There’s no question that the internet of things (IoT) is escalating and has been a major topic of interest for at least the past six years. It’s safe to say that it’s here to stay and will proliferate.
It’s important to note that IoT is not an island unto itself, a proprietary technology that’s easily categorized. The IoT will embrace all technologies in every sector from commercial to medical and automotive to artificial intelligence. What could be considered a subset of all these technological intersections is the industrial sector, where it all gets put together. In fact, there is the industrial internet of things (IIoT).
There have been some studies, and a lot of rumors, that indicate many manufacturers and industrialists are slow or even resistant to embracing the impending IIoT. Reasons range from expensive re-vamps and retooling, training and retraining personnel, and concerns over security and privacy. All are valid concerns, but do the concerns outweigh the advantages? The best way to find out is to go right to experienced source for answers.
The following Q&A session addresses the most common concerns surrounding IoT technology. The respondents are seasoned pros in the field. They are Ersin Galioglu, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Limelight Networks and Alok Gupta, Vice President of Engineering at Avitas Systems. A bit of background before we begin.
Limelight Networks is a content delivery network (CDN) service provider that enables organizations to deliver faster websites, more responsive applications, the highest quality video, and consistent game and software downloads to any device. Limelight's network architecture supports both small and large files found in most content.
As Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, Ersin Galioglu oversees the planning, logistics, and delivery of Limelight’s services and products worldwide. He has extensive operational, sales, financial and business development background in the communications industry. Prior to joining Limelight in 2015, Ersin held senior IT and business management positions at Bowdoin Consulting, Convergys, and Boston Communications Group. He holds a bachelor's degree in engineering from Istanbul Technical University, an MBA in finance from Bentley College, and a Master of Science in telecommunications from Boston University.
Avitas Systems is the first inspection solution offering enhanced, robotic-based autonomous inspection, advanced predictive analytics, digital inspection data warehousing, and intelligent inspection planning recommendations available in a web-based interface 24/7.
Alok Gupta is the Vice President of Engineering at Avitas Systems, a GE Venture. He is a graduate of the Mechanical Engineering program from IIT, Varanasi, India. Mr. Gupta has over 20 years of experience in building world class software, as well as leading product development and software architecture across various technology segments and industries. His experience includes working with startups and enterprises. As engineering lead for Avitas Systems, he is responsible for all aspects of the software platform, including user experience, robotics engineering, data fusion, autonomy, and interactive application.
Collectively Messrs. Galioglu and Gupta address the concerns and benefits of IIoT technology.
Q. What are the main benefits of IoT technology for industrial businesses, specifically?
Limelight Networks: For industrial businesses, the primary use cases of IoT technology include predictive maintenance, sensor monitoring and real-time analytics. Specifically, these applications of IoT enable companies to reduce costs, increase productivity/yield, improve safety and even reduce environmental emissions by allowing more efficient data analysis. Since internet-connected devices of all types continually acquire datasets, businesses can leverage edge compute platforms to perform immediate analysis, and therefore ensure actions take place in time to impact change.
Avitas Systems: Avitas Systems, a GE Venture, is advancing IoT technology for inspection services across the oil and gas, electric power, transportation, and aviation industries. Specifically, we integrate predictive data analytics, robotics, and artificial intelligence into solutions tailored to these industries’ inspection needs. Avitas Systems utilizes state-of-the-art robotics with a wide variety of advanced sensors, which collect images of assets using techniques such as RGB, Stereo vision, IR, UT, PEC and Borescope. Our bespoke cloud-based platform fuses the data with common industry data sources, regulatory and external data sources, as well as historic and new inputs from subsequent inspections. The platform then uses predictive analytics to automatically detect and classify defects. These inspection findings are available in our interactive web interface for all industry personas.
Q. What is the difference between IoT technology and just networking devices via the Internet for sharing and remote control (which have been in practice since the 1990s)?
Limelight Networks: Cisco forecasts the number of connected devices to be greater than 50 billion by 2020. These advanced devices are different from more traditional networking devices because of the massive volumes of data they create. With IoT technology, there is a drive for real-time/action-based applications resulting in processing vast volumes of data close to the source to avoid “speed-of-light” issues associated with backhauling that data across the public Internet to centralized public data centers.
Q. Are industrial companies currently implementing IIoT? What are the current obstacles with this technology?
Limelight Networks: Companies are absolutely starting to understand how they can invest in IIoT, and the industrial market segments and use cases are broad – spanning manufacturing, transportation, construction, OGP and many more. Our recently announced work with Avitas Systems, a GE Venture, is proof of this – the company is using our global private network, distributed storage and edge compute capabilities to make industrial inspections faster and safer.
However, there are still some existing obstacles. The biggest is undoubtedly data acquisition latency, which is caused by the distance between sensor and compute. This is a major challenge for industrial businesses striving to increase safety or efficiency. Most IoT application platforms are developed using public cloud computing, while still relying on the crowded public internet for transport. The results range from poor user experience, to inability to quickly implement rapid changes, to processes that would have resulted in higher yields in both quantity and/or quality, or an impact to overall safety.
Avitas Systems: Global digital initiatives today require decentralized, distributed computing closer to the source of data – outside traditional data centers or cloud. Limelight’s high-capacity, high-speed private global network, distributed storage, and compute capabilities support IoT workloads that require rapid response times.
Q. What level cost differentials are industrial companies facing to get up to speed with the IoT?
Limelight Networks: Industrial companies should take a holistic approach to solving business challenges with IoT strategies. With any information technology upgrade, costs can be identified and contained when the approach is well thought-out.
Luckily, costs have fallen in three major areas. First, the costs of sensors have fallen dramatically. Secondly, the costs to connect sensors to a centralized compute points have diminished. The ability to use Wi-Fi, CAT-M, and LORA allows for different options on cost structure. Lastly, the costs to compute the increasing datasets are less. Combined, this allows for more sensors for data acquisition, to use Big Data strategies for analysis, and the ability to take actions when it’s clear that a change in increase yields, quality, and safety.
Q. How can industrial businesses implement the strongest IoT strategy? What technologies will ensure success of these devices and sensors?
Limelight Networks: The good news is that there are many approaches that can be tailored to meet specific business needs – but this is also the bad news. The first step to developing the strongest strategy is to engage with an organization that has experience with the technology as well as a particular market. It is also important to not overlook the impacts that latency will have in achieving desired business outcomes. Company leaders and IT teams should look for technologies that provide a global interconnection to reach all necessary endpoints regardless of connection type or location. Edge computing capabilities for near real-time analysis is also critical, and efficiency will depend on a private backbone to support immediate responses actions.
Mat Dirjish is the Executive Editor of Sensors magazine. Before coming on board, he covered the test and measurement and embedded systems market for Electronic Products Magazine, after which he spent thirteen years covering the electronic components market for EE Product News and Electronic Design magazines. He also has an extensive background in high-end audio/video design, modification, servicing, and installation.