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How Disney Parks Is Using Hitachi Vantara's Lumada To Improve Rides

'Operational technology is in their DNA. When you talk with other companies that are trying to do this in this space, they just do not have that close touch,' Disney executive Michael Tschanz says of Hitachi Vantara's IoT platform.

When park-goers zoom around on the Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster at Disney's Hollywood Studios, hundreds of sensors — invisible to the riders — are sending data in real time to on-premises servers located at the amusement park to ensure that the ride remains safe and in working order.

This is a critical capability as the data helps Disney Parks uncover insights into the health of the ride's overall system as well as individual components, so that if, for instance, the linear synchronous motor starts running too hot, the park can quickly dispatch engineers before it becomes a problem.

[Related: Hitachi CEO Higashihara: Lumada Is The Engine For 'Powering Good']

What’s allowing this real-time transfer and analysis of data is Hitachi Vantara's Lumada edge platform, according to Michael Tschanz, director of technology and analysis at The Walt Disney Company, who spoke about how Disney Parks is using Lumada, a central focus for Hitachi Vantara, at the company's annual Next conference in Las Vegas on Thursday.

"We really need to understand how this ride system will end up working as it's moving across that launch system. But we as humans don't do a very good job of seeing things as they're moving that quickly," he said, citing the motor's temperature as an example.

Hitachi Vantara announced a new strategic alliance with Disney Parks at Next that will see the entertainment giant increasingly use Hitachi Vantara's Lumada IoT, analytics and data management software to improve ride operations at Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in California. Slinky Dog Dash and two other rides at Toy Story Land in Disney's Hollywood Studios are just the beginning.

"We're going to continually expand everything on this platform, working on more and more of our rides and shows, including our animated figures," Tschanz said.

The executive said one of the reasons Disney chose Hitachi Vantara over other companies with IoT and analytics capabilities is the company's history of working in both IT and operational technology.

"Operational technology is in their DNA," Tschanz said. "When you talk with other companies that are trying to do this in this space, they just do not have that close touch."

This OT expertise allows Disney to easily take data from all of the components of a ride system — pumps, motors, contactors, sensors and push buttons — and feed it into a data lake in Disney Park's data routing cluster, according to Tschanz. That OT data then routes to the Lumada edge platform, where Disney performs all of its analytics.

From there, the analytics can generate various kinds of insights as to how the rides are operating, including whether the temperature of a motor is starting to cross a certain threshold. When a component starts acting up, Lumada can immediately send an alert to Disney's maintenance partners.

"We have this way of looking at the alerts and warnings, giving us insight so that we can take action before we end up having something that would cause us to take the ride to a place that would force us to do [something] like an [evacuation]," Tschanz said.

One of the things Tschanz said he likes about Lumada is it's easy to run in on-premises servers in addition to cloud environments. He also likes that it's an open platform.

"We couldn't work with a company that was working in kind of a walled garden that said we're only going to work with our tools, and that's what's been great working with the Lumada team," Tschanz said. "We've helped form this working relationship […] It's not only that I'm not looking at the platform itself, but it's getting into hands of all of our maintenance and engineers, so that they can understand exactly how everything's running."

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