Smart Considerations for IoT within Manufacturing

Author: Brandon Parkinson, Graduate Software Developer at Cimlogic

Smart Devices

The buzzword ‘Smart’ encompasses a large amount of technology and its growth seems to be everywhere. Smart devices are always improving and becoming increasingly accessible in the home and in offices.

A smart device can be defined as that which can connect to the internet or communicate with other devices, wirelessly. These smart devices have allowed companies to learn more about users as they are often used to collect data relevant to that product.

Examples of smart devices range from energy-saving bulbs which are often tied to an app, and can allow a user to track energy expenditure, monitor and manage the home remotely, and more, to smart speakers and virtual assistants which may assist with tracking purchase history and music choice, to better cater an experience to the user. The increased use of smart devices in the home has led to large amounts of data being generated, collected and used by companies to further target and cater to their audiences. This emphasis on data collection is where smart technology can become increasingly useful to the manufacturing industry and the workplace.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT or The Internet of Things, is at its core simple technology and is predominantly about connecting devices or appliances to the internet. This connection will then allow open communication and data collection, which can in turn be used to personalise or improve usage of said appliances or devices.

A popular example of IoT within the home would be ‘Smart Plugs’ which can be used by consumers to manage their electronic devices wirelessly, to manage their home when away from home. Within industry and workspaces, smart devices can track input from operators, track progression of production throughout a manufacturing factory, and more. This tracking and collection of data ultimately allows for appropriate action to be taken depending on what was found.  The potential uses for smart devices are vast, and although there are generic versions of IoT devices, it may be more effective for these devices to be setup or configured to a particular situation based on particular needs and demands, further increasing their effectiveness

Managing Big Data within Manufacturing

With the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) in progress there is a race to collate and use data effectively and quickly. There is a case to be made that Big Data will play a major role with regards to implementing IoT within industry and manufacturing.

The volume and variety of data that is being generated and managed by IoT devices within manufacturing is ever-expanding and changing, and the tools and devices used within manufacturing all have the potential to be equipped with sensors to further generate data which have the potential to increase efficiency and maximise manufacturing potential.

A 2016 white paper titled ‘Industrial Big Data as a Result of IoT Adoption in Manufacturing’* published for a Web Conference for ‘Research and Innovation for Future Production’ expand on this topic of Big Data within Industry and goes on to say that with there being an increased adoption of both IoT and smart devices within industry, there is a necessary role to be played by managing Big Data. With increased IoT adoption, Big Data generation increases exponentially, and there is a necessity for this data to be appropriately managed and worked with to develop changes that give relevance to the implementation of said connected devices.  In short, having more internet-enabled devices on a shop floor generates more data, which requires more need for managing and aggregating said data, which can then lead to more effective implementation of said devices based on the data that was collected. 

In summary, there is more to do than simply implementing smart devices and collecting data.  There need to be suitable measures in place to sort through large amounts of data and sift it into relevant parts for distribution to then be investigated and explored.  What does the data tell a company?  How can this knowledge be used to implement tangible changes, to yield real business benefit?

* Reference: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212827116307880

About Brandon Parkinson – Graduate Software Developer, Cimlogic

Brandon Parkinson is a Graduate Software Developer for Cimlogic. Brandon began his career at Cimlogic in June of 2019. For his third year project at University Brandon was part of a team that developed a Smart Home Automation solution in building a fully functional and 3D-printed smart plug, which could connect to a custom-built web interface to allow users to turn non-smart devices smart, as a way to both control the home and track energy use.