Batman - Tales from our IoT journey - Part 1

 This blog post is written by Anssi Soinu.

This blog post is written by Anssi Soinu.

Blog series
- Part 1, Introduction
- Part 2, Batman
- Part 3, Batmobile
- Part 4, Batcave
- Part 5, Conclusions

This is a five part blog post series about one of our IoT journeys. In the first part we will introduce the business case and the history behind our IoT solution. In the second part we will go through how we built the actual device and what kind of challenges we had. In the third part we will go through building a supporting cross-platform mobile app called Batmobile. In the fourth part we'll talk about the cloud back-end for the IoT solution and in the last part we will conclude our thoughts about the business case and possible next steps. 

As a company we want to explore and try out new things. We like to challenge ourselves to make existing products we like even better. We enjoy learning about our customers' businesses, and finding ways to create more value to them. This is exactly what happened in this case.

I was on a business trip in Norway. While flying back to Finland, I met Marko Mäkitalo who is the CEO of Imagon Group. He introduced their business to me, and I was fascinated about what they do: Imagon builds different kinds of LED products for their customers. You can see their LED guides at for example airports, train stations, and shopping centers. As it operates in multiple countries, Imagon's products can also be spotted outside Finland. Below you can see one example of their product.

After the flight I was so interested about what Imagon does that I started wondering whether we could improve their business with a twist of IoT. I called Marko Mäkitalo and we agreed to meet at their Vantaa office. Before the meeting we, at the Arado office, prepared a small concrete prototype that showed how IoT could improve their business. We got positive feedback from Imagon on the prototype, and that triggered a discussion about one of their current clients – City of Helsinki (Public Works Department)

Imagon has built 21 LED pylons for the City of Helsinki (Public Works Department). The idea behind the LED pylons is that they will guide people in Jätkäsaari - a peninsula in the harbour area of Helsinki. What makes them especially great for the City of Helsinki is that they are fully mobile, meaning that it's possible to move the pylons easily from one place to another. If you have ever been in Jätkäsaari you've probably seen one of these LED pylons. If you haven't - below you can see a picture of one. Looking good isn't it?

The challenge attached to the mobility of the LED pylons is that they operate with batteries. If the battery runs out, the pylons lights are off.

The batteries need to be changed regularly and in order to check the state of the battery a person has to physically visit the pylon and measure the battery state, spending quite a bit of time doing so. The consumption rate for the batteries also varies remarkably, depending on for example the weather and the amount of light during the day. Different batteries could also have different lifetimes.

Quite soon afterwards a meeting was set up with the City of Helsinki (Public Works Department) representatives to discuss more about the challenges. During the meeting we demonstrated Helsinki City (Public Works Department) representatives how it could be possible to solve the challenges by moving from physical to remote maintenance. They liked the idea, and that's how this IoT journey code-named Batman got started.