ABB bids to unlock potential of digitalization

ABB has unveiled a new strategy that it says will enable players in the power sector to “harness the potential of big data and digitalization, and evolve, adapt and thrive”.

In an interview with PEi during Asia Power Week in Bangkok, Susan Peterson Sturm, Digital Lead at ABB Industrial Automation, said: “Our industry is in a tremendous state of transformation, with a lot of forces merging: distribution and generation sides, and functions getting pushed together.

“So to be able to show some proof points around reducing emissions and economic performance ” and providing some additional support to very stressed workforces, greater compliance and cybersecurity concerns ” is really key.”

At a press conference, ABB said that the power industry in particular is “battling complex challenges and rapid change: shifting and ever-widening regulations, the large-scale integration of renewables and distributed energy resources, the increasing risk of cyberattack, a generational shift in the workforce, aging plant equipment, volatile dynamic pricing and business model disruption”.

It stressed that digitalization, big data and analytics “offer a timely and uniquely powerful solution to solve these challenges. They give power and water companies visibility and insights into the performance of their equipment, plants and fleet that open new ways of operating more competitively in ever-changing markets.”

According to a new report by LNS Research, which was commissioned by ABB and launched on the first day of Asia Power Week, the benefits of digitalization are already proven. “Gains of 10 per cent and more for productivity, maintenance and reliability are being achieved, compared to 1-2 per cent for companies that don’t embrace digitalization,” it states.

Matthew Littlefield, president of LNS Research, said: “The power generation industry is in the midst of a major paradigm shift. Thirty-five per cent of power generation companies have already invested in the Industrial Internet of Things in 2017. In our new report, we have identified the key steps for power generation companies to successfully deploy big data analytics to address dynamic market pressures in a scalable and cost-effective way; avoiding the need for high-risk big-bang technology projects.”

ABB’s solution to unlock the benefits of digitalization is Ability Symphony Plus, a portfolio of digital solutions for power and water applications which it claims is the most advanced on the market.

Peterson Sturmà‚ says that collaboration is at the heart of ABB’s digital strategy: “We work hand in hand with each customer to better understand their digital requirements and provide solutions that meet those requirements.”

But she stresses that collaboration is only possible in an open ecosystem. “Our ABB Ability platform uses industry-standard, open-source and proprietary ABB software. It combines our technology leadership and deep domain expertise with strategic partnerships, including with Microsoft and IBM. This approach makes it easier for customers to integrate our solutions with other platforms. Such an open ecosystem delivers massive benefits to customers.”

Peterson Sturmà‚ told PEi that the Ability Platform “is very promising in how it will allow us to scale digital solutions that have been applied in the past around asset optimisation, around model predictive control, and allow them to be scaled across an entire fleet. That could be from, say $500,000 dollars a year from combustion optimization across the fleet, à‚ to easily into the area of millions.”

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