IoT: Breathing New Life Into Industrial Organisations

IoT

We’ve all heard about new car models that can access road and traffic information to determine the best route to our destination (and even drive us there) and homes so connected that we can control lights, locks, and other items from our phones. But the real benefit of Internet of Things (IoT) technology may lie in connecting industrial equipment to gain efficiencies in aerospace, healthcare, oil and gas, and more.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has entered public consciousness primarily through consumer applications such as smart homes and connected cars. It’s greatest impact, however, may come from its deployment in industrial organisations, enabling them to connect multiple devices, including legacy equipment, so that they can talk to each other in unprecedented, highly efficient ways. The business and socio-economic ramifications for industrial applications, also called the Industrial Internet, are still being tallied.

At its heart, Internet of Things (IoT) connects remotely monitored endpoints with the service personnel and product solutions needed to ensure proper equipment function.

Airplanes, for instance, have onboard sensors that collect real-time data and, through IoT connectivity, route that information to decision-makers who use it to determine what maintenance is necessary and when it should be performed, what part or equipment should be replaced, and the right staff to do the job. This assists in having the right parts and personnel available on site without the need to stockpile costly inventory where it may not be needed.

Moving Data From Remote Endpoints

Look at the power industry, with transmission lines and grids that span the country and sensors that monitor that grid. Again, the IoT gets the data from one remote endpoint (the onsite grid sensors) to another (the people who can authorise action) so that whatever the need is – for repair, retrofit or replacement – it can be identified, and the proper technicians and parts can be assigned and scheduled in the most cost-effective manner possible. Without this capability in the past, utilities had to resort to expensive measures like dispatching personnel for regular onsite maintenance checks and buying and stockpiling a huge inventory of product parts.

The power of IoT to collect and assess data from both legacy and next-generation equipment can help companies improve efficiency and optimise performance. GE’s Predix Cloud is a case in point. This cloud-based technology, designed for data and analytics across industries like oil and gas, healthcare, aviation and transportation, can capture and interpret real-time volume, velocity and other industrial machine data so that it yields insights for more informed, effective decision-making.

The aforementioned industries, along with others such as manufacturing, agriculture and mining, account for almost two-thirds of the global economy. The movement toward an integrated digital-human workforce will position the Industrial Internet to invent and redefine jobs, and even the nature of work. By enabling machines to communicate their status and performance remotely the Industrial Internet promises to free skilled resources from reactive repair and rather allow them to focus on proactive maintenance to prevent costly downtime.

Multiple MSP Opportunities

Pulling data through IoT empowers MSPs to become more efficient. Educational institutions, for example, deploy a lot of devices, so if an audit uncovers devices that aren’t being used, MSPs can switch them to sleep mode and charge a fee for reducing energy consumption. By monitoring computer and software usage patterns over time, an MSP can now recommend the most efficient allocation of resources, saving both time and money.

IoT can help MSPs:

  • Reactivate devices by installing patches that generate monthly fee
  • Cut client costs by reordering supplies at the right times
  • Optimise the allocation and performance of IT resources
  • Reduce downtime on IT network components
  • Audit power usage, which creates a potential revenue-generating opportunity.

For industrial purposes, the Internet of Things is akin to what’s known as the Connected Factory, a manufacturing environment in which each machine can communicate with every other machine throughout the plant and in remote locations. The Internet of Things connects, monitors and controls just about anything, anywhere, so that operations are more productive and profitable. It’s the wave of the future, and the future is happening now.

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Ian van Reenen

Ian van Reenen, vice president of engineering, endpoint products at Autotask, is responsible for driving Autotask’s endpoint management product roadmap, development and delivery. Prior to Autotask, Ian was the Founder and CTO at
 CentraStage where he focused on product roadmap development, building and managing a development team,
 key operational sales and ventures, and strategic development. Ian attended the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa.