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Nuclear IoT in Brussels

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In the European IoT Summit two weeks ago I had the pleasure joining a crisp panel discussion with TelefonicaMicrosoftFujitsu and Libelium. We concentrated on manufacturing, and the effects IoT will impose upon it in the near future. According to the snap poll, 53% of the 250-odd audience thought that manufacturing will undergo the biggest change due to IoT. The next one was retail, with 20%.

I’m familiar with manufacturing, having worked in the pulp & paper industry (Ahlstrom) for quite a few years. While building their global network, I ended up visiting most of the production plants around the globe. Already in the mid 90s, these were all connected (initially to my infamous global IP-over-X.25 network) with supply chains and material flows controlled by an internally developed ERP.

I had the luxury to work closely with the plant managers, so each time I visited a new site I had a chance to get a comprehensive tour of the factory and production processes – treatment which I truly valued and enjoyed.

The most memorable aspect of these tours was always the sense of responsibility, and the mission critical nature of the work performed by the foremen and their teams. A timing error in the process could mean that a huge paper machine would grind to a halt due to cellulose getting sticky too early. The production outage was (financially and otherwise) serious by itself, but cleaning up the machine could take weeks while totally ruining the work schedule of 20+ people. In many cases, a malfunction in the high-pressure valves could also be life-threatening to the staff. Luckily the local emergency service was close by – usually in the same factory.

With this in mind and audience questions exhausted, I threw one to the panel: Would your companies be ready to take operating responsibility – for the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s nuclear reactor cooling system, so that it would be actually running in your cloud?

An awkward silence ensued. “Well the customer.. would get full access to our cloud..”, “The customer has.. the final responsibility” and “We of course would provide connectivity” were among the comments.

In my opinion, if we’re going to revolutionize (as many speakers put it) the traditional industry, we also need to take responsibility. Best effort is not enough. There are very real Things out there too.

//Pasi

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