IIoT – Innovation in the UK Yet To Hit Our Shores

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT), Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution centres on how manufacturing businesses use technology to evolve and improve their operations. It is the application of the interconnectivity of technology, how machines interact via wireless technology, and the understanding of this interaction through data. IIoT is the Internet of Things (IoT) applied to industry.  As of today, this technology applies to industries that account for 62% of the G20’s GDP, and this figure is set to increase as more companies in developed economies adopt IIoT principles and technology, including the use of big data, artificial intelligence and other digital innovations.

Companies that have implemented IIoT are reaping the rewards, with productivity increases on average of 30%. These increases are largely due to investment in automation and greater flexibility in production techniques, driven largely by the IIoT. In addition, these companies, through the predictive maintenance of assets, can save up to 12% on scheduled repairs, reducing maintenance costs by up to 30%, and eliminating breakdowns by up to 70%. It was predicted pre Covid that companies would invest 500 billion dollars globally on the IIoT by the end of 2020, creating 1.28 trillion dollars in value. These figures demonstrate both the scale and benefits of investment in the IIoT.

Turning data into actionable information is the essence of IIoT. The three main infrastructure components of the IIoT are the sensors, the network and the analytics. The IIoT is at scale because each of these elements are sufficiently mature and cost effective, implementation across manufacturing is now financially viable.

The sensors can be anything from cameras to thermometers or motion sensors, depending on the scope of implementation and existing infrastructure. The networks can range from Bluetooth and wi-fi, 4G and 5G networks, and satellites. Sensors will create vast amounts of real-time data, which will need to be analysed much faster in order to make the swift decisions that boosts business efficiency.

Most IIoT applications will involve cloud computing. That might be just the data storage or the big data, or it could be more sophisticated. Cloud computing vendors are offering services such as edge computing, where the data analysis is carried out on or near the IIoT device rather than at a distant cloud data center. By reducing the distance the data has to travel, companies can get answers quicker.

Our office in the UK has noted some trends regarding the roll out of the IIoT in their market. They are working with infrastructure clients who are implementing IIoT technology to work with legacy infrastructure. Implementing IIoT does not necessarily involve scrapping the old, it is improving productivity by augmenting it with IIoT technology.

This applies to MRO (maintenance, repair and operations) too, where IIoT should make it possible to increase productivity while reducing machine downtime and the time needed for repairs. However, choosing which technology to invest in is crucial.

The rollout of 5G in the UK will drive industrial automation using IIoT. Its speed makes it ideal for use in automated trucks and drones. Smart involving Worcester Bosch will see them using 5G, IIoT sensors and data analytics to help with preventative maintenance by predicting equipment failure.

Long-range low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) technologies are driving innovation for IIoT connectivity. LPWANs for IIoT sensors allow low powered devices to stream packets of data wirelessly but with a wider area.

The UK government is working with manufacturers to create a ‘Connected Factory Demonstrator‘ and is looking for IIoT and LPWAN enabled startups who can deploy their asset tracking solutions in a live manufacturing environment. The project aims to help solve some of the challenges related to process measurement, optimisation and control as well as indoor tracking for the location of assets, equipment and components.

By 2023 new low-power internet of things technologies such as LPWAN will help drive the next wave of internet of things adoption, with its promise of increased network coverage and greater cost efficiency. The IIoT can help businesses take up other technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. Tiny low-powered devices that use the latest narrowband-internet of things (NB-IoT) technology will become the norm. These devices will enable the remote monitoring of infrastructure such as roads and bridges.

The internet of things, combined with AI and machine learning, will make the digital supply chain much more transparent. For example, internet of things sensors will be able to locate any item at any time; AI machine learning will predict if an external factor such as weather events will delay deliveries.

RS Components in Australia & New Zealand are developing ways of working where we will be able to offer IIoT solutions as a service. Our offer includes a comprehensive range of IIoT enabled devices from leading brands and we are looking to develop solutions to harness the data into decision making for industrial customers. An important part of the process is to forge collaborative partnerships with large industrial companies who require a partner for their IIoT solution. Large industrial businesses across ANZ will typically have large volumes of data available to them. Like the UK, they are evolving their technologies to harness the value of this data to improve business efficiencies and the bottom line.

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