How to avoid asset meltdown in nuclear power plants

We can all imagine the complexity surrounding the workings of a nuclear power plant. Given the level of safety, reliability and regulatory requirements they face, every operation and process needs to be designed and managed with utmost care.  The same is the case with asset management.

Asset management plays a critical role in the operations of a nuclear power plant for the following reasons:

1)    It establish processes to help improve reliability by ensuring the lowest downtime of assets possible

2)    It helps manage the complexity of assets to improve visibility and maintenance optimization. This ensures longer asset life and high returns on investment. This is especially critical in a nuclear power plant where equipment and infrastructure can come at a high cost.

3)    It helps protect the power supply, ensuring it is always available to meet demand

Data from the IoT enables predictive maintenance

 Modern nuclear power plant designs include more IoT sensors than their older counterparts. With these sensors, operators have access to  raw data , which they can feed into a predictive monitoring solution and view actionable insights in real time.

Data collected and analyzed can provide a precise picture of an asset’s state of health (Good, Fair, or Poor) – enabling the discovery of failures and potential failures that otherwise would have been impossible to spot. Predictive maintenance, based on this analysis, enables nuclear power plants to be more proactive and confident in their asset maintenance – potentially avoiding disasters or outages.

With this added insight, plant operators have an advantage in terms of the continuous operation of plant assets and better scheduling of maintenance tasks – which translates into reduced costs.

A specialized solution for the Energy & Utilities industry

Asset and operational management for nuclear power is unique and requires specialized enterprise asset management software. IBM IoT for Energy and Utilities is an open analytics solution that includes a wide range of capabilities to meet current and future needs of nuclear power providers. IBM IoT for Energy and Utilities is built on a foundation of data integration. It can capture and aggregate all relevant sources of information required to run the most advanced analytics across a wide variety of use cases.

Key capabilities offered in IBM IoT for Energy and Utilities are:

Out-of-the-box utility industry applications. They apply a wide range of analytical capabilities to assess asset health and risk—historically and in real-time. It can verify connectivity models in a cost effective way. It can also provide situational awareness—from the equipment level to the grid level – and employ predictive maintenance to proactively address impending asset degradation or failure.

A platform with a range of analytic tools. Combined with visualization, IoT data integration, and data lake capabilities,  the platform can effectively handle the big data needs of the industry and provide a comprehensive view of asset performance across the asset portfolio.

An open approach for extensibility, customizability, and integration of existing utility models. It can also leverage open source analytic tools to complement and extend a provider’s existing information sources and skills.

AREVA NP and IBM team up to aid nuclear power plants with asset management and maintenance

AREVA NP has joined forces with IBM’s Watson IoT advanced analytics platform.  This partnership help utilities implement big data solutions for the nuclear industry.Utilities can use this integrated data intelligence to predict the when, where and why of component operations and performance, as well as the consequences of component issues. This enables the most cost-effective and pre-emptive deployment of maintenance and repair resources.

For more information:

1)    To learn more about the solution or to talk to a sales rep, visit our Marketplace page.

2)    Find out more on the AREVA NP-IBM partnership here

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Top 5 IoT trends transforming business in 2018

What a year! 2017 brought us transformation and excitement in the Internet of Things (IoT) space.

It’s been a true transformation. We’ve seen almost every industry invest in IoT, and leading industries are quickly moving to implement IoT solutions that drive the bottom line. Consumer products, like wearables and connected electronics, are certainly a large part of the market. But IDC estimates more than 80 percent of IoT spend through 2020 will be on B2B applications and use cases.

That’s why IoT will be one of the primary drivers of the digital transformation in 2018 and beyond. Using IoT, successful companies will create a self-learning environment. In turn, those will drive digital disruption in the physical world. New business models will emerge, along with changes in work processes, productivity improvements, cost containment and enhanced customer experiences.

With all this in mind, I want to share what I believe will be the top five IoT trends in 2018.

Trend #1 Digital Twin

In the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), businesses will need to rethink their tools if operations, supply chains and value propositions are to remain competitive. The IBM Institute of Business Value report, “Thinking out of the toolbox,” highlights the realization by executives that digital data holds the promise to eliminate guessing and start understanding operations.

A significant finding: More than half (54 percent) of the respondents prioritized digital for ‘Product quality monitoring and predicting failures.’ And 52 percent said ‘Manufacturing plant optimization.’

What is a Digital Twin?

A key tool to improve operations with digital data is the Digital Twin.

Digital Twins are a huge next step in the world of IoT. In brief, the digital twin is a virtual doppelganger of the real-world thing. (Read more about Digital Twins.) In a software-everywhere world, Digital Twin technology will help organizations bridge the divide between the physical and digital.

A key trend for 2018: Digital Twins

An Digital Twin example: the Bugatti W16 combustion engine

The Digital Twin serves as a looking glass into what’s happening within physical assets. They also give insight into changes required for the future. Leveraging your IoT investments, and IBM Watson, the Digital Twin visualizes the hidden insights and dependencies of usability, traceability and quality. And all of these will eventually be part of your operations revolution. Eventually, with sensors everywhere, operations and interactions could be customized for every client.

Ultimately, the Digital Twin accelerates the product development timeline at reduced costs. As the digital counterpart of a physical product, the Digital Twin allows product developers to create, test, build, monitor, maintain and service products in a virtual environment. In short, the Digital Twin empowers organizations to shift to an operations-centric view. Proactive and predictive maintenance enables front line personnel to act before costly delays or failures occur and keep product development.

Trend #2 Blockchain

In 2018, Blockchain will play a major role by enhancing security, making transactions more seamless and creating efficiencies in the supply chain. (If you’re not familiar with the term, check out the blockchain cheat sheet.)

I expect the coming year will be one in which we see companies start to leverage blockchain in three key ways:

  1. Build trust.  Blockchain can help build trust between the people and parties that transact together. Watson IoT blockchain enables devices to participate in blockchain transactions as a trusted party. While Person A may not know device B and may not trust it implicitly, the indelible record of transactions and data from devices stored on the blockchain provide proof and command the necessary trust for businesses and people to cooperate.
  2. Reduce costs. IoT and blockchain enable participants to reduce monetary and time commitment costs by ultimately removing the “middle man” from the process. Transactions and device data are now exhibited on a peer-to-peer basis, removing most legal or contractual costs.
  3. Accelerate transactions. IoT and blockchain enable more transactions overall because it removes the middle man from the process. Organizations reduce the time needed for completing legal or contractual commitments through smart contracts.

Transforming your business with blockchain

Blockchain for IoT can transform the way business transactions are conducted globally by providing a trustworthy environment. These transactions are automated and encoded while enterprise-level privacy is preserved, offering security for all parties.

With IBM Watson IoT Blockchain, information from IoT devices is used in transactions. These blockchain-based solutions help organizations improve operational efficiency, transform customer experience, and adopt new business models. And it’s all done in a secure, private and decentralized manner. That means greater value for every participating organizations, a goal we should all strive for in 2018.

Trend #3 Security

As we rely on connected devices to make our lives better and easier in 2018, security is a must. All participants in the IoT ecosystem are responsible for the security of the devices, data and solutions. This means that device manufacturers, application developers, consumers, operators, integrators and enterprise businesses should all follow best practices.

IoT security requires a multi-layered approach. From a device point of view, it starts with design and development. Hardware, firmware/software and data must stay secure through the entire product lifecycle. It’s the same approach whether you’re a security analyst or operations person responsible for IoT solutions. IoT’s full potential will only be reached if security challenges are addressed. That requires a combination of interoperability, education and good design—and a proactive, not reactive approach to designing security features.

IBM’s approach to security

At IBM, we take security very seriously. We understand the intricacies of IoT. And we have the combined expertise from across our entire organization to explore the issues and provide best practices. Our thought leaders from IBM Research, Security and IoT joined forces on a comprehensive overview of IoT Security. Read our latest POV on cognitive security for the Internet of Things for the implications, best practices and standards of IoT security.

Learn more about the security trend in this handy inforgraphic: Five indisputable facts about IoT security

Download the infographic: Five indisputable facts about IoT security

Trend #4 SaaS

Many IoT implementations still require on-prem implementations. But in 2018, there will be more (and very clear) instances where Software as a Service (SaaS) is a viable option. Next year, I believe we’ll see more companies choose the SaaS approach to quickly create and prove out a variety of IoT scenarios at lower investment levels.

How to benefit with SaaS

Here are three major benefits that SaaS brings to an IoT deployment and why I predict that it’s a trend to watch:

  1. Organizations will realize benefits more quickly. Maybe you’re just getting started. You’re collecting and sifting through telemetry data to discover new insights. Or maybe you’re ready to unleash machine learning on heaps of data to predict future machine failures. Either way, SaaS gives you the option to be up and running in hours, not months or years.
  2. There’s a lower cost of entry. A typical IoT solution is comprised of several components spanning many technologies. There is device-side firmware, multiple connectivity technologies, server-side logic, vast amounts of data, and machine learning. Do you have the budget to develop and manage all that infrastructure from day one of your IoT project? An IoT SaaS implementation makes it easier to start slowly and grow a solution over time.
  3. There’s also Increased flexibility. Don’t limit your evaluation of the SaaS solution to your initial IoT needs. Given the uncertainty of how your business will leverage IoT, now is a great time for some experimentation. In the new year, take advantage of SaaS capabilities to push your IoT project further or to try multiple scenarios.

Trend #5 Cognitive Computing

Last on my trend list, but certainly not least, is Cognitive Computing. The Internet of Things is at the threshold of a tremendous opportunity. For over a decade we’ve connected things with unique IP addresses. But the commoditization of sensors, processors and memory now make it possible to makes everyday things more than just connected … they can be intelligent.

Use the IBM guide to learn how to use cognitive computing to gain deeper individual insights.

Learn more about cognitive computing in this IBM guide.

Beyond traditional IoT implementations, cognitive computing increases the amount of data to improve the learning environment. That, then, increases the possibilities of what can be done with edge analytics – making sensors capable of diagnosing and adapting to their environment without the need for human intervention.

Another huge advantage of cognitive IoT: the ability to combine multiple data streams that can identify patterns. With that, they give much more context than would otherwise be available.

Unlocking IoT value

Cognitive IoT, AI and machine learning enable enterprises to unlock IoT value. An exploding amount of IoT data requires a new approach to gather, analyze and understand it all. And that massive amount of sensor and device information can be used to enhance what’s already known. Plus, it can also uncover new insights capable of transforming industries.

While making sense out of dark data and edge data paves our way to revolutionary ideas and technologies, it requires a cognitive approach. One that can effectively handle increasingly large inputs while generating meaningful output. Programmable systems thrive on prescribed scenarios using predictable data. But their rigidity can limit their usefulness when addressing the ambiguity and uncertainty of IoT data. Cognitive systems, however, are not explicitly programmed. They learn from interactions with people and from experiences with their environment. And in doing so, they become able to keep pace with the complexity of the Internet of things, identifying data correlations that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Looking forward to 2018

I expect these five things to play a major role in enterprise IoT in the coming year. And I fully expect other trends will emerge that aren’t even on the horizon yet. Because IoT is evolving so rapidly, there’s always something new!

As we look ahead to 2018, I hope you’re as excited about the IoT world as I am. And if you have thoughts on these or other trends that you believe will drive IoT transformations, let me know. I’d enjoy hearing from you.


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Cheat sheet: What has blockchain to do with the IoT?

Welcome to this week’s cheat sheet, your guide to the murky mysteries of IoT-related technologies. Our last installment explored the basics of blockchain: a digital ledger where transactions and contracts can be securely recorded and distributed. But what has blockchain to do with the IoT, and how does one help the other? Let’s find out.

A common use case: instrumenting the supply chain

To understand the convergence points between the IoT and blockchain, it might help to take a closer look at one of blockchain’s most common use cases: the supply chain.

Let’s remind ourselves of the steps a carton of milk might take on its journey from dairy farm to table:

  1. The dairy farm: milking and initial storage
  2. Processing: transportation to a dairy processor for testing, pasteurizing and packaging
  3. Transportation: shipping in refrigerated trucks to retailers like supermarkets or convenience stores
  4. Retail: storage in a refrigerated display unit
  5. Consumption: customer purchase and consumption.

In this example, the transport of perishable food stuffs (such as milk) is regulated by specific conditions that ensure it arrives at the point of purchase safely. To keep it safe for consumption, the milk must be chilled. If it rises above a certain temperature, it could be spoiled, and unsafe to drink.

Milk is a great example of the benefits of blockchain; knowing that milk stays at the right temperature helps ensure food safety.

So how can we make sure milk stays the right temperature in transit? One option is to hire a minion to sit with it in the lorry, thermometer in hand, and ring them every ten minutes for temperature updates. Obviously, that isn’t practical. It wouldn’t be much fun for the minion, or for the person paying them, for one thing.

Luckily, the IoT provides an alternative. Lightweight, connected sensors can do both the job of data collection and transmission, and they won’t mind getting cold.

Connected sensors for data transmission

Here’s how it works:

  • Individual packages containing milk are instrumented with an IoT-enabled temperature sensor
  • The sensor stores temperature data locally and sends it via the Watson IoT Platform to the blockchain
  • The blockchain stores the temperature data, where it can be viewed by each party to the transaction

Essentially, the connected sensors collect irrefutable evidence as to how the milk has been handled at each stage in its journey. Because the sensors automatically collect and transmit data to the blockchain, there’s no chance of recording incorrect data. Instead, the information is accurate, timely, and non-partisan.

This protects each business partner by ensuring accountability. For instance, if one of the vehicles transporting the milk is inadequately refrigerated, the milk temperature will exceed recommended limits. This will be picked up by the sensor and transmitted to the blockchain. It will be immediately obvious when, where and why this happened, and who should bear the responsibility.

The video below demonstrates this clearly:

Automated contracts

Another point of convergence between the IoT and blockchain is the fulfillment of smart contracts. Business contracts stored on the blockchain could specify certain conditions that must be met. Controlled temperature might be one of these. When the data from connected temperature sensors reflects that this particular condition has been met, the blockchain can automatically record that this part of the contract has been successfully completed.

The end point: a happy customer

In the end, IoT with blockchain can help businesses keep tabs on the health of their products at every stage of their journey. That means increased trust between business partners and their customers, reduced costs due to food spoilage, and accelerated transactions. The result is a happy customer, and empowered businesses.

To learn more about blockchain, visit the IBM website for videos, tutorials, blogs and more to support you in your transformation journey.

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IoT weekly round-up: Thursday 14th December

Welcome to this week’s IoT round-up. Today, the FCC will vote whether to scrap net neutrality, a move that would have far-reaching consequences. On the lighter side, there’s a new robot-written Harry Potter chapter, courtesy of Botnik Studios, and researchers from the University of California are trying to give machines an imagination. Read on for the latest.

39 senators urge FCC to abandon plan to scrap net neutrality

The FCC’s proposal to eliminate net neutrality rules is due to be voted on today. While the world holds its breath, 39 senators have written to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, urging him to withdraw the ‘radical and reckless plan.’ This is the biggest complaint against the proposal so far. The full letter is available here.

This robot-produced chapter of Harry Potter will make you chuckle

Robots have written a new Harry Potter chapter using a predictive keyboard, and the results are gleefully, delightingly bonkers. Botnik Studios, a community of artists, writers and developers committed to bringing the world “strange new things”, trained a predictive keyboard on all seven Harry Potter books. Then they strung the algorithmically constructed sentences together to create a new chapter in the Harry Potter series: “Harry Potter and the portrait of looked like a large pile of ash.” To fans of the franchise, the new chapter is just the right mix of familiar and absurd, and extraordinarily funny into the bargain, as this dramatic reading will show:

Researchers train robots to develop imaginative skills

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, are working on a technology called ‘visual foresight’, that will give robots the ability to ‘imagine the future of their actions.’ This capability is quite straightforward for now. It can’t quite mange ‘what will I wish I’d done when I’m eighty’, but it can make basic predictions a few seconds into the future. According to the researchers, the robots can ‘predict what their cameras will see if they perform a particular sequence of movements.’

Google opens AI center in China

It’s official: Google is definitely opening an AI center in Beijing, China. While the search engine is blocked in China, the company itself is very much present. Google still has lots of China-based staff working on its international services. The new team will work with AI experts in other Google offices, like New York, Toronto, London and Zurich. Dr Fei-Fei Li, Chief Scientist at Google Cloud, will lead the new team alongside Jia Li, formerly head of research at Snap.

Keep up-to-date with the connected world

Bookmark the IoT weekly round-up series page to keep up with what’s going on in the wider world of IoT.

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Christmas stocking fillers for Santa. Love, Watson IoT

Santa has a tough job. He’s got to find out who’s naughty and who’s nice, manufacture enough gifts to keep everyone happy, and work out which toy to give which child. Then, of course, there’s all that travelling on Christmas Eve.

Feeling guilty that I still get a Christmas stocking even though I’m far too old for one, I decided IBM should give a present or two to old St Nick. Just to say thanks, you know, and do our bit to ease his momentous yearly task. So here are some stocking fillers for Santa, courtesy of IBM Watson IoT.

#1: Watson Personality Insights, to help with your customer research

Santa has an uncanny knack of predicting which toys are going to be most popular. After all, his elves make most of them. But trends are slippery blighters, and not obliged to be consistent, so a little customer research never goes amiss.

To help, we offer our first gift: Watson Personality Insights. This ingenious API can digest the emotional content of written text. Santa could use conversations from ecommerce sights, social media platforms or product reviews, to work out which products are hot, and which are on the way out. Since this tool can interpret tone of voice, from effusive excitement to withering scorn, there’s little danger of misreading the signals and getting stuck with the wrong gift.

#2: IBM’s suite of Industry 4.0 solutions, to make manufacturing a breeze

Elves, take a well-earned coffee break: Industry 4.0 is here. IBM has a suite of products and solutions to make manufacturing as efficient and cost-effective as possible, and we bequeath them all to you, dear Santa.

Connected sensors throughout the factory floor, combined with Watson’s predictive analytics capabilities, can reduce mechanical hiccups by predicting outages and spotting potential problems before they develop into unfixable faults. That means increased productivity without extra cost, and perhaps a little extra time off for the elves, to boot.

Check out this two-minute, interactive demo to see IoT, analytics, machine learning and AI in action on the manufacturing floor.

Elves on inspection duty might like IBM’s latest e-book on quality in manufacturing. It’s all about how we’re using visual-based image analytics to better spot defects and transform the inspection process – saving inspectors a lot of time.

#3: Context Mapping and weather insights, for the big night

You’ve heard of connected cars, but what about a connected sleigh? IoT sensors will monitor the sleigh’s mechanical well-being and the Watson IoT Platform will apply predictive analytics to ensure this distribution vehicle stays in tip-top condition.

We’ll throw in a handy dashboard too, so Santa can see insights from multiple IoT devices at a glance. Reindeer biometrics? You got it! Storm a-brewing? The Weather Company has your back.

We can even help Santa plan his optimal route, based on weather events and traffic data, thanks to something called IBM Watson IoT Context Mapping, a service on IBM Cloud. IoT Context Mapping helps plot the most direct route by matching your GPS location to the mapped road network, and acting on real-time insights such as traffic data to avoid delays. For Santa, this might mean avoiding busy roads, where he might be spotted by the people below, or heading for cloud cover to avoid detection.

So there you have it – stocking fillers for Santa, courtesy of IBM Watson. We hope he enjoys them.

Learn more

Curious to know more? Take a look at these resources for further reading:

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