By most accounts, IoT offers huge potential for improvement of productivity, environmental health, and daily life, and analyst growth predictions for this opportunity are now estimated in the trillions of dollars. Gartner research, for example, has calculated that global incremental economic value generated from IoT will be $1.9 trillion in 2020, while Cisco researchers have set the IoE (Internet of Everything) value index at $19 trillion in potential value, generated through increased revenue and lower cost attributed to IoT solutions from 2013 to 2022.
But there’s a missing link that continues to dog adoption – the need to connect ‘things’, but also the various connectivity, security and data platforms that underpin what, by the very nature of IoT, must be comprehensive, end-to-end solutions.
In the IT world, this kind of requirement is handled via middleware and integration services, and this market continues to thrive – a recent Ovum report has forecast a y-o-y increase of 9.3 percent for middleware software in 2015, driven in part by increased IoT deployments. However, Ovum infrastructure solutions analyst and author of this report, Saurabh Sharma, has concluded that the “‘somewhat’ standard IoT middleware stack will remain a work in progress.” And while enterprises may take advantage of existing middleware and emerging M2M integration approaches for meeting the requirements of specific IoT use cases, as well as emerging cloud-based IoT platforms, Sharma concludes “a lack of common (vendor and platform-agnostic) connectivity standards will hinder wider IoT adoption, especially from the perspective of enterprise IoT initiatives of reasonable scale.” But the buck does not stop with connectivity: common security platforms and the need to integrate IT and OT (operational technology) in industrial settings continue to be key issues that consumed much of the attention at the most recent IoT World Summit in Chicago and elsewhere.
The sweet spot in this gap between IoT growth and unmet integration demand is one that providers on the cutting edge are looking to fill. A good example of this may be found in the new Industrial Internet practice established by Helsinki-based, Nordic IT services firm Tieto Corporation. According to practice head Taneli Tikka, the Industrial Internet group acts as an “internal startup” within Tieto, which has itself grown significantly through acquisition (approximately 200) of the IT departments of its government and other customers since founding in the 1960s. This history has helped Tieto build IT services, and specifically, its systems integration capabilities, while the startup practice has also benefitted from Tieto’s long term relationships with many large industrial customers. “This means that we have a lot of institutionalized knowledge of various sectors we work in like manufacturing, logistics, energy, and forestry, a lot of understanding of the customers’ systems, and we seek to apply the Industrial Internet from that perspective,” Tikka explained.
Tikka defines the Industrial Internet as distinct from IoT, which he associates more closely with deployment of consumer products and devices. In Tieto’s frame of reference, the Industrial Internet features advanced analytics, Big Data, cloud technologies and automation processes that lie on top of the IoT stack. The company is a partner of Cisco – so accepts the focus on people that Cisco’s Internet of Everything concept entails – and hence is investing heavily in service design that encompasses innovation in user experience, as well as change management consulting to help customers make the most out of Industrial Internet solutions post implementation. It has also invested in creation of a new Industrial Internet platform, based on the integration of Tieto solutions into the Cisco Fog architecture and IOx operating system, which supports distributed computing infrastructure and applications in cases where local data processing is more efficient than centralized data analysis.
Containers at the edge
As example of what can be achieved with this new platform, Tikka described a unique pilot that is currently underway with a large global marine logistics customer aimed at bringing intelligence to the handling of the huge containers on ocean going vessels – the “network edge” in Cisco parlance. “When you have ships at sea,” he explained, “they don’t have connectivity to the cloud. There’s no broadband, it’s just a weak satellite connection.” So instead of a cloud-based solution, Tikka’s group is implementing a local system that will help the container ships load and off load containers more efficiently, as well as monitor their shake and wobble when the ship is at sea. According to Tikka, the ship owners are expecting that with optimization of these processes, they will be able to add 1,000 additional containers to each ship that leaves harbour: “when you consider that it’s $3,000 per container, times a 1,000, it’s millions of dollars in savings,” he added.
The container solution consists of third-party acceleration and movement sensors, as well as visual camera sensors that continually monitor container movement, Fog infrastructure and Tieto’s Industrial Internet platform, which support local analysis of massive sensor data to determine what is ‘normal’ behaviour, and what information indicates aberrant activity, requiring escalation to higher resolution imagery for additional analysis. Ultimately, this capability enables optimization of container placement, and is a good demonstration of the benefits to be gained through first level layering of sensor technology onto business processes.
Building deeper integrations
At a deeper level, sensor technologies can also be integrated into control and management functions to enable additional efficiencies in service maintenance (of machines, etc.) and the supply chain. As an example, Tikka cited the case of Valmet Corporation, a customer that manufactures paper making machinery, which has used analogue sensors since the 1970s. Tieto’s innovation was to connect in an advanced analytics platform in a first test case with a couple of machines in Germany. Tikka explained: “in this particular case, it’s kind of the extreme end of what can be done because the system is gathering and analysing all sorts of benchmarking information from the paper making machine, so that you can know how the machine is performing in real time as compared with its own history, measured against other machines in the same factory, and against anonymized benchmarks from other machines across the globe.” The goal is to understand performance in relation to what is possible, and to optimize the machine environment accordingly – in addition to providing operational alerts, root cause analysis, prediction of failure and other insights that are vital to proper maintenance. A key question for the industry that had not been resolved before is when to replace paper drum rolls and felts: Tieto is looking to answer with insight from the new analytics platform.
So far, the integration of IT and OT industrial systems has proved more elusive, though Tikka noted that this kind of solutions approach has begun in some instances, where seamless integration is enabling removal of humans and the automation of multiple processes. Arc welding equipment manufacturer Kemppi, for example, recently launched an Industrial Internet solution that Tikka described as a “full scale welding ERP” in which a welder taps the metal to be welded, an RFID reader analyses the material and the welding equipment automatically finds the perfect setting to weld the seam, while at the same time, data on the welder’s activity and metal usage is sent up the network via a VLAN card to inform supply chain systems on demand and quality of that particular resource to pinpoint potential maintenance issues with specific seams.
Currently, the Industrial Internet group at Tieto consists of approximately 150 staff, through these can call on the domain expertise of other divisions within the 19,000 employee company – or, Tikka explained, for “some very specific or narrow integration experience or knowledge of some particular systems.” Armed with this extensive support, the Industrial Internet group is intending to take full advantage of the IoT opportunity – doubling the company’s business in North European manufacturing, and expanding work in other sectors such as healthcare, telecom and energy. “We are investing heavily in this, and quite growth oriented about the whole opportunity,” Tikka explained. And as an early entrant into this space, poised it would seem, to translate deep integration and domain expertise into Industrial Internet reality.