We’ve talked a lot in this space about IoT development for home-based security systems and other smart devices, and now we want to address the industrial Internet of Things. As more and more companies continue using sensors and advanced analytics in factories, shipping warehouses, and even oil and gas fields, there will be a wealth of new opportunities for developers.
Predictive, not reactive
Sensors have been pervasive in industrial settings for many years, especially around machinery maintenance. But industrial sensors aren’t used the way sensors in our home machines are. We typically rely on reactive maintenance for, say, washing machines. When they break, we get them fixed. It may be frustrating, but it’s merely a temporary inconvenience.
Industrial sensors are a different story: machine downtime in a factory is much more than an inconvenience – it can mean lost revenue. That’s why industry uses predictive maintenance, taking sensor readings from machinery so an operator on the plant floor can see if a part is failing or has already failed. With that kind of insight, a manufacturer can use scheduled maintenance to reduce a machine’s downtime, removing the fear of revenue loss.
Finding energy efficiency through data analytics
These days, though, the industrial IoT is moving way beyond machine maintenance. As manufacturers install more sensors, they’re starting to benefit even more from the insights they’re getting from data. By taking advantage of IoT connectivity, companies get access to massive amounts of data that can be analyzed for efficiencies and, ultimately, big cost savings. One New York property management firm, for example, saw one million dollars in energy savings by using a smart building management system to capture real-time energy consumption data and to adjust building behavior based on that data.
Pushing IoT ahead
Based on potential efficiencies and savings, industry is likely to drive the future of IoT, pushing it forward before consumers adopt it. This isn’t surprising when you look at the history of how industry adopts new technologies. After all, companies have a lot more money to spend than the average person, and they stand to save substantially more money, too. That’s why industry is likely to try out technologies even if there’s only the promise of a potential efficiency increase, whereas consumers tend to wait until they have solid evidence of energy or cost savings. For every person buying a smart thermostat because it’s trendy, there are many more people who will wait to see if it’s worth the investment.
Companies like Wind River are going all-in on the industrial IoT, providing a middleware environment that simplifies the development and deployment of IoT gateways. One Wind River customer, building systems manufacturer Daikin Industries, used Wind River to create an HVAC gateway, which it uses to move HVAC data from its equipment to the cloud, where it can be analyzed for better preventative maintenance on its systems.
Into the future
So where do we go from here? There’s little doubt that industry will continue to embrace IoT, and it’s going to help companies gain more efficiencies while also possibly eliminating jobs. An excellent example of an industry already seeing some innovation is warehouse distribution, where companies like Kiva Systems are using the industrial IoT to boost productivity. Kiva has developed an army of robots that act as “pickers” in distribution centers. The robots are controlled by a central computer, and they automatically retrieve inventory and deliver it to warehouse workers when an order is received. The workers then choose the items and put them in a container for shipping. This technology can reportedly triple warehouse productivity, which is great but also possibly lead to less need for warehouse staff.
No matter what the future holds, it’s clear that all industries will continue to invest in the industrial IoT. And as developers, you can be sure that you’ll see a lot of new opportunities coming your way.