The Internet of Things Is Ushering in the Next Industrial Revolution

October 22, 2018 - 7 minutes read

By now, we’ve all heard of or experienced the transformation of living rooms and kitchen areas into smart spaces with the help of devices like Alexa. But Internet of Things (IoT) development is also reshaping the commercial and industrial landscape with automation, predictive analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI).

Manufacturers and suppliers around the world are already capitalizing on major benefits throughout the supply chain from industrial IoT (IIoT). In fact, our next industrial revolution (called “the Industrial Revolution 4.0” by many experts) is riding on the cusp of IIoT’s newest features.

IoT Is Catalyzing the 4th Industrial Revolution

Using IIoT, AI, and edge computing, enterprises can combine data from multiple sources to distill insights to apply across the entire operation. This includes information from customers, sensors, service providers, employee input, and more. The result is real-time analysis that outputs actionable information, creating an automated system that just keeps improving with each iteration.

As Robert Schmid, the Digital IoT Chief Technologist at Deloitte, explains, “In IIoT technology, sensors are attached to physical assets. Those sensors gather data, store it wirelessly, and use analytics and machine learning to take some kind of action.”

The meteoric rise of IIoT occurred within the first two decades of IoT’s growth. No one knows where IIoT will take us or its long-term consequences. But we do know it’ll bring businesses unparalleled efficiency and unprecedented capabilities, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars saved. Linear, rigid supply chain structures will become interconnected, dynamic, and highly-optimized systems.

And at the center of these systems are the customers’ needs.

Ensuring Customers’ Expectations Are Exceeded

Providing customers and clients with a great experience is the main goal of any business. With massive amounts of data available for support teams to look through, customers can get a clear picture of progress on a problem; it’s easy to track whether the customer’s package left the warehouse yet or where it might be stuck in the shipping process. And with this information and the help of chatbots and data analysis dashboards, any real-time demands can be met with accurate information.

Many experts believe that the power of IIoT depends on notifications and updates to react to sensors and machine data accordingly. After all, if companies aren’t going to use the data to continuously improve their systems or customer experience, what’s the point?

Predictive and Preventative Maintenance

Similarly, if there is no notification for emergencies, why even go through the trouble of installing advanced monitoring technology?

Because every machine is outfitted with sensors, it’s easy to keep track of which are more likely to be in need of repair soon. In many cases, sensors can be set to send an alert when they reach a certain threshold level. Engineers can be dispatched to the problem, drastically decreasing downtime in factories and supply chains.

IIoT is also bolstering the abilities of humans. Using infrared thermography, mechanics, repair technicians, and engineers can now get a new perspective on what’s going on inside the machines. Different colors can represent faulty connections, abnormal motors, tank levels, and pipe temperatures.

Instead of knowing when each machine’s lifecycle end is coming up, sensors can signal important updates for maintenance or replacement. Machine learning tracks minute changes in readings, so when the difference is significant enough, it sends an automatic alert to the appropriate party.

This comes in handy for maintaining a safe work environment. Running well-oiled machines results in huge improvements to worker welfare. IIoT also helps in case of emergencies. Sensors can monitor employees’ locations in tight or dark spaces, in case of an evacuation or accident.

A Future with Augmented Reality

One of IoT’s greatest strengths is its ability to adapt and work side-by-side with other disruptive technologies like AI. And IIoT is no different. DAQRI is a Los Angeles-based studio specializing in augmented reality (AR). They’re developing an AR helmet for engineers that will allow them to see 4D images above machines, instructions, and a map of every feature.

Another company, named UpSkill, is using AR to create wearables for field employees to send media and complete checklists, tasks, and work orders. This happens in real-time; managers can watch their employees’ progress by checking their IIoT platform.

Wearables and handhelds are a more affordable way for traveling salespeople to keep in touch with the rest of their colleagues and send automated notifications. Although they aren’t going to be AR-enabled for a while, it’s worth mentioning wearables; according to recent reports, more than 50 billion machines will connect to the Internet by 2020, and many of these will be wearables and handheld devices.

IIoT Will Affect Every Industry

AR enables employees to remain organized and helps train new employees at record speed. Ongoing maintenance keeps costs down for businesses and helps machines run longer. All of these savings in time, cost, and energy translate into a better experience for customers and a cheaper product all-around.

Machine learning algorithms working alongside traditional IoT systems multiply the true power of IIoT. The idea of “set it and forget” is a huge need for IIoT; it’ll drive many AI-fueled automations and IoT-enabled features while simultaneously pushing the envelope in sensor innovation.

And this doesn’t even begin to touch upon the plethora of other disruptive technologies that IIoT is integrating into warehouses and factories at a faster rate than ever before. IIoT will bring an infinite amount of possibilities, from the very top of the supply chain straight down to the consumer.

It’ll completely revolutionize every industry as we know it today. Are you ready for the next Industrial Revolution?

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