ADLINK, IBM, Intel bring IoT talks to Boston, preview Vortex Edge PMQ

Oct. 25, 2016

Boston, MA. ADLINK, IBM, and Intel chose the Museum of Science Boston as a venue for presentations last week related to IoT technology and edge computing. Spiros Motsenigos, vice president of U.S. sales for ADLINK’s PrismTech subsidiary, welcomed a few dozen attendees by noting the goal is to extract value from disruptive technologies by connecting silos and leveraging autonomy through scaling and partnerships. He said that at last count there were more than 300 IoT platform vendors, offering a set of choices for embarking on IoT initiatives.

The event also provided the companies an opportunity to preview PrismTech’s Vortex Edge PMQ hardware and software, which formally debuted today at IBM World of Watson 2016 in Las Vegas.

Sam Ransbotham, associate professor in the Information Systems Department at the Carroll School of Management, Boston College, and guest editor for MIT Sloan Management Review’s “Big Idea: Data & Analytics initiative,” delivered a keynote address titled “Ready or not, here IoT comes.” He cited as an example the company Wash Multifamily Laundry Systems, which applies IoT technology to its more than 65,000 laundromat locations.

Traditionally, Ransbotham said, laundromat operators’ human-resources needs focused on people who could repair washers and dryers and, perhaps most important, people who could haul quarters—tons and tons of them. Business risk was localized—if one machine was broken or its quarter taker was full or jammed, the machine next to it was still likely to work.

With an intelligent laundry employing electronic payment, you no longer have to have someone haul quarters, but if your telecommunications goes down you lose not just one machine but an entire store—or even multiple stores in one area. And such an operation will require repair people with enhanced skill sets. But the increased complexity leads to increased opportunity—demand pricing, for example; you can probably charge more at 10 a.m. Saturday morning than at 4 a.m. Monday morning. Further, your customers can determine whether a machine is available before showing up.

Ransbotham presented six questions you should ask when embarking on an IoT project:

  1. Are you ready for security? You need to consider confidentiality but also integrity (without which an attacker can unlock your door) and availability (without which an attacker can prevent you from unlocking your own door).
  2. Are you open to sharing? IoT implementations do not work well in isolation—you need to share data with your customers, suppliers, and even competitors.
  3. What if you had all of your data? You might face a dog-catches-car problem—“If you are looking for a needle in a haystack, the last thing you need is more hay,” he said.
  4. Can you consume as well as produce? For most organizations, production sophistication exceeds consumption sophistication.
  5. Can you tell “could” from “should”? You need to establish ethical processes around your analytics.
  6. Can you scale? Each additional user costs nothing, and value is driven by the square of the number of users (per Metcalfe’s law).

Other speakers included Preston Walters, director of IoT and analytics business development at Intel, who asked, “Your assets are talking—are you listening?” He recounted many years ago applying Fourier and Laplace transforms to rotating machinery. At the time, he said, he and his spectrum analyzer represented the connection. Machine monitoring remains a key function, but today connectivity is easy. He cited IDC figures that by 2018 40% of IoT data will be stored and processed at or near the edge.

Intel, he said, provides “ingredients” to which companies like IBM add value. Intel addresses IoT through reference architectures based on, for instance, IEEE standards that can be used across platforms. He referred attendees to www.intel.com/iot for more information.

Rob Risany, global innovation executive, IBM Watson IoT, commented, “A race to the bottom can only take you so far.” Efforts to cut costs quickly lead to diminishing returns and represent only part of the puzzle. “Operational excellence is everyone’s business,” he said, and the edge is where value is created.

Whereas Ransbotham commented on laundromats, Risany presented as an example elevators. How do you monetize elevators? Traditionally, perhaps by emphasizing speed, smoothness, or amenities like gold plating. With IoT technology, however, you can begin to sell energy efficiency by optimizing when cars are dispatched. Further, an elevator company can sell advertising and share revenue with the building owner. If lawyers occupy the 34th floor, for example, perhaps a cruise line might want to advertise. If they are divorce lawyers, perhaps an online dating service might be a good prospect.

“If you can’t control the edge, you can’t capture value,” he said. “The IoT gives you access to the edge. The purpose of analytics is to give you the context to see the edge and seize control. ‘Things’ become your supply chain.”

He concluded by saying if a single company claims to be able “…to solve your problem, run!” IBM views IoT as an ecosystem play, he emphasized, which it addresses through its Innovation Factory incubator.

Risany and Toby McClean, chief solutions architect at PrismTech, then presented one result of the Innovation Factory initiative: The Vortex Edge PMQ predictive analytics hardware and software. McClean said PrismTech “…joined the Innovation Factory to bring cognitive analytics capability to where it makes the most sense—and that is not necessarily the cloud.” He described the Vortex Edge PMQ as an industrial server preconfigured to support the IBM Watson analytics analytics platform. It can connect to the cloud but can also operate autonomously.

Vortex Edge PMQ includes ADLINK’s Intel-processor-based smart-gateway and industrial-server hardware, PrismTech’s real-time data-connectivity software, and IBM’s Predictive Maintenance and Quality (PMQ) analytics. It can serve in industrial, automotive, underground-mining-equipment, intelligent wireless-tower management, and rail-equipment performance-monitoring applications, among others. McClean said one application is equipment monitoring onboard ships in transit. When a ship reaches port, the crew can have previously forwarded information on services required and ensured that necessary parts have been ordered and are on hand for installation.

PrismTech formally debuted Vortex Edge PMQ today at IBM World of Watson 2016 in Las Vegas. “We believe that the Vortex Edge PMQ turnkey approach to industrial connectivity and asset maintenance can be 30% more cost effective than alternative solutions and represents a major step forward for industrial organizations seeking to reduce operational costs, grow revenues, and manage risk,” said Steve Jennis, corporate VP and head of global marketing for ADLINK and PrismTech.

Vortex Edge PMQ is available now for pilot projects and will be generally available in early 2017. For more information visit http://www.prismtech.com/vortex/vortex-edge-pmq.

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