Fascination, innovation, and always one step ahead of the future – this is the aspiration of the world’s leading company ZIEHL-ABEGG in the competence areas of ventilation, control technology, drive technology and automotive. For over 100 years, the globally active company has been planning to preserve a livable environment for future generations through targeted growth, profitability and a sense of proportion.
The challenge: Networked digital monitoring and control
Fans from ZIEHL-ABEGG are products that you cannot buy in the supermarket and put on the table. They rotate in the HVAC systems of industry and medicine, in server parks and in agriculture, but also in sensitive areas such as operating theaters, clean rooms in laboratories or production facilities. The company is therefore of systemic importantance. The core competence is the efficient and durable electric motor – and here ZIEHL-ABEGG sees itself as the technology leader.
But even the best component of an industrial plant can be exposed to unforeseen stresses, such as when a ventilation flap does not open wide enough. Therefore, there is only one way to master conceivable scenarios for the interaction of different devices: networked digital monitoring and control. It helps to detect peaks or drops in performance of the equipment and to look for the causes in the system. Timely intervention can then prevent a malfunction, and in the long term maintenance intervals can be adjusted or components improved.
ZIEHL-ABEGG has therefore decided to develop its own cloud-based platform: ZAbluegalaxy draws on a wide range of services from the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.
The solution: A data platform based on the Azure IoT Hub
In its search for an established development partner, ZIEHL-ABEGG contacted T-Systems MMS in 2018, an IT service provider that supports large corporations and medium-sized companies in their digital transformation. After a exemplary start with workshops and consulting processes, the solution was publicly presented at a trade fair in 2019.
With intelligent cloud technologies, the platform offers both ZIEHL-ABEGG and its customers access to live status, operational and telemetry data from equipment at facilities. On this basis, push messages can be sent to the cell phones of those responsible, for example, when predefined thresholds are reached. This allows better decisions to be made for maintenance, control and acquisition, and ZIEHL-ABEGG can improve product development based on usage data.
The devices communicate via the Microsoft Azure Cloud and are connected via interfaces to the ZIEHL-ABEGG product database and mobile apps, among others. Azure is the basis on which IoT connectivity is established. The Azure IoT Hub is also used to receive the large amount of information and pass it on to data processing. An IoT client from Microsoft is installed on each of the devices.
Various services from Microsoft are also used in the cloud itself to process the use cases. From time series recording to data analysis to hosting the web application, a dozen or so different Azure services are used, for example Cosmos DB and Azure Functions. Via SignalR, events are played back to the web application in order to be able to map state changes live .
In addition, Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform already takes into account requirements of the GDPR, which is a great relief. An advantage that is also a decisive criterion for ZIEHL-ABEGG, because customers are naturally vigilant when their plant devices store data in the cloud solution.
The result: New business models and services
All electric motors in a system provide data that gives the operator, but also the developer of the components, deep insights. For ZIEHL-ABEGG, this opens up the prospect of using this data both to gain insights for development and to offer customers new services. This also opens opportunities for new business models, because in the future, for example, customers could be offered guaranteed air performance, and not just the fans as components.
ZAbluegalaxy is an investment in the future for ZIEHL-ABEGG, and Microsoft is making a valuable contribution with the Azure IoT Hub. And the developers are also already thinking about the potential for the future; for example, machine learning is not yet part of the solution, but it is already being considered. In the future, part of the data evaluation will be shifted to the devices themselves. Then, using learning algorithms, the software on the device will interpret the data sets itself and certain processes can be regulated and controlled independently so that, for example, no waiting time elapses before the responsible person intervenes.