Cognitive Capabilities for Critical Data

June 2, 2016
IBM and Cisco combine Watson Internet of Things technology with streaming edge analytics to offer immediate insight into operations.

In a step toward fulfilling the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT), IBM and Cisco have entered into a partnership that will produce immediate, actionable insight at the point of data collection, rather than moving massive amounts of Big Data to the cloud for analysis.

The collaborative initiative, announced today, will provide instant IoT analytics at the edge of the network, enabling operations in remote locations—such as oil rigs, mines, shipping ports and vehicle fleets—to quickly act on time-sensitive critical data.

This is a very different approach from the traditional method of uploading all data collected from intelligent devices to the cloud, which can be difficult for businesses without access to high-bandwidth connectivity. It can also be too slow for mission critical operations.

IBM and Cisco set out to solve that problem with an integrated system that combines IBM’s Watson IoT technology, which connects sensors and devices through the cloud and includes cognitive capabilities, with Cisco’s distributed edge nodes and analytics.

The idea being, that, to get the most value from the Internet of Things, in some use cases, analytics can’t be done all in one central spot (in the cloud), but has to be done at the edge of the network to filter out the unessential data.

“It is right at the point where streaming data collection is done, and it optimizes the way businesses can monitor and manage their performance,” said Chris O’Connor, IBM’s general manager of Internet of Things offerings. “The data that is now collected will be instantly measured against business rules at the point of collection, eliminating the time and cost associated with transmitting the data to some other point across a distributed network, and allowing you to save the business cost associated with only being able to look at a narrow set of the IoT data at a time.”

Analyzing streaming data with sub-second response times provides a way for users to identify problems and optimize system performance at the scene, sending only the essential data to Watson IoT in the cloud. “This allows businesses to filter out the noise and focus on deeper insights while allowing data to be collected in the cloud for an enterprise-wide view of analytics,” O’Connor said.

In addition, Watson is able to learn from the information collected and adjust algorithms to create a new model of operational efficiency.

“Industrial work sites only use a tiny bit of the data collected, but it could take hours, days or even months to fully analyze data in centralized systems,” said Mike Flannagan, vice president of Cisco’s Data and Analytics group. With every passing minute the value of IoT data diminishes. But now there is no need to send every bit of information over the enterprise network to wait for critical insight. So imagine being able to adjust the delivery schedule of the supply chain based on real-time weather and environmental conditions.

“It’s about processing and analyzing distributed data closer to where it is created,” Flannagan said. “This is the first holistic experience of the connected condition of things, whether that’s machines, apps, devices or people.”

During a live webcast announcing the partnership, IBM and Cisco officials called out a few examples of how the new IoT analytics approach can make a difference to operations:

The Port of Cartagena in Colombia, for example, is tapping into analytics on the edge to improve the port’s efficiency of assets including rubber tire gantries, cranes, and trucks. Several years ago, the Port started monitoring equipment conditions such as engine temperature, engine speed and run hours to improve efficiency and maintenance costs. Now, the Port is beginning to use the IBM Watson IoT Platform with Cisco streaming edge analytics to monitor an expanded set of conditions in the cloud. This capability, including predictive analytics, is expected to help the Port to get ahead of equipment degradation and needed maintenance to keep machines running efficiently and avoid costly equipment failures.

"As a container terminal transshipment hub, our port ships goods to almost 600 ports in 136 countries around the world," said Eduardo Bustamante, Director of Operations for the Port of Cartagena. "The opening of the new Panama Canal has created new challenges for all ports in the region and has made service reliability a key factor of success. With these new capabilities from IBM and Cisco, we gain immediate insight into the health and operations of our more than 47 rubber tire gantries and 180 trucks. As a result, we expect to be more productive in our maintenance processes to help ensure our fleet runs even more efficiently and vessels and cargo are moving smoothly in and out of our port."

Separately, SilverHook Powerboats, a company that designs high speed racing watercraft that reach speeds of up to 200 mph, is using the IBM/Cisco technologies to help race pilots react immediately to environment and engine multi-variate conditions in real-time. The driver is alerted of the need to throttle back in a split second, for example, to help prevent the boat’s systems from failure and to perform optimally.

Cisco and IBM are also working with Bell Canada, the largest communications company in Canada, to deliver IBM Watson IoT and Cisco edge analytics over Canada’s largest and fastest 4G LTE network, enabling customers to collect data in real-time. Transportation and fleet management is one application area, especially as it pertains to keeping food safe, noted Wade Oosterman, Bell Canada’s Group President. “Now we can help manage the temperature of the food in the trucks to prove the food is transported in the right conditions to minimize spoilage.”

Today’s announcement represents a major evolution in analytics for IoT, noted Harriet Green, General Manager, IBM Watson IoT, Commerce & Education. “By coming together, IBM and Cisco are taking these powerful IoT technologies the last mile, extending Watson IoT from the cloud to the edge of computer networks, helping to make these strong analytics capabilities available virtually everywhere, always.”

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