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4 Questions That Help Demonstrate the Value of the IIoT

By Special Guest
Alan Mindlin, Technical Manager, Morey
February 21, 2019

The IoT covers so many industries and products that it can be difficult to grasp its breadth and value. Experts forecast global IoT spending to reach $745 billion in 2019, $194 billion of that in the U.S. alone. Discrete and process manufacturing accounts for a huge percentage of that spend, at $119 billion and $78 billion worldwide, respectively.

It’s an incredible value for a network of solutions that’s only existed for a few decades. But an incredible gap remains between the number of executives who recognize the IIoT’s importance to their industry and those who are planning for implementation. While 81 percent of business executives say Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) adoption is critical to their company’s future success, just 25 percent have a clear IIoT strategy.

The benefits of the IIoT are clear — better insights, the potential for growth, increased visibility, etc. However, the what and how behind implementation are more obscure. Use the following four questions to help open up a dialogue between engineers and executives about the importance and feasibility of IIoT within any organization.

  1. How is the IIoT different from the consumer IoT? While both categories of IoT are based in web-connected technology, the quality and safety standards for IoT solutions in an industrial setting vary drastically. Consider an IoT-enabled heart monitor that’s being used in a hospital. Doctors, nurses and patients rely on the device to produce data that directs patient care, and, in some cases, sounds an alarm if a patient goes into distress. That’s a far more critical application than a consumer version, like a personal fitness tracker. Similar comparisons exist across all kinds of IoT, from smart thermostats to shipment tracking. IIoT engineers need to achieve a higher level of design certification to understand the requirements around reliability, power usage, safety, manufacturing and more. These rules and requirements are application dependent, a factor that must be taken into consideration on a project-by-project basis.
  2. What does the day-to-day function of the IIoT look like? IIoT-enabled machines learn from each other, so as their implementation spreads throughout a factory, each machine becomes smarter based on shared data and metrics. Manufacturers can track every step of every process, from raw material to the shipping department, and make tweaks and improvements based on constant data updates. Better yet, this technology is becoming more streamlined and automated by the day. There are essentially two types of IIoT-enabled solutions: older machines that have been retrofitted with IIoT, and newer ones that are fitted with IIoT from conception. Newer machines can adjust themselves based on humidity, vibration, temperature and other factors. However, older machines simply monitor and report conditions and must be maintained by a human operator. This is an important factor to consider when implementing an IIoT program.
  3. How can manufacturers build an effective IIoT program? IIoT is poised to become the backbone of any manufacturing company, but only if implemented correctly. This requires starting  with a clear understanding of the problem IIoT will solve for in a manufacturing company. Is it technical? Financial? Logistical? This understanding can serve as mission statement from which to move forward. From this point, key decisions will include:
    Costs. Consider not just the IIoT technology itself, but the infrastructure and software, data storage, cloud applications and more needed to operate IIoT successfully in a manufacturing environment.
    Creation. Making the decision to bring in a partner to build an IIoT solution or finding someone internally who has the correct skillset isn’t always easy. The answer hinges on the complexity of the solution, the size of an operation and the budget. While it may be tempting to cut costs by building a solution in house, it can be easy to underestimate the final price of a solution. Additionally, moving from a use case prototype to a final product is a complicated process, especially for first-timers.
    ?Value. Take a conservative track when adding IIoT solutions. It’s not worthwhile to take a chance on something that doesn’t ultimately add value
  4. How will the IIoT evolve and grow in the near future? As the IIoT becomes more prevalent, factories in particular will move away from barcode tracking toward radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags that don't require scanning and active radio technologies, such as Bluetooth and lower power radios.These new tags are embedded with technology that automatically communicates and records item location, repair status and more. As processor power consumption decreases and performance increases, more computing and analysis can also be done by these new devices." Additionally, as older machines are phased out of factories, they will become entirely populated by the types of IIoT solutions mentioned above — those that are able to self-correct based on environmental factors and feedback. This will free up human engineers to move from maintenance into more complex roles that leverage the feedback data reported by IIoT machinery.

Keep track of new IIoT solutions being added to the market; as these devices become more realistically priced, it will be easier to increase their deployment throughout a factory. While IIoT evolution isn’t happening overnight, companies are seeing the future of manufacturing through the lense of connected technologies. What they chose to do with that foresight has the potential to make or break their company.

About the author: Morey Technical Manager Alan Mindlin brings nearly 40 years of engineering expertise to the table, with a stint in helping hardware startups to get going with first steps to growing their business. Working for a number of globally recognized companies such as AT&T, Lucent and Bell Labs, Alan has had a diverse career utilizing his engineering skills to drive projects that design and deliver high volume products for clients and their customers.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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