Big data to predict equipment failure? IBM says yes

Summary:It's all about avoiding costly supply chain interruptions.

This morning, IBM unveiled a new software and service package within its Predictive Asset Optimization product that is intended to predict and prevent equipment failure.

The idea: use big data, that nebulous concept, to identify irregularities (and calculate the potential risk of them) in instrumented assets so as to avoid slowdowns or failures in the manufacturing process.

Hardly a sexy topic, but the ramifications are massive. If there's a slowdown (or outright stoppage) in the supply chain, the losses pile up immediately. That's the downside to being extremely fast and efficient: that speed can come back to bite you when the operation goes off the rails.

(See: Crisis, Financial; 2008 edition.)

The potential damage, of course, depends on the product in question. You can imagine how awful a supply chain interruption would be to a company -- say, a large grocer -- that produces perishable items. One slowdown, and you've got pallets of food spoiling in your warehouse, and millions of dollars in potential revenue evaporating every minute.

IBM thinks it can improve uptime by deploying sensors on the assets of a production line and analyzing the liquid gold -- er, data -- that flows forth. By applying its analytical insight to the numbers, it says it can not just avoid catastrophic failure, but predict it, too -- important not only to avoid trouble but also avoid the additional costs; three to 10 times as much, IBM says -- that emergency maintenance carries.

The market opportunity for the company is real: roads, bridges, water supply systems, sewers, electrical grids and telecom networks are all in its sights. It's not just a run at factories, and spans some of the global economy's largest sectors, from automotive to electronics, transportation to telecom. For some, it's catastrophe avoidance; for others, it's customer support savings (e.g. product warranties). 

The new capabilities will be offered through IBM's new Advanced Analytics Center in Columbus, Ohio.

Topics: Big Data, Enterprise Software, IBM


Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. He is also the former editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation. He writes about business, technology and design now but used to cover finance, fashion and culture. He was an intern at Money, Men's Vogue, Popular Mechanics and the New York Daily Ne... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.