Talk about the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)—and its ability to bring unparalleled efficiencies to all industries—is intensifying. But what exactly does it look like in practice? As a starting point, we can look to the local government, utilities and waste sectors for lessons on how they’ve gained visibility and improved services using IIoT technologies.
Before I detail some examples, a brief reminder of what exactly an IIoT solution looks like. They typically include:
- Things—Internet-enabled devices or sensors.
- Connectivity—Connection of the things between each other, a process, software system or network.
- Communication—How they connect with 3G, 4G (or soon to be 5G), Sigfox or LoRaWAN.
- Data—Data and how it is collected, stored and processed is central to the value of IIoT.
- Cloud platform—Centralized, secure third-party cloud services can host the data.
- Analytics dashboard/software—For analyzing data, monitoring and/or controlling assets.
- Intelligence and action—The collected data must be analyzed using either humans or artificial intelligence (AI). The action taken as a result of this analysis can also be decided and executed by humans or machines.
With that out of the way, following are three examples of IIoT.
Award-winning retarding basin monitoring
Client: Melbourne Water
Challenge: Water utility Melbourne Water wanted to monitor a number of sites that are typically below ground to assist in providing a higher level of service to its customers. These sites had previously been unmonitored because of the challenges in access, location and power. The project needed to select, test and implement low-cost monitoring hardware that would not require mains power, would connect to the clients' existing IT infrastructure and if possible, roll out within a reasonable timeframe and at a lower cost.
Solution: Sage helped delivered remote monitoring for 70+ below-ground and low-lying assets through its cloud-based supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) interface Stratus and specially configured monitoring hardware. The cloud solution allowed fast rollout without the capital infrastructure outlay. One of the sites had hardware supplied, configured and installed within 24 hours, illustrating how quickly this cloud-based infrastructure can be used.
Outcome: The client achieved increased visibility of its sites for improved customer experience, environmental management and reduced capital expenditure. A number of other monitoring sites are underway.
Technologies/communication: Metasphere and 37South RTU-Dataloggers, 3G networks, Sigfox, cloud-based SCADA, ClearSCADA, Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Automatic recycling container sorting system
Client: Container Deposit Systems (CDS)
Challenge: Recycling depots in Australia have experienced problems, including poor container count accuracy caused by manual counting and sorting methods. Technology alternatives to the manual counting method have been limited; the European-made reverse vending machines on the market accept and scan only containers with intact barcodes—and only one at a time. Anything slightly damaged or with no label cannot be refunded and accurate reporting remains a challenge. CDS sought a smarter system.
Solution: CDS developed four smart container returns and refund systems. The solutions automatically sort, identify and count container types (even if they're crushed) using a smart vision system powered by machine learning. Container data is sent to the cloud for a faster processing and customer refund process, as well as historical reporting and greater probity of information across multiple sites, making it a true IoT solution.
Outcome: Combinations of the vision technology, sorting system and/or IoT data network are able to bring facilities faster and more accurate quality processes and data probity, at low implementation and operating costs.
Technologies: Single-board computers, AWS and encryption, Beckhoff control and Nord drives.
Pedestrian detection for real-time monitoring and service control
Industry: Local government
Client: Government council
Challenge: The council is seeking to gain more understanding of how people use council amenities and public spaces. Baseline pedestrian movement data will help them effectively allocate funding, plan council activities such as roadworks and improve the area’s economic and social character.
Solution: Sage is proposing a monitoring solution and reporting dashboard that allows the council to scrutinize the data as they wish while maintaining full ownership of the data and its security.
Outcome: The council will be able to allocate optimal resources and provide better services to their constituents. The initiative will eventually extend to predicting pedestrian flow during events and ensuring the appropriate services are in place.
Technologies: AddInsight Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capture stations, cellular connections (3G/4G), standalone solar powered units, Microsoft Azure cloud-based platform.
These solutions all have some commonality: They offer the ability to monitor what was previously “unmonitorable,” are relatively low-cost, harness a cloud-based platform, and present data in an accessible dashboard. It is this data—and the relative ease with which it is attainable—that presents the true value of IIoT.
Alan Ford is a technical lead at Sage Group, a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about Sage, visit its profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.