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Finland’s Kone chooses IBM for IoT push

Lift manufacturer is using IBM Watson as part of its internet of things strategy after a multi-year agreement with the IT giant

Finnish lift and escalator manufacturer Kone is embracing the internet of things (IoT) and has signed a multi-year agreement with IBM to support its plans.

Under the deal, Kone will transform its business by using the cloud to connect, remotely monitor and manage its global maintenance base of lifts, escalators, doors and turnstiles.

“We will use the IBM Watson cloud platform to store and collect the data coming from over a million units up and running in the field,” said Teppo Voutilainen, head of new services and solutions at Kone.

“We will also use the analytics tools IBM offers to create insight from these data sets and drive our business forward.”

The company said that by gathering and analysing data from its equipment operations, it would be able to identify and predict problems, minimise downtime and speed up repairs.

For example, instead of waiting for a service engineer to be called, the lift manufacturer can, remotely and in real time, detect whether maintenance is needed or something is wrong. It will even be able to manage some technical issues via the cloud.

While Kone’s newer equipment comes with remote control capabilities, the IBM agreement will also see it embed sensors into older equipment.

Voutilainen said technical implementation in the field would be straightforward, but international differences in culture, regulations and requirements would pose challenges.

“There are multiple processes now ongoing,” he said. “One is to get this platform adopted at Kone, second is the roll-out of the connectivity to equipment which is then connected. The third area is working with our teams and customers in different countries to define what are the pain points they are experiencing in their buildings and what solutions they could benefit from.”

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Part of Kone’s plan is to develop new solutions around the concept of smart buildings and open the cloud platform to its partners and third-party developers via application programming interfaces (APIs).

In fact, IBM’s wide partner network across multiple industries was one of the main reasons Kone chose Watson after a year vetting suitable IoT technology suppliers.

“One key requirement from Kone was [our partner] ecosystem and being able to work with startups and basically anybody with a good idea,” said Tuomo Haukkovaara, general manager at IBM Finland.

“From IBM’s point of view, Kone is one of the most visionary companies in IoT. Basically, everybody in the equipment manufacturing space is talking about creating proof-of-concepts for IoT, but Kone is ahead in really implementing a worldwide system.”

The Kone agreement is IBM’s second recent IoT deal in Finland. In February, Finnish national electricity grid operator Fingrid announced it had chosen Watson’s analytics capabilities to help manage its 14,000km of transmission lines. 

Fingrid has introduced a new ELVIS (Electricity Verkko Information System) solution that leverages networks of sensors and IBM’s analytics to give system operators a consolidated view of the entire electricity grid. The system also helps to identify issues and optimise maintenance scheduling and management.

The Finnish deals follow IBM’s announcement of big investments in IoT technology. Late last year, the companuy married its IoT business with Watson’s cognitive computing powers to open a dedicated IoT headquarters in Munich. This is the company’s biggest European investment since the 1990s.

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