3 myths about connected industrial equipment and the IIOT

by bold-lichterman

The market for industrial connected equipment whose technology is based on IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) is growing. In his report entitled “Digital Transformation – an Internet of Things perspective», The IDC firm estimates that industrial connected objects reached the milestone of 13 billion units deployed in 2015 and will increase to 30 billion by 2020. The first sectors concerned by solutions for the management of connected equipment are: production , transport, energy, utilities and distribution.

In other words, in order not to lose productivity in the face of their competitors who are starting to enter the industry of the future, industrial companies must also start to turn to connected equipment. Today, however, many misconceptions about IIoT technology hold back many organizations. Three big obstacles come up regularly:

Myth # 1: It is wiser to wait for future standardization of connected equipment

For BtoC, standardization, whether induced by regulation or competition, is the key to success. Conversely, the standardization of connected industrial equipment is not current. Initiatives are regularly launched to standardize and normalize these “objects”, but they remain in vain due to the impossibility of knowing what type of object can become generalized or will remain marginal in companies.

In addition, the rate of rotation of objects is much lower than in BtoC where, for example, users regularly change smartphones. Indeed, if a company adopts equipment at the cutting edge of IIoT technology, it will only replace it after several years in order to amortize the investment.

Companies must therefore realize that it is not possible to expect standardization on how equipment can become connected. It makes more sense for them to think about how to connect the existing with sensors in order to allow their assets to communicate with each other.

Myth # 2: deploying connected industrial equipment would imply an unmanageable upheaval for the company

The success of an IIoT project lies in deploying it step by step, with reasonable and achievable goals as you go. This is not a “big bang” implementation that would make the company go overnight in the industry of the future – unlike the general public IoT which is itself truly disruptive. like what Uber or Netflix have done in their respective market.

In the majority of cases, theIndustrial Internet-of-Things aims to develop the activity and productivity of the company, and not to revolutionize all of its processes. The IDC report mentioned above shows that the main benefits of IIoT sought by companies are: optimization of productivity (for 14.2% of companies surveyed), improvement of the quality of services and in the market (11.2%), strengthening business processes (10.2%), reducing costs (9.9%) and improving decision-making (9.3%).

The vast majority of companies that already have connected industrial equipment in operation have proceeded successfully, gradually. It can start with just one piece of equipment, such as a temperature or weather sensor that can allow other equipment to operate more efficiently. The company can then develop its fleet, step by step. Gradually, it optimizes its performance thanks to the automation of certain functions enabled by communication between equipment and objects.

To sum up, we must ask ourselves how, gradually, to gain in efficiency. And not how to revolutionize its business processes. The change must be structural and the IIoT is a lever to improve the performance of the company.

Myth # 3: IIoT requires too much investment

A few years ago, this idea could have been credible. But today the deployment of IIoT is more affordable than ever for the following reasons:

  • Lower cost of IIoT equipment and software: From the smallest sensor to the most complex equipment, the cost of IIoT is decreasing year by year. There are now ranges of smart sensors and solutions that are very affordable. Today, for example, a forklift can become connected for about ten euros. Ten years ago, it could have exceeded a thousand euros.
  • Internet access, always wider and cheaper: it is more and more technically easy to connect a large number of devices to each other over an increasingly large geographical area, and at low cost. This trend will continue to be confirmed over time thanks to the various developments and in particular thanks to 5G and LoRa mobile networks (network dedicated to connected objects).
  • The efficiency of cloud platforms dedicated to the Internet-of-Thing: connected object management platforms have many advantages for companies: turnkey delivery, management of a multitude of objects, data storage.

Deploying an industrial IoT project is therefore accessible for companies and presents, thanks to the technologies and solutions existing today, a lower risk than before – even optimal conditions to be carried out successfully.

Operational use of data: the key to the success of an IIoT project

For companies wishing to deploy such a project, it is finally essential to take into consideration the way in which the data will be used from a concrete and operational point of view. It is not enough to collect this data and analyze it. They must be transformed into decision-making and actions that optimize business processes: an improved maintenance plan, higher service levels, better management of the supply chain, strengthening of the added value of products, development of new business models, etc.

The operational exploitation of data can be done in different ways. But in any case, the key is to automate the right process based on the data collected. The example proposed above illustrates this fact well: a company that equips its devices with temperature sensors will be alerted as soon as one of them approaches overheating, and can react more quickly to ensure maintenance. Automated maintenance also makes it possible to avoid possible breakdowns that may be permanent and therefore generate costs.

Making operational data accessible and automating processes: this is the real promise of the IIoT.

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Dan Mathews is the CTO of IFS