Today, the implementation and use of the internet of things (IoT) has transformed industries in the way that they operate, communicate, and utilize data. In manufacturing, those changes have come at a rapid pace, and an industry that was once slow to evolve is now digitizing at lightning speed.
With the rapid convergence of fixed and wireless public and private networks, we are witnessing the birth of hyper-converged networks ranging from 5G to various IoT connectivity (Zigbee, Bluetooth, NB-IoT, LoRaWAN, etc.) with network slicing and mesh networking providing for edge applications for different use cases throughout the coverage area. Leading manufacturers can accelerate all facets of their operations to remain competitive in the modern marketplace with highly optimized hybrid edge-cloud solutions.
This need for speed combined with the advancement of IoT technologies has fueled the Industry 4.0 revolution. Factory automation has long improved business outcomes, but given the confluence of investment in infrastructure, including 5G networks, more powerful chips, innovation in edge devices that work seamlessly across many computing and networking protocols, powerful AI algorithms on-prem at the network edge, and the rise of ecosystems, manufacturers will soon see not just the vision for automation, but automation at work in the real world.
IIoT is the next level of IoT technology and is unique in the way its application has completely transformed manufacturing. According to TechTarget, IIoT can be formally defined as “the use of smart sensors and actuators to enhance manufacturing and industrial processes. Also known as the industrial internet or Industry 4.0, IIoT leverages the power of smart machines, a total system approach, and real-time analytics to take advantage of the data that stand-alone disconnected machines have produced in industrial settings for years.
“The great news for American manufacturers is the investments being made in powerful platforms, including by hyperscalers such as Microsoft Azure IoT Hub,” said Allen Salmasi, founder and CEO of Veea, an innovator in edge connectivity, computing, and security solutions. “Whether a manufacturer is retrofitting legacy equipment, using Modbus or CAN Bus standard protocols, our Industry 4.0 ecosystem in the U.S. and globally is rapidly expanding with an unprecedented adoption of open-source approaches. This puts power into the hands of solution providers and the organizations they serve, so they can choose the hardware, software, networking, and management combinations that make the most sense for each use case. At the same time, especially for large-scale deployments across many different edges – for example, factories in several geographic locations – we’re seeing increasing demand for proven micro-cloud solutions, where a tremendous amount of compute can happen at the far edge, on the factory floor, with data collected being pre-processed at the edge and the analytics shipped in near real-time with full-stack security for Data-in-Motion to local clouds and/or hyperscalers for different types of applications.”
As Salmasi points out, while this technology is still relatively new, it’s quickly making its way across the manufacturing industry and becoming more common in factories with every passing day. According to the new market research report “Industrial IoT Market by Device & Technology, Connectivity Type, Software, Vertical, and Geography – Global Forecast to 2026,” the IIoT global market size already sits at USD 76.7 billion as of 2021. And over the next five years, the market for this technology is predicted to continue to grow at a CAGR of 6.7 percent, putting estimates at a market size of USD 106.1 billion in 2026.
The rapid expansion of IIoT technology within the manufacturing industry comes as no surprise, however, with the introduction of devices such as IoT hubs helping manufacturers take advantage of the new technology. There are myriad benefits that come from leveraging IIoT technology, as well as leveraging the data the edge devices produce.
To start, and maybe most importantly, IIoT technology helps improve safety for those working on the factory floor. All the data and sensors required of a fully functioning IIoT manufacturing operation are also helping to bolster workplace safety. “Smart manufacturing” is turning into “smart security” when all of the IIoT sensors work together to monitor workplace and employee safety.
IIoT safety benefits also include wearable devices that help leadership keep tabs on things like employee posture and the surrounding noise levels. They can then use this data to improve work conditions and potentially improve performance and alert employees when they aren’t following proper workplace safety procedures so they can correct their actions and stay safe on the job.
On top of the safety benefits, IIoT data helps manufacturers with predictive maintenance. When maintenance in the manufacturing world is reactive rather than proactive, manufacturers are stuck trying to identify what the issue is, how it can be repaired, and what it will cost. With predictive maintenance powered by industrial IoT solutions, all those issues are alleviated.
“A dramatic transformation of industrial businesses is inevitable,” Salmasi said. “There is no way manufacturers can compete without a path to their digital transformation. The difference today is based on successful projects, like those initiated on Microsoft Azure IoT Hub, which has the trust of IT and OT teams and the size and reach of one of the largest technology companies in the world. We invested in having Veea’s products certified by Azure, which is not an easy task, given their extremely high standards and robust testing protocols. Certification builds confidence and reduces risk, which leads to greater investment in digital transformation projects in manufacturing, which like the connected construction industry is still lagging in the U.S., but poised for tremendous value creation.”
Salmasi also noted that IIoT technology and the data gained give manufacturers more knowledge, and knowledge is power. “The Big-Data analytics provided to manufacturers via IIoT solutions over federated networks is giving them the tools they need to reduce costs and generate more revenue,” Salmasi explained. “Data-driven insights into operations, production, and supply chain can steer businesses in a more profitable direction, and that’s is real progress.”
All the aforementioned benefits of IIoT, such as predictive maintenance, improved business processes, and quality control, and maximizing efficiencies through a higher level of automation, will all boost profits for a manufacturer. Industrial IoT also offers arguably the most valuable tool for leaders of a manufacturing company, insights from anywhere, anytime. And with technology like wired and wirelessly networked IoT platforms with powerful compute capabilities on the production floor, manufacturers can efficiently leverage all the benefits that IIoT has to offer.