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IoT in Industry: Possibilities & Applications

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25/08/2022 |

12 min read

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IoT is reshaping business. As more devices and sensors connect to the internet, big data analytics, connectivity, and automation are being combined to enable previously unthinkable innovations and progress.

Smart devices and embedded systems will become more common in our daily lives as the Industry 4.0 and home automation movements gain traction. Over the next ten years, businesses that understand the use cases and potential of IoT will most likely drive innovation.

It's time for you to join them.

 

Table of contents:

  1. IoT vs. Industry 4.0: is there any difference?
  2. Industrial Internet of Things: use cases
  3. Conclusion

IoT vs. Industry 4.0: is there any difference?

It can be difficult to keep up with all of the new buzzwords as new technology is released on a daily basis. The same is true for Industry 4.0 and IoT, which may appear nearly identical to some, leading unaware tech enthusiasts to use them interchangeably.

Let's take a moment to go over the fundamentals.

Industry 4.0

Technological advancement can be measured in a number of ways. 

One well-known method is to refer to the current Industrial Revolution stage, which is defined as a "process of change from an agrarian and handicraft economy to one dominated by industry and machine manufacturing" (Britannica). This timeline, in general, defines our current state of technological progress

You may recall from school that there were four transitions, each of which introduced novel ways of working and living and fundamentally altered society.

So, the first revolution (Industry 1.0) used water and steam power to mass produce goods. In the second (2.0), electricity propelled manufacturing forward, while computer and automation adoption drove the third (3.0). The fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) focuses on the way products are manufactured as a result of digital transformation efforts. It refers, more specifically, to the use of automation and data exchange in manufacturing. 

Industry 4.0 employs a variety of technologies (such as autonomous robots, cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and self-driving systems) to create a "smart factory" in which machines, systems, and humans communicate with one another to coordinate and monitor assembly line progress.

But it can also benefit other industrial sectors, as the emerging technologies can be successfully applied to push any business forward, especially those thriving to improve its operations through digitalization. 

This gives business owners valuable real-time insights for quickly designing, modifying, creating, and customizing real-world objects while lowering costs and responding to changes in consumer preferences, demand, supply chain, and technology.

So, what about the Internet of Things?

Internet of Things (IoT)

We live in a world where technology is increasingly permeating our daily lives. Billions of devices around us are linked to the internet and to one another, allowing for automation, data collection, and remote control of devices and processes. They can range from fitness trackers to heavy machinery. Our cars, homes, and even clothes can now constantly exchange information on every measurable factor. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) enables this interconnectedness by incorporating smart sensors and networking technologies. Following Gartner’s definition, IoT could be explained as "a network of physical objects that contain embedded technology (sensors) to communicate, sense, or interact with their internal states or the external environment." 

It is not dissimilar to the Industry 4.0 goal, but is in fact listed as one of the I4.0 technologies used to advance.

So, the devices can now not only collect environmental data but also wirelessly communicate and transmit it to other systems connected to the network. All while being monitored and managed remotely. 

Doesn't this qualify as a red flag? It depends. 

Think of the Amazon Echo smart speaker or how smartphone capabilities vary depending on downloaded apps. Or, how smart home devices can be used remotely to control your curtains, adjust room temperature, lighting, and humidity based on weather patterns data, energy efficiency data of similar households, or a set of pre-programmed algorithms ("preferences"). Your fitness watch measures everything from the impact of your steps and elevation to how quickly you move and your heart rate. And the home security system connects various sensors placed on doors and windows, motion detectors, and cameras, allowing the homeowner to check on the house while away.

In fact, combining data from various devices and other sources can fundamentally improve our lives by providing new insights, improving efficiency and quality, and opening up new opportunities. Some parts of your life are now automated, so you don't have to walk around and manually re-check whether the humidity in your workplace is good. Your app can alert you when you need to be more active by connecting your watch to data about how active you should be to stay in good health.

On the other hand, as we use only a part of the collected data, the sensors are still gathering all of it, storing it, and may later share it with other devices. Or device manufacturers. In fact, smart devices have such poor security that they are currently widely used as a part of massive botnets, used to overcrowd chosen domains with traffic. But there is no assurance that nobody will decide to scan a certain type of device to analyze data and use it against you. 

That's why devices have to become smarter. Especially in times of wildly adapting business, manufacturing, and industry-specific devices, which are becoming part of the internet of things in order to improve quality, efficiency, and profits.

The hybrid: Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology extends far beyond commercial applications, as Industry 4.0 employs it to perform digital manufacturing by collecting continuous streams of IIoT data via sensors embedded in devices, industrial robots, simulations, and tools. 

The industrial data is being continuously collected and analyzed to predict and prevent problems, maximize quality and efficiency, and guide future product design. IIoT systems can be set to remotely monitor and optimize manufacturing process, logistics, and other operations using machine learning, cloud, mobile, and edge computing. What’s crucial here is that industrial IoT strongly relies on cyber-physical systems' ability to make minor decisions on their own and become as autonomous as possible.

As a result, your business will be able to:

  • Implement predictive maintenance, specifically reducing downtime – which was estimated to cost up to $260,000 per hour.
  • Improve worker safety, warning employees of hazardous environment, accident nearby or health issues; all in real-time
  • Lower costs, as business owners will experience less downtime, less inventory waste, and better use of capital and human resources with predictive maintenance, real-time advanced planning, process optimization, and innovative hardware.
  • Improve decision making, which allows manufacturers to improve their operations quickly, solve complex problems and make processes more efficient by identifying what needs to be addressed.

Because manufacturing machines are interconnected, a large amount of data can be used to keep the maintenance department up to date on performance. This translates to the ability, for example, of a single person to monitor and control entire sections of a manufacturing plant. Which noticeably reduces labor costs, improves safety, and allows for continuous operation without interruptions. IIoT systems can also aid in the prevention of inventory shortages, equipment malfunctions, and physical manufacturing operation failures.

Data can be then analyzed to identify patterns, allowing industrial companies to have real-time visibility of production, with dedicated analytical modules aiding in optimization. In other words, decisions can now be made based on knowledge rather than guesswork, reducing safety issues and waste. And by combining the networks of the manufacturer and its suppliers with IoT, the entire supply chain would be able to respond to the market in real time.

The final insights provided by its data can be used to boost manufacturing yields and efficiency, improve operator productivity, accelerate improvement cycles, and improve quality through continuous asset condition monitoring. They can also improve supply chains by identifying and resolving bottlenecks.

Industrial Internet of Things: the problem of data

Although the benefits of using IIoT adoption appear to be great, as management will be able to finally back up their decisions with real-time collected data, there are some significant risks. 

Remember that the constant flow of various types of data from multiple sources necessitates thorough analysis to support real-time decision making. This could be overcome with cloud (storage) adaptation - which is already able to connect key stakeholders, providing real-time visibility, allowing organizations to proactively monitor the supply chain and improve risk management. All within milliseconds of sending a request. 

However, there’s an issue of big data availability (in time), as we may not have access to all of the raw data collected by our devices – which is still stored and might be later analyzed/send. We cannot turn down this feature, as to truly reap the benefits of the IoT, Industry 4.0 requires interoperability. So machines, devices, sensors, and people must all connect and communicate with one another. And it’s best to develop dedicated software to keep this specific type of communication within the company. 

Although IIoT devices collect data, proper analytics are required to extract relevant business outcomes from it. As a result, the next phase of IoT implementation will rely on interconnected technologies such as digital twins and simulation platforms to provide process optimization. As a result, industrial IoT platforms that provide enhanced data analytics and business insight services will play a critical role in implementing digital transformation. 

But, if designed correctly, you'll have the opportunity to obtain a proven system backed up by real-time data, which can advise you on maximizing productivity, energy management, and reducing downtime risk by auto-scheduling performance checks and bottleneck search. It can also help with digitizing data management, reducing the number of human users who may become targets for malicious actors.

Industrial Internet of Things: use cases

IoT for Manufacturing

Every manufacturer's supply chain has its own tools, data, processes, and networks. Bringing these networks together will allow the supply chain to respond more smoothly to market changes. IoT-enabled devices can monitor product production, machinery condition, and material flow. They can be used to gather data on the environment and equipment to implement smart technologies for proactive maintenance or automated recovery. As a result, IIoT devices improve manufacturing efficiency and reduce waste.

IoT for Agriculture

In recent years, agriculture has become increasingly reliant on IoT devices. In fact, the IoT can help  farming keep up with growing food demand. Internet-connected sensors and smart technologies will help agricultural workers track crops and livestock, measure farm resources (i.e., water, fertilizer), and use drones to survey land.  Collected data is also being used to assist farmers in making more informed decisions about planting, irrigation, and crop maintenance. Smart farming combines these all advances – being believed to be a modern solution for upcoming climate change. 

IoT for EnergyTech

The Internet of Things is transforming the energy sector by generating data that can be used to improve energy production efficiency. Smart meters accurately record energy consumption, assisting utilities in billing customers. They are also being used to improve the efficiency of power generation and distribution. IoT devices have the potential to be useful in power plants, water management, gas industry and chemical manufacturing.

IoT for Aviation (and Automotive industry)

The Internet of Things is transforming the aviation industry by supplying data that can be used to improve pilot and passenger safety. IIoT devices can be used to monitor the condition of an aircraft, log security incidents, track plane location, and control its speed/altitude. IoT devices can also be used to provide the weather data and improve the efficiency of aviation operations, resulting in lower airfare prices.

When it comes to transportation, GPS trackers are one of the most common types of IoT devices. They are used to provide data about traffic conditions – by monitoring the location of vehicles, as well as tracking their speed and movement – to improve transportation system efficiency.

IoT for Healthcare

IoT devices are being used in healthcare to improve patient care and the efficiency of healthcare organizations. They can already monitor patients' vital signs, track medication adherence, and collect massive amounts of raw health data that can be used to catalog various diseases using advanced Machine Learning algorithms. Remote patient monitoring, medical equipment/asset tracking, and clinical research can all benefit from IoT devices.

Read more about IoT in Healthcare >

IoT for Logistics 

Industrial IoT devices track inventory globally; detailing ongoing work, equipment collection, and material delivery. What's crucial, IIoT technology also eliminates manual documentation, enabling for enterprise resource planning (ERP). The strategy focuses on providing cross-channel visibility into managerial departments and assisting stakeholders in evaluating ongoing progress. It reduces the cost of mismanagement and a lack of analysis in organizations.

Industrial Internet of Things: conclusion

IoT devices have the potential to make our lives easier and more efficient. In fact, industrial IoT is already changing the way companies operate by improving production while decreasing operational costs. The technology supports majority of business models, helping businesses manage their supply chain and run the production cycle more efficiently – which is why it is becoming more popular in the manufacturing sector.

Self-sufficient systems help industries to be more resilient; high interconnectivity, combined with work automation, reduces human labor and allows for a faster time to market. And if that’s not enough, the Industrial Internet of Things can use machine learning to program self-healing machines and improve inventories. 

For these reasons, IoT devices will continue to drive change in a variety of industries over the next decade. In fact, the IIoT was valued at $62.1 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $200.3 billion by 2030, with a 13.9% CAGR (2021-2030). And we can certainly expect that as technology matures and more vendors enter the market, the upcoming IIoT technologies will become even more refined.

Industrial IoT is already a compelling tool for businesses of all sizes, allowing them to increase automation while improving data processing and analytics. As with any major transformation, there will be transitions that mix old and new methods and technologies, as well as security considerations and operational efficiency rewards. 

If you want to handle your transition correctly – and introduce advanced analysis to your business model – we encourage you to take part in our dedicated workshop session, which will help you find the best balance of efficiency and risk.

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