Industrial Internet of Things: The game-changer for industries

Industrial Internet of Things: The game-changer for industries
By Richard Soley, CEO, Object Management Group and Executive Director of Industrial Internet Consortium

The Internet of Things (IoT) industry is set for immense growth in Asia Pacific excluding Japan (APeJ), with the total market size expected to grow from US$250 billion to US$583 billion from 2015 to 2020[1]. We will see IoT’s wide-ranging applicability unfold – from consumer to industries. The questions we need to ask are, what can we do with this network of connected things and how can we disrupt current business models to increase efficiency and quality?

With government, utilities, discrete manufacturing, healthcare and retail identified as the top five leading industries in APeJ IoT market[2], it is evident that Industrial IoT (IIoT) makes up a noteworthy slice of the pie. IIoT is at the forefront, pushing boundaries and defining new realities for high-stake and heavy industries, including manufacturing, government and healthcare – where the Industrial Revolution meets the Internet Revolution. However, in order to harness IIoT to its full potential, industry players need to delve deeper and apply Internet thinking, if they want to truly transform their industries.

Realising the essence of IIoT

Intelligent networks and sensors, unending storage, massive bandwidth, near-ubiquitous connectivity, cloud-based applications, and more, are converging. This phenomenon is driving new capabilities for gathering information in real-time and changing the way humans interact with machines and services. Organisations can easily connect a network of devices and sensors with communications software – such as fleets, appliances, heart monitors and even buildings – to optimise operational efficiency and create further growth. Nearly anything and everything with sensors and software agents can report device-specific information back to other devices or applications.

First, IIoT solutions enable companies to collect asset information more efficiently and accurately and in real-time. Next, predictive analytics can be leveraged on the data captured, along with historical data, to deliver visualisation to business leaders to make the right decisions. Alternatively, the insights from predictive analytics can also directly change actuators in the real world. For instance, a heart monitor can monitor activity and report status change.

In short, IIoT solutions can kick off tasks and execute complex instructions according to their present environment, without human intervention – by monitoring, collecting, exchanging and analysing data. However, this also means that industries are witnessing an even more explosive growth in raw data. In fact, the number of connected units is expected to more than double from 3.1 billion in 2015 to 8.6 billion by 2020[3], but what’s the use in having billions of sensors and devices connected to the Internet which feed through data, if they cannot all ‘talk’ to one another?

The Industrial Internet forces at work

IIoT is all about extracting valuable and meaningful insights with an analytics engine to create new business value – such as optimised business efficiency and better customer service – across the extended enterprise. By harnessing data generated by connected devices around the clock, organisations can support businesses by providing ongoing support, and continually improving operational efficiencies, reliability, control and safety for massive industrial systems. Here are some examples of IIoT in action today:

·         Intelligent transportation
IIoT and M2M applications, together, are transforming the transportation sector by analysing data captured for clearer visibility of transportation activity. In turn, the resulting actionable insights enable enhanced decision-making and utilisation of resources. For instance, Singapore, a key proponent for IoT with its Smart Nation initiative, has adopted an Intelligent Transport System (ITS) strategy to improve commuters’ travelling experience. The strategy includes an Expressway Monitoring and Advisory System based on real-time analytics, to alert motorists of traffic accidents on major roads. In addition, the land-scarce but vehicle-heavy country also uses Global Positioning System (GPS) to provide city taxis with information on road conditions around the city. Data from all these systems are routed to a central control centre, which consolidates and organises them into information that is useful to the public. This strategy has greatly eased traffic congestion in Singapore, making it one of the least congested major cities in the world[4].

·         Smart manufacturing
Manufacturers are leveraging predictive analytics solutions to improve output, streamline business processes and prolong longevity of existing assets. Not only can manufacturers improve clarity on their logistics and production processes, their customers can also have access to real-time tracking of shipments through a mix of cellular and satellite connectivity technologies. For instance, the industrial Internet changed the rules of lime production for one particular company. The company leveraged an industrial Internet platform to transform operational data, based on equipment, location and people, into actionable information. Using advanced and automated maintenance task schedule to track the progress of maintenance operations, the lime production company easily optimised maintenance efficiency and the overall availability of its plant, minimising downtime occurrences as well as time required for the plant to restart in cases of failure[5].

·         Intuitive healthcare
Medical equipment manufacturers are also quickly taking advantage of IoT to support the move to “accountable care” where standalone medical equipment – such as MRIs and CTs – can be monitored, modelled, remotely controlled and automated for quicker patient response times and better decision-making for healthcare practitioners. In addition, the analytical benefits of the activities of such equipment, automatically notifies medical staff to maintain and replenish supplies, driving down critical costs and errors significantly. The industrial Internet has the ability to help organisations build more cost-effective and quality healthcare systems and practices.

Due to the growing number, variety and complexity of medical devices, BK Medical, a manufacturer of diagnostic ultrasound systems,needed to integrate its standalone ultrasound systems into multiple, distributed hospital care systems as well as research laboratories. By using a data-centric mechanism, the company was able to ensure a loose-coupling between these system elements to readily address the challenge of mixing real-time communications with IT infrastructure. In turn, BK Medical can develop features for its ultrasound system technologies independently, easily integrating across distributed systems, without losing current functionalities, reliability and performance[6].

Keep your eye on the prize

IIoT is no longer in the infancy stage, nor is it a part of the distant future. In fact, IIoT is fast becoming a mainstay for industries, enterprises and consumers alike. For the many, IIoT possibilities are within sight. Industry players, including technology providers and manufacturers, must move in unison to collaboratively design, build and measure solid IoT solutions for industrial systems. Organisations need to carry out ‘test beds’ on IIoT standards and technologies to ensure they work in real life scenarios. Only then will they be able to discover disruptive, transformational business outcomes. For example, Industrial Internet Consortium’s Asset Efficiency Test Bed. This test bed enables the automatic detection, diagnosis, prognosis and mitigation of an aircraft’s health to ensure flight safety and reduce overall operational and maintenance costs[7].

For Asia to propel the IIoT industry further, organisations need to work towards prioritising and standardising interoperability requirements among connected devices and machines to overcome heterogeneous protocols and architectures. Based on the key learnings and innovation resulting from these ‘test beds’, organisations will be better equipped to embed sufficient security protocols – such as Data Distribution Service protocol and threat modelling – into applications at every single level across the entire industrial Internet. This is also paramount in making sure IIoT succeeds.

As IIoT becomes better defined and developed, it is set to further transform how industries operate through intelligent, interconnected objects that dramatically improve performance and security, lower operating costs and increase reliability. The prize we are looking at is more impactful IoT applications that can and will be created for businesses as well as end-users.

Themed “Closing the gap: From vision to reality”, IoT Asia 2016 conference and exhibition which will take place from 30th to 31st March 2016 at Singapore EXPO, aims to go beyond addressing the benefits and promises of IoT in Asia and making it a reality. The event is a key industry platform for governments, industry and technology leaders to foster closer partnerships and create opportunities for the public and private sectors to embrace the Internet of Things. At the conference, Richard Soley, CEO, Object Management Group and Executive Director of Industrial Internet Consortium, will be sharing insights on partnerships, key takeaways as well as provide a round-up on transferable lessons, standards and good practices for industrial IoT.

[6] Industrial Internet Consortium, BK Medical Distributed Systems for Medical UItrasound case studyMarch 20, 2016
[7] Industrial Internet Consortium, Asset Efficiency Testbed

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