A call to action on IoT
B+B Smartworx, pioneer in Internet of Things, works to bring the dream of Smart Cities to reality
Enough of theory. Time for practical results on IoT is now.
Echoing the calls of an eager market place, Alaa Dalghan, General Manager, UAE for Advantech B+B SmartWorx Middle East and Africa, says customers want to see evidence of what actually IoT is capable of accomplishing across the world from industries to cities, heavy machinery to oil & gas and utilities.
Advantech B+B SmartWorx has certainly been active, with existing deployments across various sectors in transport, infrastructure, energy but also in smaller applications such as in kiosks and ATMs.
Some of the uses have major real world implications such as provision of water. Delivering clean water is a major global challenge and technology can help overcome some of these challenges.
Dalghan says B+B is an enabler of IoT evolution in the smart city environment. Part of this is taking the smart ideas that scientists are coming up with in the labs and transforming them into solutions that are here and now and ready to be implemented across sectors.
In addition to technology innovation, B+B is working closely with governments and cities and decision makers from Chicago, to Dublin, to cities in the UAE, helping them come up with a model of their smart city. “We help them start by defining what kind of services they want their citizens to enjoy in a Smart City, and once those are defined, what are the technologies that can be implemented to help offer these services,” Dalghan says.
B+B, Dalghan says, is an active contributor to the ecosystem of players that need to come together to achieve the vision of a smart city that no single player can achieve alone.
In the region, B+B worked with electricity utility ADDC in Abu Dhabi to link newly-built substations with a central control room. ADDC faced the prospect of laying tens of kilometres of fibre linking the 200 substations to their central control room. The cost of doing this would have been exorbitant and equally important, ADDC wanted the system to operate immediately. Instead, they deployed smart cellular gateways from B+B, putting a gateway behind each substation and within a week they were able to monitor and control these substations.
Within the industry control systems and SCADA environments, M2M communications, the precursor to IoT, enabled machinery to communicate amongst each other. This communication was in silos however, sending data only amongst the machines themselves and only to its control software using a language only these equipment could understand. With IoT on the other hand, this communication is intra-systems, between many more components.
IoT is thus inventing a new way to connect systems, creating a system of systems instead of silos while standardising some common languages for machines not only to talk to each other but also to humans and also with high level software interfaces like ERP and CRM. With M2M, information from a machine would be in the form of strings of binary data. Obviously a machine receiving this data will understand as will the engineer, but anyone else will not. Utilisation of this data is limited as one cannot take this string and feed it up the stack to a decision making software like ERP or CRM or BI software that’s read at the CIO-level. With IoT, you have protocols that take these zeros and ones and transform them to reasonable information that can result in actions. That’s the beauty of IoT, says Dalghan.
With a smart city, people want a city that utilises smart technology to enhance the lifestyle of the citizens of the city and to be friendly to the environment. The ideal smart city does not put technology at the fore. At B+B, no one talks about the technology, says Dalghan. “We talk about how technology enhance the lifestyle of citizens and how we can be friendlier to the environment. And that’s when technology becomes practical, and when implementing a smart city becomes a noble objective,” says Dalghan.
For the private sector, technology is relevant only if it makes business sense. IoT however ticks that box as well because it is helping reduce operational inefficiencies, create new business models that were not possible before. From the operation efficiency perspective, IoT is helping reduce waste, waiting time, space requirements, while accelerating business time.
IoT has also started to spark some ideas in the minds of entrepreneurs who are now using it to come up with new business models that did not exist before. Organisations such as Caterpillar now lease their heavy machinery-as-a-service instead of selling them which ensures their optimal operations. To enable this, they are installing IoT sensors on the machinery so they can monitor in real time how they are being operated.
No city can claim to be entirely Smart today, although some are more advanced than others in implementing these processes. For one, a Smart City is not one simple goal that a municipality can simply achieve-it’s a continuous process, asserts Dalghan. Those cities with some form of Smart deployment have had to choose what is more relevant to it and implemented technology to cater to that need.
Barcelona for instance focused on public parking which had become a nightmare in the city. The city deployed sensors on its parking lots, enabling motorists find spots faster and more efficiently. In Dublin the major headache was the commute and so the city invested heavily in IoT to interconnect everything from traffic cameras, to traffic lights to speed radars. With the help of these smart systems, the city was able to cut commuting times by 30%. Traffic lights in the city do not have to operate on a timer, but on how long the queue is on one direction.
Dubai, and other cities in the region with Smart ambitions, can learn from all these experiences, but each city is special with its own requirements, notes Dalghan. Dubai has indicated it will implement IoT across multiple areas from transport to parking, water and electricity distribution as well as smart grids.