|By Ian Khan||
|January 31, 2016 01:00 PM EST||
The Internet of Things is slowly building up its core capabilities to start solving problems that can really benefit from it. Let's talk about the manufacturing vertical and why the Internet of Things may open up doors previously impossible to crack open.
The Need for Industrial IoT in Manufacturing
I love having conversations that are specific. Although being open and having a 10,000 ft. overview sometimes helps, it's the nitty-gritty of things that makes them more interesting. Manufacturing is one of the founding pillars of any full-grown and stable economy. World economic output through manufacturing alone touches a multiple trillion dollars per year. China holds over 22% of the world's manufacturing capacity. Staggering! The United States follows with over 15% of the world's manufacturing attributed to it. A key vertical, manufacturing drives economies and essentially a large part of the world. You could also say that manufacturing drives all other verticals, as everything produced through manufacturing is used in other industries to produce other outputs. Manufacturing itself depends on manufacturing to exist. Does that make sense?
Manufacturing will see a massive transformation through IoT in the coming years. The question may be how? The Internet of Things as we know can take many forms. We have Human to Machine, Machine to Human and then Machine to Machine or M2M. Many experts believe that M2M will be key in enabling better manufacturing processes and helping change the way the industry works. Here are some examples of how it is happening today.
According to PWC Global, 35% of U.S. manufacturers are currently collecting and using data generated by smart sensors to enhance manufacturing / operating processes, while 34% believe it is "extremely critical" that U.S. manufacturers adopt an IoT strategy in their operations. This is very interesting and it makes complete sense for us to now look at really enabling IoT within manufacturing. The benefits are obviously enhancing the manufacturing process from start to end. According to SAP, manufacturing will provide end-to-end visibility across the entire production process while connecting your production to your core business processes. This is key because the disconnect between the process and the business is an area that needs improvement.
Consider the example of a factory that produces a widget and is completely automated through IoT. We can now not only enhance the process of creating widgets by a more intelligent and responsive quality control and manufacturing detail, but also through connecting production with business demand. Production can scale down or scale up based on the orders received in real time. Of course this would connect to many more connected systems such as your ERP and more, which would have to go through their own evolution of supporting an IoT-driven manufacturing plant.
Industrial IoT Today
In many forms, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has gone live. As more manufacturing facilities start deploying and utilizing more networked sensors, autonomic communication between devices and systems becomes easier. Contrary to the traditional belief that the Internet of Things will be able to do everything, take over everything, we need to take a few steps back and not confuse Artificial Intelligence with IoT. Some top use cases for the Industrial IoT include Shell Oil, John Deere, and Cisco.
The path now leads us deeper into putting money into research and creating solutions for the problems all around us. Honestly there is no dearth of problems. Smaller niche providers have more innovative capabilities than the big guys, which are facing other business problems and challenges. The world needs more ideas and solutions for problems than anything else. With applications such as wearables, sensors and devices becoming more prevalent, it may sometimes become difficult to categorize a specific technology, for example, would a wearable be categorized as a wearable or an industrial IoT application if used in industry.
There are also issues relating to the security of devices and sensors powered by the Internet of Things. Having a connected sensor also opens the possibility of being hacked into. What if your next flight, completely powered by IoT, is hacked into mid-flight? What implications would a manufacturing plant have if it gets hacked into and all its IoT devices mal-programmed? What would be the cost of this? These and many other questions are open for debate and for being solved. What is key at this moment are the actual applications of IoT and how it can help us do things in a way never seen before.
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