It’s only been about four years now since the concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) really began to pick up steam. In most of the initial discussions around the topic, we heard about applications that involved deploying sensors on cows to monitor their temperature so that optimal milking times could be determined, or connecting home thermostats to the Internet to maximize home heating and cooling efficiency. In all of those examples, the baseline requirement involved deploying multiple sensors, establishing the wireless network or Internet pathways on which the collected sensor data would travel, and then implementing a database with analysis software to collect the data and make sense of it all.
Meanwhile, the manufacturing industry—both process and discrete sectors—was also taking a serious look at the IoT concept. For an industry widely known to move slowly when it comes to new technology, getting onboard with the Internet of Things proved not to be such a huge leap for manufacturing. After all, the sensors, networks, databases and data analysis software were already largely deployed in the manufacturing industries. Plus, there’s a huge precedent around machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity.
With the building blocks of the Internet of Things—or, as we’ve chosen to refer to its industrial application, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)—already in place for many manufacturers, there are no new, unproven products to buy. Instead, for manufacturers, the only new thing required is to wrap your head around the concept to determine the level of benefit for your company. For some, that may prove to be a bigger chasm to cross than buying into a new piece of technology.
As well prepared, technologically, as manufacturing may be for the Industrial Internet of Things, the concept is still very new. Outside of companies like Intel (Intel, http://www.intel.com/) and GE (GE, http://www.ge.com/), which are both extensively piloting IIoT projects at their own facilities to prove the concept, the only manufacturer I’m aware of implementing a large-scale IIoT project (who does not also sell IIoT-related technology) is Airbus (http://awgo.to/434).
Lacking a significant amount of real-world case studies around IIoT, the aim of this supplement is to turn a spotlight on the technology leaders in this space. By allowing these technology suppliers to directly explain how they’re approaching the IIoT concept internally and through project and product deployments with their industrial customers, this supplement is designed to help explain and shape the IIoT concept as it develops over the next several years. Of course, the editors of Automation World will continue to weigh in regularly on the topic on automationworld.com and in the pages of the magazine.
Starting with this inaugural issue, and appearing quarterly in 2015, this Industrial Internet of Things supplement will provide an outlet for you to hear directly from the technology suppliers on the front lines of the IIoT rollout.