The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is growing as both corporate IIoT teams and end-users are finding new use cases across a variety of industries.
From retail to energy to health care, IIoT solutions — which incorporate devices, sensors, software-network connectivity, and cloud computing — are becoming staples in business optimization efforts.
Read on to learn how different industries are applying the Industrial Internet of Things to improve and automate their processes:
8 IIoT use cases
- Manufacturing: safety sensors and automated assistance
- Retail and supply chain: asset monitoring
- Food and beverage: environmental tracking
- Agriculture: smart irrigation
- Manufacturing: predictive maintenance
- Energy: smart metering and remote monitoring
- Automotive: digital twins
- Health care: secure patient monitoring
IIoT assists in a variety of manufacturing use cases, ranging from robotic automation to process monitoring. But perhaps one of the most valuable IIoT use cases for manufacturers is improved worker safety.
Most often, IIoT improves safety by offering sensors that can detect unsafe working conditions and alert workers or supervisors to the conditions. However, some manufacturing companies are also using robotic solutions, powered by IIoT, to provide automated assistance on more dangerous worker tasks.
For instance, for a health care manufacturing company in Europe, ABB’s robotic solutions have helped them improve worker safety on the assembly line:
“We needed to add a gluing step to the assembly process that was extremely difficult to carry out manually”, says Teemu Äärynen, advanced manufacturing engineering program leader at GE Healthcare Finland.
“A cobot solution was the ideal way to automate this task, and we were able to program the cobot for prototype assembly very quickly.”
As most lines of retail have expanded their e-commerce fronts alongside their storefronts, asset and inventory monitoring at all stages of a product’s life cycle is crucial. These companies use IIoT sensor technology to track assets, such as equipment and supplies, and inventory counts, alerting teams when stock is low. These sensors can also be used to monitor product quality and location as it moves from a storage facility to a customer’s doorstep. Outside of retail, IIoT is used in a similar manner as part of asset and inventory monitoring in several other industries, including supply chain and manufacturing.
More on e-commerce trends: 7 Smart Retail Solutions that are Changing Ecommerce
The food and beverage industries count waste management as a major cost factor. With the amount of revenue that can be lost over damaged products, many companies in these sectors are investing in IIoT sensors and software that focus on environmental tracking for their products, whether in their facilities, in transit, or at local vendor sites. Some common environmental factors that IIoT tracks include temperature, movement, and spillage.
Until IIoT began innovating in agriculture, farmers still faced one major inefficiency: how to maintain and visualize crop quality across thousands of acres at once.
Smart irrigation is a favorite IIoT use case for agricultural field workers that provides real-time visibility: IIoT sensors are used to recognize when an environmental factor, such as dry earth or flooding, calls for adjusted watering schedules.
For instance, at Bouchaine Vineyards in California, Chris Kajani, winemaker and general manager, uses Cisco sensors to manage watering and conserve resources:
“The Cisco sensors are helping us preserve one of our most precious resources — water,” Kajani says. “We’re using the data to water only when and where it’s absolutely necessary. … The sensor data gives us peace of mind that we’ll see changes in the vineyard when there’s still time to take action.”
Larger factories frequently use predictive maintenance to maintain many pieces of equipment simultaneously. Instead of requiring engineers to perform only reactionary maintenance and repairs, predictive maintenance sensors and software help users recognize when a piece of equipment is out of date, slowing down, or malfunctioning.
In an effort that combines many of the benefits of safety sensors, environmental monitoring, and asset monitoring, smart metering and remote monitoring make it possible for companies to manage their equipment and output from a distance.
This approach is particularly useful in dangerous industries, like mining, as well as industries where equipment is widely distributed or heavily dependent on environmental factors. The energy industry depends on smart metering and remote monitoring to make sure it is not wasting supplies or overburdening its energy-producing machines.
Laurent Rakoto, a data analyst at P4A, a wind energy company, explains how IBM IIoT solutions helped his team better manage their wind turbines and other wind farm assets:
“Even small changes to maintenance programs or machine settings can have a big impact on costs and revenues,” Rakoto says. “Our solution provides real-time alerts so that asset owners can address wind turbine underperformance and unavailability very efficiently. This helps them to get the most out of their equipment and maintenance teams.
“It also makes it less of a risk for insurance companies to cover wind farm assets that are more than 12 to 15 years old but still a few years from end of design lifetime. As a result, asset owners can choose to delay the replacement of assets or to decrease costs without lowering production levels.”
Digital twins are realistic digital models that virtually showcase all features of a product or smart facility through the use of IIoT sensors and hyper-connectivity. These twins update in real-time to illustrate environmental changes that affect the real thing. Digital twins, for instance, are used particularly often in auto manufacturing, as this level of detailed, updated data makes it possible for engineers to test vehicles and different variables without having to be on-site with those vehicles.
Learn more about digital twins at Enterprise Networking Planet: Using Digital Twins to Push IoT
Remote care of telehealth suits certain patients better, especially during a pandemic. Even if they see providers on-site, some patients may require additional medical access or monitoring while at home. To make both monitoring and real-time health metrics more accessible, many health care organizations have started investing in IIoT devices and software to improve remote patient monitoring. As an added bonus, IIoT solutions are making it possible for health care providers to conduct more secure care scenarios virtually for patients who need them.
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