Industrial IoT and Industry 4.0

Industrial IoT and Industry 4.0

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What is Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is the transformation of traditional robotic systems on our shop floors from individual computerized systems capable only of communicating within themselves, or at most to a host ERP system, into a network of systems capable of communicating directly to each another.  Highly intelligent manufacturing organizations are not only interconnecting the communication of their production equipment; but, this communication will also be configured up and down supply chains, thereby optimizing the inter-relation of important key performance indicators.  This advanced exchange of production information up and down our supply chains will build stronger strategic partnerships within the business environment.  Industry 4.0 is being made possible as a result of the growth of important supporting infrastructure including cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT).12

Bernard Marr, in a Forbes article, suggests that Industry 4.0 goes far beyond the interconnection of devices on a shop floor or within our supply chains.  The true vision of Industry 4.0 includes our ability to collect data and, with the use of learning algorithms, to allow a business process to ultimately run autonomously without human intervention.  Consider the possibility that a production process on your shop floor would automatically adjust as a direct result of an outage of a machine that is producing critical widgets downstream within your supply chain.  Mr. Marr goes on the say that the question is not if Industry 4.0 is coming but how quickly.  Let me encourage leaders of businesses both large and small.  Remember when the internet and websites were first introduced.  The ones who embraced the new technology as early adopters were handsomely rewarded.  Those that are adopting Industry 4.0 (Amazon for example) is gaining in its competitive advantage for sure.  I believe that even small business persons today should be putting some effort into advancing the use of Industrial IoT within their business operations.  Those who don’t are going to be the ones left behind and trying to catch up to their competition in the decades to come.13

M2M vs IoT

Traditional business networks are built as closed private systems and they are designed to control unique proprietary processes.  Consider, if you will, our classic enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and their ability to forecast and control our business operations.  Advanced deployments of ERP systems communicate with and receive feedback from machines on the shop floor as well as to and from human resources.

IoT is taking the automation of our private business processes to the next level.  With IoT we will begin to share information generated from our shop floor with business stakeholders.  Some of our most important business stakeholders are the customers and vendors up and down our supply chains.  The sharing of business data is going to bring its challenges.  If the Internet of Things is about to explode as projected by Gartner and many others, then the Internet of Things must be scalable.  To be scalable, there must be some standardization, and we are certainly going to need to emphasize security.  To lead the charge for the promotion of accelerated growth of the Industrial Internet of Things, the Industrial Internet Consortium has been organized in Needham, MA.  The IIC is a member supported organization that is creating initiatives to securely connect, communicate, and control integrated assets.  The scope of what is possible with these integrated assets will be boundless as the IIC community succeeds with the development of a strong Industrial IoT ecosystem.14

Intranets of Things, Subnets of Things, Internet of Things

The writers of the book, Enterprise IoT, introduced to me a couple of new terms which are being used to describe the evolutionary process of the Internet of Things.  They go on to describe that our traditional stand-alone M2M solutions should be classified as Intranets of Things.  The key differentiator is that Intranets of Things are typically private and proprietary as discussed above.  As our M2M solutions are integrated across a broader collaboration within an enterprise, industry, or data community, we are building what should be termed Subnets of Things … not the Internet of Things.  The writers argue that a full deployment of the Internet of Things will not be achieved until applications and solutions can be deployed seamlessly and at scale through standardization.11

So, welcome to the building of the Subnet of Things (SoT).  Building of a SoT within a business environment is still in lot of ways proprietary and closed but the process has been opened for use with strategic business partners.  It’s still a huge step forward when we consider new application domains which are emerging in our lives.  Healthcare systems are getting more intelligent.  We are now building smart homes, smart buildings, and even smart cities.  Our energy and transportation systems are improving because of the Subnet of Things as well.  What is happening now is that industries are all collaborating and developing new solutions.  We can’t build standardization until we try our best, and then stumble.  This trial and error process will one day transform into the full Internet of Things.

Servitization – Value Added Services to Customers

“Servitization” is another term introduced by the writers of Enterprise IoT.  Servitization is the process of transforming product manufacturers from ones that simply deliver hard goods to organizations that provide a full-service solution to their end-users, complete with maintenance and performance guaranties.  Servitization will be made possible as manufacturers will now build their products with embedded devices which will communicate back to a host server all the relevant performance data critical to maintaining the uptime and service level agreement established with the customer-base.  Consider too that software-driven products can be kept up to date with this deployed interconnectivity.  The performance data collected by the manufacturer/service organization will be used to detect outages, and for predictive maintenance purposes.  True servitization places the primary responsibility for uptime guarantee back on the manufacturer itself and not on the consumer.

When I think of a personal experience as a consumer taking advantage of this type of “servitized” service, I think of the solar panels on my roof which have been installed by Solar City.  These solar panels are connected to the internet and these panels communicate back to Solar City regarding the performance of these panels.  If there are outages or predictive failures with these panels, the responsibility for service falls back on Solar City.  Our responsibility as a consumer of this product is limited to payment for the power output that comes off these panels, nothing else.  Solar City’s success depends largely on their own ability to keep these panels operating to the best of their capability.  As they gather data, they can use data which can be fed back to their research and development staff to improve the materials and manufacturing processes that produced the products in the first place.  In fact, they truly become incentivized to produce a high-quality product at modest increases in investment because they directly realize the benefit of that improvement.  What is removed is the fear of price competition from lower quality products which can often be misunderstood in the consumer buying decision.  Now, arguments will be made within a manufacturing environment that higher quality products will yield higher productivity and lower end-use costs to the consumer.  The lower end-use costs become the new competitive advantage.  It is quite an amazing concept which we are likely going to see with everything in our lives as consumers.  Consider that your kitchen appliances are likely to be “servitized” by the manufacturers soon!

Autonomous Vehicles

It is happening right in front of us.  Each model year, our cars are getting more intelligent and sometimes more intelligent than we are as the drivers.  Our cars today are being built with safety features like the following: Forward-Collision Warning, Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane-Departure Warning, Blind-Spot Warning, Lane-Keeping Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.  The names of these safety features describe the type of automation and alert systems which are being put in place to either warn a driver of a possible problem; or, in some cases, to over-ride the driver control of the automobile to maintain the safety of the driver and passengers inside.  It is claimed that these systems are evolving through a planned life-cycle whereby all will initially offer warnings to drivers and implement relatively little control.  As these systems gain consumer confidence, drivers will be comfortable relinquishing their control.  Ultimately, these “warning” systems will become the future control systems within our autonomously driven vehicles.15

In lots of ways it is believed that autonomously driven vehicles will one day be safer than human-driven vehicles.  The technology is advancing rapidly and so prominently that even the US government is involved at the United States Department of Transportation.  The US DOT and the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) manages a Connected Vehicles Research Program within the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO).  The primary vision of this program is to develop a Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) Communications system which promotes safety and standardization within the industry.16

This is a wonderful example of an evolving Subnet of Things whereby the automotive industry is collaborating amongst themselves to drive the growth of an IoT infrastructure which will serve the needs of their specialized industry.  A great example of “servitization” within the automobile industry is the service now available via ZipCar.  The primary tagline on the ZipCar home page reads, “Own the Trip, Not the Car”.  Is it possible that one day no one will own their own car anymore?  Maybe we will just one day pay for the ride.17

Smart Buildings & Smart Cities

The vision for tomorrow’s Smart Buildings goes far beyond the idea of automating our home security, our home heating/cooling systems, and our household appliances within our own personal mobile apps.  The World Resources Institute (WRI) is championing a Building Efficiency Initiative which will promote the use and consumption of sustainable resources in every home and commercial building, and to then push toward a carbon-neutral footprint from our waste.

While this is the vision, the fact is that much of the development of our Smart Buildings remains in the M2M communication stage whereby much of the information remains proprietary.  Intelligent buildings and cities and will one day be interconnected and utility usage, for example, will be monitored so that production and delivery can be optimized to match the actual usage patterns.  Further, the manufacturing and use of our home heating systems will likely one day be servitized.  Consider the possibility that the service available from your home heating contractor and fuel supplier could be optimized if they had real-time access to your fuel consumption rate, the volume on hand, the operating condition of your heating appliance and system, your community location, and more.18

Smart Health Systems

There isn’t a better example of an industry that demands security within IoT than the healthcare industry.  Within the healthcare industry, individual confidentiality is as much of a concern as is the failure or potential “hacking” of a connected pacemaker or other medical device.  This need to protect that which is most critical to all of us, our health, will likely slow the growth of this industry more than the others; however, healthcare is making huge advances in the use of IoT, nonetheless.

First, medical records no longer sit on paper lost in folders that are lost in archive closets in a few short years.  Not long ago, it was difficult, if not impossible, to have your medical records follow you when you moved and/or elected to choose another physician.  Today, medical records are entered via computer to a host repository and these records are conveniently accessible to patients via online portals.  There is a movement with the federal government, if it has not already been realized, to establish a central repository for medical records which would allow for data collection and analysis on a national scale.  The application of data analytics techniques on a medical record repository would yield tremendous advantages to the national community.  Diseases could be monitored and possibly cured much more rapidly.  It might even be possible to achieve predictive results on our health within communities and on individual levels.  These possibilities are so real that it likely builds reluctance that needs to be overcome before advances in this industry are made.19

With a future medical record repository in place, the possibilities related to data collection would be limitless.  Data can be offered from wearable devices like the FitBit™ for sure; but, data can also be collected from thermometers, blood pressure monitors, ultrasounds, x-rays, glucose monitors, medication dispensers, and more.  Of course, this can be first achieved if this is packaged for consumer convenience with information made readily available to patients through their online medical portal.  Once patient confidence is fulfilled, IoT in the medical industry will be hugely beneficial.  Wouldn’t it be nice one day if the medical industry could identify for us a perfect diet that maximizes or established perfect health?  That day will likely come.

Smart Supply Chains

IoT in the supply chain is likely one of the easiest technical challenges ahead of us.  While security remains important with the data in our supply chains, we are not putting at risk the data security related to personal identities and health information as would be with the interconnection of our homes and healthcare systems.  Smart supply chains are introducing concepts for highly intelligent logistics systems as well as process control within the production lines.  We are already seeing huge advances in logistics with real-time fleet management, storage systems controls, cargo integrity monitoring, inventory tracking, and more.4

In many ways, we have achieved highly intelligent logistics control systems which yield end-to-end visibility of the delivery process; but, a smart supply chain will take this a step further.  Supply chains can now be looked at as supply “streams”.  Key performance indicators (KPIs) can be identified within a supply chain and upstream processes can be instructed to change immediately in response to a downstream problem.  Communication and exchange of data related to production processes amongst several supply chain partners will one day minimize production surplus due to a change in supply or demand.  In the age where sustainability is on our minds in all walks-of-life, the use of IoT in supply chain will yield much reward not only to businesses themselves, but to our communities and natural resources as well.

Brilliant Manufacturing

Based on my personal research today, the concept of Brilliant Manufacturing appears to be largely connected to a philosophy and even to some brands of products available from General Electric Company.  I want to take the concept of Brilliant Manufacturing further by challenging your minds.  Imagine the day when all manufacturing across the globe meets 100% of the consumer demand with zero surplus, no waste, and no carbon footprint.  Could that be possible?  I think it might!  I don’t think manufacturing processes will ever be 100% autonomous.  Even factory floors which are heavily automated require some human oversight and control.  However, with a fully standardized connected world, the Internet of Things will be realized and manufacturing processes will be tuned to perfectly match supply and demand.  GE Today is actively promoting concepts for software and business solutions labelled “Virtual Manufacturing”, “Intelligent Machines”, “Flexible Factories”, and “Reconfigurable Supply Chains”.  It appears to me that these are the building blocks to a brilliantly interconnected world.  All of this can only be possible with the Internet of Things.20

Continue Reading … Strategies for IoT in Logistics


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