July 7, 2016
By Paul Barker
In farm fields, factories and fuel depositories, in offices, in schools and in sports stadiums, the impact of a technology initiative called IoT, short for Internet of Things continues to grow and multiply. The application types are endless as are the ways IoT can be deployed.
Take, for example, content contained in a recent SAP white paper called The CEO Perspective on one particular sector – the industrial machinery and components industry. “If IoT is causing a wave of disruption, then IM&C is poised to ride the crest,” it states. “So much so that the term Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is now commonplace.
“Industrial companies are beginning to transform their business practices and recognize that in time, the IIoT will touch nearly every aspect of their engineering, sales, supply chain, manufacturing and aftermarket service operations.
“Leading IM&C manufacturers are already investing billions in IIoT, realizing returns driven by previously unobtainable speed and accuracy from the latest technology available.”
In an interview at the recent 2016 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Christina Geraud, the firm’s global solution lead for IoT in the mobility sector, described IoT as an “enabler” for the future.
“My grandmother used to say ‘always look back before you look ahead.’ I was looking back at the top 500 companies of the 1960s: 66 of the Fortune 500 organizations are still around. The lifespan back then used to be 75 years. It is now at 15 years and declining.
“The necessity for all companies is to find their new role. At SAP, we see two trends: there is a need for simplicity, which is not simple and is in fact really, really hard. Steve Jobs once said that making things simple is really hard. I agree and that’s what IoT is all about.”
Dr. Alex Bazin, vice president and head of IoT Digital Business Platform with Fujitsu Technology Soloutions, also speaking from Barcelona, suggests people look at the numbers, in particular the 50 billion or so devices that will be in action within the next few years.
That in itself, he says, is not very interesting for it is simply a multitude of connections in some sort of client-server computing model.
“IoT is on everyone’s lips at this show, but a lot of it at the moment is hype,” says Bazin. “IoT does not start to have value until you can articulate a business case in business language to the CEOs and CFOs and also often the chief operating officer, the director of operations, the plant managers, the director of maintenance operations, the product teams, the marketing teams.
“That is the difference in IoT. The mobile Internet era was very much a CIO-lead initiative. When it is done properly, this is much more about having a business conversation and understanding business, solving that and using technology, some of which is being labeled the Internet of Things.”
Fujitsu, says Bazin, approaches the IoT movement from a business down point of view as opposed to a technology up point of view: “We have lots of technology, it’s all very good and it’s all very interesting, but it’s about solving business challenges.”
At its booth in Barcelona, Fujitsu showcased its IoT smart technologies, including:
*The Hyperconnected Van and ‘Augmented Reality’ for more effective field engineers
*Ways to improve driver safety and fleet management with sensor-based data and digital offerings that can benefit the driver, fleet manager, the vehicle, the suppliers and the manufacturers
*Devices and sensors including location badges and tags, vital sensing band, and a remote monitoring station. Vital-sensing bands detect the workers’ environment to prevent accidents/falls, which improves their wellbeing, the company says.
*Fujitsu Healthcare Cloud/RFID offerings for hospitals such as digitalized bedsheets and uniforms for hospital. Its Healthcare Cloud platform focuses on patient/client communications and transaction services,self-management, Telecare and Community Healthcare services
Here in Canada, a business case for IoT can certainly be made from two new services recently introduced by Rogers Communications Inc.
Both are being delivered by blueRover, a Canadian-based provider. “Connectivity is now table stakes today when it comes to supporting the Internet of Things – for Canadian businesses to drive real productivity with this technology, they need solutions that are simple to deploy and manage,”says Charlie Wade, senior vice president of products and solutions with Rogers enterprise business unit.
IoT services from blueRover allow businesses to track and monitor assets in real-time, and also automate manual business processes using sensor technology and secure data pathways. Rogers enterprise customers will have access to the following IoT services:
*Farm & Food Monitoring: Sensor technology will monitor, track and automate devices and machines that are used in farming and food services industries such as refrigerators, freezers, deep fryers and ovens.
*Level Monitoring: An offering for businesses that require tools to measure and monitor levels of liquids including grain, oil, water and waste matter. The solution has the ability to monitor liquid levels in order to eliminate the labour intensive processes required by many businesses today to manually refill or empty tanks, bins, and containers prior to capacity.
“Today just over 45% of Canadian organizations are deploying Internet of Things solutions and we predict the IoT market in Canada to reach a value of $13.5 billion by 2019,” says Nigel Wallis, research director at IDC Canada.
Ignacio Paz, general manager of IoT at Rogers, says both the carrier and blueRover agreed that Canadian organizations are going through a massive transformation.
“Businesses are looking for outcome-based solutions that can alleviate the IT and technology work they are currently doing so that they can focus on innovation. With these services there is no upfront investment.
“Our areas of focus are manufacturing, transportation, farm and food sectors. Cyber security is being addressed by strict protocols and encryption mechanisms as well as physical security. The services are monitored from our 24-7 support team, which will instantly detect if an asset is removed.”
Whether it is oil in a tractor or a fast food fryer that is being monitored, it is an example of what Eric Wenger, director for cybersecurity and privacy on Cisco Systems Inc.’s global government affairs team in Washington, D.C., described recently as “this next wave of innovation”
“We cannot yet see exactly how our lives will change as a result of this,” he wrote in a recent blog. “What is clear; however, is the potentially transformative nature of a world packed with connected devices. For that potential to be reached, consumers need assurances that their privacy and security will be carefully protected. Here, both industry and government have important roles to play.
“The IoT represents a revolutionary step in the development of technology – much more so than the advent of cloud computing. We can now connect products that were designed separately. We can even connect devices originally built without the capacity for connectivity.”
Not that the cloud does and will play an important role. An example of that is Green Tower, Panasonic’s new Energy-as-Service platform, which was also launched at Mobile World Congress.
Green Tower integrates lithium-ion energy storage, solar energy generation, satellite communications and real-time monitoring control, and according to Panasonic, represents a paradigm shift from traditional static power systems to remotely-managed intelligent infrastructure.
At a press conference in Barcelona, Phil Herman, the company’s vice president of enterprise solutions, described it as an IOT, cloud-based and big data approach to energy operations.
“Today’s networks are really reactive – they are static. This is an industrial-grade IoT platform. The key is that not only do we have interoperability with standard components, but is also the big data, cloud-based analysis that comes along with it that allows us to really bring the value of what we are doing here.”
Herman pointed out that in the energy sector, the biggest issues are aging infrastructure, static networks and operational deficiencies, which combined create high operating and maintenance costs and budget uncertainties.
Jim Ganthier, Dell’s vice president and general manager of engineered solutions and cloud, says that IoT plays in the cloud in multiple ways.
“One is the actual transport mechanism, second is the actual respository and the larger play is not cloud, but the ability to run analytics, the ability to drive results and the ability to continuously optmize. On a combine, you don’t have to drive that thing anymore. It has satellite imagery, GPS functionality and will go as straight as an arrow. Now imagine, taking for lack of a better term, sensory data from the soil and the output and various other things and suddenly, life gets a lot more interesting.
“Most modern aircraft, by the time they land have thrown off 2 TB of data per plane. Imagine the number of planes in the air and imagine if you could take all of that data and now start to look for patterns, now start to look for trends and the capability to potentially do advanced or preventative maintenance basically continuous, optimize the engines and optimize the planes themselves and their systems.”
Bazin, meanwhile, says that while being able to remotely monitor equipment that otherwise someone had to walk over to with a pencil and paper certainly has value, there is far more to strive for.
“Actually transforming business operations through analytics and the ability to make autonomous decision-making is where the real value is achieved,” he says.
“It represents the difference between digitization and digitalization.” C+