Amazon turns up the heat on predictive maintenance

09 March 2021

Blake Griffin discusses the recent move by Amazon into the industrial Predictive maintenance arena.

At the end of 2020, Amazon announced a suite of new Amazon Web Services (AWS) machine learning services. To many, this appeared to be Amazon’s launching point towards becoming a major supplier of predictive maintenance solutions. However, the announcement follows a long history of Amazon carving out its capabilities in industrial digitalisation. Since the ecommerce behemoth’s 2018 release of AWS IoT Sitewise – a service which enables users to gather and organise asset health related data housed in repositories such as a historian – Amazon has been adding to its industrial digitalisation offering.  

In some ways the announcement represents a rounding out of a predictive maintenance offering rather than a jumping off point. When manufacturers are looking at implementing predictive maintenance into their facilities, they are asking fundamental questions such as:
Which assets do I have visibility into already? How can I leverage this data? Which assets do I not have visibility into? What can I do to change that?

The announcement of AWS IoT Sitewise was Amazon’s answer to the first question. Industry generates large amounts of data from the devices controlling its machines. This data is often stored in a historian and without the tooling necessary to effectively manage and analyse such data, much of its value can be lost. AWS IoT Sitewise was developed so this data could be more effectively utilised for condition monitoring/predictive maintenance purposes. The solution is deployed through software housed in a gateway which then communicates the collected data to the AWS cloud. This marked Amazon’s true entry into the predictive maintenance market. 

Fast forward to Amazon’s most recent announcement and we see the company moving to provide a solution to question two. Assets that are cited often as being ‘offline’ from a condition data perspective are the mechanical portions of a motor driven system. These components are numerous throughout factory floors and their failure can represent significant loss of production if they are part of an application critical process. The industry responded to this need by offering smart sensors – wireless enabled sensors which can be connected to the side of a motor for purposes of gathering data on vibration and temperature behaviour. 

One of the Amazon services announced in late 2020 has been coined Amazon Monitron. The solution utilises smart sensors and gateways produced by Amazon to offer up data on the health of motor system equipment; effectively solving the problem of gathering data on assets not being monitored via historian data. This solution is in direct competition with predictive maintenance providers such as ABB, Siemens and SKF. Amazon’s utilisation of data housed in a historian, combined with its smart sensor offering and vast analytics capability offered through AWS have one distinct advantage over competition as Amazon is also a provider of cloud storage.

Every platform offered by the major providers of predictive maintenance are built on cloud storage technology offered largely by either AWS or Microsoft Azure. So, the development of Amazon’s industrial digitalisation offering represents the first time a supplier has the ability to provide both the cloud storage and analytic capabilities under one entity.

It is difficult to foresee what impact this will have on the partnerships AWS has in place with current industrial digitalisation providers. What is easy to see, however, are the numerous advantages Amazon will have in potentially winning the business of those investing in industrial digitalisation for the first time. If customers are looking to utilise the cloud for their industrial digitalisation initiatives, Amazon would represent the fewest number of touchpoints between customer and supplier during the sales process. Additionally, many manufacturers may already be using AWS for cloud storage but have yet to invest into further industrial digitalization technology. In these scenarios, Amazon would already have a ‘foot in the door’ which would yield them an advantage when the time comes for users to begin evaluating providers of digitalisation.

Blake Griffin is a senior analyst at Interact Analysis

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