If a company is moving or monitoring a fluid, especially water, it’s likely that Pentair is involved. Pentair’s solutions span a wide range of industries, from energy, food and beverage, and manufacturing, to infrastructure, commercial, and aquaculture.
With many of its products installed in relatively remote locations, Pentair is no stranger to developing connected systems. However, in the past, each of those solutions was typically custom-built, leading to long development times, a mismatch of different technologies, and an inability to reuse existing solution components and skill sets across the company’s areas of business.
To address the challenge, Pentair formed a dedicated, centralized R&D team focused on connected products. The team’s mission was twofold: Not only would it lead the company’s efforts to standardize on a common set of technologies for building connected products, but it would also help line-of-business managers across the company understand potential new opportunities and business models.
The team knew it needed a powerful, flexible Internet of Things (IoT) platform and tool set. “We’re still exploring the possibilities and finding new use cases,” says Brian Boothe, engineering manager at Pentair, who is helping lead the company’s Connected Products Initiative for Consumer and Industrial IoT. “As such, we need an IoT platform that’s not only highly scalable and available, but that also enables a high degree of reuse across all our lines of business. And we’re not just talking about IoT data ingestion. Analysis and visualization are also essential components when it comes to delivering new business value.”
With assistance from Bright Wolf, an AWS Partner Network (APN) Advanced Technology Partner and IoT Competency Partner, Pentair adopted a standardized IoT platform and tool set based on AWS. Boothe first assembled a team from across the company’s various lines of business. “I’m a mechanical engineer, not a programmer,” says Boothe. “So I identified the programmers from across the company who were already working on connected solutions and, with assistance from Bright Wolf, we set out to evaluate potential technology providers.”
The team’s initial research led to a short list that included Amazon, GE, IBM, Microsoft and others. The team identified and scored a set of platform characteristics for each vendor that included simplicity of data ingestion, infrastructure controls, deployment options, machine learning and visualization tools, development tools and the overall openness of each platform.
“AWS came out on top when it came to the raw scoring,” says Boothe. “However, what really sold us were the intangibles. When I asked each team member which platform they would be most comfortable working with, the answer, unanimously, was AWS.”
Pentair is already using the AWS IoT platform for multiple use cases across different business units:
- Pentair Food and Beverage is building a connected solution for its Beer Membrane Filtration System, which helps brewers optimize beer quality and taste through sustainable brewing processes.
- Pentair Aquatic Eco-Systems is developing a new solution for monitoring and adapting to environmental conditions in offshore salmon sea-farming pens.
- Pentair Thermal Management is developing a new controls solution for monitoring the condition of Pentair products integrated in building management systems, as a means of optimizing predictive and preventative maintenance.
In all three cases, the AWS platform provides not only a standardized means of IoT telemetry ingestion and storage, but also a standardized tool set for analysis and visualization. “All three projects are upgrades of existing, previously siloed solutions to a common, unified, more agile architecture,” says Boothe. “We’re channeling all data through AWS, even if we’re not using the data today, so that we’ll have it for later as we come up with new use cases and business models.”
As Pentair’s IoT technology partner, Bright Wolf helped the company develop a flexible, scalable, and reusable reference architecture that can support most any IoT application. A high-level overview of the architecture, and the AWS services it employs, is shown in the following diagram.
Pentair IoT Reference Architecture
Within the architecture, data ingestion is supported by AWS IoT Core, with storage provided by Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) and Amazon DynamoDB. Predictive analytics are powered by Amazon Machine Learning, monitoring is supported by AWS CloudTrail and Amazon CloudWatch, and authentication and encryption are provided by AWS Key Management Service (KMS), Amazon Cognito, and Amazon API Gateway. Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) and Amazon Route 53 support the application’s web presence, and Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS) and Amazon Simple Email Service (SES) provide notification services. Other “platform services” that play a role include Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS), Amazon Kinesis and AWS Lambda.
Although it’s not shown in the diagram, Pentair is also making use of AWS Greengrass, which extends the power of the AWS services used in the architecture to edge devices, enabling those devices to act locally on data while still using the cloud for management, machine learning, analytics, storage and other functionality.
With its new IoT platform based on AWS, Pentair can quickly and flexibly deliver connected solutions for virtually any scenario across all business units. Scalability, availability, reusability, advanced analytics, visualization and the ability to connect with virtually any edge device in any location are all built into the platform, enabling Pentair to stay focused on how it can best meet customer needs without worrying about whether its chosen technology platform is up to the task.
Specific benefits of the company’s decision to build its IoT architecture on AWS include:
- Rapid time to market for value-added services. With a cloud-based, reusable architecture, Pentair can rapidly deliver new connected solutions. What’s more, because the solutions are cloud-based, the company can easily integrate service providers who work with many Pentair products, thus creating new revenue opportunities.
- Support for commodity devices. Because the AWS IoT platform is open, Pentair can use lower-cost, commodity edge devices to achieve dramatic cost savings. For example, by using AWS Greengrass, product team engineers for the Beer Membrane Filtration solution can replace programmable logic controllers that cost $12,000 each with Raspberry Pi devices that cost about $30.
- Enterprise-grade scalability and availability. By using AWS, Pentair can deploy new solutions and scale up existing ones without having to worry about capacity or servers. “With AWS, unlimited scalability is a given,” says Boothe. “We can build as many connected solutions as we want and collect all the data we can, without being limited by our IT infrastructure.”
Boothe notes that Bright Wolf’s assistance as a trusted technology partner played a major role in making that happen. “Bright Wolf’s expertise with IoT solutions and the fact that they have the AWS IoT Competency have been invaluable,” says Boothe. “They helped us figure out what’s really important and showed us how to architect for reuse, even when those use cases might not yet be known.”
Bright Wolf, an AWS Partner Network (APN) Advanced Technology Partner and IoT Competency Program member, helps companies develop connected product systems across a broad range of industries, including manufacturing, oil and gas, cold chain transportation, medical equipment, agriculture, smart building and heavy equipment.
For more information, contact Bright Wolf through its listing on the APN Partner Solution Finder or on their website.
Learn more about AWS IoT solutions.