The ‘Internet of Things’ is attracting significant interest from various groups; however concerns are also being expressed about the technology being just a fad.
Nothing could be further from the truth - the Internet is real, devices are getting connected and more information than ever is being made available from connected systems. Industries of all types can take advantage of this technology to their benefit, giving rise to the concept of the ‘Industrial Internet’ - a term for benefiting from the intelligence available with new technology to enhance any industrial operation.
This concept can be broken down into three specific categories:
These are the local hardware devices that work within existing or new installations, serving as the bridge between the installation and the larger overall system. Examples may include a variety of connected instrumentation, sensors, local user interfaces, or any other type of data-gathering and transmission device, all connected by a wired or wireless IP connection.
Key benefits of intelligent devices include reduction of hardware cost over time with increasing volumes and popularity of the technology used; minimising the deployment and training costs for staff with a standardised interface; and ability to gather more data about the system operation with constantly-connected devices, allowing greater levels of analysis and faster decision-making cycles.
An intelligent system contains new and existing hardware, networking and computing power that combine to offer a level of synergy not available from preceding technologies. Operations can be optimised with new levels of data output from intelligent devices, insightful programming by systems analysts and strong background knowledge.
From simply matching machine usage to off-peak electricity prices, to detecting device irregularities in real time, one can find savings in operations and system maintenance, and also learn new insights about system operation in general. By monitoring device status in real-time, one can reduce required holdings of consumables, pro-actively organise preventative maintenance instead of waiting to be notified of a fault, and fine-tune operations based on external and internal factors.
Over time as more operation data is gathered, analysed and verified by humans, the burden of decision-making can often be transferred to the system itself. When a greater number of data channels and volume of data are being recorded, there is more opportunity for a higher level of prediction of future events. A system can make decisions based on captured data that fit within predetermined parameters.
Examples include a simple laser printer that can order its own service call when the drum needs replacement; an off-site diesel generator that can use data such as the load from attached refrigeration systems, ambient temperature and the amount of sunlight to determine how much fuel needs to be ordered and when it is required; or a delivery truck that can monitor speed, distance travelled, engine fluid levels, location and driver history and then decide when it needs to be serviced.
Intelligent decision making can reduce the number of person-hours required for any organisation, and also help predict and determine situations that may not have been possible to realise with existing systems.
The Industrial Internet exists today, and using systems designed with the three categories mentioned earlier will help the organisation become more efficient, understand more about itself, and find cost benefits in all measurable areas.
However, correct implementation of such a system is important. As a partner, LX group will discuss and understand the client’s requirements and goals, and help them navigate the various hardware and other options available to help solve their problems.
LX Group is an innovative contract electronics design company specialising in the design of embedded systems and wireless technologies.