The Connected Effect

How to Select the Right IoT Platform

Posted by Bill Zujewski

Mar 13, 2014 9:34:00 AM

By Bill Zujewski

During the growth and hype phase of any new technology comes customer confusion caused by the exaggerated claims of vendors.   That is certainly the case with the Internet of Things and IoT platforms where every week new definitions emerge, new claims are made and new Axeda Go Kittechnologies are touted.   Axeda is right in the center of this IoT ecosystem and we owe it to our customers, our partners and the industry to make sense of the confusion and bring reality to the forefront.

Last month we launched a webinar series entitled “Selecting the right platform for your Internet of Things (IoT)” to help companies understand what an IoT platform does and how to evaluate them.   It no longer makes sense for companies to build your own IoT platform… to design and develop their own connectivity agents, messaging protocols, machine data management and storage systems, rules engine, alarm and event processing engine, APIs and other development tools.   These elements are now pre-integrated, hardened and available in IoT platforms like Axeda.

But not all platforms are equal.  Some focus on communication and sending data from a device to a server… others focus on collecting and storing the data and making it available via APIs and tools… other IoT platforms focus on tools for managing, configuring and monitoring devices and connected things.

Since selecting the right IoT platform is such an integral step in an IoT strategy, Axeda will continue to identify the key factors to pay attention to when evaluating platforms.  Our next webinar with ARM and VDC Research, will focus on the connectivity and capabilities you need at the edge.   It will cover the various ways to gather, process and filter data at the edge and how to efficiently, reliably and securely send that data to the cloud.   Consideration will include Java vs. C, Wired vs. Cellular, UDP vs TCP vs SMS, Linux vs. Windows vs. other OS, and standards vs proprietary protocols.   I’m sure most product managers, developers and architects will find the webinar useful.

Topics: Internet of Things, Axeda Customer, IoT

M2M in the wild: Real World Examples – Part 3 – (Beyond Service)

Posted by Ian Lee

Jun 26, 2013 11:03:00 AM

In Part 2 of M2M in the Wild I took a look at a few healthcare customers of Axeda that use the cloud-based platform to enhance their service offerings to provide not only remote service to provide a faster and more targeted response and resolution, as well as using the platform to provide analytics to help with preventative maintenance on their equipment. But as you can see from the graphic below, the service organization is only one area that can gain benefits from implementing a machine-to-machine program for their devices.

By including other departments such as finance, sales, engineering and operations in the discussions early on in your connected product  journey, you can ensure that you are providing a differentiated product offering that can provide you not only an early-mover advantage in your space, but a stronger brand, and customers for life. 

m2m enterprise

We have seen a few of our healthcare customers moving up the value curve to integrate their connected products with other systems and departments outside of service, so that they can unleash the machine data into their organizations and unlock the value of the data that they collect.

One such customer manufactures battery powered surgical devices such as saws and drills for use in the operating room. By having these devices connected, they are able to provide data not only to their technical support staff, but also to an application for mobile devices that allows the local field service rep, the sales rep and their biomedical staff to see the data in a graphical form. This allows them to see if, for example, the battery on a particular device is not charging to its full capacity, so the sales rep can offer a replacement battery on his next visit. Or maybe they can show the OR staff that one saw has a lot more cycle times than another and suggest that maybe they should rotate them equally.

m2m uiAnother use outside of the service department is that of asset tracking. One client who makes cardiovascular pumps that are designed to be mobile wanted to ensure they and the hospitals knew where the pumps were at any time, as they may be transported with a patient on a gurney out of the assigned operating room or possibly even out of the hospital.

The final example of a healthcare manufacturer offering a higher level of connected product than just a service offering is that of a large disinfection and sterilization equipment for use in hospitals and biopharmaceutical laboratories. They have created their own applications that not only allow them to monitor the equipment for service requirements, but also to provide in-facility dashboards, so that operators can see at a glance what cycle the machines are on, and if any problems are occurring.

describe the imageBefore using this connected system, operators had to stay with a machine while it was running, to ensure that someone was there if anything went wrong. Now they have a mobile app which alerts them of any issues, or when the sterilization cycle completes, so that they can be freed to do other tasks.

The other integration that this company has done is to show the levels available for the variable consumables such as detergents, so that operators can see at a glance on their mobile devices, whether or not a particular system is running low, and need to be replenished.

So, by Incorporating data into one central source this company has simplified the administration of their systems, and provided unprecedented access to data about the status and performance of their customers equipment allowing them to be empowered with their production planning, and also making the work routines easier and more predictable for the operators.

By thinking beyond just the benefits a connected product strategy can bring in the service organization, these companies are transforming themselves by fueling accelerated revenue growth, and providing true value-adds to their clients by providing great products that are easy to use and less likely to fail when you need them most, whether that’s on the operating table, or in the laboratory.

Topics: Axeda Customer

M2M in the Wild: Real World Examples – Part 2 (Healthcare costs and security)

Posted by Ian Lee

Jun 20, 2013 10:37:00 AM

As promised in last week’s blog, this week I am going to take a look at how Machine-to-Machine devices are used in the healthcare industry to help keep the systems keeping us alive, stay alive themselves! If you took a look at the customer section of our websitefor companies in the healthcare industry, you can see that we have a lot of companies listed that provide solutions to securely connect, manage, and innovate everything from MRI machines to blood analyzers.

These manufacturers turn to an M2M platform for many reasons, but top among them is improving the service offerings that they provide. One customer told me that a system being out of action for a single day can result in 35 patients being unable to receive treatment, so minimizing system downtime, and providing out-of-hours preventative maintenance is essential to ensuring that people receive treatment as and when they are scheduled.

Another customer provides devices to clinics to assist with IVF treatments by checking the viability of embryos.  The procedure can take a day or more to run for each patient, and so the company needed to find a way to ensure the success of each treatment not only for the clinic using the system, but for the patient who had invested not only a lot of money, but also a lot of emotion into the procedure as well. So, they needed to ensure that they could be preemptive in the availability of their systems by collecting and analyzing log files and consumables data so that they can proactively dispatch field service staff prior to the next treatment commencing.

medical m2mOne of the benefits of access to a medical device remotely is being able to calibrate a system without having to send an engineer to site. By being able to remotely and securely connect into a device, manufacturers can provide expert assistance to lab managers to ensure systems are running within acceptable parameters. One example of this is Leica Microsystems who are using Axeda in the Leica RemoteCare service offering for their tissue processors and confocal microscopes. By proactively monitoring these systems, Leica can detect parameter deviations before problems occur. For example, as soon as the temperature drifts out of range for a tissue sample, an alarm and email are sent to both Leica and to their customer in the lab, so that adjustments can be made before losing a specimen.

The ability to conduct remote support also saves the time and expense of sending field engineers to diagnose problems as well. For example, a research institution had been experiencing system crashes of its microscopes during long-term experiments, but by being able to remotely capture and analyze the saved error logs, the remote engineer could see that the memory sizes at the time of the crash fell below 500 MB. Instead of dispatching an engineer onsite to replace a defective detector board, a service representative remotely cleaned up the PC to resolve the issue. As a result, diagnosis and repair took one hour instead of three days and saved the unnecessary expense of replacing a perfectly fine piece of hardware.

The costs of field service for these incidents are not insignificant either; a customer who focuses on radiotherapy and x-ray imaging devices estimates that they save around $2,000 for each problem that they solve remotely, ant that they have also reduced their Mean-Time-To-Repair (MTTR) by 50% while saving four hours of travel time for each call.

You may wonder how remote access is securely achieved by companies such as Leica (take a look here for news last week on the latest U.S FDA recommendations for manufacturers of healthcare systems), well Axeda agents are “firewall friendly”, meaning that communications are always HTTPS initiated by the agent, so your customers never need to have IT open ports, change firewall rules, use modems or VPNs for communication, all of which can create security risks by potentially enabling intruders to gain access to sensitive patient data. 

I have a few more words to say on the healthcare subject next time, but if you would like to read more about what Leica is doing, we have a case study here that you can take a look at.

Topics: M2M, Axeda Customer, Healthcare

M2M in the Wild: Real World Examples - Part 1

Posted by Ian Lee

Jun 10, 2013 1:19:00 PM

A recent article in Wired magazine talking about the Internet of Things prompted me to think of some of the Axeda customers, and how they use connected devices. Machine-to-Machine or M2M is seen by some as new and emerging, but it has been around in some form or other for a long time, one of the earliest being during World War 2 as Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) sensors to identify aircraft, or other vehicles as friendly (or not) and to determine their bearing and range from the interrogator.

But things have on a bit since the 1940’s, so what are people doing with M2M applications now? I’m fairly new to this whole industry, so you pundits and gurus who have been in the industry for many years (we have a lot of them here at Axeda!) may want to walk away now, and just get a cup of coffee instead… because I just want to step back for a minute before we get to a use-case, and discuss exactly what (I think) M2M means, and how it may impact your organization.

The first thing you need is of course… a thing… yep, the thing you actually want to talk to… as an example, I am going to borrow from Dr. John Barrett, Head of Academic Studies at the Nimbus Centre for Embedded Systems Research at Cork Institute of Technology, who gave a good example in a recent TED talk.

m2m chairSay we have a chair, and we want to know who has been sitting on that chair. We first need to give our chair a Unique Identifier, so that we know that we are dealing with that specific chair out of all the other chairs in our universe.  Then we need to connect it to the outside world, so we can add a wireless device to it, then we can add pressure sensors, so that we know when it has been sat in. And finally, we can embed some other circuitry to it, so that we are able to control it whether that is robotically controlling the seat height, or activate the wireless SIM card.

The basics hold true for any device,

  • Identify
  • Communicate
  • Sense
  • Control

But once you have this great device, already connected and managed, how are you going to innovate, what new and clever thing can you do with your device now you have remote access to it?  Well, you can monitor its environment, you can use it to populate search results when you are looking for your inventory (think fleet management, food shipments etc.) or you can come up with some very cool value add for your customers that you didn’t even consider before you had a connected device. And of course, a lot of customers are still just using connected devices to perform remote service or preventative maintenance on systems, providing cost savings and improved utilization of their field repair staff.

So in this blog series, I am going to highlight some of our customers, and the way in which they use connected products. And first one up is Diebold, Incorporated, who, over their 150 years have brought together a combination of innovation, expertise and quality service to become a global leader in providing integrated self-service solutions, security systems and services.

Diebold had the challenge of implementing a remote monitoring and diagnostic capability into a new line of ATMs, to enable them to reduce field service visits and minimize system downtimes. Because of the trend to a more software-driven self-service terminal, the company sought to remotely service its ATMs over the Internet, and of course given the sensitive nature of cash-dispensing ATMs, the solution need to be both proven and secure.

By embracing a connected solution, the ATMs are enabled to deliver high-quality remote services with built-in data-capture technology. This feature carefully stores pertinent information about a device’s performance for quick access. In addition, Diebold’s remote support operators are also directly alerted when an ATM problem occurs, and can begin resolving the problem immediately by viewing a mirror image of the module. This provides a level of information that allows for an in-depth analysis of ATM status messages before a technician arrives on site. And when the technician arrives, he then has a precise knowledge about that particular machine which in-turn increases the first-time-fix ratio.

If you want to read more about what Diebold is doing, you can read the case study here. And next time, I will delve into a customer or two in the medical device environment.

Topics: M2M, Internet of Things, Diebold, Axeda Customer

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