ABB held its customer conference in Houston this week and showcased many new products and unveiled its digital enterprise platform ABB Ability.
ABB Ability is the name given to its portfolio of digital solutions. I was trying to place it into a competitive landscape when one speaker showed a slide positioning ABB Ability with GE Predix, Siemens Mindsphere, and Schneider Electric’s Ecostruxure. CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer likened it to putting all the Lego blocks of ABB’s digital offerings together.
ABB Ability is a platform, database, and analytics that allows such things as helping customers in utilities, industry, transport and infrastructure develop new processes and advance existing ones by providing insights and optimizing planning and controls for real-time operations. The results can then be fed into control systems to improve key metrics such as factory uptime, speed and yield.
“As a pioneering technology leader in digital solutions, with an installed base of more than 70 million connected devices and 70,000 control systems, ABB is uniquely positioned to support its customers’ digital transformation,” said Spiesshofer. “With ABB Ability, we are combining ABB’s entire portfolio of digital solutions and services. We are creating additional customer value by bringing together ABB’s domain expertise, advanced connectivity and the latest digital technologies. With this, our customers can achieve unprecedented improvements in operational performance and productivity.”
Digital offerings provided by ABB Ability include performance management solutions for asset-intensive industries; control systems for process industries; remote monitoring services for robots, motors and machinery; and control solutions for buildings, electric-vehicle charging networks and offshore platforms. Some of the more specialized offerings address energy management for data centers and navigation optimization for maritime shipping fleets, among many others.
Customers who are already using the portfolio of digital solutions that are now part of ABB Ability include some of the world’s leading utilities, manufacturers and service providers, among them Shell Oil, CenterPoint Energy, Con Edison, BASF, Royal Caribbean, Cargill, Volvo, BMW and many others.
“Building our solutions on the Azure platform means we can take advantage of all of its capabilities and add value with our domain-specific offering,” said ABB Chief Digital Officer Guido Jouret. “In effect, we are turning ABB’s decades of industrial domain expertise into software offerings that our customers can access through the world’s largest and most advanced digital platform. From being a hidden digital champion, we are becoming the partner of choice for customers embarking on a digital transformation. They can now know more, do more, do better, together. We can help them assess, automate, optimize and collaborate.”
This product was the coolest thing at the show for me. It is ABB’s take on the trend toward smaller I/O devices with configurable racks. Admittedly not having first-mover advantage, ABB was able to build on existing competitive offerings and release an updated take on the technology.
ABB Ability System 800xA Select I/O, a new addition to System 800xA, is a redundant, Ethernet-based, single-channel I/O system. It supports ABB’s next-generation project execution model, Intelligent Projects, which offers a range of efficiency improvements for automation projects. With Select I/O, customers can undertake major projects on a faster schedule with fewer cost overruns. It uses standardized cabinets that allow installers to digitally marshal signals instead of using labor-intensive marshalling panels. Loop checks can be done before the rest of the system is delivered, minimizing the impact of late changes and allowing for project tasks to be executed in parallel.
ABB Ability Asset Health Center – Among the first ABB Ability solutions to be launched on Azure is ABB’s next-generation asset performance management solution, Asset Health Center 3.0. Available since January 2017, it uses predictive and prescriptive analytics and customized models to identify and prioritize emerging maintenance needs based on probability of failure and asset criticality.
ABB Ability Collaborative Operations – This powerful solution, now being brought to scale across industries, helps customers collaborate more effectively. It allows experts to work together across organization boundaries, using the same data and analytics platforms. It focuses on such outcomes as improving productivity, reducing equipment failures, lowering the cost of asset maintenance and transforming overall business performance. This is done while maximizing security and protecting data, people and assets at every level of integration. The solution has been delivering sustainable, long-term results to early adopters.
ABB Ability Digital Substation – ABB’s digital substation provides customers in the utility sector with unmatched control and efficiency. The digital substation incorporates fiber optic current sensors and disconnecting circuit breakers to reduce maintenance requirements and the need for miles of conventional cabling. ABB Ability takes these advances several steps further by combining the latest electrical gear with digital sensors and cloud computing. The result is that grid operators can make decisions based on comprehensive, up-to-the-moment information, while predictive algorithms can improve maintenance practices and asset management.
ABB Ability Smart Sensor – This smart sensor solution, unveiled last year, connects low-voltage electric motors to the Industrial Internet, allowing them to be monitored continuously. The solution, which can be easily affixed to a motor, transmits data on vibration, temperature, loads and power consumption to the cloud. Alerts are generated as soon as any of the parameters deviates from the norm, allowing the operator to take preventive action before the motor malfunctions. Early indications are that the smart sensor solution leads to a reduction in downtime of motors by up to 70 percent and extends their lifespan by up to 30 percent. Acting on the data to optimize the motor’s performance reduces energy consumption by as much as 10 percent.