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A common statement among historians about the 1849 gold rush was that the people who were most likely to make money from their endeavors were the ones who made the tools for the miners and not the actual miners themselves. As so many industries including transportation, manufacturing, technology, energy and healthcare pursue the benefits associated with the industrial internet of things (IIoT), this colloquial wisdom stands true. The IIoT can equip companies with the information and data to run their businesses more effectively. It’s no wonder why over half the companies who successfully use this technology have reported increases in revenue.
To understand why this is true, you must look to some of the challenges many industries are working to overcome and how the IIoT helps them cross this digital and business chasm. Imagine if you’re part of the power grid in the center of Phoenix, Arizona, with temperatures averaging above a hundred degrees and reported lows of 30 degrees (at its coldest). For your region, controlling temperature to make it livable for everyday life is a critical foundation of the city.
In fact, the ability to route power to the specific area experiencing a meteorological event and to do so efficiently is the source of millions of dollars in energy and utility spending across the country. By cooling homes in a certain location before a heatwave hits, millions of dollars can be saved.
This story continues across many other industries. As transportation leaders like the airlines innovate the maintenance of their planes to improve safety and takeoff times, or the healthcare industry decreases misinformation by improving the flow of data, having data close to the problem or providing people with enough data to make decisions faster will be key.
By 2025, 75 percent of data is expected to move out of the company environment and into our environment — an area known as the edge. At the edge, businesses are moving the IIoT closer to where key decisions and outcomes take place in the field, much like how the IoT allows everyday consumers to have better experiences in their homes, work commutes and leisure activities. This shift in data is a big jump from the 10 percent of industrial data at the edge today.
So, why is it that the high-tech, transportation, energy, manufacturing and healthcare industries are receiving such tremendous value with the introduction of the IIoT? In order to understand the benefits it can bring to these sectors, you must dive into what’s happening at the companies in these industries today and the opportunities they might see tomorrow.
For many of these industries, their systems, production mechanisms and technology were created 30 years ago. From aging facilities and oil rigs pumping energy out of the ground to modern-day automobile engines, not much has changed in the mechanics that contribute to these highly reliable systems. With the IIoT, companies are able to attach sensors or even make decisions at the edge, which reduces the time it takes to receive information back at the office or shop. These round trips of data and information are like traveling around the country, expecting to reach your destination in the nearby city faster.
The change in these traditional systems can bring about capabilities never before imagined. In manufacturing and transportation, processes like predictive maintenance, which involves replacing industrial parts before they fail, can be both a source of high costs and dangerous systems if they fail. By allowing companies to more effectively operate their high-dollar operations, these sectors are realizing new value.
Even in the energy and healthcare industries, where having continuous operations and avoiding system downtime may mean the difference between life and death, the IIoT is allowing companies to achieve new forms of innovation and transformation. With more than 50 percent of companies reporting increases in revenue when they successfully implement the IIoT, it’s no wonder why the IIoT is expected to see close to 30 percent compounded growth.
Whether many more industries can reach the digital nirvana that takes place when sensors and information drive the decisions is yet to be fully realized. My hope is that much like the 49ers, these industries get the tools they deserve to bring us into a new age we’ve never seen before.
Joseph Zulick is a writer and manager at MRO Electric and Supply.