Connected devices and machines are expanding into every area of our business and personal lives. And while “smart” home and office devices are commonplace, some lesser-known connected systems are transforming the manufacturing sector.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing at breakneck speed. Spending will increase at a combined annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.4 percent from 2017 to 2021 and reach $1.1 trillion by 2021, according to research firm IDC. And the number of IoT devices is on pace to grow 100-fold, from 2 billion in 2006 to 200 billion in 2020, according to Intel data.
A subset of IoT is the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)—connected factories that deliver automation, business intelligence, and cost savings. Accenture reports that a connected factory can save as much as 40 percent with predictive maintenance and 50 percent with inventory optimization. Worksite productivity can grow by 10 percent with operations optimization and an additional 5 percent with improved equipment maintenance simply through the information and communication the connected devices and machines deliver.
But smart factories don’t need to be hard to implement or difficult to maintain. In fact, you may be surprised at how simple it is.
Don’t Try to Reinvent the Wheel
The building blocks that will enable you to implement an IIoT system already exist, so there’s no need to build a system from the ground up. Start with modular architecture, which breaks down complex software structures into more manageable modules. This allows you to select the components that work best for your applications. For example, depending on your factory and what you’re manufacturing, you may choose a variety of different technologies such as RFID, environmental sensors, and video for data collection.
Modular architecture also helps you connect currently unconnected equipment and bridge the gap between operational technology (OT) and informational technology (IT), breaking down data silos. With a modular system, you retain the ability to change a component, giving you the power to continually improve your IIoT solution to increase its value to your business.
Find the Right Edge
Edge IoT solutions collect and compute data right at the source. They eliminate the time it takes to communicate data to the cloud for processing and return it to the source. Instead, edge solutions let devices communicate directly with each other. Edge IoT enables data processing at the edge and keeps data moving—whether OT or IT, structured or unstructured, image, sound, video, or time series.
Instead of being stored somewhere in a silo, Edge IoT lets information flow like a river. These data rivers let information flow to where it’s needed. Your team can remotely monitor equipment and, in some cases, prevent downtime by fixing a problem before a failure occurs. Data flowing between two devices can automatically trigger one or both to shut down if a breach causes a safety risk. A data river feeds the real-time, granular visibility you need to make informed business decisions. Companies like ADLINK Technology with its Vortex Data River™ data streaming capability included in their Edge IoT solution Vortex Edge® help your factory get data where it needs to go.
Edge IoT solutions also offer companies other benefits. They reduce bandwidth demand because less data is communicated to the cloud. In addition, they increase reliability because edge devices can work even if there is an internet outage. If you need to use a connected device where a reliable connection isn’t possible, Edge IoT eliminates latency. There are also cases in which communicating data to the cloud isn’t an option —such costly data transfer from a ship or an aircraft or data generated in a highly regulated activity. Edge IoT can be a compliant, cost-effective alternative—and the key to a fully connected ecosystem of people, places, and things.
Commit to Open Architecture
Another important consideration to keep IIoT simple is building a system based on open standards hardware and open source software solutions. In fact, Open Source Initiative board member Allison Randal calls open source “the digital life force” of connected systems.
A vendor-neutral, open-architecture IIoT system has the potential to connect the entire product lifecycle, from raw material production to work in process to warehouse to consumer. Open source software code is available to anyone, making integration easier. It’s unlikely that any single vendor could accomplish a totally connected network using only its proprietary solutions.
Open architecture solutions are also more easily scaled and adapted. In a world where disruption cycles are occurring faster and faster, you need the flexibility and agility open source technology can provide.
Don’t Guess. Test, Then Invest
IIoT doesn’t have to be a gamble. When you keep your system simple with modular architecture, open source technology, and Edge IoT devices, then you’ve set the stage for digital experiments that can show you whether your system is ready for additional investment and full-scale roll out.
The industry success rate with IoT projects is 26 percent, according to Cisco data. A contributing factor to the high failure rate is the way businesses conduct traditional pilot testing. If a pilot fails, progress stops, and the system goes back to the drawing board. However, when you run digital experiments in a safe zone within a modular system, even running multiple experiments at one time, failure actually contributes to advancing the project. It teaches you what works and what provides the greatest value to your business. You can continue to conduct digital experiments even when your full-scale system is in use. They may even find ways to decrease costs or create new revenue streams.
The Answer is Simple
If your business isn’t evolving with the industry, you won’t be able to compete. An effective IIoT system is fueled by a powerful data river. Edge IoT solutions, such as those from ADLINK Technology, can help you create the communication and data flow you need at the edge, simply.
This article was created for and commissioned by ADLINK.