The case for IoT…..

Waiting for a rock solid business case may put your company on the back foot

The ‘business case’ is a necessary part of business management but it is not going to necessarily make you more effective. Think about the ubiquitous cell phone. I recall when I worked in tech ops in the late 90’s the cell phone became the de facto communications platform for the operations person, but I don’t recall ever seeing a business case, it just made sense. Likewise, in fast moving tech, waiting for a solid business case before launching a new product or embracing a new capability may mean you are late to the game, so don’t be a slave to the ‘business case’ philosophy.

Internet of things (IoT) is here, it’s real and it’s gaining momentum … some might say this is the advent of a new technology wave that will transform how we live, others might suggest that it’s repackaging a concept that is decades old. Regardless, all manner of devices are now smart, connected and increasingly contextual. This expectation is not a part of a feature set, it’s a minimum requirement.

At ABB, we have been the ‘T’ in IoT for many, many, years. We have worked with customers across many diverse industries to transform how they operate their infrastructure and we have been at the forefront of delivering secure connectivity and automation for their critical infrastructure.

With an installed base of more than 70,000 control systems connecting 70 million devices we have been providing digitally connected and enabled systems for a long time. A growing and exciting market we serve is the global data center industry. We are working with some of our customers in revolutionizing data center energy optimization, offering smart grid connections, off-grid electrification, power protection, and power management software. Central to the company’s strategy is integrating its power optimization systems with sensor-enabled products. The goal is to create a data-driven, intelligently automated solution that balances data center operations with the most cost-efficient power sources in real time to maximize data center power efficiency for its customers. Intelligently connected IT reduces costs and optimizes the data center resources.

So, what next for the data center operator?

In my view IoT is better described as ‘digital operations’. It’s about providing our customers with the ability or ‘ABB AbilityTM’ to control, interrogate and modify their operational tasks in response to external signals. It’s about making operations more reliable, more cost effective and easier to execute. Digital operations will not replace people, in fact there is strong evidence that we are facing a skills shortage in the data center operations discipline. Digital operations will simply make them more effective. We want to better understand what our customers are trying to achieve and then couple that expectation with our technology.


We have distilled our view down to 3 key characteristics of the next generation data center, where digitizing the ‘how’ will make the ‘what’ more effective.

We contend that rather than being distracted by all that market noise and hype there are a few simple steps to ensure your business can take advantage of digital operations.

  1. Makes sure any components and systems can be networked, everything from your grid transformer to the humble low-voltage circuit breaker.
  2. Assess new communications platforms and protocols to ensure you are deploying the most effective network. A great example here is using IEC61850 to reduce physical cables and points of failure across your infrastructure.
  3. Challenge your supplier to demonstrate that their solution and approach is elastic, that it can add and subtract capacity on demand and in response to other signals.

Now you should have the digital platform to make your operations smarter …what next?

You can now transform your operational tasks into software driven activity, you can extract operational data to identify trends and failure modes, and you can transform how you manage your maintenance regime to reduce downtime.

At ABB we have a strong portfolio of products and systems that can deliver this transformation, we strive to give you more harmonized operations and all the benefits that IoT promises. From the humble current sensor to the Emax 2 power manager and all the way to our cloud enabled automation platform, we have the solutions to digitize your power train. We are reducing the amount of communications cable you need as we shift from analogue to digital and we are replacing analogue sensors in our switch gear with their digital equivalent – software driven and dynamically configurable. We are bringing our experience from all of the diverse industries we serve to our data center clients so they can capture all of the benefit of a truly digitized power train.

A great example here is our customer, Systemec, based in the Netherlands. With a digitally enabled low-voltage power distribution and UPS, they have ultimate visibility and control into how the power is delivered to their clients’ systems, and also have the ability to interrogate and modify operations dynamically.

In conclusion, the quest for the perfect business case may just hold you back, while your competition get to increasing levels of efficiency, reliability and flexibility. Get ready today with an infrastructure that can be world class for tomorrow and beyond.

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About the author

Ciaran Flanagan

I'm Head of Data Center Business Development at ABB globally, tasked with consolidating ABB as a key player in the datacenter industry. Prior to ABB I was Head of Datacenter Strategy at Nokia & previously held Consulting and Technology leadership roles at Verari Systems and Intel Corporation. I was a Founding Contributor to the EU Datacenter Code of Conduct and a Contributing Member of The Green Grid and the Open Datacenter Alliance. I also served as a Judge for Uptime Institute's Green Enterprise IT Awards in 2012. From a professional perspective I'm very interested in energy politics and how it will affect the datacenter industry but also how ABB can help this industry find more effective and efficient ways to manage energy consumption.
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