IoT simulation - SAP fixes the Barcelona fountain with predictive maintenance

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed March 10, 2015
At the Mobile World Congress, SAP walked us through a predictive maintenance demo that simulated the shut down - and repair - of the Barcelona magic fountain. The demo sheds light on SAP's Internet of Things approach.

At the Mobile World Congress, SAP told us exactly how they plan to capitalize on the new Internet of Things stack (see my colleague Derek du Preez's analysis in The Internet of Things isn't up for grabs, it's a whole new phase of the web). This included some live tire-kicking on SAP products, which I'll get to in a jiffy.

SAP's Dinesh Sharma told us he sees a "complicated and diverse" IoT stack which includes sensor and device throughput, network carriers and a device connectivity platform. He sees the bigger revenues coming from the top layers of the stack, which from SAP's view is:

  • device management (SAP Mobile Platform, Afaria)
  • application extension and enablement (Hana Cloud Platform)
  • industry apps (built by SAP and partners)

Sharma readily admits that SAP won't be building the "500,000 industry specific apps" that may be needed, which is why the HCP play is so important.

But how is SAP doing on their own industry apps? At the SAP booth, Derek and I got a chance to find out, with Carolyn Coad walking us-through four live SAP product demos on display in Barcelona. The one that made the biggest impression on me: an SAP Predictive Maintenance scenario, which in this case troubleshoots an imaginary crisis at Barcelona's Magic Fountain of Montjuïc.

Why did I like this demo the best? Because each step in the resolution showed that SAP has put this product through its paces, and thought hard about it from a worker's point of view. The demo panache of SAP's Arno Mielke didn't hurt either (pictured above and below).

The problem is addressed via the maintenance worker's cockpit, which (hypothetically) controls water flow to the fountain:


Here's the view of the "magic fountain" hypothetically managed by the cockpit, with a smaller visualization of the cockpit in the top left corner:


But unfortunately for our worker, he is not on the clock in the cockpit when the problem occurs - he's out and about in Barcelona, as we'd all like to be right about now. Our worker is alerted to a problem with the fountain via his iPad:


As Mielke explained, he can't actually fix the problem from here, but he can at least start running his diagnostics, which includes a 3D simulation of the problematic part:


(Yes, this is a sign of life that SAP actually is using the tech from its Right Hemispheres acquisition). It may be hard to see on your device, but at the top left in our cockpit model, we can now see a red X through the defective part:


The worker arrives at the control station. To fix the problem, he must first shut down the water supply to the fountain:


Now the fountain is shut down - though in a real-life situation, the worker would probably not be this pleased with himself:


Now it's time to change the problem part, guided by his handy (and not-too-ridiculous-looking) "smart glasses." (For the discriminating IoT shopper, these particular glasses are from Vuzix, though other brands can be utilized).


Once the part is changed, the fountain can be turned on, and Barcelona tourism is restored. Mielke insisted on donning his white lab coat for the photo finish:


Final thoughts

In our meeting with Sharma, he noted that SAP's IoT play would not necessarily be a classic SAP "end to end" approach. But in this particular demo, SAP was indeed presenting an end-to-end SAP solution, whose moving parts include HANA Predictive Maintenance and Service, HANA Cloud Platform, and SAP Work Manager with the SAP Augmented Reality Service Technician Extension (say that three times fast!).

It's not yet clear whether SAP's own customers are going to strictly align with SAP's IoT solutions, or take a more open approach that mixes SAP and non-SAP tech, though I'd bet on the latter. SAP can still win in this type of game, but that requires a much bigger set of IoT apps from SAP and its partners than SAP offers today. And: business model changes which SAP is well aware of - shifts that have ramifications as we saw in the press Friday.

Several things made an impression in Barcelona: first, SAP's articulation of the networked economy is much clearer and more incisive than it's discussion of "cloud" or HANA tech in the abstract (I expect we'll hear plenty more on "business networks" at Sapphire Now). Second, as opposed to two years ago when I last attended this show, SAP was showing off solutions that are live on customer sites (e.g. video example of a Predictive Maintenance customer).

The views on IoT articulated by Sharma are shaped by dialogue with CXOs, via a number of smaller events and seminars. What SAP is learning, along with their customers, is that the notion of IoT as an efficiency driver is giving way to a more potent view of using IoT data to redefine business models (The Port of Hamburg is one intriguing SAP example of starting with an efficiency play, and then seeing new business models emerge from the data/analytics).

The urgency behind all this is a direct result of what Sharma dubbed the "dark side" of the IoT: if you don't re-invent first, another company will do it for you, and undermine your chances.

Bonus: I’ve now posted a podcast with diginomica colleague Derek du Preez, Mobile World Congress 2015 – the Enterprisey and IoT Wrap.

This is the third in a series of posts I am doing on the standout apps I’ve seen at the Mobile World Congress, Barcelona. First piece: Can data-driven video fix the content relevance problem? Second piece: Augmented reality for business – present and future use cases from Metaio.

Image credits: all photos taken by Jon Reed.

Disclosure: diginomica has no financial relationship with Mataio. I was able to attend Mobile World Congress based on SAP funding my air travel and hotel expense, however, I set my own editorial agenda for most of the conference.