The Internet of Things (IoT) is a hot topic, but still a very new concept to most engineers, developers, and business owners. If you’ve been wondering how you might benefit from the IoT, whether you’re in Manufacturing, Transportation, Retail, Building Management or one of the many verticals increasingly benefitting from the IoT, and it’s a totally new and somewhat foreign concept, how do you approach exploring the IoT? Here’s a general guide in 3 simple sections, to help you navigate the waters…
Step 1: Research
The first step towards implementing the IoT is to study what other companies have done. Manufacturing offers a host of successful use cases as it is one of the top three most popular area ending itself to the data collection, quantitative analysis, and device control enabled by the IoT.
For decades, engineers have been using sensors to gather metrics to fine tune operations (preventive maintenance) . How the IoT changes that process is that with the IoT, data can be sent up to the cloud to provide a comprehensive view of operations and be integrated with transactional, logistics, and planning systems. Manufacturers are increasingly building machinery and engines that are already be connected to the manufacturer’s IoT cloud for maintenance purposes.
Transportation is a field where, using the traditional preventative maintenance model, linear programming and other mathematical and statistical models are applied to plan routes, optimize fuel consumption, etc. However, with the IoT, vehicles can acquire and use their IoT data to apply predictive maintenance for brake wear, engine performance, and monitor the temperature in the refrigerated trailer to protect what is inside. Cities can become “smart,” and utilize the IoT across their infrastructure, from traffic lights to water meters to trash collection.
Step 2: Develop and Implement a Prototype
After reading successful use cases, you may feel ready to try building an IoT solution yourself. If you have IT staff, they will probably need to be augmented with contractors and/or consultants, to help being the R&D process If you’re considering DIY IoT, know the risks before you start!
Once you have identified where and how to apply the IoT to your equipment, you will need access to an IoT cloud, such as relayr's. The IoT cloud’s main task is to provide the communications platform where IoT devices will send and receive data. Connected to the cloud will be the components that analyze and process the data and the software you’ll need to build your main dashboard and connect your devices.
To get all the hardware you might need, you might be able to use an IoT kickstarter kit, which allows you to develop a prototype for testing. The kit typically contains one or two computing cards preprogrammed to sense humidity, light, temperature, motion, etc. It should have a network gateway and controller to connect those sensors to your cloud. You deploy the sensors into the facility, attach them to the IoT cloud, and then view the data coming from the devices to your dashboard. With relayr’s starter kit, not only do you get everything you need in one box (as opposed to having to go to “marketplaces,” and try to find all the pieces you need all by yourself) you get support from our experts and online instructions.
Now that you’re connected – let’s say you’re in Transportation, your new IoT system could use data from trucks in your fleet to replace a statistics-based, preventative maintenance schedule with a predictive model, based on real-time, immediate conditions. IoT sensors can beam the location of cargo containers as they move from the warehouse long the supply chain, tracking your assets in real time (as opposed to having to wait for a manual identification at predetermined points). In a Smart City, IoT platforms can use smart signage to relay the position of buses and to people waiting along the stops.
As the IoT becomes more and more common – more than doubling over the next three years to exceed 30 billion connected items – equipment is being made that’s IoT ready, no legacy retrofitting or expensive adaptations required. However, for now, finding an established, reliable company to help you revamp your existing processes will be the most beneficial and cost-effective solution.
Step 3: Educate
As with all new technologies and concepts, successfully implementing the IoT requires educating all of the departments and teams, from IT to production lines, who will be using it. The help desk who knows everything about your printers may not be familiar with computing cards, sensors, and the IoT cloud. Engineers probably know how to monitor and control machines with sensors and controllers, so they may more readily grasp the benefit of collecting data from different areas of the plant and forwarding that to the cloud. Production line managers will need to know how to use the dashboard, to recognize alerts and notifications.
As with all new and emerging technologies, it is important to prepare key members of the company for what is coming, and have them internally educate others on the potential. Training courses are ideal as a starting point.
relayr, in conjunction with Fast Lane, are pleased to offer IoT Training Courses for Account Managers and Pre-Sales Engineers. Find out more here: