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The power of IoT on display at Cloud Expo Asia

Bernard Golden | Nov. 11, 2015
You think mobile’s big? Just wait until the Internet of Things transforms everything around us, from milk cartons to highway overpasses.

At CEA, I saw two presentations that exemplify powerful examples of the power of IoT as well as the wildly different kinds of solutions that reside underneath the umbrella of the term. 

First up was a presentation by the global BI head of Tetra Pak, Fredrik Ohlsson. Tetra Pak, if you’re not familiar with it, creates containers. You may have seen these holding milk – they look like waxy cardboard, but, due to their design and fill system, can be stored at room temperature. Here is a video that explain how Tetra Pak works – it’s pretty amazing, as it sort of forms the package around the product as it’s filled. 

Tetra Pak is a global company and faces many challenges in data consistency, summarizing data, allowing locally-focused analytics, and so on. Ohlsson’s presentation addressed how Tetra Pak has improved its business intelligence approach over the past few years to provide better business insights. An excellent initiative and presentation. 

What struck me was a response he gave to a question raised at the end of his presentation – could he provide some examples of business advantage Tetra Pak had achieved via its updated BI capability. He responded that Tetra Pak treated this as privileged information, but he could offer one example. 

As demonstrated in the video, Tetra Pak milk carton machines cut the packaging material to form individual milk containers. Occasionally, the machine’s blades get dull, and instead of cutting a container, mash the packaging material, allowing milk to spill all over the area. Recovering from a spill takes time, and, worse, holds up production. 

He noted that they are now capturing cutting data from the filling machines and see that, before a blade gets dull enough to mash the packaging material, its cuts take slightly longer than when the blade was newly installed. By tracking the cutting time, customers can see when a blade needs to be replaced, which can be done at a convenient time that does not halt production. No mess, no downtime, money saved. 

A second presentation by Gul Agha discussed a very different IoT application. Gul teaches at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and his work focuses on smart cities. The example he discussed is bridge safety monitoring. Bridges have to be monitored for corrosion, element failure, and so on. The consequences of monitoring failure can be catastrophic

While in this particular example, human monitoring had identified serious issues, many bridges pose significant problems for monitoring: remote location, difficult access to key structure elements, infrequent monitoring schedules due to location, etc. 

Agha outlined a solution his team has developed. Small sensor devices are placed on the bridge and gather data around the clock. With the approach, potential issues can be identified much earlier; moreover, this solution mitigates the location/element challenges just mentioned. 

 

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