The Big Bang

One hundred and fifty years ago, TÜV engineer Carl Isambert helped ensure that steam boilers became safer—thereby facilitating the breakthrough of a new technology. His achievement remains the model for state-of-the-art innovations today.

Text Tino Scholz    Illustrations Jan Carl Bartels

Plenty of factory owners had been waiting for this man for a very long time: “It is my pleasure to state that I was well received,” he wrote in his original manuscript. “In fact, some boiler owners awaited me impatiently the way an invalid longs for a physician and asked my opinion about this and that.” This was a report from Germany’s first TÜV engineer Carl Isambert after an inspection trip in the year 1868. He had been traveling for two months through the Grand Duchy of Baden and the Black Forest, had inspected nearly one hundred boilers and found many of them in very poor condition – leaky pipes, rusted safety valves, porous metal hulls. Yet the most serious problem he found was a human one: hardly any plants had qualified personnel to operate and service the steam boilers.

Starting in 1830, the Industrial Revolution had spread from England to the European continent. In areas of high population density, such as Saxony and the Rhineland, but also in Baden, goods were being produced in modern factories. The energy needed for this was generated with boilers. But this new technology was increasingly a cause for concern: boilers had a tendency to explode, killing and injuring people, as in the center of Mannheim in 1865. It was feared that every new accident might lower the public’s acceptance of steam technology – and therefore bring industrialization as a whole to a grinding halt. This was the reason the first TÜV on German soil was founded in 1866. The Association for Inspecting and Insuring Steam Boilers, a forerunner of TÜV SÜD, was a federation of 22 businessmen in Mannheim dedicated to making steam technology safer. About two years later, in October 1868, the first full-time engineer started his work for the society. Twenty-nine-year old Carl Isambert, who had previously worked as an engineer at the Mining and Metallurgical Society in Hörde (near Dortmund) and had gained experience with steam technology during his time there, would spend the next several decades of his career in the service of technical safety.

<h4>Agile Pioneer</h4> <p class="mt-0 no-indentation"><span class="s1">Carl Isambert (1839–1899) not only explained safe handling to boiler operators, he also inspected the boilers—inside and out.&nbsp;</span></p>

Agile Pioneer

Carl Isambert (1839–1899) not only explained safe handling to boiler operators, he also inspected the boilers—inside and out. 

For almost thirty years Isambert inspected thousands of boilers, trained employees on how to properly handle the machinery and advocated for better working conditions for technical personnel. He also played a significant part in setting the first uniform standards for the safety of technical equipment. Isambert returned from a trip to England in 1869 bringing important findings for equipment safety and, in 1881, the so-called Würzburg Standards were adopted, the first principles of materials inspection for the construction of steam boilers. Isambert also spent years involved with the International Union of Boiler Inspection Associations, founded in 1888. Through his work, the first TÜV inspector ensured that new technologies became safer. When Isambert died in 1899, the world was at the cusp of the Second Industrial Revolution. Since then, his successors at TÜV SÜD have monitored every significant technological development. And even today there are innovations that in several years will perhaps be shaping our world like the steam-powered machines of the nineteenth century—if they’re safe. Because Carl Isambert was committed to today’s TÜV SÜD credo: Only safety and security can turn innovation into progress.


New Driving Experience

New Driving Experience

Assistance systems already make driving easy. As envisioned, vehicles could be fully controlled by computers by 2030.



Vehicle Automation

To all intents and purposes, mobility engineers have practically given up thinking in terms of days and weeks. Their industry is developing too dynamically; the innovations that are already rendering today’s cars obsolete are too promising. Advanced driver assistance systems such as lane-departure warning systems or parking sensors are no longer significant achievements, but only the beginning of what will follow in the years to come. And that is nothing short of a revolution in mobility.

According to the prevailing opinion, the technology for high-level vehicle automation will be ready in 2020. Drivers will then be able to set active steering for particular time periods. Starting in 2030, vehicles will be able to handle about 90 to 95 percent of a trip by themselves. Vision Zero with full vehicle automation, i.e., mobility without accidents, would be within reach.

For several years, the TÜV SÜD team in Germany, headed by Udo Steininger, has been active in this area and involved in ensuring the safety of autonomous vehicle road testing. “We have the technology for fully automated driving. At the moment, the greatest challenge is road worthiness and product liability,” he says. “Because conventional tests can never cover that, we need to establish virtual testing methods for our safety measures. But that will take more time.”

This is hardly surprising in light of the demands on the technology associated with this development. Complex sensors are just as essential as cameras, radar or ultra-precise positioning systems that interact with digital maps. Communication between vehicles (car-to-car) and between vehicle and smart road(car-to-Infrastructure) will be expanded. Traffic lights as well as electronic signage—at least in urban environments— will transmit their informational content, allowing cars to receive continuous information about weather or traffic conditions.

In addition, automobile computers will be intelligent enough to learn from humans and gradually adjust their driving behavior. However, Udo Steininger doubts that this will eventually lead to fully driverless cars. “Given the current state of the technology, I don’t think that’s realistic,” he says. “I think there will always be moments when a driver has to take action.”  

Steininger also mentions adaptive behavior, which the state-of-the-art cars produced today would still lack. One example: if a car were parked on the street at a spot where passing is prohibited, the next car would wait until the vehicle in front of it drives away—even if it takes several hours.

Udo Steiniger

“Carl Isambert was a pioneer in ensuring the safety of existing technology. Today we have the chance to ensure the safety of technology right at the development phase.”
Risky Revolution

Risky Revolution

The Internet of Things also attracts many hackers. The right kind of protection is becoming more important and saves businesses from trouble. 



“Any company that has yet to be hacked is extremely likely to be in the future,” says Rainer Seidlitz, an expert from TÜV SÜD Sec-IT, which deals with the issue of Internet security. For Seidlitz, it is not a matter of “if” but “when.” He finds it hard to believe that many companies pay little attention to IT security. “The risks are great. But many executives don’t realize this until after the fact, when there is a production stoppage, for example, or a loss of data.” The danger is still on the rise, thanks to the fourth industrial revolution.

Industry 4.0 is a term that sets the pulses of many entrepreneurs racing. It describes the networking of all the elements in the production process. Using the data provided, smart analyzer software tailored to the production process will be able to immediately adapt the production flow to changing needs quickly and flexibly. Production outages and delivery problems will be a thing of the past.

Nevertheless, we must be able to cope with the extremely large amounts of data that accrue. Topics such as big data and the management of cloud services, information and a mobile workforce are becoming increasingly important. And wherever there are large amounts of data, there lurks the danger posed by hackers. “There is a well-defined realm of professional hackers around the world,” says Rainer Seidlitz. “It is a real industry where you can earn good money. These professionals do not stop at industrial installations. They steal personal data and cause equipment failure or damage. We’re talking about sabotage.”

A “honeynet“ developed by TÜV SÜD in 2015 illustrates how quickly a company can be attacked. Honeynets are systems designed to attract hackers and facilitate analysis of infiltration and attack methods. For eight months, TÜV SÜD ran a simulation of a waterworks in a small German town. The first access attempt was made at almost the exact moment the honeynet went online. Throughout the duration of the project, TÜV SÜD experts recorded over 60,000 attempts from more than 150 countries. The top three countries by IP address were China, the USA and South Korea. These attacks on a relatively insignificant waterworks in a small German town should be a clear wake-up call for the owners of infrastructure as well as manufacturing companies.

Rainer Seidlitz

“One hundred and fifty years ago we had to deal with boiler explosions. Today we’re dealing with data explosions.”
Perpetual Cycle

Perpetual Cycle

If water falls from the sky, it is utilized. Singapore demonstrates efficient water use.


Water Management

It is incredibly loud—when Dr. Andreas Hauser answers his phone, it sounds as if a train is passing by right next to him. But Hauser is sitting in a taxi. The sounds in the background are caused by heavy rain drumming on the windows and roof of the car. “That’s a good thing,” shouts Hauser over the volume, without a trace of irony. He lives in Singapore, where rainfall is a welcome sight.

Andreas Hauser has been working for TÜV SÜD in Singapore for over two years, pursuing a water management project that he himself describes as the best in the world. “A lot of countries would do well to follow our example in order to stem the global problem of water scarcity,” he says. When Singapore gained its independence from Malaysia in 1965, it was completely dependent on water imports. There has been a gradual reduction in dependence to the present day; the goal is total self-reliance by 2060. Thirty percent of the water supply will come from seawater desalination, fifty percent from ultra-purified wastewater and twenty percent from processed rainwater. “Every drop of water in Singapore is collected,” Hauser says. “Every drop of rain from the sky is brought to the treatment plant. It’s a self-contained cycle.”

However, Singapore’s achievements are only applicable to other nations to a limited extent, despite the fact that there is a global drinking water crisis. Almost a billion people lack access to clean water; the World Health Organization estimates that 3.5 million people die each year from the consequences of a poor water supply. TÜV SÜD expert Hauser casts a particularly skeptical eye on India and China, where immediate action is required, although they are reluctant to recognize it.  

TÜV SÜD is active in China as well as in India, the Middle East, Indonesia and Australia. The company has extensive consulting expertise in all matters pertaining to desalination plants and industrial water use. TÜV SÜD is proactive in addressing the need for timely standardization of innovative technologies. Hauser and his team support new developments from early on; when standards are created, faster and wider acceptance of the technology can be achieved. Hauser is confident that this is a necessary step, because “‘business as usual’ is no longer acceptable”.

Dr. Andreas Hauser

“Just like Isambert 150 years ago, as pioneers today we face another important question: how do we solve the global water crisis?”
Nature's Bounty

Nature's Bounty

Soon, every household will be able to store the energy generated by sun and wind.


Renewable Energy

For some time now, one problem in particular has plagued proponents of the so-called energy transition (German Energiewende): how to store wind and solar energy. It has been argued that the shift towards renewable energies cannot be achieved without the widespread use of electrical storage—the energy losses would simply be too great. Now, however, it seems that innovations in technology are becoming so advanced that reliable, affordable energy storage could soon be available for use by families and large companies alike.  

Although batteries able to store wind or solar energy already exist, they have been too costly and inefficient for wider use. US-based company Tesla Motors recently announced plans to build refrigerator-sized batteries, which would reportedly facilitate a fundamental shift. It would eliminate the fear of storms and power failures and even make power grid independence possible. “During extremely windy or sunny periods, a lot of energy will be used and some stored,” explains Nigel Crowe, an expert on renewable energies at TÜV SÜD. “And when it is neither windy nor sunny, you can use the battery.”

Currently, the energy sector is one of the most dynamic industries in the world. There has been a flourishing of new ideas; a great deal of money is being invested in development, although ultimately only a few advances will prove to be breakthrough technologies. For TÜV SÜD, energy storage is an important topic that is being supported in numerous pilot projects. The team headed by Crowe is active primarily in the United Kingdom, Ireland and France, helping customers in the implementation of wind and solar energy development and construction.

Renewable energy use will soon be par for the course, even for large multinational companies. Crowe already considers Google and Facebook pioneering examples of reliance on the use of regenerative energy. “Renewable energy is both environmentally friendly and cost-effective.” Nevertheless, the switch to renewables continues to be a major decision for companies, meaning that the transformation may sometimes take a little longer.

Nigel Crowe

“Carl Isambert’s vision is still important to us. Even though everyone wants projects realized faster and faster, safety is our prime consideration.”