhofer Society, a German research institution. This form of compression swiftly transformed the way music was bought and listened to, and is still widely used today.
The MP3 format allows sound files to be significantly compressed for easy storage. Through a combination of complicated algorithms and the removal of sounds that the ears don’t register, file sizes can be massively reduced. According to online music magazine LedgerNote: “A typical uncompressed wav file might be as big as 30 MB for a 3 minute song. But after being run through the MP3 compression algorithms, that might drop down to 3 MB without any serious loss of quality.”
As these MP3 files are so small, they can quickly be downloaded, shared and played. The format did become embroiled in some controversies around music piracy though, most notably involving Napster, the first large peer-to-peer file sharing network.
The creating and sharing of MP3s on this platform led to countless cases of copyright infringement. However, on a more positive note, MP3s allowed music fans to carry thousands of songs in their pockets, with portable music players like iPods, and more recently smartphones, being developed in the wake of the MP3’s popularity.
3. SIM cards
Today’s phone-centric world wouldn’t exist without the invention of the SIM card — which stands for subscriber identity module — first developed in Munich in 1991 by smart-card maker Giesecke & Devrient. SIM cards contain information which identifies and authenticates users, thus allowing them to make calls and send texts through the Global System of Mobile Communications (GSM). These were initially the size of a bank card, and could only store a maximum of five messages and 20 contacts.
The technology proved particularly useful as people started to upgrade their mobile phones more rapidly to newer models, as users could simply transfer their identity information by putting their SIM card in the new phone. Or, if their phone was broken, they could temporarily put their SIM card in an alternative device to continue connecting to the GSM until it was fixed.
There are different types of SIM card to match certain phone models, and the card itself has evolved even further, in preparation for 5G. Now, there are eSIMs — embedded SIMs — which are small chips already inside the phones, as opposed to physical cards that need to be inserted. As explained by technology company Aeris: “eSIMs are rewritable and compliant with all operators, which allows users to manage them remotely while eliminating the need for traditional removable cards.” They will also enable wearable devices like smartwatches to utilise SIM technology.