There are many situations in which companies have operations in remote locations that at times remain disconnected from the network, for example, a remote offshore drilling platform for an oil rig.
The workers in such sites need to do their work, that is, have access to applications even when the network isn’t available. In this blog post, we’ll discuss some of the real-life use cases where edge computing and SAP Edge Services have been implemented.
Volvo Ocean Race
Volvo Ocean Race is a sailboat race of about 45,000 nautical miles that touches 6 continents, several oceans, and 12 cities. The race takes eight months to complete. Seven teams competed in the 2017–2018 race.
One of the teams, Team AkzoNobel, partnered with SAP to equip their sailboat with a Raspberry Pi that has SAP Edge Services deployed on it. This acts as an endpoint to collect and analyze various data collected onboard while the race is on. Biometric sensor data and meteorological sensor data were collected from several sensors on the sailboat. The team partnering with SAP, leveraging the SAP Internet of Things (SAP IoT) edge technology, gained a competitive advantage to ultimately win the race. All sailboats were identical in size, and the race is determined by human endurance, skills, and effort. Based on the crucial human performance information provided by the biometric sensor, the skipper or captain could decide who should be on the deck for how long or identify if some of the crew members weren’t getting enough sleep.
Here’s how the solution worked for Team AkzoNobel:
- Team AkzoNobel crew members wore biometric sensor-enabled wearable devices (worn 24 hours a day), such as a biometric ear device that transmits data to SAP Edge Services software on the boat.
- After the boat arrived at the shore, the data collected were analyzed to gain crucial insights for optimizing human performance to gain competitive advantage.
- The real-time meteorological sensor data from 160 sensors on the sailboat was combined with biometric sensor data.
- Sensors evaluated the health status of crew members (e.g., sleep, recovery, calorie burn rates, and heart rates).
- Health sensor data was compared to sailboat performance to identify trends (e.g., crew members may need more calorie intake or more sleep to perform optimally).
- Minor step-by-step adjustments were made to improve the overall race performance (even a 1% gain is significant as fleets typically finish within hours of each other).
To explore the technical details a bit further in this solution, here are a few key aspects:
- Smart watches sent data to an Android smartphone via Bluetooth, which acted as a gateway to the local Wi-Fi network on the boat.
- Biometric sensor data from crew members and sensor data from the sailboat were streamed in real time to SAP Edge Services running on the Raspberry Pi.
- SAP Edge Services processed incoming heart rate data in 10-minute intervals to calculate heart rate variability and other insights.
- Raw data (biometrics, boat sensor data, heart rate data), calculated heart rate variability, and other insights were stored in the SAP Edge Services Persistency Service.
- When at sea, the Persistency Service provided secure local data storage of sensor data and derived insights, and it enabled execution of analytic models at the edge on real-time sensor data. This information (crew member fitness, performance, quality of sleep, stress levels, degree of exhaustion, reaction to weather conditions, and recovery) was available to the skipper at sea.
- When the sailboat arrived at shore, connectivity to the Volvo Ocean Race network was established and data was synchronized with SAP Cloud Platform using SAP Edge Service’s synchronization architecture.
- Predictive models were trained on the cloud and deployed to the edge prior to the start of the next leg to provide valuable insights to the skipper to anticipate circumstances and prepare/strategize for the next leg of the race. Additionally, predictive models provided insights for the next leg and also extrapolated any missing data (during the time the smart watches were getting charged at sea).
Manufacturer of Automated Machines
Our authors worked with a world-leading manufacturer of automated machines for the processing and packaging of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, food, tea and coffee, and tobacco on the implementation of SAP Edge Services. The company manufactures these machines in various production plants located in Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, Spain, United Kingdom, United States, India, Malaysia, China, and Argentina.
The company’s main objective was to collect data from these automatic machines in order to remotely monitor production and detect service needs. The goal was to connect their machines and collect data from them primarily to understand the usage of their machines and make product improvements. Additionally, the company wants to offer great customer experience by guaranteeing reduced downtime and personalized service. Live evaluation of data in a central system allows analysis for fault research, service plans, and faster service processes to have productive machines up most of the time.
Eventually, the manufacturer would like to have the ability to implement new business models such as “pay as you go” per operating time or full rental service of the machines. Here are a few aspects of the solution:
- Obtain machine data to understand real working conditions and get valuable information to improve future designs.
- Provide intelligence “on the edge” with local event processing and filtering on the data stream. Machine status and life expectation is derived from the combination of machine sensor data with the manufacturer’s knowledge of the machine functions in different production conditions.
- Get IoT-based insights from SAP Edge Services dashboards combined with business context at the manufacturer’s customers shop floors with cloud offline capability.
- Use an open platform that allows easy and fast integration of machines and data sources using different protocols or different manufacturers.
As one of the top private ship owners in the world, this shipping group, headquartered in Europe, has a gas tanker and dry cargo line of business comprising more than 100 shipping vessels.
On the sea, satellite connectivity is costly and intermittent due to weather conditions, location, and other vessels in the vicinity. At times, this company needs to reserve minimum bandwidth for critical vessel operations, and all other information systems infrastructure on board are usually connected very infrequently. The crew onboard these vessels need to purchase items, such as bonded materials (cigarettes and telephone cards), medicine, provisions, and deck materials, while on the ship. To do so, they need to create purchase requisitions, purchase orders, and goods receipts, which are transactions that are available in SAP ERP. The crew members are typically out at sea on voyage for six to eight months at a stretch, which makes it essential that business processes are implemented at the edge and synchronized with SAP ERP whenever there is connectivity.
The customer objective is to have SAP Edge Services implemented with Essential Business Functions installed on vessels at sea. The first use-case scenario catered to specific crew members (master, officer) to create locally purchased requisitions, purchase orders, and goods receipt business processes during the journey, which then syncs with the SAP ERP financial systems on connectivity via the Essential Business Functions Service of SAP Edge Services.
Offshore Oil Rig
A company in the global oil and gas industry operates and manages a fleet of modern and sophisticated offshore oil rigs for exploratory causes and in productive oil drilling offshore rigs.
The business challenge is to improve operational efficiency through optimum and effective maintenance of critical assets in the oil rigs, including drills, which must be maintained in challenging and remote environments.
Remote locations (onshore/offshore) often have power outages, intentionally disconnected environments, poor infrastructure, poor weather conditions, and a lack of redundant carrier networks in place. Here is the list of this company’s requirements, which the implementation of SAP Edge Services covered:
- Make SAP business processes and transactions always available anytime, anywhere—“always on”—even when connectivity isn’t available.
- Fully extend any SAP transaction such as SAP Plant Maintenance, SAP ERP Inventory Management, or SAP ERP Materials Management.
- Provide quick deployment and implementation of SAP business processes on remote oil rigs, making it an extension of the enterprise.
- Simplify the user experience and provide faster processing of data at oil rigs for maintenance technicians and supervisors.
- Don’t introduce new training needs for users at these remote sites.
- Keep operating costs for the solution low by allowing easy central maintenance of the deployed software at the edge nodes.
As you’ve read, SAP Edge Services is a wonderful solution for companies looking to overcome intermittent and unreliable networks. How might you utilize the solution in your business?
Editor’s note: This post has been adapted from a section of the book Internet of Things with SAP: Implementation and Development by Sijesh Manohar Valiyaveettil, PVN PavanKumar, and Shyam Ravindranathan.