By David Bartlett
How can a hospital ensure thousands of pieces of clinical equipment are where they need to be when they are needed? How can a utility prevent breaks in vast networks of underground water mains, some dating back hundreds of years? How can power companies maintain their grids and reduce the number of power outages with fewer truck rolls?
Those are the kinds of challenges that are bringing together 7,000 clients, partners and IBMers at the annual PULSE conference in Las Vegas this week.
We start to address those problems by putting technology into places that you never could before. Consider this:
- There will be one trillion connected devices by 2015, many of which will be instrumented with real-time capabilities to respond quickly and accurately to the environment.
- There will be 30 billion RFID tags this year alone on everything from water mains, train tracks, traffic signals, hospital equipment and more.
- Smart meters can wirelessly transmit energy readings once every 15 minutes to a utility company’s central servers—delivering a 3,000 fold increase in meter readings versus the traditional typical meter read once a month.
The growing ubiquity of sensors, smart grid networks and 4G wireless networks, smartphones and tablets are transforming everyday objects in the physical world into ‘smart’ ones with information on their history, location and status. This “Internet of Things” is creating new streams of data for organizations to drive more data-based decisions. Clients around the world are embracing this and it is opening the door for business transformation.
Just look at how data can impact one industry. The average hospital misplaces or loses 10 to 20 percent of an estimated $750 million of their valuable medical equipment annually and most hospitals can’t find 15 to 20 percent of the devices they own, according to industry experts. By tracking medical equipment by real-time location, hospitals can save hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost and underutilized equipment and ensure that life-saving medical devices are instantly available and expertly maintained.
We need to “listen to” and “see” our infrastructure for greater efficiencies. With location-based and real-time data, organizations can get a bird’s eye view of their infrastructure — roads, buildings and waterways– as well as insight into their operations inside a building or underground, such as water pipes, hospital equipment, electrical meters, HVAC and more. With real-time monitoring an organization can listen to its transportation network, smart meter, buildings and more to see what its data is saying.
The next efficiency frontier is all about analyzing data on the physical world. Solutions with geospatial intelligence from IBM are helping Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, the City of Waterloo, and the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority add location-based data to their services such as water and energy maintenance. DC Water’s service trucks are now assigned more direct driving routes based on analyzing locational data from maintenance service calls, resulting in fewer trucks on the road, slashing their fuel usage by 20 percent.
Advanced analytics can monitor any network that distributes data including: railways, escalators, ATMs , and even refrigeration units for grocery chains. Swiss Federal Railways, for example, combines data from track switches, stations and cars gathered from sensors and video at train stations connected by a fiber-optic cable network with 50,000 fixed and 20,000 mobile connections. IBM network monitoring helps Swiss Rail recognize and repair more than 50 percent of network issues around train delays before they occur, leading to an annual savings of US$ 2.3 million
The world’s infrastructure is getting smarter. To learn more, visit http://spatiallyspeaking.tumblr.com
David Bartlett is vice president of Industry Solutions for IBM Software.