The Internet of Things and Expecting the Unexpected

Petrina Steele

The most eye-catching capabilities of the Internet of Things (IoT) tend to grab the most attention, like technology that reads a driver’s brain waves to deliver a more responsive ride. But when it comes to the IoT, lack of flash doesn’t mean lack of impact. Consider “IoT-enabled maintenance.”

The term itself may be short on sizzle, but the ability to anticipate and head off mechanical and system breakdowns is plenty exciting for businesses, and related applications are already having major impact. These applications span industries from health to transportation and keep critical functions running optimally, which reduces costs, increases customer satisfaction and even improves public health and safety.

Equinix and the research firm IDC have teamed to take a closer look at IoT-enabled maintenance, its growing importance, and how it’s all optimized by an IT architecture that supports interconnection at the digital edge.

Reducing the maintenance burden

The need for IoT-enabled maintenance starts with an enduring business reality: Maintenance is a heavy burden on operational costs and efficiency across industries.


In health care, for instance, medical devices must always run at peak efficiency – there’s no other option. Protecting vehicle components from excessive wear is a constant concern of transportation firms, while telco companies must continuously maintain network lines. Utilities require production pipelines that are in excellent condition, while manufacturers must constantly maintain production lines and assets. These diverse industries have this in common: Poor maintenance, and the downtime that can accompany it, has numerous negative impacts, including:

  • Production delays
  • Bad customer experience
  • Revenue loss
  • Increased costs
  • Reduced efficiency
  • Safety risks

IoT is already being used for asset maintenance by significant percentages of companies in industries throughout Europe (See chart below). And while firms of all sizes believe the IoT can offer real maintenance solutions, the largest companies are depending on IoT more – 44% of companies with more than 1,000 employees say that reducing operational and maintenance costs is a top driver of their IoT investment.

(Source: IDC)

An IoT evolution

As IoT-enabled maintenance becomes more prevalent, the evolutionary steps that lead toward successful human and machine collaboration in this sector are emerging:

  1. Description of the issue that occurred
  2. Diagnosis of the reasons behind the issue
  3. Prediction by machines when maintenance will be needed next
  4. Prescription by machines how to avoid or reduce impacts of the maintenance issue
  5. Cognition by machines enabling them to automatically spot maintenance issues and take corrective action

Data is the raw material that leads to actionable info in the IoT, and IDC says European companies are using sensors to derive it from a range of sources, which include vibrations, sounds and – most commonly – video.

The route from this kind of raw data to real business value begins with data retrieval, followed by analysis that helps discern patterns, then distribution to relevant parties who can put that information into action. It’s a route that Equinix customers Siemens and Teradata take all the time.

Siemens is a global technology leader and an innovator in engineering solutions for the rail industry. One of its initiatives involves collecting real-time data from trains equipped with more than 300 sensors and combining it with historical information to predict when components might fail. This “Internet of Trains” has led to greater uptime for train operators, fewer delays for passengers and more cost-effective maintenance.

But a system involving such volumes and variety of data has challenges, including management, analytics and compliant storage across international jurisdictions. Siemens looked for help from the data analytics firm Teradata, which in turn partnered with Equinix to offer Siemens an interconnection-first architecture. Siemens was able to quickly scale its worldwide business on Equinix’s global interconnection platform, Platform Equinix®, out to the digital edge and close to where all the data is collected, enhancing speed and ensuring compliance. Siemens could also easily access cloud-based tools on the Teradata analytics platform, enabling it to analyze its IoT data and predict problems as much as three days in advance of any impact.

Strength at the edge

As the Siemens-Teradata case study demonstrates, IoT-enabled maintenance relies on a distributed edge computing model that brings people, locations, clouds, data and “things” closer together to enable real-time, efficient coordination across different network layers. A distributed edge model delivers the following benefits:

  • Reduced bandwidth/connectivity constraints
  • Reduced data storage costs
  • Better data privacy and governance
  • Low-latency response and faster time to value
  • Reduced volume of data moved
  • Enabling data-intensive use cases

But how can a company design a distributed edge architecture that best supports IoT-enabled maintenance applications? We recommended first defining areas in which maintenance can improve and how to best measure that and the potential return on investment. Then, install a maintenance roadmap that supports the evolutionary steps described above (descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, prescriptive, cognitive). Next, optimize your network for fast data exchange that fosters a distributed computing approach, then find a partner with specific expertise who can help you create a tailored distributed data strategy to meet your needs.

Equinix has the tools companies need to activate IoT-enabled maintenance capabilities, and it starts with our ability to enable interconnection – direct data exchange between businesses. Platform Equinix expands across 200 data centers in 52 markets on five continents and is home to more than 1,700 networks. Companies can break free from centralized IT infrastructures that put distance between their data, partners and users and get close to the digital edge everywhere. They can implement an Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ (IOA™) strategy that enables the secure, low-latency connectivity essential to realizing the promise of the IoT.

Download our customer success story about Siemens and Teradata to learn more about IoT-enabled maintenance in action


Petrina Steele
Petrina Steele VP Business Development & Innovation EMEA