Hitachi Ltd. in one form or another has been making Internet of things (IoT) devices for the past several years, according to Sara Gardner, CTO of the Social Innovation unit at the massive, multi-billion dollar conglomerate.
The company casts it shadow on a wide and disparate range of verticals worldwide, from construction machinery and automotive systems to financial services, health care, telecommunications and power systems. As with other huge multinational companies, like, GE, each of the independent business units that operate in these far-flung industries have engineers working for them, and over the years have created various connected devices, systems and sensors that help their customers gather, store and analyze data from their operations.
However, those connected devices tended to be optimized for their particular industry segments and for particular customers, so while Hitachi may have been making a range of systems that would comfortably fit within the Internet of things definition, not many people outside of the larger company associated Hitachi with such connected devices, Gardner said.
At the same time, Hitachi did little to promote what its various businesses were creating, and its IT business—which primarily is Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), with consulting services and the newly-acquired Pentaho data analytics company—did not have much of a reputation in IoT, Gardner said.
But that is all changing, she said. Hitachi officials are pulling together the IT capabilities of HDS and the various technology efforts of its vast number of businesses under the umbrella of the company’s Social Innovation business unit, and are now beginning to promote their efforts.
“We’ve been doing IoT for a while,” Gardner told eWEEK. “Over the last year or so, you’ve started to see Hitachi make a lot of noise [about the Social Innovation initiative and its IoT capabilities]. You’re going to see more of that in the coming years.”
Hitachi has annual revenues of more than $81 billion, more than 950 subsidiaries, 333,000 employees and an R&D budget of $2.8 billion. It already makes the systems and devices that generate huge amounts of data, the hardware and software infrastructures to gather, manage and analyze the data and the domain expertise to turn the data into valuable information, Gardner said.
The Social Innovation unit is designed to draw from the massive pool of resources already inside Hitachi Ltd.—from its industrial and IT companies to its labs and centers for social innovation—and to acquire whatever other capabilities are needed to create products and processes that are aimed at specific industries, but that are repeatable and can be leveraged elsewhere. The unit encompasses HDS, Hitachi Consulting, Pentaho (which Hitachi Ltd. bought in June) and its Energy Solutions unit.
The goal is to be more efficient and innovate more quickly by sharing the same infrastructure and data, and using tools like Pentaho to drive core analytics, Gardner said. The result will be the development of connected solutions that will be aimed less at the home and more at the business and industrial spaces, and to address problems within those verticals, she said, pointing to Hitachi’s motto: “The Internet of Things That Matter.”
“We want to do something, to solve a problem and get [the product] to market,” Gardner said. “Then use it to see how it can be applied elsewhere. Everything we’re doing is about solving a problem.”
Hitachi Wrapping IoT in Social Innovation
Hitachi’s Social Innovation unit is looking at a broad range of industries, from urban development, energy and health care to telco IT, transport and logistics, manufacturing and construction, water and natural resources. The blueprint for the Social Innovation initiative shows a smart analytics framework and IoT platform sitting atop the infrastructure and cloud platform and collecting, storing, managing securing and analyzing data from multiple sources, including machines (RFID tags and sensors), people (social media, video, images and audio) and businesses (email, documents and structure data).
On top of that are the services to build and deploy solutions that can be used in a range of areas, from smart cities (traffic, waste, energy and safety) and smart business (telco, financial, health care and IT) to smart environment (wind, water, solar and microgrids) to smart industry (mining, manufacturing, oil and gas).
At the core of the analytics framework is Pentaho, which brings data integration and discovery and predictive analytics.
Gardner said the Social Innovation business unit has “got critical mass.” The company has more than 500 data scientists and researchers worldwide, seven Centers for Social Innovation globally, more than 600 employees dedicated to the Social Innovation effort in the Americas and more than 75 resources in the Hitachi Live Insight Center of Excellence, which launched in April and offers a broad array of solutions, services, best practices and consulting.
The group already has some products in the market, proof-of-concepts in place and a growing roster of partners, she said.
Along with Pentaho, Hitachi also has bought other companies to support its Social Innovation efforts, including Avrio RMS, which designed wireless IP surveillance systems, Pantascene, which provided applications for video and sensor interoperability, and Sepaton, which built data protection appliances.