Flicking the switch on the future

CDM experience brings intelligent design to IoT 

There’s a sense that the Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing new to Communications Design & Management (CDM).

The company, which began in the early 1990s, provides the full spectrum of ICT services, by consulting, delivering and managing its customer’s technology needs and has a number of large defence, government and corporate clients and projects. Early in the company’s life they started working in what is now considered the IoT space

“Back then we were working with RFID (Radio-frequency identification) sensors along with automated data capture devices and various technology projects like that,” said Jon Gamble, CDM’s Southern Region General Manager.  “We really started in this space back in the mid to late 90s in verticals such as defence & logistics and transport, and now, across a broader range of industries our customers are embarking on big data transformation projects and mission critical asset management projects.”

As the business developed, so did its national footprint with the creation of the Intelligent Systems, line of business.

“Really, it’s been a build-up of expertise and knowledge to the point now where we really do understand how to get data, critical data, off mission critical assets out in the field almost regardless of the type of asset. We get it securely into the cloud from anywhere in the world through the application smarts that we build and develop here at CDM using world class partners and vendor products.  Once it is into the cloud, we do advanced analytics and reporting and help our customers derive insights and business value out of their data, (from previously) disparate and diverse field systems. IoT truly has been an evolution for us.”

One customer project they are working involves a fleet of several thousand vehicles. The vehicles have been fitted with CDM’s NOMAD intelligent field gateway, which is a combination of rugged hardware and on-board applications, for collecting a large array of information from vehicle systems and sent securely to the cloud.   Here it can be analysed and acted upon by the customer’s operational and fleet maintenance teams.  One aspect involves the collection of performance data from each vehicle which, by using advanced analytical techniques, is used to predict failures before they occur.

“Based on known fault indicators from the customer’s subject matter experts or equipment OEM, when the stream of data arrives in the cloud, we can help our customers pinpoint key operating characteristics. When things such as an operating threshold (eg temperature of a component) are exceeded, with machine learning techniques can derive advice and probabilities like “in the next y hours of operation, there is an x% this vehicle is likely to have a (major component) failure,” Jeff Ward, CDM’s Principal Consultant for Intelligent Systems, said.  For the customer, this means that instead of using a traditional “just in case” fixed service regime, for each vehicle there can be proactive, predictive “just in time” management of the asset.  This increases availability and improves task worthiness of the vehicle. This style of asset management drives benefits in operational returns for the vehicle.  This is just one example where IoT technologies add value.

“One of the reasons the cloud is so compelling is simply scalability. For example a fleet of 2500 vehicles, in our customer’s environment could generate up to 20 billion data points in a single day, originating from many different types of sensors.  At these data volumes and velocity you need to make sure your backend can handle the massive processing & storage requirements. “For the vast majority of businesses, having the infrastructure in-house is just not feasible, so cloud is the only option.”

CDM is developing solutions in the Microsoft Azure Cloud, which has enabled them to change the way the company does business with its clients. Azure IoT is offered as a service model, enabling it to be used only as it is needed and scaled up or out on demand. This enables CDM to package the IoT offerings to clients as a service.

“So the probability in the future is that we won’t be selling in the traditional “capital & maintenance mode” with a deal focusing on a set of sensors and a bunch of gateways and a software licences,” Jeff said.  “We’ll be selling a service with a business outcome, and the more they use, the more it scales; and they get billed accordingly.  There is hardly a dimension of commerce that’s going to escape this shift, we are building systems which provide companies a clear pathway to the new world of the “as a service” economy.”

CDM has a proud relationship with Microsoft as a Gold Partner for Portals & Collaboration.  CDM’s Business Transformation team was established around the Microsoft suite of solutions such as Office 365, Microsoft Azure, SharePoint, SQL Server and Dynamics CRM.   The NOMAD operating environment was developed entirely using Microsoft Windows embedded technology.  These capabilities perfectly compliment the Intelligent Systems line of business.

“So we’re particularly passionate about Intelligent Systems and IoT and its potential.   We are evangelical about what we’re taking to market and what enabling technology Microsoft is bringing to the market,” Jon said. “Part of the challenge is stimulating the customer’s mindset and when they get it, it’s like a light bulb going off.  You can see the moment when the customer sits back and says… yes I actually get it.  It’s like someone’s flicked a switch for them.  And that’s exciting.”

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