The industrial internet of things promises to be pivotal to the next industrial revolution in manufacturing. How? By harnessing all the power that digital technology offers through artificial intelligence and advanced machine learning.
Still very much in its infancy, IoT solutions are already providing manufacturers in every sector with unprecedented opportunities to automate even their most complex processes on an industrial scale.
The market potential is enormous, with the global IoT market growing to $457 billion by 2020, at a compound annual growth rate of 28.7%, according to Forbes.
Much of the benefits of this next wave will depend on how thoughtfully manufacturers implement IoT solutions, and this will require the very best, state-of-the-art network and data infrastructure. This, in turn, will allow the machinery to fully utilise all the operational information required to optimise supply chains and other lines of command.
Converging legacy systems with IoT
The sheer volume of data being generated by IoT devices (including sensors, gateways and analytics tools) has the potential to overwhelm traditional network infrastructures and manufacturing plants that were never built with digital networking in mind, let alone data dissemination on a massive scale.
Gateways, or the links between legacy systems and the IoT ecosystem, are vital for bringing those older systems into line with the most advanced IoT manufacturing equipment, and they will become increasingly essential for integrating protocols for storage, analytics and security.
Another pivotal part of this infrastructure is IoT sensors that allow critical machine tools to function within temperature and vibration ranges by actively monitoring them. These sensors are vital for alerting managers when the equipment deviates from its prescribed parameters, or there are abnormal lags in production and weaknesses in supply chains.
These sensors can disseminate vast amounts of production data, helping manufacturers conserve energy, eliminate waste and downtime, and maximise operational efficiency. The main types of IoT manufacturing sensors are:
Temperature sensors that can integrate thermal monitoring with high accuracy and low power.
Wave sensors that can accurately sense range, angle and speed.
Magnetic sensors that can be used for position and spatial sensing.
Partnerships are critical
Manufacturers will still have to work with the most experienced technology partners, developers and enterprise vendors to enable smart industrial IoT solutions, and enterprise vendors are moving into the area in a big way to capitalise on the amounts of investment forecast.
Perhaps most importantly, manufacturers will need the best network integrators that can incorporate not only the gateways, sensors and data analytics tools required, but also a range of other features that may include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, RFID, cloud, mobile and terminal technology, depending on the complexity of the infrastructure required.
It's worth taking some time to find the right partners. The future of manufacturing – and of your manufacturing in particular – depends on it.