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One of the big upsides to the industrial internet of things is the possibility for reinvention, particularly for traditional systems integrators on the lookout for new business models.
Just ask InVMA, a long-time provider of industrial control and automation solutions and consulting services, based in the United Kingdom. As part of its systems integration work in this market segment, InVMA eventually spread its wings to offer remote support capabilities, allowing it to pinpoint and troubleshoot potential problems with clients' equipment without having to physically travel to their location.
When IIoT began to gain footing, InVMA saw a much bigger opportunity to expand its project-based business model into a more recurring revenue stream. In 2013, with relatively few providers in this space, it settled on the ThingWorx IoT platform, now owned by PTC, to build out online monitoring capabilities that would be the foundation of its new services strategy. "We were brainstorming how to create a company with more sustained revenue, repeat business and predictability in finance -- and that took us into IIoT," said Patrick Nash, InVMA's co-founder and managing director.
Using the PTC ThingWorx IoT platform, InVMA created its Asset Minder service that monitors and collects data from remote and unmanned equipment on the plant floor or in the field, leveraging it for an array of workflows, including predictive maintenance. In addition, the company has become a reseller of the ThingWorx platform and solution portfolio, allowing it to build comparable solutions for customers to leverage with their own installed base.
Unlike its early remote monitoring capabilities, the ThingWorx-powered Asset Minder service provides more than just static reports -- it marries real-time data with analytics to trigger specific workflows, Nash explained. "Remote monitoring is just about being able to see data from a remote location -- this builds in process and business rules so that if a generator goes offline, we know in near-real time and can alert a client," he said. "Then if they know what happened -- maybe the oil pressure is low, for example -- the system can raise a ticket in a service system like ServiceMax or Zendesk. We're actually connecting up to people-based processes rather than just showing them data."
It's ThingWorx's ability to connect to other "things," such as enterprise systems, that sets it apart and will allow InVMA to pursue a broader vision. "We're using ThingWorx to expand what we're building for clients to other business systems, moving beyond the factory floor," Nash said.
ThingWorx IoT platform: Bringing real-time data to telecom customers
Elisa, a Finnish telecommunications company serving 2.4 million customers, is also leveraging the ThingWorx IoT platform to build out an open service development platform that its own customers can leverage. With the ThingWorx solution, Elisa customers can quickly and easily build solutions for monitoring connected assets -- a variety of equipment, building facilities and enterprise systems in the case of one its retail customers, for example, and frequency converter units used in wind turbines for another client, explained Kari Terho, vice president of industrial IoT at Elisa. Currently, Elisa has 85 clients using its ThingWorx-powered IoT development platform.
"We're able to give customers a single view of their entire enterprise based on real-time data," he said. "The problem today is they may get data once a month or once a week and then they analyze what happened, but by then it's too late. Without real-time data, they can't understand what's happening at a site." In contrast, the Elisa IoT platform provides that real-time view, allowing its customers to provide better services and ultimately higher customer satisfaction, Terho said.
Years back, when Elisa built out its own network operations center so it could monitor assets and ensure it met or exceeded customer service-level agreements, there was no IIoT or ThingWorx IoT platform. By building its IoT solution on the ThingWorx foundation, its customers can avoid a lengthy and highly complex development cycle.
"We understand the pain it takes to build something like this from scratch -- it took us four years to build out our capability and that's way too long," Terho said. "We selected ThingWorx to be our main platform because it allowed us to offer a lean and quick development method to our enterprise customers."
Check out more about PTC's push into the IoT world.