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IndustryHack Hackathon – accelerating new ideas for the industrial internet

“We need to partner with smaller companies and start-ups and get them interested in the industrial internet so we can develop the ecosystem and help grow the industry as a whole.”

Juha Pankakoski, Chief Digital Officer, Konecranes

What is the IndustryHack Hackathon and what were Konecranes’ goals for hosting the event? 

The Hackathon is a series of events that take place in 2015 where industrial companies open up their application interfaces, allowing external developers to come and develop new ideas around the topic of the industrial internet. We had a couple of main objectives for the Hackathon. One of them was to see what concepts could be put together in a real life situation within 48 hours through a rapid prototyping philosophy. We especially wanted to determine what could be done based on the application interfaces that we’ve developed in recent years. So, whether the crane interfaces that we have in place today that collect, process and transmit data are such that external developers can hook into them and use them as a basis for creating services. The Hackathon served that purpose excellently.

Our second objective was to introduce developers to practical challenges in the Internet of Things related to the industrial environment that they might not have had previous experience dealing with. 

The developers may be very seasoned and qualified professionals in the IT area, but the event gave them a chance to see what sort of issues we have in our sector. We wanted to find out how they could use their own experience from different fields, for example, from the business to customer environment, and apply them in an industrial setting. We managed to create an environment that made it easy for the developers to work and exchange information among each other and with the Konecranes team. I think that really helped them come up with concepts and shape them into presentable formats. 

How important is it for Konecranes to network with small tech companies and startups?

I think it’s very, very important for us to have this kind of community with whom we can develop different ideas and concepts. Small enterprises and startups often come up with different ways to process information and develop new concepts, especially when they come from outside the crane industry. They have deep experience in areas of technology that they may have perfected themselves, that when applied into our environment can really help us create new things and speed up our development.

If you look at all the ideas in the area of the industrial internet, there’s no way that we could fulfill all the opportunities and move in all the possible directions by ourselves. We need to partner, and we need to get smaller companies and smaller startups to be interested in the industrial internet so we can develop the ecosystem around the topic that will help the industry to grow overall.

For you personally, what was one of the most exciting ideas that came out of the Hackathon? 

Perhaps the most exciting concept was related to the interaction and emotions that can be built on a piece of equipment. One of the teams played with the idea of developing a so-called “fear factor” for a crane. Based on the user’s behavior or how they operate the crane, it would deduct whether they were tired, or not paying full attention to their task. Unwanted behavior would cause the crane to develop a fear factor towards the operator, which it would show as a change in its emotional state and response to the operator. It would feed the information back to the user and tell them to consider taking a break or resting or doing something else. It could also take the speed or power levels of the crane down so that there would be less risk of damage if the user was worn out or distracted.

This idea is a great example of the type of out-of-the-box thinking that can help us develop our own concepts. It deals with the interaction between man and machine, and how with sensing capabilities we can also make cranes adapt to different situations so that they work optimally and more safely.

Have you drawn any other conclusions from the event that you want to share? 

Many of the concepts the teams presented weren’t ready to launch or to apply in an industrial context. However, several of them could be developed into full-blown products with a bit of fine tuning and additional integration. It’s enlightening to see what can be achieved in a couple of days. In our environment, and with our application interfaces that we’ve developed, the developers created new services and concepts in the area of the industrial internet that could be of real value to our customers.

Several of the ideas were things that we had already thought about ourselves but perhaps haven’t introduced yet. This puts more pressure on us to implement new features faster and bring them out to our customers more quickly. The Hackathon showed us that new concepts could easily be implemented on top of the technologies and processes we’ve created. Now it’s just a question of exploiting these possibilities fully, taking all these benefits to our customers and creating a competitive edge. 

 

Text: Patricia Ongpin-Steffa
Photo: Stephen Lee

Fast File

  • Juha Pankakoski is responsible for Konecranes’ digitalization strategy and is also in charge of the Group’s information systems and process architecture.
  • He has worked at Konecranes since 2004, and has held several management positions in operations and business development within the Group.