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Smart Companies: Some of the best and brightest in the IoT marketplace

Internet of Things is a vital market – Smart Industry had a look at new Smart Companies, products and solutions in the IoT marketplace.

Kärcher Fleet

Cleaning Up With IoT

Kärcher, the global market leader in cleaning technology, is partnering with Munich-based startup Device Insight to create an IoT platform called “Kärcher Fleet” which provides a comprehensive status overview of a company’s machine fleet via a web browser. Developed in collaboration with leading contract cleaners, Kärcher Fleet is tasked with delivering all relevant information to the cleaning task managers for a seamless overview of machines and responsibilities. That way, cleaning jobs can be done more efciently and at less cost. The principle and benefits of Kärcher Fleet are based on machine data, which are processed into meaningful information. This information can be accessed through a modern, web-based portal. Different versions of the portal are at the disposal of fleet managers, dependent on branch afliation.

IoT Marketplace: Kärcher Fleet

Through this, Kärcher Fleet offers relevant, concrete and current information for each respective type of fleet. The structures, locations of use, task managers and responsibilities within the fleet, as well as the measurement criteria, are illustrated both industry-specifc and company-related. The reliability of the cleaning processes can thereby be increased significantly. Through better machine coordination, protection against misuse and theft, as well as increased machine availability, Kärcher Fleet offers important distinguishing features for each industry type. With task-oriented access, Kärcher Fleet users only receive the information that is relevant for them. Alarms, warnings and notes are individually adjustable. According to Dr. Karl Engelbert Wenzel, head of Intelligent Systems Predevelopment at Kärcher, “Kärcher Fleet is precisely aligned to the requirements of different industries and can bring a new level of efciency and professionalism in fleet management.”


Digital Twins

Remember the automation pyramid, the one that depicted industrial production as a neat series of levels of control, supervision and management stacked one above the other? Well, these days it looks like the automation pyramid will soon be ancient history, just like the ones in Egypt. That at least is what two German companies are betting on. Their aim is to replace the orderly hierarchy with the kind of grid-like network structure that will be needed if the Industrial Internet of Everything (a.k.a. Industry 4.0) is ever to become reality.

IoT Marketplace: Hans-Jürgen Hilscher

Hans-Jürgen Hilscher – CEO Hilscher GmbH

Hans-Jürgen Hilscher founded his company back in 1986 in the basement of his house in Okriftel, a suburb of Frankfurt am Main, where he began producing electronic components and, later, ASICs, so-called application-specifc integrated circuits. These are integrated circuits that are ustomized for a particular use, rather than general-purpose like most ICs produced by the giants of the chip industry like Intel, Samsung or Qualcomm. Walter Pepperl und Ludwig Fuchs started their tiny radio repair shop much earlier, namely right after World War II in Mannheim. Both firms have prospered over the years, now employs more than 250 people, while Pepperl+Fuchs became a pioneer in sensor technology. IoT brought them together in a close partnership. Hans-Jürgen Hilscher describes the two companies as “digital twins”. Recently they have been joined by SAP, the world-famous ERP developer, who just happens to be based a few miles down the autobahn in Walldorf, to try and create order out of the everyday data chaos caused by multiple, mutually incompatibility formats and standards. To create and run a data-driven factory using cyberphysicial systems – robots, in other words – you need to be very sure that everyone understands and interprets the data the same way.

IoT Marketplace: Pepperl+Fuchs

This means somehow wielding machines, modules, and components from many different manufacturers and vendors to work together in a highly-efficient cycle involving complex processes, lots and lots of data and ways to monitor what is happening in real-time. This is especially the case in the field of predictive maintenance, which usually involves multiple IT platforms, each one made by a different company. How to monitor operating and maintenance systems if each speaks a different language? How to detect patterns and tell whether a spare part A is in fact identical with spare part B from another supplier? Hilscher is convinced that, to achieve Industry 4.0, “we need to rethink the way we automate, and we need to do it at all levels of our reference architecture. Everyone who is part of the value chain needs to agree to use a common syntax and semantics”.

IoT Marketplace: Dr.Dr.-Ing. Gunther Kegel

Dr. Dr.-Ing. Gunther Kegel – CEO Pepperl+Fuchs

Hilscher and their “twins” at Pepperl+Fuchs think they have found the common language in SAP’s Asset Intelligence Network, a cloud-based hub that allows companies to collect, track, and trace equipment information in a central repository. Since SAP is one of the most popular ERP systems in the world, it already forms a kind of common standard. What the Digital Twins want to do is to connect it to the shopfloor. Hilscher has developed a unit they call the “netIOT Edge Gateway” that sends information back and forth between the sensors installed in automation equipment and their virtual counterparts in the digital network. In effect, this creates a “virtual twinship” between the two. By continuously scanning both of them, anomalies can be detected instantly, allowing machines to be adjusted or reconfigured quickly and easily. “That way, the business and automation levels can be brought together”, says Dr.-Ing. Gunther Kegel, CEO of Pepperl+Fuchs. In this case, the SAP Asset Intelligence Network serves as a data hub between all the involves parties and their business processes and systems, and thanks to Hilscher and Pepperl+Fuchs, this cooperative network can be extended to the automation level without the need for costly physical integration. Kegel: “This essentially creates a new paradigm for manufacturing.”


Taking a Plunge in Smart Battery Development

IoT Marketplace WSI Schema
Batteries provide the lifeblood for lots of IoT projects and solutions. Increasingly, batteries are being embedded in hard-to-reach places, so changing a dead one is a major hassle. According to NorthStar – a Swedish international company that produces batteries used, among others, in telecom power systems, uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) and engine start-up applications – more than 50% of batteries are replaced prematurely because: They are not properly managed and maintained in warehouses;
installations are performed incorrectly; or they are exposed to poor power settings and elevated temperatures which often drastically shortens their lifetimes; or they are stolen. NorthStar decided it needed a battery strategy. It turned to a little-known company in a suburb of Stockholm for help. WSI is a specialist in wireless system integration, including product design, specifcation, prototyping, and has a track record for assisting partners in setting up production facilities. Ola Hellström, WSI project manager, was excited: “We developed the electronics, the gateway and the radio module in the battery. With the help of the others involved in the project, we built a battery that is smart as soon as it is manufactured. The radio module monitors the battery throughout its lifecycle. Thanks to gateways both in storage and on site, all facts about the battery will be available for the users,” he explains. Per Werin, NorthStar’s CMO, knew his company was taking a plunge: “We needed to take a technology leap. We needed to add something to our existing premium batteries to make them smarter and more interactive.” The result is a remote management solution, which has been called NorthStar ACE (Advanced Connected Energy), that is expected to change the way energy storage is managed.

IoT Marketplace Per Werin and Ola Hellström

Ola Hellström – Project manager WSI (left) and Per Werin – CMO NorthStar.

The solution combines Bluetooth communication with the Internet of Things (IoT) concept. Users can retrieve real-time and historical performance data wirelessly, both locally through a smartphone app and remotely through a cloud service. The batteries are managed from manufacturing throughout the life of the product. Werin is enthusiastic about the new solution, but he also realizes that a battery is something that is expected to work no matter where it is used. Though he admits the smart solution adds some cost to the batteries, he is convinced it will pay the end customer back several times through control and management, which in turn results in lower maintenance costs and longer battery life, as well as beneftting the environment.
WSI’s Ola Helström admits that there were major challenges: “The requirements of the system meant that the various project teams had to rethink and act quickly together.” One success factor, he says, was the broad set of skills each company brought to the table: “We come from completely different backgrounds, creating a major new concept for the future IoT world. To accomplish this, you have to help one another and constantly check that the project progresses at the right pace.

IoT Marketplace NorthStar Battery


Times Square Everywhere

Media façades are not really new in advertising. After all, they are what give places like New York’s Times Square, London’s Piccadilly Circus, and the Las Vegas Strip their brio, turning them into bright and colorful tourist attractions. Onlyglass, founded in 1876, describes itself as Europe’s market leader in transparent surface communication. It evolved from being a regional dealer in paints, wallpapers and panes of window glass and, today, it’s mission is to turn an entire building into an advertising medium. In this way, advertisers,building owners, investors, and consumers can view outdoor advertising on a giant screen and these displays, in turn, transform the urban landscape. This gives designers a fascinating interface with the surrounding world.

IoT Marketplace Onlyglass

Onlyglass CEO Reinhard Cordes explains, “Our solutions address advertising in a totally new way. By inserting LEDs into the cavity of an insulating glass panel(like double-glazed windows), we are able to transform an entirefaçade into a giant LED screen.” Most importantly, Cordes says, Onlyglass panels are built to be unobtrusive so they don’t distract the building’s occupants or obstruct their view. Natural light can still enter the building, even when the advertisement is switched on.


Some Things Last Forever

IoT Marketplace: SEB Building shoddy stuff that breaks down soon after purchase and cannot be repaired is really bad for business. That’s what Alain Pautrot, VP for after-sales and consumer satisfaction at Groupe SEB believes. The 155-year-old French company manufactures ranges of appliances and cookware for well-known brands: from Krups, a world leader in coffee and espresso machines, and Rowenta, the US market leader in high-end irons; to Moulinex, Supor, Imusa, and Arno. SEB has made after-sales service and repairs a cornerstone of its growth strategy and encourages customers to keep and repair products instead of throwing them away and buying new.
Making this possible is no mean feat of logistics and SEB has been stockpiling spare parts for years now. It has built a 15,000 square meters warehouse to store current stock near the border between France and Switzerland. But lately the company has found an entirely new way to make sure customers can get all the spares they need to keep their appliances running: 3D printing. Last May, Groupe SEB began testing the frst products repaired with 3D printed replacement parts, within their ’10 years repairability’ program aimed at ensuring a ‘lifetime’ supply of plastic parts. Ultimately, the goal is for repair professionals to be able to create the parts directly using this new technology, says Pautrot.

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