Caterpillar and the Internet of Big Things

October 15, 2015

Caterpillar has arrived at Chicago Ideas Week (CIW). CIW is actually longer than a week, full of talks, labs, conversations and events the organizers say is built on one core belief: When a broad spectrum of thinkers and instigators share ideas, we have the power to transform our world. 

A perfect place for Caterpillar! 

Our participation kicked off today with Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman and Uptake CEO and founder Brad Keywell talking about “Disruptive Innovation” with Fast Company editor Chuck Salter.

Their main focus was how the Internet of Things, which will likely grow to 25 to 50 billion Internet-connected objects by 2020, will perform actions based on data sent by sensors and then analyzed to provide useful information. Already, Internet-connected devices like smart thermostats and machines like Caterpillar’s autonomous mining trucks are using data analytics to increase safety, convenience, comfort and energy efficiency. 

“At Caterpillar,” Doug said, “we’re focused on the connectivity of machines and engines – the Internet of BIG Things.”

Doug and Brad told Chuck and the audience about the joint effort between Caterpillar and Uptake to introduce a new analytics platform that identifies patterns in machine maintenance before machines experience catastrophic failure. The end result would maximize productivity and lead to more profitability and increased safety. 

"Our business model runs on uptime for customers. If we run at a lower cost than our competition, we win,” said Doug. "We better disrupt ourselves in our own way before somebody does an Uber to us."

Our products around the world are already outfitted with sensors monitoring fuel, idle times, location and a variety of inputs that provide valuable information to us, our dealers and our customers. For example, a locomotive has 300 sensors with the capability to spit out data in milliseconds. To avoid getting “Ubered,” we know that we need to harness all of that information. 

We’re the best in the world at making iron – but we know there are others who are the best at data analytics. We knew that we needed a partner to help us develop an industry-leading predictive data analytics platform. So we joined forces with Chicago-based Uptake to develop a predictive analytics platform designed to solve high value opportunities across industry.

Now Caterpillar is part of the growing and vibrant tech community in Chicago – less than three hours from Caterpillar’s global headquarters in Peoria, Illinois. 

Doug and Brad sharing the stage was even a bit disruptive, all on its own. On one end, you have Caterpillar, a 90-year iconic, industrial powerhouse. On the other end is Uptake, a start-up company dedicated to “disruptive collaboration” and looking at product development times in months, not years.

Click here to watch a recording of the discussion between Doug and Brad.

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