Starting your first IoT project

Fingrid network in a sunset

Kickstarting an IoT project is never an easy task, regardless of whether the need for it comes from within the organization or outside of it. Finland’s transmission system operator Fingrid started their first IoT project half a decade ago, progressing step by step and implementing new innovations to create an even more cost-effective, reliable, and up-to-date transmission system. We asked them about their project and how they got the IoT train running in the first place.

Building and maintaining the Finnish main grid has not changed dramatically in the past 50 years. Maintenance, check-ups, and system monitoring had been done more or less manually – with some modernizations along the way, of course – without any major problems. However, seeing the endless possibilities of IoT, Fingrid started out by mapping the current trends regarding IoT. What will the world be like in 10, 20 or 50 years from now? The amount of data available is huge compared to the year 2000 – and that was just 20 years ago. Having recognized the change drivers but also the wide range of solutions IoT can offer, the innovation project saw daylight.

Why should a company start an IoT project?

They say you shouldn’t fix something that is not broken, so how could change be justified when the current operating model still works? “We had to use the data IoT can offer to convince people that we can actually build an even more cost-efficient and stable transmission system by using these modern solutions”, says Marcus Stenstrand, Digitalisation Manager of Fingrid. The benefits of a digitalization project were greenlit, so next they had to find a suitable partner with the perfect solution.

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Fingrid organized an innovation competition to find a partner who could provide an effective solution to a problem Fingrid had had for decades: maintenance, system analysis, and repairs were time-consuming and required a lot of manual labour. Haltian had years of experience with IoT and creating new remote monitoring solutions so they were one of the selected companies to carry out the IoT project together with Fingrid, aiming to reduce downtime and the need for repairs in their network.

Marcus Stenstrand fro Fingrid telling about what to consider when stating an IoT project
Marcus Stenstrand from Fingrid believes finding the right partner is key in any IoT project

Let IoT help you save precious time

Even though Fingrid has a remarkable reliability score in their transmission system, they wanted to be able to predict any issues that might lead to system failure in any parts of their grid network. In case of component failure, the downtime might lead to power outages in large areas and the replacement parts need to be delivered to the site. “We needed a solution that can measure the smallest changes in our systems, such as average temperature level changes”, Stenstrand explains. “In this particular case, Haltian already had a product that could do all the necessary work but we needed to work together so that it would manage in much more challenging environments”, Stenstrand adds. “We did a lot of RnD together with Haltian and came up with additional features along the way, so that was a nice bonus. We soon realized we didn’t have to customize the product itself that much so most of the work was integrating everything into our current systems”. Nowadays Fingrid is streamlining their maintenance by using automated system surveillance instead of having to pause their systems due to manual measurements. Being able to monitor components online has improved efficiency already in the proof-of-concept phase by enabling tuning the equipment for better performance.

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“We had to use the data IoT can offer to convince people that we can actually build an even more cost-efficient and stable transmission system by using these modern solutions”,

Marcus Stenstrand, Digitalisation Manager of Fingrid

Innovation sparks new ideas

So what was the end result of Fingrid’s IoT project? After running some tests in certain parts of the grid, Fingrid is ready to expand the new monitoring systems to their whole grid. Marcus Stenstrand sums up the implementation of the new model: “Because our grid reliability has always been very high, we haven’t seen radical changes but the new surveillance and monitoring system has already streamlined our maintenance. The more you know about your system, the better you sleep at night!”

After seeing the versatility and possibilities IoT is able to deliver, Fingrid has started various tests at other sites as well, such as buildings. Without the need for long development processes for each individual site, Fingrid is able to test multiple factors in their environment just by installing a monitoring device in the desired location and plugging it in.

“Finding the right partner who has the same enthusiasm and will to drive things forward is the key to any IoT project. If the partner doesn’t have the necessary go-to attitude and flexibility, you can’t expect the project to flow smoothly”, says Marcus Stenstrand.

This article is a part of a series about starting with IoT projects. Read the other articles here:

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