Industrial IoT: Connecting intelligence to assets

Author : Alastair Worth | IoT Director | Avnet Integrated

01 July 2020

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Since the dawn of Industry 4.0, its focal point has been around one of the topmost digital technologies – the interconnected Internet of Things (IoT) that has the ability to transform virtually every industry segment.

This article was originally featured in EPDT's H2 2020 IoT & Industry 4.0 supplement, included in the July 2020 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. Sign up to receive your own copy each month.

As Alastair Worth, IoT Director at embedded system design & manufacturing specialist, Avnet Integrated tells us, smart connected assets are becoming the field of play to gain a competitive edge as enterprises are considering IoT as a ‘must have’ strategy to foster end-to-end visibility of existing infrastructure and gain better control over assets, equipment or machinery.

For asset-intensive enterprises across industries like manufacturing, oil & gas, mining, energy, utilities and logistics, it becomes significant to monitor, track and optimise assets, whether they are in high-volume or of high value. With a plethora of benefits, IoT enables such enterprises to monitor their assets or IoT-connected products in real-time.

In an increasingly connected world, IoT introduces countless opportunities to product engineers and developers across the industries to steer the course of innovation by re-imagining and redesigning products with smart sensors, allowing enterprises to connect their assets, devices or machinery to the cloud for real-time monitoring and management.

With the growth of IoT technologies and adoption, many companies have already moved beyond the familiarisation phase and are now in the ‘embrace’ phase. But for many, full-scale deployment remains a big concern, as it involves many challenges – from connecting assets to the cloud to managing connected assets.

Customer challenges

There are a host of challenges associated with asset monitoring, management and maintenance, which is a daunting and complicated task that involves a great deal of time and money.

•  Connecting assets, such as devices or products, to the cloud

•  Digitizing enterprises – departments & divisions

•  Technical considerations – infrastructure & development costs

•  Determining the value of IoT deployment

•  Scaling the implementation

Also, most legacy assets, devices and machines across industries were not originally designed to connect beyond the enterprise or factory network. So, the other massive hurdle is to:

•  Update the existing infrastructure & PLCs with IoT connectivity

•  Retrofit ‘stand-alone’ industrial assets & equipment with smart IoT sensors

•  Replace I/O modules with remote, wireless IoT-ready modules

An important step to battle these issues is by finding the right IoT partner who can transform dumb assets into smarter ones with the help of smart sensors. They can help to choose the right platform to connect those assets or products to the cloud to securely automate and monitor the assets.

Technical considerations

Physical IoT products typically consist of mechanical hardware, electronic hardware and software. Low-cost sensors, standardised protocols, scalable IoT platforms, data ingestion and analysis, storage capabilities and extensible software framework are key technical aspects that transform assets or machines into ‘smart’ solutions.

The potential rewards of IoT-enabled products, platforms and solutions are huge. But, designing smart products and implementing smart solutions to ‘IoT-ize’ an enterprise involves key technical components, such as:

•  Sensors & gateways

•  Centralised cloud connectivity

•  Data management & acquisition tools

•  Connected Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) elements

•  Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) – IoT platforms

•  Advanced analytics & software solutions

•  Business applications & decision support

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Consolidating all IoT-connected assets on a unified IoT platform or an integrated IoT framework can provide organisations with a seamless, fully personalised IoT experience, allowing them to get the right things done in the right order. When putting together numerous elements in the design of a robust IoT strategy or solution, managing cost is always an important factor of the desired outcome. Hence, the development of a proof of concept (PoC) can go a long way in realising the value that an IoT solution can provide.

How to create a viable PoC

For companies looking for competitive and effective ways to monitor and manage assets remotely, a low-risk PoC is the best way to introduce IoT to any enterprise. With clear goals and a core focus on a particular use case, it can assist product design engineers in determining whether the technology is operating, capturing data and measuring the value appropriately before thinking of a large-scale deployment.

Bringing transformational value

Revolutionary IoT-enabled products and platforms are advancing connectivity, communication and control from traditional systems, such as PLC and SCADA, to smart devices with value-based outcomes, like remote asset monitoring, predictive maintenance, real-time visibility and cross-domain analytics.

A viable PoC will provide the proof of value that gives an idea of what sort of benefits to expect. A dashboard with the right KPIs can give you the right direction to improve the PoC and realise the value that you are looking for.

Industry benchmarks estimate that IoT-enabled products and platforms can increase a company’s asset utilisation by around 3-5% and maintenance productivity by around 10-15%, improving global asset visibility and control.

IoT-enabled asset monitoring promises a whole new level of operational efficiencies and consumer experience to generate high revenue streams, bringing values like:

•  Optimal asset utilisation

•  Unlimited connected things

•  Reduced maintenance & OEM spend

•  Improved resource planning

•  Advanced safety & security

•  Reduced unplanned downtime

An IoT-based platform brings everything together on a single canvas, allowing key stakeholders, such as asset managers, manufacturers and product designers, to enable Enterprise Asset Management (EAM), using the following tools and technologies:

•  Real-time dashboards – real-time data from connected-assets or devices, trend analysis, MAP-based monitoring and so on.

•  Business intelligence systems – integration of BI tools like Power BI, Tableau and others helps to visualise real-time data from multiple connected assets and integrate it into applications.

•  Artificial intelligence (AI) tools  – enable stakeholders with real-time automated decision-making to optimise asset tracking, service networks and much more.

A game-changer for product design engineers & operators

Designers can see how products are performing in the real world, enabling them to apply those rich insights to improve future designs, with the help of minute information in the form of IoT data, which is in turn used to create AI and ML-based algorithms/models to continuously enhance and optimise the assets’ performance and life.

A ready-built Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) IoT platform can help enterprises connect things quickly, generate new insights and enhance decision-making capabilities, as well as facilitating device communication and data storage adhering to robust security protocols.

A holistic approach

As a device provider and technology enabler, at Avnet Integrated, we help our customers solve these challenges with PaaS and SaaS building blocks revolving around our IoTConnect ecosystem (https://www.avnet.com/wps/portal/integrated/solutions/iot/overview/). Our customers can build and deploy connected IoT solutions, making the product development process faster, while reducing the risks and costs associated with it. They can reuse our IP and gain access to the best in class practices and security features, which enable them to build their ‘own brand’ solutions and get to market faster.

Industry 4.0 is an evolution, not a revolution – making connected-assets smarter by leveraging the benefits of smart IoT sensors, cloud connectivity and scalable IoT platforms.


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