Sink or swim? Drowning under too much info!

16/06/2017

Rachel Cooper, category marketing manager – field services with Schneider Electric on managing the Big Data Flood.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is constantly in the news. That’s understandable since forecasts anticipate that there will soon be tens of billions of connected devices, helping the IoT sector to generate more than £7.5 trillion worth of economic activity worldwide. In fact, according to McKinsey Global, the IoT economic impact on factories, retail settings, work sites, offices and homes could total as much as £3.55 trillion by 2025.

Oil refinery control room screen

One area where the IoT is driving development is in smart buildings. Today’s more complex buildings are generating vast quantities of data, but building management systems (BMS) are not leveraging that data as much as they could, and are not always capturing the right data to make useful decisions. With 42 per cent of the world’s energy consumed by buildings, facility managers face escalating demand for environmentally friendly, high-performance buildings that are efficient and sustainable.  The data collected can help them to achieve this.

However, many facility managers lack the time and resources to investigate the convenient methods that can help them to turn the flood of IoT and other sensor data they’re exposed to, into actionable insights

Forced to do more with less 
Reduced budgets force building owners to manage sophisticated building systems with fewer resources. This issue is further aggravated by older systems becoming inefficient over time. Even when there is sufficient budget, it is increasingly difficult and time-consuming to hire, develop, and retain staff with the skills and knowledge to take advantage of BMS capabilities.

Facility managers also face challenges maintaining existing equipment performance. Components can break or fall out of calibration, and general wear and tear often leads to a marked decline in a building’s operational efficiency. Changes in building use and occupancy can contribute to indoor air-quality problems, uncomfortable environments, and higher overall energy costs. These changes begin immediately after construction is complete.

Owners often undertake recommissioning projects to fine-tune their buildings. Such work is intended to bring the facility back to its best possible operation level. However, recommissioning is often done as a reactive measure, and traditional maintenance may not identify all areas of energy waste. Operational inefficiencies that are not obvious, or that do not result in occupant discomfort, may go undetected.

Upskilling the current workforce
Many tools have come onto the market over the past decade to help employees get a better understanding of their facilities and assist them in their day-to-day operations and long-term planning. This can include anything from dashboards and automated analytics platforms to machine-learning optimisation engines. However, much like the sophisticated BMS platforms available today, for each tool you deploy, more investment is needed in time for training. In fact, research shows that lacking training is evident with roughly only 20 per cent of facility managers using 80 per cent of capabilities available to them within their BMS. The remaining 80 per cent use a very limited amount (20 per cent) of the potential functionality in their system.

With personnel turnover and competing facility-management responsibilities, many facilities are left without staff who have the time to learn the full capabilities of these tools. Of course, outsourcing different functions is one way to overcome these issues. However, vendors must be managed closely to ensure efficacy, and to ensure that outsourcing costs do not accrue significantly as third parties spend more time on-site.

In tech we trust
Technology has become an important part of building management, as BMS play an ever bigger role in how facility managers perform their jobs and operate buildings. Newer technologies like data visualisation dashboards let facility managers view building performance metrics in a single window, helping them to spot trends and gather insights. By visualising data in terms of graphs, charts, and conversion to different equivalents – for example, kWh to pound cost or kWh to carbon footprint, an experienced building operator can manually identify areas of concern for closer inspection.

Yet, while dashboards can be helpful in determining building behaviour, the data is often complex and challenging to interpret. In fact, even if building staff have the time and skills to review and understand the data, dashboard information alone tells only part of the building performance story. Facility managers can identify where inefficiencies exist but usually not why. This requires additional troubleshooting and investigation. Therefore, dashboards are most effective for simple monitoring in environments where there are plenty of trained staff to perform troubleshooting and identify the root causes of issues.

Analytics is the answer 
To gain more from a BMS deployment, many facility managers are turning to data analytics software to interpret large volumes of BMS data. Best-in-class software automatically trends energy and equipment use, identifies faults, provides root-cause analysis, and prioritises opportunities for improvement based on cost, comfort and maintenance impact. This software complements BMS dashboards because it takes the additional step of interpreting the data – showing not just where but why inefficiencies occur. Engineers can then convert this intelligence into “actionable information” for troubleshooting and preventative maintenance, as well as for solving more complicated operational challenges. 

Using this software, facility managers can proactively optimise and commission building operations more effectively than with a BMS alone. It enables them to understand why a building is or isn’t operating efficiently so that they can introduce permanent solutions rather than temporary fixes. For instance, with data analytics, facility managers can proactively identify operational problems such as equipment that needs to be repaired or replaced. Moreover, it can do this before critical failure and before it has an impact on the building occupants. Repairs can be scheduled before an emergency arises, eliminating costly short-notice or out-of-hours replacement and avoiding failure and downtime. With this proactive approach, equipment becomes more reliable, the cost of replacement and repair can be much lower, and occupants are assured of optimal comfort. In fact, by following best practice, they can even reduce HVAC energy costs by up to 30%.

The Future
Smart, connected technology has taken us beyond the human ability to manage what can amount to hundreds of thousands of data points in large buildings. Efficient operations require a proactive response. Analytics solutions effectively manage the new state of information overload created by a digital world and filter out what’s not valuable to you. For example, they can provide insight on how to fix problems when they are first observed, before total failure. This predictive maintenance approach means capital assets can be preserved and significant energy savings can be made. The advent of IoT means that we must shift our approach to facility management in order to deliver against the financial, wellbeing and sustainability targets of today’s facilities. By investing in a sophisticated BMS, users can uncover which data to ignore and which to act upon. After all, data for data’s sake is useless. Being able to use a building’s performance data to augment operational efficiency, increase occupant comfort, and improve overall energy consumption so that the financial well-being of buildings can be sustained, is of paramount importance.

@SchneiderElec #PAuto #IoT

PICTIÚIRÍ: Industry 4.0 concept reviewed in Limerick.

13/04/2017
EPLAN joined forces with ABB, DesignPro, Douglas Automation, Igus, Industrial Society of Automation (Ireland Section ISA), Omron, Panasonic, Prion PLM, Portalis, Rittal Ireland, Rockwell Automation, Siemens, SL Controls and Weidmuller to bring Industry 4.0 to the Limerick Institute of Technology.
More Pictures on Twitter.
The LimerickIT feed (4 pics).
Abb Feed (1 pic)
Other pics retweeted on Eplan UK Feed.

In the wake of the next industrial revolution, EPLAN hosted the event at The Limerick Institute of Technology with the aim of discussing the German concept, Industry 4.0. The event will allowed companies to understand what 4.0 means and how existing and near future technologies can help them move towards becoming a smart factory which ultimately produce machines and products that effectively talk to one another.

Industry 4.0 (Industrie 4.0) is a high-tech strategy adopted by the German government which promotes the computerisation of traditional industries such as manufacturing. The goal is to create intelligent factories (smart factory) that focus on cyber physical systems primarily consisting of communication technologies, software, senses and processes – all of which have the potential through cloud technology to communicate and interact with each other in an intelligent way.

The well attended event had over 150 registered to attend and many more came without registering.

These are some pictures to give a flavour of the event.

Busy associated exhibition area.

Professor Vincent Cunnane, President of LIT welcomes delegates!

Delegates await the next speaker.

 

Dr Frances Hardiman, Head of Department Electrical and Electronic Engineering discusses the place of LIT in the engineering community.

EPLAN’s Ken Christie welcomes delegates and addresses his company’s place in Industrie 4.0.

Justin Leonard of Igus.

Micahel Gartz of Panasonic

Declan McDevitt of Siemens

Another view of the exhibition area.

@EPLAN_UK @LimerickIT #PAuto #Industry4

Future factory – a moderator’s impression!

01/02/2016

Read-out was asked to moderate the automation stream at the National Manufacturing & Supplies conference held last week outside Dublin. (26th January 2016). In their wisdom the organisers selected “Future Factory!” as a title for this half day seminar and there were 11 speakers organised to speak on their particular subjects for about 15 minutes each. This was replicated in the the over a dozen different seminars held on this one day.

q#MSC16

Long queues lasted well into the morning to enter the event!

We were a little sceptical that this would work but with the help of the organisers and the discipline of the speakers the time targets were achieved. Another target achieved was the number of attendees at the event as well as those who attended this particular seminar.
In all between exhibitors, speakers and visitors well over 3000 packed the venue. Probably far more than the organisers had anticipated and hopefully a potent sign that the economy is again on the upturn. Indeed it was so successful that it was trending (#MSC16) on twitter for most of the day.

Seminar
But back to our seminar. If you google the term Future Factory you get back 207million links, yet it is difficult to find a simple definition as to what it means. The term automation similarly is a very difficult term to define though the term in Irish “uathoibriú” perhaps is a bit clearer literally meaning “self-working.”

uturefactory.jpg

Good attendance at the Seminar

Background
The world of automation has changed to an extrordinary degree and yet in other ways it remains the same. The areas where it has experienced least change is in the areas of sensing – a thermometer is a thermometer – and final control – a valve is a valve. Where it has changed almost to the point of unrecognisability is in that bit in the middle, what one does with the signal from the sensor to activate the final control element.

From single parameter dedicated Indicator/Controller/Recorders in the sixties which transmitted either pnuematically (3-15psi) or electrically (4-20mA). Gradually (relatively speaking) most instruments became electronic, smaller in size and multifunctional. The means of communication changed too and fieldbus communication became more common to intercact with computors which themselves were developing at breaknech speed. Then transmission via wireless became more common and finally the internet and the ability to control a process from the computer that we call the intelligent phone. There are problems with these latter, internet/cellphone, of course. One is that the reach of the internet is focussed at present on areas of high population. Another is the danger of infiltration of systems by hostile or mischivous strangers. The importance of security protocols is one that has only recently been apparent to Automation professionals.

• Many of the presentations are available on-line here. The password is manufac2016

The Presentations
Maria Archer of Ericsson spoke on the enabling and facilitating IoT in the manufacturing industry. Diving straight into topic she drew on her experience of big data, e-commerce, media, cyber security, IOT and connected devices.

The second speaker was Cormac Garvey of Hal Software who addressed Supply Chain prototyping. The Supply Chain ecosystem is incredibly complex, usually requiring significant integration of each suppliers’ standards and processes to the manufacturer’s. Cormac will introduce the concept of supply chain prototyping, where easy-to-use, standards-based technology is used to wireframe out the entire supply chain ecosystem prior to integration, thus significantly reducing cost, time and risk on the project. This wireframe can then be used as a model for future integration projects.

Two speakers from the Tralee Institute of Technology, Dr. Pat Doody and Dr. Daniel Riordan spoke on RFID, IoT, Sensor & Process Automation for Industry 4.0. They explained how IMaR’s (Intelligent Mechatronics and RFID) expertise is delivering for their industrial partners and is available to those aiming to become a part of Industry 4.0.

Smart Manufacturing – the power of actionable data was the topic addressed by Mark Higgins of Fast Technology. He shared his understanding of the acute issues companies face on their journey to Business Excellence and how leveraging IT solutions can elevate the business to a new point on that journey.

Assistant Professor (Mechanical & Manuf. Eng) at TCD, Dr Garret O’Donnell,   explained how one of the most significant initiatives in the last 2 years has been the concept of the 4th industrial revolution promoted by the National Academy for Science and Engineering in Germany- ACATECH, known as Industrie 4.0. (Industrie 4.0 was first used as a term in Germany in 2011).

Another speaker from Fast Technologies, Joe Gallaher, addressed the area of Robotics and how Collaborative Robots are the “Game Changer” in the modern manufacturing facility.

Dr. Hassan Kaghazchi of the University of Limerick and Profibus spoke on PROFINET and Industrie 4.0. Industrial communications systems play a major role in today’s manufacturing systems. The ability to provide connectivity, handle large amount of data, uptime, open standards, safety, and security are the major deciding factors. This presentation shows how PROFINET fits into Industrial Internet of Things (Industrie 4.0).

White Andreetto

Maurice Buckley CEO NSAI

The CEO of NSAI, the Irish National Standards Authority, Maurice Buckley explained how standards and the National Standards Authority of Ireland can help Irish businesses take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution and become more prepared to reap the rewards digitisation can bring.

The next two speakers stressed the impact of low forecast accuracy on the bottom line and how this coulbe be addressed. Jaap Piersma a consultant with SAS UK & Ireland explained that low forecast accuracies on the business performance is high in industry but with the right tools, the right approach and experienced resources you can achieve very significant result and benefits for your business. Following him Dave Clarke, Chief Data Scientist at Asystec, who mantains the company strategy for big data analytics service development for customers. He showed how are incredible business opportunities possible by harnessing the massive data sets generated in the machine to machine and person to machine hyper connected IoT world.

The final speaker David Goodstein, Connected Living Project Director, GSMA, described new form factor mobile SIMs which are robust, remotely manageable which are an essential enabler for applications and services in the connected world.

All in all a very interesting event and useful to attendees. Papers are being collected and should be available shortly on-line.

It is hoped to do it all again next year on 24th January 2017- #MSC17.

See you there.

@NationalMSC #MSC16 #PAuto #IoT


IT isn’t taking all of our jobs!

10/09/2015
There is little doubt that IT has comprehensively penetrated all areas of the job market – from low skilled jobs to white collar professions. However, in the majority of cases this has been a steady evolution rather than a computer uprising, as it’s so tempting to portray it. Here Carl Plant, CEO of bITjAM, explains why IT isn’t going to destroy your job, but make you more employable.
Carl_Plant

Carl Plant

The IT evolution has led to many, many job roles evolving in turn. For example, bookkeepers no longer sit at desks inputting numbers into a database; online accounting software does it for them, while they focus on decision making. Instead, of making them less employable, IT has made them more free, allowing them to work more flexibly.

Sophisticated technology has allowed the modern day white collar worker to gain experience in a host of roles they would never have enjoyed before.

Just as the internet has provided the basis for a new world of interconnectivity, advanced IT has created a world in which jobs become interconnected too. Job titles are no longer one-track; employees are expected to have tertiary skills in other relatable areas. In fact, it’s often these secondary skills that make them more employable over their less adaptable peers.

For example, a modern admin assistant’s CV will probably contain aspects of marketing, HR and PR.

That’s not to say that there are no specialists anymore, but now IT has taken on more job responsibility and employers expect more from employees.

If we were to look at how design has changed over the last decade, you would see that, ten or fifteen years ago, there were two distinct types of designer. The creative graphic designer and the technical web designer did different jobs; the latter was really a coding and programming expert. Designer A would create your logos, branding and advertising. Designer B would write the code to build your website. These two antipodes, or so it seemed, didn’t mix; there were no hybrids. It was the classic left brain, right brain dichotomy.

However, flash forward to the current day and modern designers are expected to do it all. This is partly due to the fact IT has reduced the need for coders; there are now programmes out there that can do it for you.

Of course, still having a basic understanding of coding and being able to dip into it every now and then is a must, but the days of writing streams of HTML are long gone.

IT has lowered the barriers to many jobs that used to be considered specialist. It’s thrown open the doors of careers that were previously only for the highly skilled, and freed workers from the boundaries of their job titles.

Over the next ten years, rather than destroying specialists, IT will push these people to become more skilled, while allowing the rest of us to become more well-rounded. It’s not a revolution, it’s an evolution – it’s not forcing us to study IT, it’s allowing us to work in a wider range of roles using applications that need less study.

Far from fearing IT taking our jobs, we should be embracing it and the sooner the better. For schools, universities and employers group work experience with IT technologies can be a great way to give people invaluable skills and perhaps even inspire them to take a route previously deemed unthinkable.

• bITjAM specialises in helping manufacturing companies utilise their data through the creation of information dashboards and content management systems. Its main aim is how technology can help businesses grow.