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If IoT is to go beyond the hype, then users need to be convinced of its business value before its full potential can be met.

There’s been a huge amount of excitement around the Internet of Things (IoT) and its potential to transform experiences across our day-to-day lives. Google is awash with articles extolling the virtues of IoT, analysts are talking about its hype, and media are searching for examples of IoT in action. In fact, that’s where IoT is falling down: real-life case studies of the technology, that go beyond operational savings, are few and far between.

If IoT is to go beyond the hype, then users need to be convinced of its business value before its full potential can be met.

One of my favorite implementations of IoT can be found in Norway where Oslo’s train and metro system are under daily pressure to ensure approximately 100 trains are ready to leave every morning at 5 am. Any delay at the start of the day can have a huge impact on how the transport system will run for the rest of the day, with thousands of commuters relying on a prompt and efficient service. The network owner, Sporveien, has invested in IoT to ensure its data can pre-warn it of any mechanical issues on its trains. While data has always been available for Sporveien (providing it with information on its train doors and wheels, for example) information previously spanned 11 systems and relied on human input.

Adopting an IoT Solution

In the past, if there was a mechanical issue with the train then the driver would receive an error message that would be reported to the operations control center. The driver would then need to get to the workshop and, upon arriving, could find that the information received by the central system was incomplete and of little value to maintenance and repair.

To address this, Sporveien has adopted an IoT solution that helps it perform routine preventative maintenance at which point the workshop replaces a defined list of parts. For example, each sliding train door has a small computer on it that measures 15-20 different parameters and analyses’ changes over time by detecting the wear of different parts, e.g. door bearings. As each set of doors open and close at different times, dictated by passengers, trying to predict when the bearings were getting worn in the past was really difficult.

However now, when the resistance increases, this indicates that the bearings are getting worn and need to be replaced. The trains then send data to the Wi-Fi system that is set up along the route, and can regularly receive data on the doors state. The system now knows exactly when a part needs to be changed, and sends a work order to the workshop ready to execute.

Another great example of IoT in practice is with Jotun, a Norwegian paint manufacturer that is helping its customers maximize the investment in their paint via a system it’s named Hull Performance Solutions. This solution places sensors on the hull of a ship to monitor the drag of the vessel, identifying increased performance and predicting when a ship needs to be repainted. The company has to analyze a lot of data that a decade ago was nigh on impossible, but with today’s technology, can be done more efficiently. As quoted on the company’s website,

“A Hull Performance Solution from Jotun can be expected to deliver an 8.5% fuel cost and GHG emission saving as compared to a market average alternative. The pay-back period is usually less than 1 year.”

Both of these companies show us the real value of IoT in action. It may be one of the most hyped technologies of the decade, but it really does have the potential to offer more than operational cost savings, and its opportunities are endless for those who believe in its possibilities.

(First published in The Manufacturer on October 30, 2015.)

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