There is little doubt that the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has moved from the margins to the mainstream.
At this month’s Maintec asset management show in Birmingham, there were numerous examples of how digitalisation is now being applied across a wide range of sectors, and in ever-more imaginative ways.
Visitors heard how the use of smaller and more powerful sensors, in combination with faster connectivity, was delivering better visibility of industrial assets than ever before. This has increasingly driven the implementation of proactive ‘detect it, fix it, prevent it’ methodologies which are reducing downtime and saving organisations large amounts of money.
Importantly, Maintec proved that it is no longer just large companies that are benefiting from the power of IIoT. Far from it. There were many small firms in attendance that had started their own journey of digital transformation, enabled in the main by cheaper sensors that can be installed without fuss.
Indeed, during a presentation by Mike Lomax, electrification manager at Bosch Rexroth, delegates were shown how a palm-sized sensor costing less than 200 euros could be taken from its box to delivering meaningful data in less than 45 minutes. The device could be used to measure a range of parameters such as vibration, temperature, humidity and more, with the information sent via a secure platform to an operator’s smartphone.
The ubiquitous nature of such powerful, low-cost, sensors is democratising data – meaning that even the smallest company can start to enjoy the benefits of IIoT. There was a time that digital transformation was restricted to the biggest players with the deepest pockets. Now it is available to all.
This small-scale approach to the application of connectivity also offers the most logical pathway to wider digitalisation. Too often, companies make the mistake of getting carried away, taking on too much at once. Digitalisation is a multi-year journey, and it’s important to pick quick wins that enable an organisation to gain knowledge and confidence. That’s why it is best to start with smaller, easily-understood projects that can be up-scaled into larger commitments at the right time. This incremental approach reduces possible deployment issues related to a host of factors, such as physical infrastructure, networking, machine-to-machine communications and integration with legacy systems.
In short, then, cost and complexity are no longer barriers for any company wanting to embark on the process of digital transformation. The technology can be adopted quickly and at low-cost, making the potential benefits of IIoT available to all.