There has been a lot of talk recently about the Internet of Things (IoT) and how it is going to bring the next Industrial Revolution. The world’s largest publications are full of headlines announcing that another big company is determined to adopt IoT solutions. Meanwhile in Finland no one seems to fall into raptures with this buzzword, not only because Finns take pretty much everything in their stride but mostly because Finnish companies were very early adopters of ICT technologies and connected their machines to a network long before the term itself was introduced.
“We started this kind of things 15 years ago”, confirms Jari Hämäläinen, Director, Kalmar Offering Development. Kalmar is the market leader in cargo handling equipment. “Basically, what Google is trying to do for public cars now, we have been doing in our test yard in Tampere for years and have delivered these autonomous vehicles to our customers.” Kalmar took its first steps in port automation about 25 years ago. Now the port industry is at the start of the next big wave of automation. “Our customers want to reduce the effort done at the terminal as well as to increase the number of containers they can handle per year. They need to make operations efficient, safe and sustainable”, explains Hämäläinen. His passion is to lead the renewal of the industry through technology and business innovation. “Earlier, the container-handling machines were operated manually. Now they are equipped with radar, magnetic sensors and GPS thanks to which the machines know exactly where they are and where they should be going.”
Kalmar machines collect hundreds of gigabytes of sensor and operational data every week. In order to make sense of all this data, the company utilizes Navis, an operating system that plans the jobs done by people and the machines in the terminal. Navis operational technologies were developed in Tampere, Finland, which is also the place where Kalmar’s Technology and Competence Centre is located. “Tampere is a very good place to find partners to create a certain technological element”, admits Hämäläinen. With a world class ICT and mobile ecosystem and the strong cluster for intelligent machines and manufacturing industries, Tampere serves as a perfect collaboration platform that companies can use throughout the product lifecycle. “Collaborators include suppliers, technology partners, research institutes and universities, and customers”, says Frank Kho, Vice President, Offering Development. “The keyword is ecosystem. In the era of digitalization, the experts of one company will never be enough to manage the total solution, only a part of it.”
“Our collaboration with TreLab is a very good example of the local ecosystem working here in Tampere”, continues Hämäläinen. TreLab was founded in December 2011, as a spin-off from Nokia. It offers a wireless smart measurement solution for digitalising legacy industrial equipment, essentially enabling industrial Internet or remote monitoring. “An idea came from our innovative employees – why don’t we try wireless sensors in our equipment to monitor all kind of new information that we are probably not gathering yet with our sensors? We chose to collaborate with TreLab and studied technical and business opportunities coming from their solution. Retrofitting the old machines is a very promising direction for us in the future.”
According to TreLab CEO Mika Parikka, traditional industries can benefit from their solution in many ways: 1) Maintenance staff can reduce the amount of equipment inspections and be more prepared to fix relevant problems, 2) they are able to predict breakage, and 3) they are able to compare the utilisation of equipment on different sites and, thus, make rational decisions on such things as investments and personnel training needs. “A large obstacle in IoT is that the lifecycle of industrial equipment tend to have very long lifespans, normally somewhere in the region of 20-30 years”, clarifies Parikka. “Only the most modern equipment (2010-) have embedded sensors and the means to get that data out through a standardised API. According to Cisco systems, only 4% of equipment on manufacturing site’s floor can be connected. TreLab has the programmable, intelligent sensor package to connect to any equipment (the SmartTag), highly productised delivery mechanism from it to our back-end and several possible business integration methods.”
Some experts predict that IoT systems will become more and more common, forcing some businesses to contract external experts. It means that third parties that deliver, install and operate the IoT devices will flourish. Mika Parikka agrees with such a forecast: “A lot of companies, especially in manufacturing equipment business, have ventured outside of their own area of expertise and have trouble keeping up with the market. One NASDAQ/HEX listed company’s CIO just commented to us after developing in-house remote monitoring solutions that they are unable to keep up and employ enough talent in-house. Traditionally, large customers have worked only with the largest Systems Integrators in development of similar solutions. Now those SI’s have become mainly resourcing partners. New solutions and technologies are developed much faster in start-ups and, thus, corporations should work with very small companies. We see Finland as a lab where we can develop the whole product in a very advanced environment, And when it matures, we will take it abroad. We already have some interest from Germany and the USA, which we see as markets with the most potential for us.”
“There is a strong culture here of cooperation between industry, universities, research institutes and public bodies, creating a testbed, a living lab for innovation. This has enabled, for example, the early adaption of communications technologies by traditional heavy industry, giving these companies a competitive advantage in global markets”, explains Oliver Hussey, Senior Manager, Business Development in Tredea, the Tampere Region Economic Development Agency. Tredea provides free services, information and assistance to companies and individuals looking to collaborate with potential partners, technology providers or start-ups in the region. “We invite companies from around the world to come here to benefit from and enrich this ecosystem. Tredea are here to help you find all you need in Tampere..”