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Predictive Maintenance is a Killer AI App 

Predictive maintenance resulting from IoT and AI working together has been identified as a killer app, with a track record of ROI. (Credit: Getty Images) 

By John P. Desmond, AI Trends Editor 

Predictive maintenance (PdM) has emerged as a killer AI app. 

In the past five years, predictive maintenance has moved from a niche use case to a fast-growing, high return on investment (ROI) application that is delivering true value to users. These developments are an indication of the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI together, a market considered in its infancy today. 

These observations are from research conducted by IoT Analytics, consultants who supply market intelligence, which recently estimated that the $6.9 billion predictive maintenance market will reach $28.2 billion by 2026.  

The company began its research coverage of the IoT-driven predictive maintenance market in 2016, at an industry maintenance conference in Dortmund, Germany. Not much was happening. “We were bitterly disappointed,” stated Knud Lasse Lueth, CEO at IoT Analytics, in an account in IoT Business News. “Not a single exhibitor was talking about predictive maintenance.”  

Things have changed. IoT Analytics analyst Fernando Alberto Brügge stated, Our research in 2021 shows that predictive maintenance has clearly evolved from the rather static condition-monitoring approach. It has become a viable IoT application that is delivering overwhelmingly positive ROI.” 

Technical developments that have contributed to the market expansion include: a simplified process for connecting IoT assets, major advances in cloud services, and improvements in the accessibility of machine learning/data science frameworks, the analysts state.  

Along with the technical developments, the predictive maintenance market has seen a steady increase in the number of software and service providers offering solutions. IoT Analytics identified about 100 companies in the space in 2016; today the company identifies 280 related solution providers worldwide. Many of them are startups who recently entered the field. Established providers including GE, PTC, Cisco, ABB, and Siemens, have entered the market in the past five years, many through acquisitions.  

The market still has room; the analysts predict 500 companies will be in the business in the next five years.  

In 2016, the ROI from predictive analytics was unclear. In 2021, a survey of about 100 senior IT executives from the industrial sector found that predictive maintenance projects have delivered a positive ROI in 83% of the cases. Some 45% of those reported amortizing their investments in less than a year. “This data demonstrated how attractive the investment has become in recent years,” the analysts stated.   

More IoT Sensors Means More Precision 

Implemented projects that the analysts studied in 2016 relied on a limited number of data sources, typically one sensor value, such as vibration or temperature. Projects described in the 2021 report described 11 classes of data sources, such as data from existing sensors or data from the controllers. As more sources are tapped, the precision of the predictions increase, the analysts state.  

Many projects today are using hybrid modeling approaches that rely on domain expertise, virtual sensors and augmented data. AspenTech and PARC are two suppliers identified in the report as embracing hybrid modeling approaches. AspenTech has worked with over 60 companies to develop and test hybrid models that combine physics with ML/data science knowledge, enhancing prediction accuracy. 

The move to edge computing is expected to further benefit predictive modeling projects, by enabling algorithms to run at the point where data is collected, reducing response latency. The supplier STMicroelectronics recently introduced some smart sensor nodes that can gather data and do some analytic processing. 

More predictive maintenance apps are being integrated with enterprise software systems, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) or computerized maintenance  management systems (CMMS). Litmus Automation offers an integration service to link to any industrial asset, such as a programmable logic controller, a distributed control system, or a supervisory control and data acquisition system.   

Reduced Downtime Results in Savings 

Gains come from preventing downtime. Predictive maintenance is the result of monitoring operational equipment and taking action to prevent potential downtime or an unexpected or negative outcome,” stated Mike Leone, an analyst at IT strategy firm Enterprise Strategy Group, in an account from TechTarget.  

Felipe Parages, Senior Data Scientist, Valkyrie

Advances that have made predictive maintenance more practical today include sensor technology becoming more widespread, and the ability to monitor industrial machines in real time, stated Felipe Parages, senior data scientist at Valkyrie, data sense consultants. With more sensors, the volume of data has grown exponentially, and data analytics via cloud services has become available. 

It used to be that an expert had to perform an analysis to determine if a machine was not operating in an optimal way. “Nowadays, with the amount of data you can leverage and the new techniques based on machine learning and AI, it is possible to find patterns in all that data, things that are very subtle and would have escaped notice by a human being,” stated Parages. 

As a result, one person can now monitor hundreds of machines, and companies are accumulating historical data, which enables deeper trend analysis. “Predictive maintenance “is a very powerful weapon,” he stated.  

In an example project, Italy’s primary rail operator, Trenitalia, adopted predictive maintenance for its high-speed trains. The system is expected to save eight to 10% of an annual maintenance budget of 1.3 billion Euros, stated Paul Miller, an analyst with research firm Forrester, which recently issued a report on the project.  

They can eliminate unplanned failures which often provide direct savings in maintenance but just as importantly, by taking a train out of service before it breaks—that means better customer service and happier customers,” Miller stated. He recommended organizations start out with predictive maintenance by fielding a pilot project. 

In an example of the types of cooperation predictive maintenance projects are expected to engender, the CEOs of several European auto and electronics firms recently announced plans to join forces to form the “Software Republique,” a new ecosystem for innovation in intelligent mobility. Atos, Dassault Systèmes, Groupe Renault, and STMicroelectronics and Thales announced their decision to pool their expertise to accelerate the market.   

Luca de Meo, Chief Executive Officer, Groupe Renault

Luca de Meo, Chief Executive Officer of Groupe Renault, stated in a press release from STMicroelectronics, In the new mobility value chain, on-board intelligence systems are the new driving force, where all research and investment are now concentrated. Faced with this technological challenge, we are choosing to play collectively and openly. There will be no center of gravity, the value of each will be multiplied by others. The combined expertise in cybersecurity, microelectronics, energy and data management will enable us to develop unique, cutting-edge solutions for low-carbon, shared, and responsible mobility, made in Europe.”    

The Software République will be based in Guyancourt, a commune in north-central France at the Renault Technocentre in a building called Odyssée, a 12,000 square meter space which is eco-responsible. For example, its interior and exterior structure is 100 percent wood, and the building is covered with photovoltaic panels. 

Read the source articles in IoT Business News TechTarget, and in a press release from STMicroelectronics.