Hitachi sniffs around the Internet of Things market with HIG

Sets up new business unit to mine the deep money seams

Hitachi has set up a Hitachi Insight Group (HIG) to focus its variegated and so far separate Internet of Things (IoT) efforts.

It will develop digital products and services, relying on a Lumada IoT platform product. This has a software design supporting customisation by customers and partners.

Hitachi’s IoT portfolio includes products and services for:

  • Public safety and smart cities
  • Energy generation and delivery
  • Transportation
  • Agriculture
  • Manufacturing
  • Water treatment
  • Urban development
  • Construction
  • Mining

HIG is led by CEO Keiji Kojima, who also holds concurrent positions as an SVP and executive officer at Hitachi Ltd. It will focus on four market segments called Smart City, Smart Energy, Smart Healthcare and Smart Industry. It has alliances with SAP, PTC, AT&T, Ericsson, Eurotech S.p.A., Intel, Microsoft, and others.

In general all of these involve devices having sensors to track and report activity. This data is agglomerated and then analysed to improve the efficiency of the processes the sensors are tracking. For example, traffic lights in cities could monitor traffic flow and the overall timing and sequencing of groups of traffic lights optimised to improve traffic flow. Data from CCTV cameras, roadworks, and public transport vehicles could be brought in to improve overall city transportation facilities.

Hitachi says that it has more than 16,000 employees from HIG and other Hitachi divisions involved in its IoT efforts. The company has a set of IoT centres, called Centres for Social Innovation, in multiple geographic regions to help persuade customers to spend the big money involved. We’re told cross-disciplinary researchers, data scientists and solution architects will work on IoT-type scheme developments up to the proof-of-concept phase with customers.

Hitachi seems to be scenting a money pit here that requires a lot of concerted effort to mine by persuading customers to run fragmented, silo-riven, often analogue processes inside an overall, digital software-based scheme, with multiple sensor-based data inputs used to dynamically optimise the processes.

HIG benefits are multi-faceted in their claims, including “increased productivity and safety, streamlined processes, reduced operational costs and carbon footprint, or improved quality of life,” with Hitachi trying to attract as many potential big money projects as possible with this marketing malarkey. It admits that large-scale IoT project can be problematical, with “new layers of complexity and rigidity … making them difficult to modify and incapable of holistically supporting all the elements of digital business and market ecosystems at scale.”

Customers also better be aware that there are no IoT standards in general and lock-in to your main suppliers is going to be a fact of life.

Christian Renaud, IoT research director at 451 Research, has a canned quote in Hitachi’s announcement: “While it is still very early days in the IoT platform market, the landscape is crowded, making it difficult for new vendors to differentiate themselves.”

Of course, he then praises Hitachi to the hilt with the usual supporting analyst quotery: “Hitachi’s extensive expertise in OT and IT gives them a unique understanding of the fundamental requirements to build and deploy IoT solutions at scale. This puts Hitachi in a great position to help customers get actionable business insight that translates into real business value, faster.”

Well, no-one would want unreal business value or unactionable insights.

The Lumada core is set to act as the anchor for this, with sensing data inputs and customised processes and outputs bolted onto it. Hitachi says it incorporates “edge device and connectivity integration, application integration, data integration and orchestration, data repositories, stream and batch data processing, advanced analytics, artificial intelligence, simulation tools, repeatable solution blueprints, and enterprise services.”

There are also a variety of Hitachi control systems inside Lumada, including manufacturing production systems, algorithms and controllers to support a range of use cases, and content intelligence for advanced metadata management. Pentaho data orchestration and analytics are in there, along with Hitachi’s Streaming Data Platform (HSDP).

Lumada is claimed to be open, adaptable, verified and secure, but with multiple customisations added to this core, verifying its security could be problematic.

It has a set of core modules “packaged as repeatable blueprints that can be tailored to support a variety of industries and use cases, such as predictive maintenance, city data exchanges, connected healthcare, intelligent transportation, oil and gas, sustainable energy, etc.”

Customers elect for the components they need and then get customising, because what suits a Berlin water treatment system might well not fit the needs of San Jose without extensive customisation.

HIG has its headquarters in Santa Clara, CA, with regional offices worldwide and you can explore its website here. ®