Accelerating creation of IoT solutions

Arturo Lotito of Advantech

The IoT enables organisations to connect all devices or assets throughout their offices or factories, in the supply chain, in the field, or in the hands of customers. There are tremendous opportunities, says Arturo Lotito, director of IoT Business Development and Orchestrator at Advantech but new approaches to operations, business processes and models, and strategies are needed. To help companies tackle the challenges, multi-disciplinary expertise is now available in a selection of convenient, cost-effective, ready-to-use packages.

IoT opportunities and challenges

The Internet of Things (IoT) provides a vital tool that can enable more and more companies to transform their businesses at every level and strengthen their connections with suppliers and customers. The opportunities can be plain to see, but difficult to realise, demanding a diversity of competencies such as engineering skills, technical knowledge, or test and integration capabilities, that are beyond the reach of smaller organisations working alone to achieve digital transformation.

Servitisation – moving traditional commercial product-based value propositions to a service-oriented model that can simultaneously strengthen customer relationships, deliver extra value, and enhance revenue generation – provides a good example.

Consider, just for a moment, a facilities manager for an organisation such as a city authority or a hospital group ordering LED lamps to install throughout a building. It is easy to see that the underlying requirement is for illumination, not lamps. By instead purchasing illumination as a service, with maintenance and other essentials such as disposal included, that manager can save capital expenditure and offload burdensome tasks from in-house teams. The supplier, also, can benefit from the opportunity to grow revenue and market share.

In the traditional product-oriented model, customer engagement more or less ends when the packing note is printed and the goods (lamps) are shipped. Leveraging IoT technologies, suppliers can connect permanently with their customers, and automatically capture all the data they need to manage the service on an ongoing basis. The IoT also provides a great mechanism for ensuring that fielded equipment is handled correctly at its end of life, to minimise environmental impact and any associated penalties.

While on the one hand, then, the IoT is a critical enabler of servitisation, on the other, it is drawing traditional equipment suppliers towards new business models that are more complex in terms of the technologies used, the operations involved in delivering the services, and the demands for strategic management.

This increased complexity drives extra risk into service development; a company familiar with creating and marketing a certain type of product may not have all the necessary skills and knowledge in-house to build saleable services around that product and handle all the service-delivery aspects too. In addition, suppliers can require more time to conceive and prepare complex services for market, resulting in a longer time to revenue that can challenge cashflow.

Partner with domain experts

An effective response is to identify partners that can provide the additional competences needed to create the complete, marketable service. These competences could be app development or software IP, to be pre-installed or on the Cloud. They may be specific elements of hardware, or higher-level skills such as configuring services to satisfy specific markets, or the right ways to approach key decision makers in customer organisations.

Cross-domain partnering like this is vital for traditional product-oriented companies to successfully transition to servitisation. Choosing the right partners, however, is critical, and making that selection can be difficult, time-consuming, and subject to risk.

To overcome these potential problems and accelerate time to market for complex new IoT services, Advantech has taken partnering principles to the next level by establishing IoT Solution-Ready Platforms (SRPs). Co-created with selected partners, and fully tested and productised, SRPs enable System Integrators to quickly build and provide reliable and effective solutions based on Advantech and partners’ technologies and know-how.

There are currently more than 30 SRPs addressing opportunities such as electric-vehicle charging, smart parking, intelligent healthcare, and smart-factory and Industry 4.0 such as vibration monitoring and remote operation and maintenance. Table 1 presents just a few examples.

Table 1. Advantech SRPs support a wide range of opportunities in diverse IoT-services markets.

Solution-ready package

Taking the Electric Vehicle Charging Management System (EVCMS) SRP as an example, this package provides complete cloud-based services including a centralised dashboard for charging-station operators, a mobile app for vehicle owners to monitor charging status and billing, and an Arm Mbed Cloud portal for capturing charging data and managing communication gateways.

The dashboard and mobile app by SRP co-creator XMight handle aspects such as contract capacity optimisation, intelligent charge scheduling, billing and payments management, and equipment monitoring. These are essential aspects of a complete field-ready service that demand specialist knowhow and market experience. Edge services, as well as machine learning and database support, are also integrated, as shown in figure 1.

As far as Industrial IoT (IIoT) services are concerned, key challenges for service innovators include the wide variety of equipment-data formats and standards, which must be integrated with edge device management, wireless communication, and data analysis.

Additional challenges include creating and integrating AI models with expert knowledge, and making visually intuitive reports available to end users on Cloud platforms. There also legal imperatives, such as ensuring compliance with applicable data data-handling regulations, and customers’ expectations for trustworthy platforms and data security mechanisms.

Advantech’s industrial SRPs contain built-in solutions to these issues. An example is the Equipment Vibration Monitoring Solution co-created with AnCAD and other partners. It provides a vibration-visualisation dashboard, as well as monitoring and analysis tools, that help customers optimise equipment maintenance costs and pre-empt problems that would otherwise lead to costly equipment downtime.

AnCAD’s edge intelligence solves the complex signal pre-processing and time/frequency-domain analysis challenges that let other apps in the SRP handle aspects such as dynamic balance monitoring, equipment management, and thresholding and alarms.

Managing the change for maximum success

Servitisation is just one of the many tremendous opportunities the IoT now presents, which can revolutionise the way organisations operate and go to market. They must adapt rapidly, and the most successful will not necessarily be the strongest or most intelligent, but those that can best manage the change. Advantech’s co-creative approach makes specific domain expertise instantly available to help create secure and reliable best-in-class IoT solutions.

The author of this blog is Arturo Lotito, director of IoT Business Development and Orchestrator at Advantech

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