Though the subject of IoT in the industrial space has been in place for quite some time, there are some changes taking place in the breadth of the IIoT. In particular, IoT is moving further down the industrial food chain and into places where smart connected technology has never been deployed before.
Certainly, the use of smart connected technology is not something new in the industrial world. Process control has been ubiquitous for decades and it is hard to imagine a time in recent years when an automated or semi-automated factory floor is not connected to a broader IT infrastructure. Manual and automated sensing along with data analytics and information-based action items are nothing new. These technologies pre-dated the IoT trends by decades.
What is new is the broad application of IoT in places where it has never been seen before. Here are a couple of key examples:
Food Supply. Recent development of smart, connected technology into agriculture and animal industry is helping to increase crop yields and drive productivity in the raising and management of livestock. There are technologies being tested and deployed that monitor and act in agriculture that helps ensure optimal conditions for growing crops, pest and disease control.
Likewise, in livestock management there is a growing array of sensors and communication infrastructure used for managing cattle and hogs. Sensors that are wirelessly connected are being deployed to track the health conditions of animals as well as placement within herds. This is enabling better remediation of animal health issues as well as isolation of ill animals so as not to contaminate the herd.
Process Components. Individual components at the lowest level are starting to be monitored for performance with connectivity. Such IoT deployments are being used for process control as well as for critical component predictive failure analysis. The availability of extremely small sensors and low energy communication is enabling monitoring at a low level that was heretofore not practiced.
Tracking and tracing. In the current pandemic crisis, tracking and tracing is looking to be of utmost importance. However, before the pandemic there were numerous new solutions coming out that enabled tracking and tracing of things and people in retail environments, trade shows and in the transportation and logistics domains.
All this is enabled by the widescale deployment of sensors and transmitters — active and passive — along with the communication of data into large cloud-based systems where analytics can help extract the useful information. Ultimately, this information will transform into actionable activities pushed into dashboards, mobile devices and other machines.
Telemedicine. While this category is not new, it is a technology whose time has come. Certainly, at the superficial level, telemedicine is using mobile devices, tablets and laptops. The use cases which will evolve from this involve integration of IoT connected sensor data from diagnostic and health status devices into augmented reality (AR) overlays.
This has the potential to provide AR into traditional computing platforms, but will also result in another push to smart connected, wearable technology. This will take the form of smart connected wrist bands and even renewed interest in head-mounted computing with integrated sensors, cameras and displays.
IoT deployment in these novel industrial settings is allowing for the building of high value data libraries in the cloud. Using data analytics, machine learning and early stage AI, companies are able to extract heretofore unavailable and useful information.
Such information can then drive changes in processes, such as machine-to-machine, or behavior to yield improved outcomes involving higher yields, reduced failures and downtime, and improved preventive maintenance strategies.
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