Jet engine parts that send an alert when they should be replaced. Elevators that can be inspected remotely. Office heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems that adjust their temperature settings based on what occupants want. These are a few IIoT or Industrial IoT success stories shared at Huawei Connect in Shanghai, China last week.
The event brought together network operators, large enterprises and others that are pioneering new applications involving digital transformation, the cloud and the IoT.
Industrial IoT Success Stories
According to an estimate provided by Denzil Samuels, global head of channels for GE, the IIoT product and services market could be worth as much as half a trillion dollars within several years.
“We want to own the industrial Internet,” said Samuels, who noted that the market is ripe for new means of increasing productivity.
For two decades prior to 2011, annual productivity gains averaged 4% but since then they have been in the range of 1%. If IIoT technology can help improve productivity by even 1%, “it will drive trillions of dollars of value,” Samuels said.
He pointed to what GE is doing with jet engines as an example of how that might happen. Each one of multiple blades installed in a jet engine are now equipped with sensors that transmit data to GE. Using that information “we can build a digital twin of that engine to simulate what’s happening to the engine,” Samuels explained.
Age or miles flown alone cannot determine how quickly engine blades will experience wear. Blades on planes that fliy in a dusty climate will wear out more quickly than in other climates, for example.
Using the information gathered from the sensors, GE’s systems can automatically alert the airline owning the plane when blades have worn to the point where they should be replaced, thereby avoiding potential engine failure and minimizing airline downtime.
Other IIoT success stories are beginning to emerge in the elevator industry — and regulations already in place in Shanghai illustrate the direction that elevator technology is heading.
Newly installed elevators in Shanghai must have remote monitoring capability — and elevator manufacturer Schindler has found that this capability can reduce the time spent on troubleshooting by 90%, noted Swift Liu, president of Huawei Enterprise Network Product Line. Huawei worked with GE and Schindler to implement the smart elevator capability in China.
The smart elevator technology also could pave the way for remote elevator inspections — and that could generate substantial additional resource savings, considering that 15 million elevators are in operation worldwide, each of which is inspected two times per year.
Schindler also is looking at the IIoT elevator technology as a means of creating new revenue opportunities for building owners through customized ads that would appear inside the elevator as occupants are riding.
A Truce in Thermostat Wars
Building owners also can benefit from IIoT technology aimed at enhancing traditional stand-alone building management systems controlling functionality such as heating and cooling, fire and security.
“Traditionally the only way to talk to the building was to talk to the building manager,” explained John Rajcheet, president of Honeywell Building Systems, at Huawei Connect. “Now the building manager and the tenant can communicate to the building.”
Key to this capability is software that traditionally would have resided in a premises-based control panel but now resides in the cloud, enabling tenants to adjust temperature and other parameters using their smartphones. While this might appear to be a potential source of friction between co-workers with different preferences, Rajcheet said it actually puts an end to “thermostat wars.”
The reason is that the system keeps track of how many people have wanted higher or lower temperatures and sets the thermostat at the level preferred by the majority of occupants.
The system also provides what Rajcheet called “maintenance insights” that can help reduce the time required to maintain the system.