It is a relatively new term, but by now most of us have heard of The Internet of Things. But just what is the Internet of Things, and should it mean for you or your business?
Although one might think the Internet of Things to be the most hyped technology on the planet at this moment, the Internet of Things is real and something that we can take advantage of right now. IBM is showing commitment to this new technology, as today at IBM InterConnect, IBM has been discussing the Internet of Things through their new division by the same name. IBM is making a statement that they want to listen and work with those involved with the Internet of Things, to provide their expertise and software to help customers come up with solutions to solve problems in this emerging field of IT.
This is indeed an important area to focus on moving forward, as even in 2013 the Internet of Things was a 1.9 trillion dollar market segment. This is only expected to grow to 7.1 trillion in 2020. When you compare this to other segments such as Cloud, this is enormous.
Who is driving the business value here? Makers and Operators, says IBM. Those who produce the tools, or Things that make up the Internet of Things, and those who work with the products to come up with solutions to industry problems. At its core, the Internet of Things has two components. There is the data gathering aspect, where sensors present on an object can collect various types of information about this object. This is where the Makers might come in, providing us with the hardware necessary to collect the data. When you scale this data collection however, you come up with simply massive amounts of data that by itself may not be of much use. This data needs to be processed in some way to be useful to us. IBM provides us with a few examples of the combination of the two in use today.
Lyse Energy, based in Norway, currently uses the Internet of Things on their wind turbines to collect data about the wind at particular locations and aggregate the data streams to better understand the flow of air and provide improved stability in their power source to homes. Car2Go on the other hand, uses the Internet of Things for a different purpose. Partnered with IBM, they have come up with a solution to allow customers to easily get ahold of cars for temporary use. The customers can interact with these cars electronically, walking up to one, connecting to it and then being able to drive off. Car2Go can then monitor these cars to see which are available in a particular area, or that they and their occupants are safe.
The possibilities are perhaps endless for what can be accomplished with gathering data en masse from our surroundings or about a particular object and processing this in a meaningful way. But one particular area of interest that was the focus today was of asset management.
Utilizing the Internet of Things for asset management can boost your company’s efficiency through reducing overhead, decreasing wasteful or harmful behavior and helping every group in a chain of operation to better understand the objects that they are interacting with. Pete Karns, a Director of the Internet of Things division at IBM alongside Greg Knowles, an Offering Strategy Leader from the same division, demonstrated a situation in which such efficiency and improved understanding can be realized.
This demo started with a simple torque machine. By viewing this torque machine using tools such as the IoT zone of Bluemix, they were able to monitor the temperature, velocity and angle of the machine. The machine had become part of the Internet of Things. But what can be done with this data? Scaled out to multiple machines in an environment, they were able to monitor a hypothetical manufacturing plant. The important data to look for was anything out of the ordinary. When data was received that was considered abnormal by their processing algorithm, it was sent into the Cloud for Big Data analysis to identify what the issue could be and provide recommendations on how to correct the abnormality. Utilizing Maximo technology, the solution would then be able to determine what qualifications a person needs to solve the issue, and then find who must be contacted and assign a work order to them for this event.
The demonstration of the torque machine was interesting because from the solution, individuals could have a status overview of each machine and in the case of warning or imminent failure a solution could be suggested and a repair order automatically assigned, increasing efficiency of and understanding about the environment. The use of Maximo as an asset manager and IoT zone of Bluemix to collect data from Internet of Things objects was a great way to show where the Internet of Things and asset management meet.
Finally, Les Eisner from the University of South Carolina but also a retired Major General of the United States spoke on a way to save money, time and effort through asset management with the Internet of Things.
Les focused on the evolution of maintenance and how the Internet of things can aide how maintenance is carried out. He pointed out that although in mission critical applications you cannot wait for something to fail before attempting repair, preventative maintenance can be wasteful, improper, or unnecessary. Carrying out maintenance when not needed wastes time and money, adding overhead to company operations. In addition, it is also possible that improper maintenance that was not needed can cause harm to the environment. Wouldn’t it be better if there was a way to tell exactly when and what maintenance was needed for a particular object such that waste and improper care could be reduced or eliminated?
Les believes in what he called “Predictive Maintenance” and for good reason. By utilizing the Internet of Things to monitor an environment, a company can have a better idea about when machinery requires maintenance, and exactly what about the machine needs to be maintained at at that time. By giving maintenance only when needed, replacing parts when not necessary is eliminated, and the duration and number of inspections is reduced. As a result, customers will experience increased safety and confidence about their tools, and are certain to see the investment on the Internet of Things pay off through reduced overhead of maintenance.
Regardless of the hype and buzzwords that surround the Internet of Things at the moment, when you add asset management into the picture the advantage that can be gained through working with the Internet of Things is apparent. How the Internet of Things could help increase efficiency and reduce overhead in your company is certainly something worth investigating.