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Internet of Things – A Real World Business Problem Solver

I recently attended the 7th edition of the India IoT Symposium 2018 event in Mumbai, India, which covered a myriad of Internet of Things (IoT) applications in the Manufacturing, Industrial, Agriculture, Aviation, Real Estate, and Healthcare arenas. The event captured the interests of the top IoT solution providers in the market, namely Thingworx, IOTany, PTC, Ansys, Samsung, Vodafone, and Dell EMC. These providers were also granted the opportunity to present their best-in-class solutions to their prospective customers catering to various industries like cement, paint, chemical, and automobile.

It was evident that these organizations in these areas are leveraging the power of data to drive smarter business decisions, reimagine business models and reduce costs. Here are some of the interesting takeaways from this event:

Ongoing Development of Internet of Things Standards and Products

While some devices can communicate with each other, no universal language exists for the Internet of Things. Device makers instead have had to focus on one of several disparate frameworks, limiting their market share, or to develop across multiple ecosystems, thereby increasing their costs. The burden then falls on the end users to determine whether the products they want are compatible with the ecosystem they bought into or find ways to integrate their device into their network and try to solve interoperability issues on their own. However, these issues can be addressed by providing specification, code and a certification programs to enable manufacturers to bring unique products to the market that can interoperate with the current breed of IoT devices and legacy systems.

Interesting Challenges and Use Cases for IoT

A plastics industry spokesperson, Mr. Jayesh Rambhia, Managing Director at Premsons Plastics P Ltd, discussed the problem of making plastic bags in India, as the government has made it mandatory to control the width of a plastic specified in microns. However, he noted that some manufacturers were still ignoring the mandate and continuing making the bag in their own size. This problem, he suggested, can be overcome with a solution to put a sensor on the machine manufacturing the plastic and to take readings of the size being specified. This can then be connected to the cloud and monitored by the respective authorities. This kind of solution can be implemented at scale on 15,000 plastic manufacturing machines across the country.

There are several common problems in each industry not specific to any one business case. One such problem is ensuring internet connectivity in a remote area, as many manufacturing industries are located in remote places with limited connectivity. The solution suggested to address this problem was Edge computing. According to this solution, most processing can take place at the edge device and only a subset of the data can be sent to the cloud for further analysis.

Manufacturers are also looking at IoT as a strategy to overcome existing problems, make the process of manufacturing much smoother, reduce human error, and get detailed insight into business operations and the manufacturing shop floor.

For example, a cement manufacturer at the event described how it has adopted IoT in its manufacturing process. The profit margins around manufacturing cement are minimal. Any variation in the raw material cost, supply, and machine efficiency directly impacts the cost. Even a 2-3% variation leads to significant financial losses. To control these variations, the company deployed sensors on the machines, where only human interaction could have revealed a problem with the manufacturing machine before. These Radio-frequency identification (RFID) sensors not only helped the company identify variations, but also provided insights into machines operating at low efficiency—because of high temperatures and low speeds – which could then be rectified.

Shashi Kapoor, Dell EMC Spokesperson and Regional Sales Director, spoke about Thyssenkrupp’s use of IoT to reduce the maintenance cost of its elevators by equipping elevators with sensors to help reduce downtime. The company has taken it to the next level by including advertisements using a LCD and camera inside the elevator and facial analysis to play customized advertisements.

In another interesting use case, Michelin has started to provide tires as a service. By leveraging IoT, the company launched an ecosystem that uses sensors inside vehicles to collect data, like fuel consumption, tire pressure, temperature, speed, and location. This data is then processed in a cloud solution and analyzed by Michelin experts, who provide recommendations and training in eco-driving techniques.

Overall, it was an insightful event that clearly portrayed IoT as offering clever ways to address the needs of specific business segments, and its evolution is sure to continue.