Internet of Things is a term that refers to the digital interconnection of everyday gadgets/tools/goods with the Internet, connecting objects more than people.

In short, the Internet of Things is nothing more than a network of physical objects (vehicles, buildings, and others equipped with embedded technology, sensors and connection to the network) capable of gathering and transmitting data. It is an extension of the current Internet that enables everyday objects, whatever they may be but with computing and communication capabilities, to connect to the Internet.

The connection to the world wide web makes it possible, firstly, to remotely control the objects and, secondly, for the objects themselves to be used as service providers. These new capabilities of common objects open the way to numerous possibilities in both academic and industrial fields. However, these possibilities entail risks and entail major technical and social challenges

What is the Industrial IoT (IIo)T?

The IIoT consists of machines connected to the Internet and advanced analytics platforms that process the data produced by the machines. IIoT devices range from tiny environmental sensors to complex industrial robots. The word “industrial” may bring to mind warehouses, shipyards, and industrial facilities, but IIoT technologies can also do much for a wide range of industries, including agriculture, healthcare, financial services, retail, and advertising. 

Through the analysis of this information delivered by IoT, it is possible to obtain more efficient production, increased productivity and operational excellence. According to a study conducted by TCS, industrial managers using IIoT solutions saw an increase in revenues of 28.5% between 2013 and 2014. According to a study made by Accenture, the preventive maintenance of the machines made with the support of IIoT generates a savings of 12% in scheduled maintenance charges, which allows a 30% reduction in total maintenance costs and a 70% reduction in machine downtime.

A major McKinsey study shows that the economic impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) applications in 2025 will be between $3.9 and $11.1 trillion. From these figures, about $1.2 to $3.7 trillion will be divided into the Internet of Things applications in the manufacturing industry.

Well ahead of IoT in the industry: how to define the strategy for Industry 4.0

PWC brings an interesting framework on how to work the industry 4.0 and digital transformation mechanisms. Perhaps these are the first steps for us to think about the present and future IoT in the industry.

The strategy will define all the steps to be taken for the company to go digital. It is necessary:
a) to evaluate the current digital maturity and define clear objectives for the next five years;
b) to prioritize measures that will bring greater benefits to the company;
c) leadership of the company aligned and willing to support and defend the approach to be followed.

Develop data analysis capabilities

Identifying and gathering the best information, sharing it for the proper purposes and analysing it effectively will be critical for more informed decision making. It is crucial to use data to improve products and processes by developing direct links between the decision-making process and the development of intelligent systems.

Developing pilot projects

Use pilot projects to present the concepts and demonstrate the added value they can bring to the company. Once successful examples are gathered, it will be easier to win the approval of the company’s management and ensure larger investments. Creating partnerships with leading start-ups and digital companies is a good strategy to accelerate the digital innovation process.

Becoming a digital company

The decision to execute a digital transformation in the company must be taken into account, with leadership, commitment and vision by the management. In order to adopt a digital culture, all employees must be aligned with this objective, in the way they think and act, experimenting with new technologies and learning new ways to execute.

Define the necessary core competencies

The most successful approaches are to analyze the capabilities needed to run new digital business models. To implement a new competence it is necessary to consider four strategic dimensions: organization, people, processes and technology. It is necessary to develop strategies to implement new technologies, which also stimulate people and which can be beneficial to the operationalization of the company.

Actively plan an approach to the digital ecosystem

The development of products and services to meet consumer demand is crucial. The real advances in performance occur when you actively seek to understand consumers behaviour, allowing you to define the role of your company in a future ecosystem of partners, suppliers and consumers.

How and where to apply the state of the art in IoT in the industry?

How are companies taking advantage of IIoT? Here are some examples of current and future IIoT technologies and concepts:

Digital Gemini – The practice of creating a computer model of an object, such as a machine or human organ, or a process, such as climate. By studying the behaviour of the twin, it is possible to understand and predict the behaviour of its counterpart in the real world and solve problems before they occur. 

Electronic Recording Device (ELD) – Integrated sensors that monitor speed, travel time, and how often drivers apply the brakes, helping to save fuel, improve driver safety, and reduce idle resources. If the driver makes a dangerous move or has been driving for a long time, he will be alerted, and the controller notified. This technology can replace paper records that drivers need to fill every day.

Intelligent Edge – The place where data is generated, analyzed, interpreted, and processed. Using Intelligent Edge means that analyses can be conducted more quickly and the likelihood of data being intercepted or leaked is significantly lower.

Preventive maintenance – A system that involves a machine or component with sensors that collect and transmit data and then analyze the data and store it in a database. This database then provides comparison points for the events as they occur. The system eliminates unnecessary maintenance and increases the likelihood of failures being avoided.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) – A system that involves tags and readers as a more intelligent version of barcode technology. Readers identify RFID tags using radio waves, which means that the tags can be read by multiple readers at once and at a greater distance than traditional UPCs. RFID tags allow you to easily track and monitor the things they are attached to.

What’s coming next on IIOT?

According to a Cisco report, the Internet of Things (IoT) will achieve 50 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020. Second, cloud resistance in the industry is a thing from the past. Many companies have already joined Alibaba, Amazon, Google, Microsoft or any other major player in this market.

Usually, they start with ERP and CRM systems and are advancing increasingly in maturity. From there to more ripe paths is just one step. And this should continue to dictate the pace of the internet of things in the industry. 

It seems silly to talk about the cloud as a “future”, but there are still many small factories that are just beginning to see the potential of IoT in the industry. And opening up to cloud solutions is a giant leap forward. 

Another phenomenon that will collaborate a lot for IoT in the industry is the growth of access to 5g. 

The great expectation is that IoT systems will become more efficient due to one of the main features offered by this next-generation technology, which is ultra-low latency.

In general terms, this functionality would represent sensors on factory floors that could collect real-time data more easily and spread more widely.

It is quite likely that the future of the IIOT will move away from the obvious line of measuring production data and spread to other formats supporting effective management. 

Connected devices are already being used on employees. This would avoid injury, monitor the health and risk of the worker, depending on the function he is performing at any given time. This could be particularly useful if industry-specific elements, such as locators in the mining sector, were added to it.

In some countries, it is already possible to find IIOT solutions by helping companies monitor the sleep quality of their machine and truck operators, for example. Through artificial intelligence and IOT, these platforms work with predictive models of chronic or malicious diseases. The system triggers an alert to the driver himself, to the factory leader and to the company doctors. 

When we think about the future of IoT in the industry, it is very probable that applications will increasingly turn to sustainability in general. Strong consumption is a very obvious target to start with.  HVAC systems use a considerable amount of energy in everyday production.

IoT powered sensors could be used to identify areas where energy is being over or underused. The same would apply to any usual source of waste: whether raw material, water or energy. 

The future also holds great challenges in the industrial IoT scene. The first point to consider is the ability of human resources to absorb these interactions with new technologies and the disruption of tools. Professionals will increasingly need to adapt to this scenario. 

Another point that should arise is in relation to information security. Factories are places that have machines that are worth thousands (or millions) of dollars and are involved in important roles in regional, national and international economies. Robust data protection systems and shields against intrusion will be needed. Any carelessness can mean a significant loss of precious assets.