Moving towards a 'phygital' world - IoT and OT come with opportunities and challenges. Takeaways from the Beltug N-sight of 4 May 2021

Technology in the domain of the Internet of Things (IoT) has been on the rise for a while. And with that trend, we are seeing IT (Information Technology) and OT (Operational Technology) coming closer and closer together. Companies’ production processes are calling out for new technologies: think outage management, the quest for data across the entire organisation, automation, etc.


We took a look at this evolution, and the opportunities and challenges that come with it. First, we learned about the real-life user story of BekaertDeslee’s vendor-independent OT platform. Then we heard Ypto's user story about how train operations are ‘on track’ with IoT. Finally, we gazed through the Smart Glasses lens with delaware.


The presentations and the recording from the event are available for Beltug members (after login).



User story: Combining IT and OT strengths to increase efficiency in manufacturing


As a manufacturing company, optimisation of the production process is key for textile producer BekaertDeslee, supporting efficiency, waste minimisation, quality, optimal cost, optimal planning, explained Rik Holvoet, CIO at BekaertDeslee. IT and OT support this optimisation (slide 7).


Roughly 20 years ago, the company started using Vision BMS solutions for:


Vision BMS has an excellent understanding of weaving and knitting equipment, and they provide a very stable environment (e.g. data units last for decades), Rik explained. There are a few disadvantages though: the solution brings less added value to the remaining production operation steps, and the system is rather closed, leading to vendor lock-in.


To mitigate the disadvantages, BekaertDeslee introduced standard PLCs (programmable logic controllers) to collect data and to interface with the ERP and the production scheduling system.


One challenge here is the continuous interfacing with Shopfloor application. A malfunction very easily leads to interruption of production. On the other hand, PLC solutions are cheap and simple, and there is no vendor lock-in. The Shopfloor control solution (built in-house by BekaertDeslee) is the core of company’s shopfloor control (slide 10).


Two years ago, BekaertDeslee started to work with IoT devices as well (slide 11, minute 00:25:00 in the recording).


The company is also building a successful case for using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to predict production waste. The data collected over the years can help maximise waste reduction, taking into account multiple elements:


By predicting the likelihood of errors and production waste, operators can be notified to closely monitor the quality of the running production.



User story: IoT, stories from the trenches


Next, Steven Ackx, Innovation Officer – Technical PM Innovation Lab at Ypto (the IT department of SNCB) shared the organisation’s challenging journey to IoT, digital twins and the convergence towards a 'phygital' world (slide 4).


Steven described SNCB’s three core activities:


In SNCB’s industrial IoT environment, masses of devices are working with each other - devices that are moving around, subject to weather conditions, etc. (slide 9). SNCB now works with digital twins of train stations and of train carriages – no longer only in PoCs anymore, but also in real day-to-day operation.


SNCB has several IoT use cases.


'Smart station' is one of them. One-quarter of the devices on the network are related to a train station: clocks, parking systems, air conditioning, lighting, access equipment, etc. All these devices connect via the Building Management System (slide 11). This results in


'Smart parking' is another IoT use case. The goal here is to offer the passenger a complete parking experience through an adaptive IoT/open-data platform that encourages commuters to leave the highway ahead of traffic jams, and go to the nearest SNCB/NMBS station. Part of the solution is the SPR app that provides real-time alerts on traffic congestions and ‘time-saving’ alternative train rides. It assures users of parking availability at the station, and guides them to the car park. When they arrive, the SPR-TAG in the car triggers automated gate opening, train ticket generation, and guidance to the nearest available parking zone. The user then simply walks to the platform and boards the train.


'Train composition' is another use case. From the start of the day, a lot can happen that influences the composition of the carriages in a train: malfunctioning, timing issues, etc. The LINDA application makes the departure procedure much safer (minute 00:54:00 in the recording).


Counting passengers is also an area where IoT comes in handy, and the trains themselves become 'smart trains' via IoT solutions (slides 20 and 22).


After the use cases, Steven emphasised the importance of security in SNCB’s layered IoT approach. When building a solution, the principles of 'security by design' (and 'privacy by design' for personal data) are always applied.


Looking at all the different types of technologies and different IoT solutions, SNCB sees IoT as an entire ecosystem (slide 27).


Together with 5G, IoT will become an important building block for serving SNCB’s three core activities (above) with:



Going beyond OT & IoT with the use of Smart Glasses


Rens Bonnez, Solution Lead Mobile - Web & IoT at delaware topped off the afternoon by taking us beyond the world of IoT with smart glasses solutions.

Through four basic questions, Rens pointed out that the transfer of knowledge and the optimal usage of collected data is a challenging task. What if:


… You could cut your travel costs?

… You could significantly reduce training costs?

… You could put your data at the fingertips of your employees?

… You could gather and use knowledge in a more efficient way?


Rens walked us through the journey of a technician using smart glasses (slides 11-1, minute 01:10:08 in the recording). This can be a typical flow for a technician, and is increasingly applied by companies.


Spatial anchors are an important component of solutions like this. 'Remote assistance' (the Microsoft solution) is also an important component, that allows direct communication with an expert (slide 24).


Rens shared the different experiences of digitalisation: from capturing the knowledge, over building the procedure and execution of the procedure, to validation of it (slides 19-22). These four steps incorporate tools that allow the respective users to make the best and most intuitive use of them.


Behind the scenes, platforms and tools create the digital experience, and connect to Azure services (with Active Directory to secure access).


Wrapping up, Rens shared a few cases and companies that benefit from smart glasses solutions. As a final advice, he emphasised: start small! Begin with a proof of value where you feel smart glasses can bring new opportunities (slide 31).



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