The Internet of Things (IoT) involves connected products, assets, fleets, infrastructures, markets, and people. In this series of blogs, we’ll address each of these connected aspects in turn.
With 6.4 billion IoT devices in 2016 and an expected 20.8 billion in 2020, IoT is everywhere – but nowhere more so than in connected infrastructures. “Infrastructure” in this context includes commercial and residential buildings, transportation networks such as motorways and railways, and utility-related networks such as power grids, natural gas pipelines, and waterworks.
IoT can deliver operational intelligence and even transform physical systems to improve operations, mitigate risk, enhance services, and drive economic growth. IoT should be on the radar of any organization involved in these infrastructures – from city, state, and federal governments to energy companies, transit operators, and a wide range of service providers.
But to realize connected infrastructures that are transformational, organizations must achieve two imperatives:
- Integrate embedded sensors and control technologies with business applications and information systems
- Enable real-time data capture and analysis to predict, plan, and respond to real-time conditions
Blurring the physical and virtual
Achieving connected infrastructures begins with understanding the challenges and opportunities in three areas:
1. Building insights
With 40% of energy consumed by commercial and residential buildings, there’s tremendous opportunity to use IoT to reduce costs and improve sustainability. Manufacturers engage in energy-intensive operations with a high cost of consumption. Manufacturers, commercial buildings, and households lack visibility into their energy costs based on data such as usage patterns, occupancy rates, and weather. Buildings incur high costs for HVAC systems, out-of-order elevators, maintenance, and other aspects of physical-plant operation.
By leveraging IoT, organizations can lower energy costs by consuming at off-peak rates. They can identify underused or poorly performing assets to improve efficiencies. And they can achieve predictive maintenance to lower costs, enhance safety and security, and achieve better compliance and sustainability.
U.S. drivers spend as much as 100 hours stuck in traffic every year, wasting $300 billion in fuel and lost productivity. Many highways, bridges, and railways are approaching 75 years old, resulting in non-compliance, failures, and accidents. Similar factors are at play in other developed economies, while emerging markets face the challenges of effectively managing new infrastructure.
IoT can help governments and other operators of transportation infrastructure to monitor usage patterns, optimize maintenance, and identify potential problems before they occur. A large city in China created a smart traffic system that combines RFID and IoT sensors with real-time analytics. The solution is helping the city manage its 7,000 buses, 10,000 taxis, and 1 million cars – reducing congestion, pollution, and costs, and improving commerce and quality of life.
3. Energy grids
Much of the energy infrastructure in developed markets was built on an outmoded model in which power generation occurs outside urban centers and is transmitted to the point of consumption. But generation is growing increasingly decentralized. Manufacturers, office campuses, and homeowners can use wind, solar, and related technologies to generate and store their own energy and feed it back into the grid. Meanwhile, growing populations and new technologies such as electric vehicles are only increasing energy demand.
IoT answers these challenges. It can augment or replace many of the manual, costly processes involved in monitoring and maintaining assets. It can improve regulatory compliance and help utilities avoid outages. And it can provide visibility into consumption patterns to enable utilities to balance loads and shave peak demand while allowing ratepayers to reduce costs.
A large utility in Texas integrates its operational technology (OT) with information technology (IT) to achieve predictive maintenance. It now has a color-coded, condition-ranked view of underground electrical wires and pad-mounted transformers on a satellite and street-view map. IoT technologies are enabling the organization to efficiently test equipment and proactively perform maintenance.
Similarly, an energy company in London created digital twins for the structural monitoring of wind turbines. By complementing or replacing physical inspections in extreme, remote locations, the company is saving money, improving safety, avoiding outages and costly repairs, and extending asset lifetimes.
Connected infrastructures deliver clear benefits. They can reduce costs, support more efficient and effective operations, increase compliance, mitigate risk, improve service, and drive job creation and economic growth. Connected infrastructures are where the IoT action will be over the next three to five years – and where the advantages will be for organizations that pursue them.
Effective IoT connectedness requires a unifying foundation. SAP has addressed this need by introducing SAP Leonardo Internet of Things portfolio, innovative solutions designed to help organizations digitally transform existing processes and evolve to new digital models. Learn more by reading about real-world use cases, visiting sap.com/iot, attending our flagship event Leonardo Live this July 11–12 in Frankfurt, and following us on Twitter at @SAPLeonardo.