Dad, Did You Get My IM? Sincerely—Your Hardware

April 29, 2008
Could There Be a DeviceSpace That Could Use Next-Generation Internet and Enterprise-Based Technologies?

It may seem a little nightmarish at first. Dozens of devices, organized into communities and sending instant messages like teenagers. Yikes.

Now, it’s one thing if your kids have a more active social life than you do. That’s both expected and traditional. However, when your plant-floor devices are more socially involved than you are, it’s way past time to wake up and get involved.

“We just asked ourselves why couldn’t there be a DeviceSpace that could use next-generation Internet and enterprise-based technologies as an information platform,” says ABB’s John DuBay about the company’s efforts to develop “collaborative device communities,” similar in many ways to the Internet’s Facebook and MySpace communities.
To help engineers and other technical professionals take advantage of some of the latest online, Internet, and web-based tools, John DuBay Jr., ABB’s business development manager for remote services in North America, presented “Improved Asset Reliability with Remote Diagnostics” on the first day of ABB Automation World 2008 in Houston.

DuBay said ABB’s remote capabilities usually include secure connectivity, expertise delivered via online connections, and device management solutions provided by remotely delving into on-site devices. More specifically, these services include access to process optimization experts, a technical platform expertise center, added training and consulting, regional service call centers and project engineering support. In addition, these services are organized into:

  • Troubleshooting (TS) with on-demand connectivity to diagnose specific system events or failures via high-speed remote connections. TS resolves problems faster and increases device availability.
  • Periodic maintenance (PM) to assess, monitor and collect asset parameters for detecting variances from benchmark performance, including detailed quarterly equipment health reports. PM enables predictive maintenance to minimize failures, reduces degradation, extends mean time between failures and extends device life cycles.
  • Continuous monitoring (CM) to perform real-time, uninterrupted monitoring of critical asset conditions that are then compared to pre-defined thresholds. CM provides quick detection, more insightful diagnostics and key performance indicators for fast root-cause analyses.

However, though all of these increase overall equipment effectiveness and help users produce sellable product, these remote services are evolving rapidly and following paths first explored by online services such as FaceBook and MySpace.

“One of the main challenges we face is how to secure and retain customer input and plant-floor expertise, especially because so many industry and system experts are retiring,” said DuBay. “How can we fill that gap, bring that knowledge back in and then manage it?”

DuBay reports that ABB is calling its solution a “Collaborative Device Community,” and this will be the next big way to organize its remote services in the future. In this community, devices will have profiles, in much the same way that people have profiles on their MySpace and Facebook pages. However, besides the usually personal information, this community will allow devices and their software to post updates, alerts, documents and other information for interested users.

“We just asked ourselves why couldn’t there be a DeviceSpace that could use next-generation Internet and enterprise-based technologies as an information platform. You just have to make one more leap and think of a device as a user that can generate content of value to a community,” said DuBay. “And if you want to get younger-generation engineers involved in this field, then they’re going to need an environment like this where they can feel comfortable.”

Consequently, DuBay added that ABB’s vision for its Collaborative Device Community will offer both this familiar medium for the digital generation, the much-needed portal to enable veteran experts to participate, real-time input from devices and finally, ABB’s remote-support environment. “Devices need a voice in the environment,” he said.

Other parts of the community may include RSS feeds, tag clouds, activity streams, data mash-ups and overlays, software gadgets and plug-ins.