Can Enterprise Asset Management protect from flooding?

Following weeks of uninterrupted rainfall, a five-hour downpour on top of already saturated streets led to extensive flooding in New Orleans last Saturday.

While it is widely held that a weather event of this magnitude would have overwhelmed even a pump system in perfect working order, the city’s aged and out-of-action pumps and turbine generators undoubtedly contributed to the problem, and heads have rolled for it at the Sewage and Water Board.

As hurricane season approaches, the city will face some tough questions. Could New Orleans withstand flooding of this magnitude during a hurricane? How can we solve the problem of aging infrastructure, and what are the next steps?

The answer is not a simple one. While an ideal scenario would naturally be to replace the venerable pump system with something up-to-date, this is a daunting task requiring a level of investment that simply isn’t available.

However, instrumenting existing assets with connected sensors could help us listen to this equipment better, reducing downtime and helping to plan maintenance more effectively. An Enterprise Asset Management (or EAM) solution like IBM Maximo could go some way to giving better visibility into the health of the city’s drainage assets: both the pumps themselves and the turbines the power them.

New Orleans: The underwater city

To understand the situation in which New Orleans finds itself, we need to take a closer look at the city’s topography. Critically, the city is below sea level, meaning that it can’t rely on gravity to drain excess water from the streets. Instead, New Orleans relies instead on a system of 120 pumps – some as big as a car garage – to drain and redistribute excess water.

The problem: Aging and faulty infrastructure, and the preventive maintenance method

Unfortunately, the system is – well – old. Some of the pumps have 100 years to their credit, while several of the five turbines that power them predate the second world war. The age of these assets means that they are liable to experience faults: over the weekend when the worst of the flooding took place, 16 of the pumps were out of action, and three of the five turbines had been offline for weeks, leaving a skeleton service in place to deal with the deluge.

It seems that the condition of the pumps is monitored and managed using a traditional preventive maintenance model, which relies on regular, scheduled inspections to maintain asset health. The problem with a system like this is that sometimes assets are subjected to maintenance that they don’t need, to fall in with the prearranged schedule, as it is difficult to anticipate exactly when they will need care.

According to a recent report on plant maintenance, 30% of preventive maintenance activities are carried out too frequently, and 45% of these efforts are ineffective. Worse still, they may lead to asset failure, by disrupting already stable assets with unnecessary works.

By contrast, a predictive maintenance system, which uses sensor data to constantly monitor the way an asset responds to regular use, can eliminate breakdowns by up to 70%, reduce downtime by up to 50%, and reduce scheduled repairs by up to 12%. An Enterprise Asset Management system such as IBM Maximo uses this predictive model to ensure that the need for asset repair can be anticipated in advance, allowing work to be scheduled only when it becomes necessary.

How does an Enterprise Asset Management system work?

Instrumenting assets (in this case, pumps) with IoT sensors means that they can tell us when they need fixing. Data from these sensors is input into an Enterprise Asset Management system, like IBM Maximo, which analyzes for patterns and identifies the state of the asset’s health, using a real-time health scoring tool like Maximo Asset Health Insights (MAHI).

Rather than relying on standard recommendations from a manufacturer, operations managers know in real-time how the asset is performing and if there are problem areas. They know if maintenance is not needed for nine months even though the recommendation is for six. This leads to longer life spans of assets because they are only fixed when they need to be. It also saves on company resources and budget for new equipment can be used where it’s really needed.

Furthermore, Maximo gives visibility into location and information about all assets connected to the network. The result is a connected, visible operation, allowing for a proactive approach to maintenance and upkeep.

Learn more

Visit our website to discover how IBM Maximo uses the power of IoT data to bring together people, assets and organizations, for more streamlined operations and enhanced enterprise performance.

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Managing storm water with the Internet of Things

Storms are destructive beasts, especially to cities and built-up areas. Even your average bout of heavy rain can lead to overflowing rivers and flooding; damaging infrastructure, rendering roads impassible and halting transport until the damage is repaired. So can the Internet of Things help manage excess storm water, and even put it to good use? IBM engineer Matt Paschal thinks so.

In the spring of 2016, Matt assembled a team to address this problem.  Matt, Eric Jenney, Perry Dykes, Dave Draeger, and Tracy Harris put together a demonstration at the Rochester, MN Place Makers Prototyping Festival to show how the IoT can manage excess storm water. Using the IBM Bluemix Platform and a network of sensors, the team reused storm water to irrigate local plant life, reducing the amount sent straight to the river.

The problem of drainage

Why is heavy rain such a problem? The answer lies in increasingly built-up infrastructure. Without large fields and bodies of soil, excess water – which would usually filter down through the soil – has nowhere to go. Instead, it’s collected by pipes, transported to drains and dumped in the river. There are two problems with this: first, storm water isn’t clean. Dirty water means higher temperature water, which affects aquatic life. Second, the sheer volume of water can put a strain on river banks and potentially lead to flooding.

Collecting water data to make smart decisions

As part of a small scale demo, the team connected moisture sensors, turbidity (water quality) sensors, flow sensors and electronic valves to Photon microcontroller boards connected to the IBM Bluemix Platform. Bluemix analyses the data from these various components and displays it on simple dashboards so that it’s easy to see patterns emerging, make decisions based on the data, and set automatic responses to different scenarios.

Redirecting storm water

To decrease the pressure on rivers, Matt diverted excess water to local plant life. Moisture sensors in the soil sent data to Bluemix and told the system when to deliver water to the plants. The system itself is flexible: not only can you be selective about which plants are watered, you can automatically set thresholds to determined when the water supply is allowed to run, and when it is shut off. When the moisture sensors detect too much water in a particular area, that data will be sent to Bluemix and the water supply to that area will be automatically stopped.

Cleaning it up: smart filtering

Even if local vegetation is particularly thirsty, there’s still going to be water left over, and inevitably it’s going to end up in the river. So can it be cleaned beforehand? And what role does the IoT play in the process?

Turbidity sensors measure the quality of the water – and by that, I mean how dirty it is. Storm water is dumped into an inexpensive fabric filter to remove dirt particles, and the filtered clean water is checked for quality by the sensors, before being diverted back into the river.

Take a look at the video to see the process in action.

Scaling up

Within the confined of a small-scale demonstration, we’ve seen how Watson and the Internet of Things can help manage water flow. On a larger scale, simple measures like these could protect river banks and city infrastructure during storms, potentially saving money, time, and hassle.


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Track asset performance using real-time health scores

As we learned in last week’s post from Kansas City BPU, providing clean, safe water to a large community is a cumbersome task. This post will dive into how one regional water supplier tracks asset performance using real-time health scores. Using data from IoT sensors, they can produce a sustainable, reliable water supply for their community, and improve the lifespan of their most critical assets.

A complex system makes performance monitoring difficult

This supplier owns 174 wells across fifteen well-fields, eleven treatment facilities, eight pumping stations, 240 miles of large diameter pipe, and a large reservoir storage. The reservoir storage is critical during the driest months to maintain supply to customers with limited or no interruption. It is a complex system to manage and optimize. It is important to have a solid grasp of the assets that power their wells, facilities, and stations, as well as the performance and health of these assets.

water reservoir

The storage reservoir used to hold the water supply required during the dry months. Source:

Today’s assessments are condition-based

Like many organizations, asset assessments are done based on condition. Every 3-8 years, the assets are visited and a formal assessment is performed. Using an in-house designed program, one questionnaire per asset type is produced, and this, in combination with photos, is how the status is documented and performance monitored. These assessments are stored in a database and fed into the system that determines when, and if, an asset will be renewed or replaced.

For a safety pump, for example, the types of questions on the questionnaire may include (among others):

  • Are all safety guards present?
  • Is there excessive noise?
  • Is there excessive vibration?
  • Are there any leaks?
  • Is the pump missing any components?
  • Is there unusual smell or heat?
  • Does it meet capacity needs?
  • Is there any corrosion?

Using the data collected, the system can utilize condition information, along with baseline expected asset life and failure curves, to project capital costs that will be needed in the future.

capital budget planning

Projected cost of assets over a 5-year period can help determine capital budget planning.

Moving to Maximo & real-time health scores

The current model is fairly effective but it is neither agile nor predictive. Inspections are years apart, pumps or pipes can go down because maintenance is not performed quickly enough to avoid failure, and recommendations for capital investments are not based on real-time data. The information collected could be months old when it is used to make decisions.

Using real-time condition monitoring by placing IoT sensors on all assets, this supplier monitors data points such as vibration, temperature, battery level and run-time. This data is then input into Maximo. Maximo is the world’s leading enterprise asset management solution, powering nearly every asset-intensive industry in the world. By supplementing their current condition assessments with this sensor data, they perform mini-assessments on a month-to-month basis, rather than every 3-8 years. They can also calculate the remaining useful life of the asset using Maximo. This shift provides them the ability to make better decisions about weekly workload prioritization and capital expenditures.  It also helps in reducing asset failures.

mahi performance dashboard

MAHI dashboard highlighting the asset health map. Source:

From prototype to Maximo Asset Health Insights (MAHI)

Using the IoT for preventive maintenance, you can improve asset maintenance and reduce the potential for failures. MAHI, IBM’s asset health scoring tool, does that for this water supplier. They piloted 45 assets in MAHI, including a mixture of pumps, generators, and motors across multiple sites. They standardized the condition assessment questionnaires, collected meter readings more frequently, incorporated mini-assessments into worker job plans, and determined where data feeds could replace subjective questions. After completing a successful pilot program, this supplier is now eager to expand the program to include an additional 2400 assets.

Learn more about preventive maintenance and MAHI

Read this Aberdeen report on why best-in-class firms are maintaining their most critical assets with EAM & IoT.

Take the first steps towards understanding IoT for Preventative Maintenance.

Learn more about Maximo by experiencing an interactive demo.

References and images for this use case and Kansas City BPU used by permission: MaximoWorld by

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IoT weekly round-up: Thursday 10th August 2017

Welcome to the IoT weekly round-up. This week, we’re patting ourselves on the back as the Watson IoT blog pockets Platinum and Gold dotCOMM awards. In other news, there are new connected devices for plant and bee-lovers, and lost-item-tracker company Tile unveils a new line of products with better range.

Watson IoT blog wins big in AMCP dotCOMM Awards

The Watson IoT blog is officially award-winning! We swiped Platinum and Gold dotCOMM awards last week from the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals, and are rather proud of ourselves, thank you very much. We’d like to say a huge thank you to our stellar team of contributors, and to you, our readers, without whom the blog would be as useless as a chocolate teapot.

Internet of Bees hive health tracker

In an effort to keep a close eye on the declining bee population, Oldooz Pooyanfar, a Canadian researcher, is working on a connected hive monitoring system. It uses microphones, temperature and humidity sensors to offer a drones-eye view into a colony, and will hopefully be able to give some insight into colony collapse disorder, the causes of which remain somewhat mysterious.

HelloPlant keeps an eye on your garden

If your plants frequently fail to flourish, especially if that’s because you forget to water them, HelloPlant can help. It’s a tiny tool whose job is to monitor your plant from within its pot, and give you a heads-up when things are less than OK. HelloPlant can keep you abreast of soil moisture and light levels, and modifies its notifications according to plant type, so you always get the right info.

IBM announces faster distributed training time for visual recognition models

Without wanting to toot our own horn too much, we can tell you that IBM has some pretty impressive numbers to offer this week where AI training methods are concerned. IBM’s research group was able to train the ResNet-50 image recognition model for 1k classes in 50 minutes across 256 GPUs. If that means nothing to you, you just need to know that it’s faster than the training times recently achieved by Facebook’s AI Research Lab, which were none too shabby either. What this means in practical terms is that IBM is working towards breaking down deep learning problems into bitesize chunks – in order to achieve faster model training for customers.

Welltory app measures your heartbeat to determine stress levels

You know what would help when you’re feeling stressed? Knowing exactly how stressed you are. Usually you’d need some serious hardware to figure that out, but that might be about to change. A New York startup has developed a method that uses heartbeat readings taken with a smartphone app, which algorithms and machine learning capabilities then analyse to determine stress levels. The idea behind the app, which goes by the name Welltory, is to measure the effect of various lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise and meditation on stress levels, so that users can identify helpful habits and discard the rest.

Tile launches lost item tracker Pro series

We’ve written about Tile lost item trackers before, and it seems that they’re building on previous success with a new line of premium devices. The Tile Pro series trackers sport an upgrade that means they can be located from much further away. Externally, there have been improvements too – the new devices are better at repelling water, have a louder ring, and are made from tougher and more flexible materials. The new series comes on the back of a $ 25 million funding round.

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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Three ways to gain from TRIRIGA technology advances

Around the world, changes to the way we manage and measure facilities’ performance continue to place an onus on real estate executives – both to understand their holdings, and make more strategic decisions in regard to the overall portfolio and upcoming transactions. These are influenced by the impact of leases on the balance sheet, and operations and maintenance costs such as energy and personnel costs. IBM continues to invest in our intelligent buildings platform, IBM TRIRIGA, to help our clients tackle the various changes occurring.

With the release of IBM TRIRIGA 10.5.3, IBM continues to invest in providing clients with critical capabilities that help them tackle the most challenging aspects of facilities management, including:

  • Complying faster with lease accounting changes from FASB’s ASC 842 and IASB’s IFRS 16 standards that are driving new data requirements and business processes.
  • Preparing for data collection and integration needs of the 21st century, for example as Europe and other geographies move beyond Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) to rate buildings’ energy use.
  • Addressing the needs of the end users of a facility to drive better engagement: for example, from employees who notice a leaky faucet, want a meeting room warmer, or need to move cubicles to work with a team on a project-basis.

IBM TRIRIGA helps reduce the effort required to meet new leasing standards

To help organizations comply with the new standards, and understand the implications of these changes, IBM TRIRIGA continues to deliver a single integrated workplace management system, with new enhancements planned in the next release. TRIRIGA supports the complete lifecycle of facilities management and will automate compliance activities to address changes that affect multiple teams and roles.

As we discussed in a recent webcast, IBM TRIRIGA 10.5.3 provides a sub-ledger system for real estate and asset lease accounting that is able to generate journal entries relevant for ASC 840 and ASC 842 under US-GAAP, as well as for IAS 17 and IFRS 16. It also covers period closings and report generation for the most common reports required under the new standards. Using a comprehensive set of predefined journal entry templates delivered in the product, implementation teams can quickly set up a system without whiteboarding sessions and lengthy discussions.

Furthermore, IBM TRIRIGA 10.5.3 separates the duties of a lease administrator and a lease accountant, allowing the lease administrator to enter contractual information, and then enabling the lease accountant to run classification tests, reassess lease decisions, and report on the ROU Asset and Lease Liability.

IBM TRIRIGA helps improve occupancy experience, and improve the effectiveness of facilities management

There are also new capabilities to improve day to day and occupancy experience. Organizations can leverage a new Workplace Services offering that engages every-day employees through new mobile web apps that provide access to services managed by IBM TRIRIGA, anywhere, and on any device. This includes:

  • A new Service Request app to submit work requests;
  • A new Reservation app to quickly create reservations for individual workspaces or multi-attendee meeting rooms;
  • A new location-aware Workplace Services Portal to provide a single, unified access point for launching the apps and tracking status of requests.

These Workplace Services offerings leverage new web-based perceptive applications that are included at no extra charge with the IBM TRIRIGA Workplace Operations Manager and IBM TRIRIGA Facilities Manager products, enabling users to quickly submit work requests for issues they encounter – wherever they might be in the workplace, from whatever device they might be using. A new mobile perceptive reservation app enables TRIRIGA Workplace Reservation Manager users to quickly create reservations for individual workspaces or multi-attendee meeting rooms. A new location-aware Workplace Services Portal provides a single, unified access point from which users can launch these apps and track status of their requests.

IBM TRIRIGA provides a device-responsive application design and data integration platform to better engage users

Because decisions are only as good as the data that supports visualization and analysis, optimizing native datasets and interfaces, as well as managing the process of collecting and contextualizing external data, is critical. New capabilities focus on enhancing the IBM TRIRIGA Application Platform V3.5.3, which is the foundation for the various views and capabilities of the TRIRIGA suite.

This includes enhancements to the TRIRIGA UX Framework, enhancements to TRIRIGA Application Builder tools to provide better management of application configurations, and enhanced performance diagnostic tools. The enhanced builder tools support streamlined configuration and upgrade processes through improvements to object labeling, and enhancements to object metadata revision capabilities. Performance diagnostic enhancements include an updated workflow analysis utility, and enhancements to performance logging tools within the platform.

This means it’s easier to work with external data, and to manage capabilities for environmental engineers, maintenance management and executive views into the costs and benefits associated with facilities management activities.

Learn more

  • To learn more about how IBM TRIRIGA can help you address the upcoming changes to lease accounting rules, check out this buyer’s guide.
  • Explore the power of an IWMS solution for managing your real estate portfolio across the lifecycle.
  • See the full TRIRIGA 10.5.3 release for detailed information about the offering


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