Technology can do many wonderful things for companies that invest in it. There are hundreds of examples within industrial markets demonstrating the real benefits of a well-planned IoT implementation. Lowering the cost of asset maintenance, increasing machinery uptime, automating collection of sensor data, enhanced decision-making driven by powerful AI-based tools… these are a few of the benefits companies are seeing from having a well-constructed IoT environment.
WHAT IS IOT, AND WHY IS IT A CRUCIAL COMPONENT IN A MODERN COMPANY?
As you may already know, IoT means ‘Internet of Things’. Most people are aware of IoT in relation to ‘smart homes’, where gadgets and appliances are connected to the internet, and to each other. While the IoT environment in industry differs from the home, it is still built on the same fundamentals. “Industrial IoT” is designed to reduce costs by optimizing business processes, and to make work easier, safer and more productive for employees.
The Smart Factory
Just like the domestic version of IoT, the Smart Factory is facilitated by IoT sensors that link machinery and systems together to create a complete system that is far more “intelligent” than the sum of its individual components. In other words, it allows your industrial machines and assets to communicate with each other and the cloud, and then provide you with specific information about the functionality and performance of the entire system. This can include what they are doing, where they are located, if there is a problem, or if it is time for maintenance.
We will now delve deeper into how this works, and talk more about the benefits and use cases of this technology.
You might ask “How can machines communicate with each other, and with us?”
This process is driven by smart sensors attached or built into machines and industrial assets. These sensors gather data from both the machines as well as the surroundings, such as positional data, weather conditions and internal temperature, humidity, light, movement, shock, vibration, tilt, etc. Then the sensor usually sends this data across a wireless network to the cloud. Of course we can then interact with the cloud in many different ways, often through our mobile phone or computer.
BENEFITS OF SMART SENSORS
This is a short list of the main benefits of smart sensors:
Smart sensors enable collection of higher quality than ever before, which enhances decision-making in the company.
Smart sensors streamline operations and processes on industrial sites to boost the productivity across the entire business. Smart sensors provide the basis for better space utilization, optimizing workflow, machinery sequencing, raw material and work-in-progress transport routes, floor planning, site security, worker safety and much more.
While there obviously is an initial investment, over time, smart sensors will save money for most companies. A return on investment of a few months is quite common! Sensors can be used to improve maintenance schedules for machinery, reducing costs spent on unnecessary repairs or new machinery due to missed maintenance when it was needed the most. Sensors also help your company save money on energy wastage.
Needless to say, safety for your workers is of utmost importance. By using smart sensors, you can reduce the risk of workplace related accidents and incidents. A well-constructed IoT environment will reduce the need for workers to complete manual tasks that can become automated, further improving worker safety. Sensors also keep track of emissions, temperature and other important metrics that make the factory or construction site a safer place to work.
NETWORK CONNECTIVITY – THE KEY TO RELIABILITY
While sensors provide the source of all this useful data, the type of connectivity on the site is a key factor. Without reliable connectivity to the cloud, the data has very limited value. Most industrial sites like factories and construction sites are large, and sometimes mixed indoors/outdoors, which raises the bar for the network technology that is needed. Given the trend towards non-wired sensors, we then need to evaluate wireless connectivity options. In these types of environments, a simple WiFi router will no longer do the job.
Companies that invest in a well-constructed IoT environment need a robust network. Wireless “mesh” technology is often used to create a high-reliability multi-hop network that automatically creates new paths for the wireless data in the event that an existing path fails. This is especially important on large, complex sites where the radio environment can change due to the presence of vehicles, moving machinery, changing building structures and intermittent sources of radio interference.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF INVESTING IN AN IOT ENVIRONMENT?
In this blog post, we have talked about the benefits of smart sensors and why connectivity is a key factor for successful IoT project implementation. We will now list the main benefits of investing in an IoT environment to make it as clear as possible as to why a modern company should start moving towards full IoT compatibility.
By getting more data and powerful cloud tools to analyse and use the data, your company can improve its processes.
A lot of time is spent on unnecessary things. A well-constructed IoT environment reduces wastage and creates a more streamlined factory or construction site.
Getting timely access to the reality of your factory or construction site leads to better decision-making.
Having a well-constructed IoT environment is a proven step towards unleashing the potential of your business, allowing it to grow in a sustainable way.
THE FUTURE OF IOT IS ALREADY HERE
As we have detailed in this post, the many benefits of a well-constructed IoT environment can vastly outweigh the initial investment cost. The cost of smart sensors have been dropping dramatically during the last couple of years, enabling businesses of all sizes to get on the IoT train. Wittra has created an easy to use IoT solution that anyone can get started with. If you are interested in learning more about how your company can start benefiting from IoT, contact us here.