At Opel AG’s vehicle test center, SAP demonstrated under live conditions how solutions for the Internet of Things can transform an industry.
A moisture chamber, a mud bath, and a salt fog treatment: what sounds like a luxury wellness break is actually part of the ultimate resilience test for motor vehicles.
At its test track in Dudenhofen, a small town close to company headquarters in Rüsselsheim, Germany, automotive manufacturer Adam Opel AG puts its new products through months of tough endurance testing to find out if they can cope long term with the different climate and road conditions anywhere in the world.
The test vehicles are driven relentlessly over cobblestones and bumps, rammed through potholes and into life-size mock-ups of wild boar, and subjected to the effects of salt water, mud, cold, and heat. After all, every vehicle is expected to serve its owner faithfully for an average lifespan of 124,000 miles and 10 years.
In Dudenhofen, Opel’s test drivers literally run their vehicles “into the ground.” After five or six months of non-stop, 24-hour action, they’re fit for nothing but the junk yard. So it’s no coincidence that this part of Opel’s square-mile forest test center is known as the “Torture Track.”
Thanks to the intensive business relationship and collaboration between GM/Opel and SAP, the members of the SAP Advisory Council for Automotive were recently invited to the test center to experience one of the highlights of this facility: the high-speed banked race track. Here, Opel prototypes roar past you at speeds of up to 155 mph, just inches from the perimeter guardrails that surround the circuit.
If any of the visiting members of the Advisory Council had harbored fantasies of ever reaching these kinds of speeds in their own cars or in the demo cars provided by Opel and SAP, they saw them dissipate as quickly as the air does from a tire hitting a bed of nails. In fact, as Edina Sewell from the SAP Industry Business Unit Automotive informed them, the maximum speed limit for “non-professionals” is 110 mph. “And please remember,” she added with a grin, “The vehicles are equipped with dongles, so we can monitor every move on the track, we know exactly what you’re doing!”
SAP Vehicle Insights
SAP Vehicle Insights, which became generally available in July 2016, offers a variety of services to manage connected vehicles, including basic data analytics that can be used for fleet analysis, vehicle diagnostics, and mobility-as-a-service scenarios.
The solution enables companies to use information about entire fleets and car-specific key data like gear recognition, fuel stops, scores for economical driving or heat mapping to improve not only the management of their fleets but also of individual vehicles. With predictive maintenance functions for mileage and tire wear, repairs can be planned more efficiently, thus reducing costs.
Using SAP Vehicle Insights, companies can combine the data collected in vehicles with external information and business figures. And thanks to real-time analysis and forecasting functions, they can obtain valuable insights that enable them to bring new developments for connected vehicles to the market faster.
Demo Under Live Conditions
The dongles Edina was referring to are small wireless gadgets that had been fitted to the demo vehicles to transmit data from the vehicles directly to SAP HANA Cloud Platform in order to demonstrate the new SAP Vehicle Insights solution under live conditions. The demo involved vehicles completing test runs within start and finishing markers that the SAP Vehicle Insights team had defined in advance using geo-fencing technology.
Throughout the demo, the dongles transmitted real-time information via the cellphone network, such as on vehicle speed, engine performance, and temperature, enabling the SAP software to calculate average speed and fuel consumption in an instant. Thanks to specially installed screens at the skip pad, the event participants could see who was driving which vehicle car, where they were on the test track, and who was leading the driver-ranking for the most fuel-efficient drive.
Speaking to the visiting council members, Stephan Brand, SVP of Products & Innovation Internet of Things (IoT) and Moving Assets at SAP, explained to the council members that SAP Vehicle Insights has been generally available since July 2016. The target audience of this cloud solution expands beyond the automotive industry.
“Not only vehicles, also machines even at an increasing extent need to be integrated in digital business processes. Whether it is a truck on the road, a forklift at the warehouse or an excavator at a construction site, everything needs to be operated in the most efficient way possible,” he said.
Emphasizing this point, Stefan Krauss, global general manager for Discrete Industries at SAP, added, “The automotive industry has long since broadened its focus from selling vehicles to offering mobility services for connected vehicles.” SAP Vehicle Insights, he explained, showcases how companies can gain added value from the digital transformation. “The solution processes huge volumes of data to deliver precisely the insights required to make the right decisions and trigger the appropriate action,” he said.
And this is exactly what Toyota Material Handling USA (TMHU), the world’s largest forklift supplier, has already experienced during a proof of concept. The SAP Vehicle Insights solution enables TMHU to provide their customers information about the location and operating status of each of their forklifts. These insights allow companies to utilize their forklift fleets more effectively, reduce machine downtime, and, ultimately, save money by optimizing their operations.
Overall, the demo participants clocked up a total of 500 miles around the Opel test track. Excitement was written on every face. Well, almost every face… one participant jokingly complained about the “rough” and “not particularly comfortable” ride across potholes and bumps but commented that it had been “an incredibly interesting opportunity” to have been given the chance by SAP to experience the Internet of Things in action and under live conditions.