Wednesday, 23 September 2015

John Guthrie, Energy Efficiency Manager, ABB writesI watched an interesting documentary the other night about the construction of the M1 motorway. There was a particularly striking moment where an interviewer was talking to a worker of the time as he operated one of the many pieces of heavy plant machinery used to build the road.

The worker explained how road building used to be done with picks and shovels, and that whilst all this new technology got the job done quicker and more effectively than he could ever have imagined, he was struggling to adjust to the technical demands of operating it.

This was in the 1960s, but it reminded me of a similar change at the turn of the 21st century. If you couldn’t keep up with the arrival and evolution of the internet then you were likely to get left behind.

Another paradigm shift is just around the corner, and it’s called the Internet of Things, Services and People (IoTSP). I’ve seen this dismissed in some places as amounting to little more than “being able to text your fridge”. However the truth is that it’s going to change the world, and many people simply don’t understand the extent to which the IoTSP is going to revolutionise how we work and live.

In fact, it already is. The key thing about the IoTSP is that it’s all about data; masses and masses of data. But, just like that man building the motorway earlier, it still needs people to harness the power of that data and use it meaningfully.

ABB’s Drivetune and Drivebase Apps are both great example of this.

Drivetune allows service engineers and installers to easily connect to a drive via wireless Bluetooth connection. Then, using a user-friendly smartphone interface, the installer can more quickly and efficiently commission and tune a drive’s performance, allowing quick resolution of any initial issues without being forced to take the drive offline.

Drivebase, an ABB App that’s been improved since its introduction in 2014, allows plant personnel to scan a dynamic QR code generated by a drive on its control panel. The code provides information for registering the drive and about remedies for potential problems without resorting to maintenance manuals, while simultaneously drawing on ABB’s vast drive knowledge base via the cloud should further assistance be needed.

This is the essence of the IoTSP. The more data a system accumulates, and the more we make sense of that data, the smarter both we and the systems become. These Apps are effectively telling the operator exactly what’s going on inside the drive without the operator needing to be anywhere near it.

This is just the beginning, and the application of this technology is still in its early days, but just as with all new technology, from the pick-up truck to the IoTSP, it takes people to really make it work.

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