The Industrial Internet of Things improves monitoring, efficiency and productivity
The Industrial Internet of Things. It’s a bit of a mouthful. But the application of the Internet of Things (IoT) to industry can yield some pretty impressive results. According to Accenture, the use of this technology in industrial settings could add $14.2tr to the global economy by 2030. Whether it’s monitoring operations on the factory floor, greater connectivity between manufacturers and consumers, or gaining valuable data insights, there are lots of ways in which the IIoT can be truly transformational.
What is the IIoT?
The IIoT brings Internet of Things connectivity to industry. In practice, this means linking up physical items such as equipment and machinery within a computer network, enabling these devices to talk to each other, collect data and feed information back to a central control point. Although this kind of machine to machine (M2M) communication, sensor data and automation have existed in industry for years, the IIoT enhances these capabilities.
The IIoT can create a highly connected, unified system, which – together with machine learning and cloud technology – provides companies with unprecedented levels of insight into their operations. What’s more, such systems are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. IoT electronics such as sensors are wireless, cheap and simple to set up – they can be placed on an ad hoc basis as and when they are needed, moved around, or removed without major disruption to the system.
Monitoring and analytics
One of the most significant cost factors in industry is the impact of unplanned downtime. In manufacturing, a failure in one small component can lead to the entire system having to be shut down, incurring costs and severely impacting productivity levels. In fact, the cost of unplanned machine downtime is estimated to be more than £180bn each year in British manufacturing alone. By using the IIoT, companies can monitor the health of parts and machinery, combining sensor data with advanced analytics to predict when degradation and breakages are likely to occur. Monitoring the health of systems in this way is perhaps the most mature use case for the IIoT. It makes failures less likely, improving productivity levels and efficiency.
Collecting a wealth of data from machinery also makes it possible to analyse industrial operations at a global scale. IIoT based analytics – often via a cloud platform – provides enhanced insights into factors such as efficiency and product quality. AI powered data analysis programmes can build up a valuable picture of operations over time, isolating areas for improvement or identifying unexpected opportunities for growth.
Far from the factory floor
Along with its impact on manufacturing, IIoT has impressive implications in the wider world of heavy industry. The oil and gas industry, for example, is a prime use case for IIoT, with greater connectivity particularly valuable for monitoring, health and safety, and environmental purposes. In remote locations such as oil fields and rigs, IoT networks are a cheap alternative to expensive satellite communications and bulky wired systems. Improved monitoring capabilities are extremely important in dangerous industrial settings, where failures and breakages not only cost money, but can threaten the safety of employees. What’s more, it is also crucial for industry players to safeguard their operations from an environmental perspective. Accidents such as chemical leaks, oil spills and contamination have a huge impact on surrounding areas. The IIoT gives companies greater insight into the health of their systems, minimising the chances that things will go seriously wrong, and enabling them to act faster when they do.
Another important – but often forgotten – application of IIoT is in the industrial products sector. Just as an IoT connected consumer product such as a fridge or washing machine might alert you to the fact that it needs maintenance, industrial equipment can also be fitted with this capability. This provides enhanced user experience. Products are less likely to unexpectedly break down, and if maintenance is required the technician will know in advance what parts are needed. Such automatic maintenance is also an example of how the IIoT gives industrial product suppliers opportunities to add value. Additional services such as remote monitoring, maintenance and insurance can be packaged up with a product, providing an easy source of further revenue. It’s all thanks to the connectivity of the IoT.
Applications of the IoT in industry are as varied as the industries are themselves. With many industries currently dealing with poor productivity levels and the need to become more efficient, IIoT could be an ideal solution to their problems. Widespread investment in and adoption of the IIoT over the next few years could see a real step change in the way that many industries operate.
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