Riding the wave of interoperability: Why a collaboration between ifm and Asset Aware IoT exemplifies the meaning of digital transformation

It started with an enquiry about a water flow meter. Now ifm Australia and Asset Aware IoT are looking at projects they can partner on in the long-term to provide real-life Industry of Things (IoT) solutions to customers.

As specialists in their respective fields – ifm in sensor technology, IoT services and automation, and Asset Aware IoT in fleet connectivity and management – the two companies share a collaborative “match made in heaven”, says Freddie Coertze, Systems Solutions Manager and IoT Business Manager for ifm.

“The journey to digital transformation is not one that any company would want to take in isolation. As solution providers in this space, the collaboration between ifm and Asset Aware IoT is the perfect example of how new possibilities can come out of working together.”

John Briffa, General Manager, AA Radio and Asset Aware IoT, says Asset Aware IoT and ifm share synergies on multiple levels.

“Like ifm, we have been in operation since the late 1950’s and have built our companies reputation upon the cornerstones of quality and service. With both ifm and AA Radio having these two core values in building the very fabric of each separate company, I believe our combination under this positive symbiotic relationship will generate a truly special result.

In the past, AA Radio have provided mainly voice communication to mission critical and commercial clients including governments, emergency services and general SME’s. John says collaboration with ifm on IoT solutions opens new doors for the company.

“IoT has opened up the ability for us to talk at a deeper level with these customers and help them to deal with the enormous amount of data we can help them collect in a more meaningful way. This augments our offering and increases our importance to each customer and will also allow us to introduce ifm to perhaps some new customers and facilitate a relationship that we can trust will be nurtured by ifm.

“Our history shows us that the experience we have gained through the radio communications section of our business and our ongoing commitment to the highest level of customer focus and quality delivery will enable us to actively participate in this relationship with ifm and deliver them enormous value as consideration for the true value they are delivering to us. Both of our companies have blue chip customer bases and the fantastic result of us working together means that all of these customers will reap the rewards of our combined hard work.”

Theo Goslett, Senior Engineer, AA Radio and Asset Aware IoT, concurs with John.

“I couldn’t be happier with how our integration process with the ifm team has unfolded. Not only are their products and solutions manufactured to an incredibly high standard, that same level of quality is also present in the support and communication I have received from all of their team. I’m incredibly excited to see our project portfolios grow together.”

The following Q&A involved an interview with Akmal Yang, a Senior Sales Engineer at ifm Australia, Freddie Coertze, Systems Solutions Manager and IoT Business Manager for ifm Australia, and Rohan De Silva, Head of Asset Aware IoT Product Development.

How did the relationship between ifm Australia and Asset Aware IoT begin?

Akmal: I received a query from Chris Reade, Business Development Manager at AA Radio about a water flow meter in January 2020. Since we hadn’t had previous dealings with AA Radio, I contacted Chris to ask about the application. I soon realised that the scope of this project was much bigger than the need for a sensor. Consequently, I was put in contact with Rohan De Silva from Asset Aware IoT. Rohan came in to meet with myself and Freddie Coertze, who is the manager of IoT business at ifm Australia, and we presented a solution that not only incorporated the flow meter but the entire connectivity technologies for this system, as well as the possibilities that could be available with our SmartObserver software. It turns out this was exactly the type of solution that Rohan had been looking for and would pair perfectly with the platform Asset Aware had developed.

Why do ifm and Asset Aware IoT complement each other?

Rohan: The synergy that’s happened between ifm and Asset Aware IoT has been serendipitous. Asset Aware IoT was launched last year when our parent company, AA Radio – which specialises in radio communications – wanted to diversify into digital asset tracking and fleet management telematics, with a focus on IoT. And we’ve developed a very open-sourced platform that we are looking to connect to multiple things from sensors in multiple vehicle and other non-vehicle-based applications. Having met with Freddie and Akmal, my colleagues and I came to realise that they have all these sensors, as well as a software solution that can solve many of our requirements. As they are a leader in their space, we thought why reinvent the wheel? Let’s collaborate! Let’s work with ifm to incorporate their sensors and software into our platform.

Freddie: Our company was founded in the 1960s – we’re a family-owned German company that has grown and developed from making basic sensors to much more sophisticated systems with over 10,000 products in our portfolio. In more recent years, we’ve moved into software development and dynamically into the IoT space, so we’re not just manufacturing sensors but providing tailored solutions to our customers. Having said that, we’re one of the few companies that offer a five-year warranty on all our hardware. So, we’re very proud of our history and the reputation we’ve earned for producing such robust products. However, we’re also continuing to evolve as a company and in my role, I’m looking at how we can digitally transform our culture internally, as well as externally with customers to create solutions. Working with Asset Aware IoT is such a good fit because the collaboration matches our philosophy regarding digital transformation.

Can you explain why this partnership exemplifies ‘digital transformation’?

Freddie: Digital transformation at its core is about connectivity and collaboration – it’s not about working in isolation on a project. I think our collaboration opens up many possibilities. I believe that if we at ifm want to be successful as a solutions company, we need partners like Asset Aware IoT. And as Rohan mentioned, Asset Aware has developed an open platform, where you can connect any device or any sensor to the platform and it aligns with what we’re doing. Also, their parent company, AA Radio, has such an established history and customer base in radio communications. So, with their platform, and the digital asset tracking and fleet management telematics they bring on board, coupled with our sensor technology, IoT services and automation expertise, we’ve got excellent synergy.

What does the collaboration entail?

Freddie: Well, going back to the water flow meter enquiry, we came to understand that Asset Aware had their own platform. So, while we discussed our sensor options, we also provided a demonstration of how our SmartObserver software works, and how that could potentially be integrated with the Asset Aware platform to provide a holistic solution to their customer.

Rohan: We quickly recognised that ifm is a leader in their space, so instead of going on our own path with software development, we thought it logical to add their software onto our platform. What we did with SmartObserver was housed it as an application on our Asset Aware platform. Basically, it’s in this common IoT path where everything is in collaboration. If you look at interoperability, if you look at the set standard language of the JSON format, which is a standard form of communication, here’s a real example that’s come to life very quickly because of that standardisation. Because our two companies used the same language in development, we’ve been able to develop an end product based on that connectivity and using the same language.

Akmal: There would be a lot of labour involved in separate solution developments. Instead, we found a way to orchestrate these solutions and put them together in one common platform and this way, the end user will greatly benefit. It’s like a puzzle. We each contribute pieces to make the bigger picture, communicating along the way as to how these pieces will fit together to achieve that goal.

What are the benefits to the customer?

Freddie: The overall benefit for the customer is being able to look after their assets properly. By understanding what is happening with their assets and with the flow meters in there, they can see what the applications are doing with the flow rates. They can also remotely adjust the parameters from anywhere in the world. It’s like having this extended set of data that provides them with meaningful logic to make better business decisions. But without that data, they would never know of these benefits.

In context of what’s happening with the pandemic, why is digital transformation so important?

Rohan: Because it enables remote monitoring. Everything we do in the telematics and IoT space revolves around remote monitoring. So, if a manager is at home and has a fleet of 100 trucks, they can now monitor everything about the vehicle, the driver behavior, the sensors, the engine performance and get proactive reports when things are going wrong. The world of remote monitoring and remote control of different things is massive; whether it’s a machine or a truck, you can have more visibility or control the inputs with IoT like turning generators on/off remotely, and so on. That’s where Asset Aware complements ifm because ifm does the sensor side but that only makes up part of the picture. Asset Aware IoT provides all the other analytics to help paint the whole picture, which has a lot of benefits for the customer. And the customer has increased visibility through the one application, which is ifm’s SmartObserver.

What does the future look like as project partners?

Freddie: From the first time I spoke to Rohan, I felt our companies had a similar vision of IoT development. We have an openness that enables us to collaborate easily. We’re also working towards a common goal, which is to help our customers in their digital transformation. I feel like the sky’s the limit in what we can achieve, not just in Australia, but globally, as partners.

Akmal: While both ifm and Asset Aware’s parent company, AA Radio, have been around for a long time and have their own sets of customers, where it gets exciting is that we both started to move towards a non-traditional market with our IoT solutions and package offerings. It’s a match made in heaven because Asset Aware IoT have solutions that we want to integrate our ifm technologies with and vice versa.

Rohan: Together, we are riding that space of interoperability. Of making the connected world a reality. You know, we’ve developed a real-life future forward solution through collaboration. The future looks grand because there’s so much more that’s going to come out of this. With the reach of ifm working in 72 countries and with the reach of our extended Asset Aware IoT team in Florida, Mexico, and all of South America, we are truly looking at the global picture in terms of project scope.




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