The evolution of IoT and its everlasting effect on global manufacturing
The term IoT was first coined by British entrepreneur Kevin Ashton in 1999, while working at Auto i.d. Labs. Fast forward nearly 20 years and experts estimate that IoT will consist of nearly 50 billion objects by 2020. Staggering.
So what explains such outburst of IoT technologies?
Mainly this phenomena can be put down to the evolution of convergence of multiple technologies, ranging from the internet to wireless communication; from embedded systems to micro electromechanical systems (MEMS). As such, embedded systems, wireless sensor networks, control systems, automation (including home and building automation), and other all contribute to enabling the internet of things.
Industry 4.0 and the automation of production lines relies heavily on IoT
Network control and management of manufacturing equipment, assets and situation management, or manufacturing process control bring the IoT within the realm of industrial applications and smart manufacturing. The IoT intelligent systems use networking machinery, sensors and control systems to enable rapid manufacturing of new products, dynamic response to product demands, and real-time optimization of manufacturing production and supply chain networks.
Integrating the IoT into digital control systems allow to automate process controls, operator tools and service information systems in order to optimize plant safety and security. IoT can also contribute to asset management by enabling manufacturers to embrace predictive maintenance and statistical evaluation. Further, smart industrial management systems can be integrated with the Smart Grid as well, thus enabling, for instance, real-time energy optimization. Finally, networked sensors can contribute to a manufacturer's success in many other ways, such as automated controls, plant optimization, health and safety management, and new approaches to emasure results, just to name a few.
The term IIOT (industrial internet of things) is often encountered in the manufacturing industry referring to the industrial subset of the IoT. Many currently expect that the application of the IoT in the manufacturing world will generate so much business value, it will actually lead to the fourth industrial revolution, a.k.a. Industry 4.0.
In the near future, successful companies will be able to increase their revenue through internet of things by creating new business models and improve productivity, exploit analytics for innovation, and transform workforce. In Asia more and more factories are already automating their production lines and this trend has accelerated over the last few years due to rising labour costs. As such, the IIoT is expected to generate $12 trillion of global GDP by 2030.
The key for manufacturers to succesfully embrace IIOT will be their ability to understand machines and devices as well as the ability to react to problems in real time. IIOT lays the foundation for predictive maintenance, anomaly detection and machine learning. However, machine learning, anomaly detection and predictive maintenance are not easy and neither simple.
Plug-and-play should't be the only criteria when chosing the best technology for your industrial needs, neither the main one. There are 3 key features you should expect from the IoT solution you will select: it must guarantee data will be captured and observed for months; accurately understand machines protocols; and offer insights in real-time. Further, keep in mind that every machine is different. Nonethless, given the amount of data you need to make it 'big', the longer a machine is operating, the more data you will be able to collect and the more insights you'll get.
Manufacturing executives have just started to understand the real benefits of IIoT. While the initial investment into IIoT can seem daunting for any business owner, once the factory fully embraces IIoT, competitive advantages such as lower maintenance costs, lower labour costs, optimized streamline production, higher production control and increased knowledge base, completely outweigh these costs. Further, not only return on these investments is undeniable, embracing these new technologies allows manufacturers to act rather than react, and this is a priceless advantage in this age of hyper-competition.