What can cloud services offer us?

By activating new, energy-efficient solutions in the cloud, innovations can be implemented more quickly, while still managing to save energy.

I have participated in many research programs implemented by both universities and ABB’s own research institutes. The objective has been to develop new, more energy-efficient devices and control methods for electric motor drives. We have had particularly good results with pump and fan applications. The basic idea is to develop new products, implement them in new devices and, finally, sell them to our customers. Bringing them to market and seeing the resulting savings take a while this way, and the climate is warming as we wait.

It is also becoming increasingly easy to connect industrial devices to the Internet, thanks to affordable and increasingly fast data transfer. Information security can be managed effectively with existing solutions. Interestingly, our new, patented, energy-efficient solutions are also ideal for devices connected to the cloud. This enables significantly faster implementation and saves energy. The effectiveness of these solutions is in a completely different class. ABB’s installed base of frequency converters, or variable speed drives, is the largest in the world.

There are even more benefits. In terms of research, we can set significantly more challenging research questions for postgraduate students. Cloud services make processes more transparent and improve comparisons with historical data. By crunching the data, we can reach a new level in terms of reliability as well – processes that result in failure can be recognized at an early stage, and extra energy consumption and the ultimate failure of devices can be prevented. Life-cycle costs can easily be optimized.

We are only at the beginning of the journey. For instance, for several years we’ve been studying the new approach in the Efficient Energy Use (EFEU) research program*, which is included in the SHOK projects, funded by Tekes (the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation).  There have also been a number of very interesting projects, the results of which were presented in April at a major global industrial automation event in Hannover.

One example is ABB’s intelligent sensor, which can improve the productivity of hundreds of millions of electric motors by connecting them to cloud services for the first time – see our video. Predictive maintenance is possible with variable speed drives as well, enabling people to focus on the control of the entire production process as the decision makers. When the implementation of the Internet of Things, Services and People start from these fundamental devices in any industrial process, the possibilities are limitless for the smart factory of the future to become reality today.

*CLEEN Ltd. mentioned in the article is nowadays CLIC Innovation Ltd.

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About the author

Jukka Tolvanen

Born in 1969 in Joensuu, Finland, Jukka Tolvanen studied electrical engineering at the University of Technology in Helsinki, where he received his master's degree in 1996. Tolvanen joined ABB Drives as a trainee in 1993 and full time employee in 1996. He has had several managerial positions in R&D, sourcing, sales and product management and marketing. Currently Tolvanen enjoys his time studying energy efficiency full-time. Jukka blogs about energy efficiency related matters in English and in Finnish.
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