3 Industries on the Verge of an IoT Overhaul
The Internet of Things will change all businesses irrevocably, but these three industries will see the greatest impact amid the IoT revolution.
They don’t call it "disruptive technology" for nothing.
Call your plant supervisor – the Internet of Things has officially overtaken enterprise asset management. A network of next-generation interoperable, communicative sensors and telemetry could mean everything to the future of EAM, a discipline solely dedicated to the protection and preservation of commercial and industrial equipment throughout their lifecycles, from blueprint all the way to retirement.
It's safe to say IoT will mold the ways businesses utilize big data moving forward, perhaps creating for them their first truly usable frameworks for storing, managing and analyzing this Pandora's Box of information. However, we predict certain industries will receive substantially bigger boosts, and as such, perhaps permanent changes to their operations.
Since Toyota turned manufacturing on its hulking metal ear back in the 1990s by introducing the world to the splendor of "lean" principles, you’d be hard-pressed to find any plant manager unwilling to consider the benefits of implementing even the most abridged lean measures. After all, what’s not to like? A lean manufacturer saves money, avoids waste, bolsters production quality and replaces operational complexity with real value. Or so the legend goes.
Not every manufacturer is Toyota, but we probably don't have to tell you that. As with all changes to commercial and industrial processes, return on investment reigns supreme. Simply adding additional data management technology and investing in digitally integrated replacements for legacy assets won't mean squat until the businesses making the changes see the proposed benefits reflected in their own operations, as well as their treasuries.
ARC Advisory Group priced IoT's value to manufacturing at nearly $4 trillion, comprised of sweeping gains gleaned from every corner of the sector. Remember, IoT has the potential to alter more than just industry-specific assets, but also general workplace technology as well. Thermographic sensors embedded in industrial equipment could warn of an impending failure event, but IoT also powers the RFID tags mitigating inventory management labor costs and secure access technology preventing on-site shrinkage. Makes you wonder why we called the movement the "Internet of Things" and not the "Internet of All Things."
In awe, manufacturers have responded with their wallets – a PricewaterhouseCoopers study found more than three-quarters of manufacturing executives either plan to implement networks of "devices to collect, measure and act on data" sometime in the near future, if they haven't already.
The energy sector is not a greenhorn when it comes to the advancements IoT promises – according to the Deloitte University Press, supervisor control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems should ring a bell for legacy power companies since their rise to prominence in the 1950s, as well as the technology’s ability to draw raw data from remote generators and transmission assets.
Similarly, though a much more recent innovation, advanced metering infrastructure has helped modernize an outdated grid as distributed energy resources like solar energy installations gain popularity and market traction. While AMIs allow for bidirectional communication between utilities and energy consumers via smart meters, two-way streets will soon give way to complex multi-lane highways once IoT picks up momentum.
But wait, you're probably wondering, aren't we talking about how IoT will drastically change certain industries? If the energy sector has had IoT precursors like SCADA in the mix for several decades, how could the transition be all that monumental?
The implications IoT poses to reliability, that's why – that, and electricity isn’t the only utility buying into IoT. A recent ABB Group survey, 8 out of 10 executives from the electricity, gas and water industries believe bridging information technology and operational technology would be "valuable" to asset management. From a commercial/industrial standpoint, that's what the IoT accomplishes. Once utilities break down silos between customer-facing data acquisition and internal operational analytics, they can empower services on a technical level.
Should a power transformer shut down or a gas line rupture, respective IoT-enabled utilities assets out in the field could do more than merely report information to managers. With greater investment they could trigger automated messages to customers based on failure codes. They could help utilities geospatially narrow down the offending location. And once power grids have been rebuilt with IoT in mind, actionable data could even reroute resources via alternative emergency channels. Providers reduce hours-long service outages, maintain continuity as best they can while dispatching informed maintenance crews to targeted remote locations to resolve issues quickly.
Like utilities, public transportation is reliability-based industry. Sure, when passengers ride the subway or catch a bus, the quality of these transit assets matters too, as well as the costs to use them. However, in many instances, direct correlations can be drawn from these secondary aspects back to reliability. Overcrowding can put a significant strain on the mechanical integrity of any vehicle, and as the Guardian revealed, rising fares to cover repair costs can grow exorbitantly. In 2014, a New York Metrocard cost full-time minimum wage workers around one-third of their weekly paychecks. It's not just New York – earlier this year, WGBH in Boston, Massachusetts, reported the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority quotes a more than $7 billion deficit that must be overcome to bring local public transportation to "a true state of good repair."
However, the IoT has the potential to deliver benefits to both parties, those behind the wheel of public transit and those simply riding along. For passengers, IoT expands beyond simply connecting personal smartphones with real-time scheduling data or making it more precise. Riders can purchase and manage tickets via apps, as well as receive automated detour maps should they be stuck at a station waiting for a late bus or train.
For the transit system itself, IoT-enabled vehicles deliver serious cost savings. Maintenance personnel can utilize advanced monitoring technology built into or applied to buses, trains and the rail networks to determine which assets require maintenance and when best to schedule repairs. Although it'd be preferable to perform upkeep during off-peak hours, given the power of modern data acquisition, maintenance professionals could prioritize repairs immediately through a CMMS like IBM Maximo in case of safety concerns.
IoT also delivers transit systems enhanced service capabilities through an omnichannel approach to acquiring data. Remember earlier when we mentioned commuters purchasing tickets through mobile apps? Information pulled from those ticket sales could help galvanize transportation authorities into preempting congestion by dispatching vehicles to where the masses are.
Additionally, traffic on city streets may have been a problem of yesterday when municipal infrastructure and driving laws treated every vehicle equally, minus a few exceptions. That said, the U.S. Department of Transportation has already expounded on the merits of IoT innovations like traffic signal priority, which uses data to safely accelerate stoplights to favor of public buses, already in use.
When it comes to asset management, IoT can – and most likely will – remove impediments certain industries once considered unassailable while reducing operational costs and strengthen asset value retention in the process.