September 21, 2015

Could Finland become the Silicon Valley of Industrial Internet?

A report by Aalto University, the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy estimates that Industrial Internet related business activities could bring 2 billion euros in investments and 48,000 jobs to Finland by 2023.
A report by Aalto University, the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy estimates that Industrial Internet related business activities could bring 2 billion euros in investments and 48,000 jobs to Finland by 2023.
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Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is often used as a much hype term, but it offers great opportunities to businesses and societies alike. In Finland alone, it is predicted to bring billions of euros in investments and tens of thousands of jobs and the country is already putting its tech savviness into work.

What is the Industrial Internet?

  • It is based on smart, connected devices that collect and transmit real-time data on their condition, operations and environment.
  • It enhances traditional processes and creates new data driven services business.
  • IIoT is not a new term, but has received a boost as the prerequisite sensors get cheaper and ever more devices are connected to networks. Analysts Gartner forecasts there will be 25 billion connected ‘things’ by 2020, five times more than now.

Picture the scene. A waste container is starting to get scaringly close to overflowing, but with perfect timing a garbage truck arrives and empties it. A small sensor device inside the bin makes sure the waste management company knows the actual fill-level and the accompanying web service automatically optimises collection routes based on full containers, traffic etc. The company also sees in real-time where trucks are moving and how much material they are transporting.

This isn’t science fiction. It is all based on the intelligent waste management system developed by Finnish IIoT company Enevo and it serves as an excellent example of the Industrial Internet at its best: new innovative business models based on data collected by smart, network connected devices.

“The price of components, network connections and technology have arrived at the point where connections can be built even into garbage bins,” says Fredrik Kekäläinen, CEO of Enevo. “However, data collection is only one part of it. The main thing is how that data is used to get information which helps [people or software] in decisionmaking…and benefits the process as a.”

Enevo claims the information it creates can help waste management companies to cut their collection cost by up to 50 per cent as less collection hours and mileage are needed. This also reduces emissions and improves service quality.

Enevo was only founded in 2010, but its innovative approach to a traditional process has already seen it secure 14.3 million euros in funding and customers in 35 countries. And Enevo’s success has been mirrored by many others. According to a recent study, commissioned by the Finnish government, IIoT business activities could bring 12 billion euros in investments and 48 000 jobs to Finland by 2023. Not a bad incentive.

Right time, right place for IIoT success

Finland may have a population of just 5.5 million, but it has all the right ingredients to be a leading player in the Industrial Internet revolution. The country’s famously advanced digital infrastructure grabs headlines, but its strengths in electronics and data security are also combining with its expertise in many traditional industries to transform them for a new age:

At the core of Enevo’s waste management system is a small sensor which attaches to a waste container and automatically informs waste management companies of their fill-levels. Pictured Enevo’s CEO Fredrik Kekäläinen.

At the core of Enevo’s waste management system is a small sensor which attaches to a waste container and automatically informs waste management companies of their fill-levels. Pictured is Enevo’s CEO Fredrik Kekäläinen.

Enevo

“Among others health tech, forestry machinery and shipbuilding are hubs of Finnish [industrial] expertise, where we have a strong lead over many countries,” explains Jukka Viitasaari, director at the Federation of Finnish Technology Industries. “Finland also has exceptionally strong expertise in data security, which has a central role in the Industrial Internet. No other country of similar size has over hundred data security companies [Finland has almost 200].”

These strong foundations have already been put in use by many established industrial players to seize the potential competitive advantages of IIoT. Forest machinery company Ponsse has done it by making logging high tech. From the middle of the forests its harvesters automatically and wirelessly send data on their maintenance needs and the logging process to a web service. This can be accessed anywhere with a mobile app. Furthemore clients can be notified of the amounts and types of wood heading their way from the forests in real-time.

Among Finnish forerunners in IIoT is also Kemppi. The welding equipment manufacturer has developed a system which brings all data and documentation related to welding into a cloud-based web service. Welding processes can be monitored in real-time even from the other side of the world. This makes the whole process more efficient and reduces the risk of mistakes.

Seize the ecosystem

However forerunner companies are just the beginning for the disruptive force which is the Industrial Internet. To reach the impressive forecasts in VTT’s report, both companies and the public sector must actively advance the Industrial Internet and take a key role in developing universal platforms and ecosystems for it — not just in Finland, but internationally.

This is the mission of the Finnish Industrial Internet Forum (FIIF) which aims to increase cooperation between companies, research organisations and public actors in different industries.

“We talk about value production for the end customer which lasts the whole lifecycle [of a product/service] and where all components of a value chain – subcontractors, logistics services, everything imaginable – are part of one Industrial Internet ecosystem,” Viitasaari says.

Enevo is starting to embody this message. The company’s goal is to have the Enevo waste system running in all major cities in all industrialised countries, but at the same time it is looking at new ways to implement its expertise. It already has pilot schemes for management of septic tanks and fuel distribution systems.

“If we would have been thinking traditionally, we would have started to sell the sensors and never tapped into the data side,” Kekäläinen says. “Technology know-how is really strong in Finland, but we need more courage to go abroad and say we are the best.”

“The price of sensors has gone down so much that they can be used with any industrial devices and processes,” says Jukka Viitasaari. “Industrial devices can be Aker Yard’s huge ships, Konecranes’ cranes, Wärtsilä’s diesel engines, Neste Oil’s harbour logistics, Raute’s forklifts... They are everywhere.”

“The price of sensors has gone down so much that they can be used with any industrial devices and processes,” says Jukka Viitasaari. “Industrial devices can be Aker Yard’s huge ships, Konecranes’ cranes, Wärtsilä’s diesel engines, Neste Oil’s harbour logistics, Raute’s forklifts… They are everywhere.”

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Text: Eeva Haaramo

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