Alesea: smart virtual assistance for cable drums


Alesea, the first start-up to enter the runway phase at Prysmian Group’s Corporate Hangar innovation hub, is an IoT solution providing virtual assistance for cable drum management.

Giovanni Berti


The solution, developed in a collaboration between Prysmian Group, Prysmian's Digital Innovation Lab and Corporate Hangar, consists of a smart device installed on cable drums, cloud infrastructure for storage and processing, and an intuitive Web platform. The device is installed during manufacturing, so no intervention is required in the field. The GPS locator, sensors and mobile communications allow the system to offer near real-time access to information regarding cable drum location, potential theft and tampering, drum use and available cable volume and type. The concept uses multiple mobile communications networks: 2G and NB-IOT (Narrow Band IOT). The best network available is simply chosen in each location. The solution is designed to withstand harsh conditions at, for example, building sites.

Data automatically stored in the cloud can be retrieved at any time and viewed on desktops and customisable mobile platforms. In this way, Alesea provides a full inventory management service, whilst helping reduce the total cost of cable management through better asset use and greater operating efficiency. Optimised logistics and minimised cable waste and scrap help reduce the environmental impact.

“The original idea came from Salli Hara-Haikkala, CEO for Prysmian Sweden, following a conversation with a client,” explains Giovanni Berti, Partner in Corporate Hangar. “As part of Prysmian’s Advanced Leadership Program, she documented her concept, which we discussed, and then decided to involve Prysmian’s logistics department, Digital Innovation Lab and a third-party technology supplier. The goal was to build a compelling value proposition that would go beyond locating drums, but instead provide a complete asset management solution for cable inventory. This consists of hardware, software and services. After extensive development and testing we can now analyse project and cable management KPIs and provide this information to customers, enabling them to optimize and streamline operations. It’s important that you don’t just collect data, but also extract immediately usable information that adds clear value for customers.”

“Connectivity between platforms, smart use of data and IoT are going to keep becoming increasingly important and more widely adopted, so we wanted to introduce a solution that would offer clients value and help them be more sustainable, competitive, and cost-effective. Being able to get an overview of the entire inventory with one click creates huge value for customers. When you need to manage thousands of kilometres of cable and there are several parties involved a single source of up-to-date information is essential. Other customers are more interested in the safety enhancements the solution brings.”

“Key benefits are instant intuitive localization, and asset tracing,” adds Carlotta Dainese, Head of Prysmian digital innovation Lab. “We can pinpoint cable drums with an accuracy of 5-10 metres, more than enough for this application. GPS only works if it has clear line of sight from the GPS device to the satellite, but cable drums are often stored indoors. We’ve developed a form of GSM triangulation to get around this limitation.”

“This has been a fantastic cooperation between all parties and all the skills and disciplines involved have been extremely supportive. The help of the logistics team and client feedback were essential to creating a system that really works in practice and was feasible to implement. We’re now rolling out the system. By ensuring we’re offering the best technical solution and support at an early stage, we want to make this an industry standard. We’re also thinking about other applications than cable drums.”

Over 1,000 Alesea devices have been tested in seven countries and the solution is now ready for large-scale distribution. Through collaboration with clients and industry partners, Alesea will continue to evolve, meeting emerging market demand and keeping pace with the newest applications.

“Alesea transforms cable drums from mere packaging into smart assets. This tool will enable us to support our partners by helping them improve their performance in terms of operational efficiency and sustainability.”

Francesco Fanciulli,

Executive VP Energy Business, Prysmian Group