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Convergence of IT & OT - an intelligent Asset Management

Gartner & many other analysts have written about "convergence of IT (Information Technology) & OT (Operational Technology)" in past. Here i would try to explain how this convergence would result into intelligent assets, considering some recent industry developments in asset management space like (i) maximo being integral part of IBM's smarter planet theory and, (ii) ABB's Ventyx acquisition. 

5-7 years ago EAM packages were kind of standalone packages where the assets in focus were primarily the heavy production machines or transport assets. Though EAM packages & SIs implementing them had capabilities of integrating these packages with SCADA, Distributed Control Systems (DCS) etc to get the maximum out of the implementations, but not many clients were able to truly leverage the benefits emerging from these integrations; mainly due to lack of maturity towards softwares, packages & IT systems within the operations & maintenance (O&M) departments. Before someone starts building opinion about maturity of O&M departments, let's also understand that O&M departments have to be managed with utmost precision and a slightest mistake could be a matter of life & death, as against the jobs done by white collar folks where they easily get a chance to correct their mistakes without critical losses. Hence, the O&M folks really needed compelling reasons to go for a flawless integrated system, hence the reluctance. 

Another reason for not fully leveraging the integration benefits was unavailability of a single package managing both heavy assets & operation assets (sensors, servers, network switches etc).  Now IBM's efforts of brining all sort of assets in maximo seems to have taken care of this issue. IBM's recent relationship with Drawbase is another step in making maximo to handle facility management effectively & efficiently. I will write more on facility management in my next blog. 

Asset intensive companies can reap immense benefits by integrating asset management systems with their distributed control systems. The signals as generated by control systems can be utilized by EAM solutions and prevent the machine failure thus saving lives, time & money. Some of the simple examples could be increase in room temperature automatically & systematically notifying the users and shutting down the servers; dispatching & scheduling of transport assets based on telematics. I very fondly remember the demonstration during Pulse 2010 event where Tivoli team made an interesting demo showing how potential service interruptions could be prevented using smart sensors & GIS systems integrated with maximo. 

In last 3-4 years, things have changed quite a lot which have paved the way for a successful convergence of IT & OT in asset management space. Many new developments have taken place resulting into renewed focus & awareness about it, mainly:

(i)            IBM's Smarter planet PoV which goes by the fact that by end of year 2010 there would be a billion transistors per human on the earth; The technology is being embedded into billions of devices & machines; making them smart & they can speak about themselves. This means that almost every machine on the earth can indicate the problem, it has or going to have in future, in a readable or traceable way. Though certainly, it would take time, efforts & money to enable them fully but the results would be far reaching & beneficial to all. 

(ii)          Ventyx's acquisition in May-2010 by ABB should result into a closely integrated automation system. ABB will merge Ventyx's Asset Management system Indus Passport along with other Ventyx's solutions into its Power Systems division to deliver an integrated asset management solution to strengthen its smart grid solution. Indus passport has continuously been in top three best of breed EAM packages and has a sizable user base; predominantly in power generation sector. This combined smart grid solution would open the doors for newer synergies between the IT & OT. The impact of this acquisition would just not be restricted to ABB's or its client's benefits but would be also beneficial to a larger community, generating interest in these kind of solutions. It would be interesting to see how ABB combines & delivers this solution which makes assets intelligent.

These developments along with increased awareness & technology advances would result into intelligent Asset Management systems which would further increase the reliability & availability of assets. A speaking machine may look like a dream now but the days are not far when maintenance teams would be able to maintain no-downtime machines and operations teams would use those machines 24X7 to the maximum possible capacity with utmost precision & safety.

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