IIOT Your Workforce Multiplier

Srinivas Narasimhan

Your Analog Devices are becoming Smart!

Analog device have been used to monitor and control our environment. Electrical switches, thermostats, valves, actuators, smoke detectors, gyroscopes, pressure, proximity and motion sensors are all examples of such devices we encounter every day in industrial and home environments. By combining sensing and control devices judiciously, a limited amount of automation could be achieved as in using a thermostat to cut off electricity to a water heater. In the Digital era, by directly embedding compute resources (typically low power mobile microprocessors), these devices acquire the capability to sense the environment intelligently and use this intelligence to control the environment independently to a far greater extent. They are commonly known as smart sensors and smart devices and they are rapidly gaining acceptance in various spheres of activities. In the home environment, thermostats, doorbells, locks, lighting appliances and speakers are well known instances of smart devices. These devices are also equipped with wireless communication capability and employ standard protocols to communicate with each other. Using the wireless protocol they are also able to communicate with humans through keyboard and voice control. These smart device are the elemental building blocks of the Digital Technology known as Internet of Things (IoT). The industry-specific applications of IoT are a subset of IoT and popularly known as Industrial IoT or IIoT.

Networked Smart Devices create smart systems that think like you

Since smart devices have computing capability and are also equipped with networking ability, they can be composed and configured to work together within the context of a larger system such as your home, or a self-driving car or autonomous drones. Smart systems bring in exponential advantages over individual smart devices. For instance, smart homes are virtually capable of providing comfort by automatically adjusting each room’s temperature and humidity, save energy by switching of appliances when there is no one around, or when it is not needed as well as provide home security by locking up the premises safely and raising alarm when intrusion is detected or when unsafe conditions like smoke are observed. Smart systems are also making rapid strides in different walks of life and are touted to be the building blocks of Smart Cities, some of which are already in construction. In the industrial context, smart systems can manage energy utilization in a plant in the most efficient way. Bring in greater level of automation if not fully automate production and assembly lines and keep tabs on material movement within the premises.

Finally Smart Systems are collaborating with each other and humans through IoT

Already endowed with such human-like capabilities, the Smart Systems are now leveraging the peer-to-peer internet protocols and standard knowledge models to collaborate on a more global context of serving human activities. One much-touted example in the home context is the automatic replenishment of consumed items where the smart refrigerator senses the depletion of milk stock and places orders through Alexa or Google Assistant.  Follow this link to read about how LG has fulfilled this vision. In the industrial context one can well imagine smart machines that can self-diagnose and order spares that are in the verge of failure as part of preventive maintenance. There is also a vision of many smart power producing plants that bid automatically against demand from consumers and successful bidder supplying the energy need of the consumer, all without human intervention or supervision. The subject of Machine to Machine (M2M) communication is becoming a technology in its own right and standards are evolving on the type of networks needed, security protocols and interconnections through common cloud platforms. The entire concept of IoT starting with computer-embedded smart sensors capable of communicating with one another to mimic the working of complex machines and systems, delivers its mega punch when these smart machines talk between themselves and conduct business without the need for humans. The disruptive nature of this Digital Technology is well recognized by the Department of Telecommunication of the Indian Government and they have come up with a dedicated roadmap for M2M Communications!

Force Multiplier Effect of IoT

As we saw in the previous sections, the smart systems can perform tasks that mimic the work of skilled humans, such as driving a car, flying a drone, stocking a refrigerator, etc. By employing these systems we could avoid the need for finding skilled human resources within your company that may be needed to scale up the process. Also, just a few systems may replace several human resources, essentially reducing the cost of scaling your operations. Due to these reasons Industrial IoT can bring a force multiplier effect to your operations. This effect of IoT is especially invaluable when skilled resources are very hard to find or when the job environment is hazardous.

Pervasive Computing Paradigm

Pervasive Computing refers to the ability of devices equipped with computing power to remain switched on constantly and continue processing information and perform their programmed activity at any time and from anywhere. This goes way beyond the realm of desk top and mainframe computers awaiting inputs from humans to execute tasks and report results. This is hailed as the paradigm for the 21st Century wherein Digitally enabled environments sense, adapt and respond to human needs at home, in the office and everywhere in between. As is apparent, IoT technology is an important player in ushering in the pervasive computing paradigm in our everyday world. The pervasive computing nature of IoT makes it most ideal for jobs that require constant unwavering attention such as Health and Home Care, Environmental Monitoring, Continuous Process Control and Traffic Regulation.

What should be your strategy?

Industrial IoT is the cornerstone for Digital Transformation of an industry. IIoT can be deployed in your industry at any scale, starting from devices that optimise your electricity energy consumption and going right up to conversion of your plant into an autonomous smart factory.  Therefore understanding how IIoT will help your industry across various functions would be the right starting point in your Digital Transformation journey. Identify areas where it can make a significant impact and start there. After successfully adopting IIoT in these areas, make further plans by including the learnings of this stage in your further initiatives. We will look at how other Digital Technologies contribute to the transformation of your business or industry. Keep watching this blog for updates, or write to me if you want to ask me, or share something with me on the subject. See you until next time!

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