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Monday, August 1, 2016

3 Tips to Connecting and Disconnecting with the IoT

As a plant manager, you are quite aware of the double-edged sword of IoT technology, which can often result in a mass of incompatible protocols and therefore ‘things’ if you are not careful. I currently work in marketing, but as an employee of a small manufacturing company, Absolute Process Instruments, Inc. outside of Chicago, I am quite aware of the challenges both our customers and our own plant manager faces and I have found two articles that I hope will help guide some of your research.

The first article is called Early Industrial IoT Adopters Will Clean OutThe Competition and is co-written by Karen Field and Brian Buntz of ioti.com. The piece outlines how consumer technology is being applied to industry, while reminding us our ‘dumb’ machines will not keep up in the future. Citing the possibility of “digital exhaust,” the article reminds us that the sheer amount of data, for example, from a wind turbine with 200 sensors reporting every second needs to be collected, analyzed, and used for it to be helpful – and not a waste. At the end we are strongly advised to consider SaaS (software as a service) as a business model for the future, one where a company not only sells its products but the means by which to understand what their products are saying.
The second article, entitled What Engineers Need to Know aboutCommunication Protocols When Choosing IoT Management Software, is by ShawnWasserman of Engineering.com. The author cites the difficulties all engineers face when “actually implementing IoT,” not the least of which is proprietary software that do not speak – yet – due to a lack of IoT Management software - what Wasserman aptly calls a “network of networks.” He goes on to discuss the IoT management options available today, concluding that there is a real lack of standardization that is ultimately inhibiting growth and giving us a few directions plant managers can take in order to make as informed decisions as one can given the current state of affairs.
Here are three steps you can take towards making IoT-related decisions for your company:
  1. Talk To Others
    And not just anyone. I recommend joining the Industrial Internet Consortium, iiconsortium.org, or another IoT Consortium.
  2. Do Your Homework
    Stay knowledgeable about any new announcements by the major players in the industrial IoT game: PTC’s ThingWorx, Autodesk’s SeeControl, Microsoft’s Azure IoT Hub, and Amazon’s AWS IoT are the major players according to Wasserman.
  3. 5 Minutes a Day
    It’s best to read about one company five minutes a day once a week than to research all these companies at once and forget about them for a month. Technology moves fast – stay with it.
The IoT seems to be coming whether we like it or not. Both articles’ authors emphasize that waiting could hamstring companies long-term, but at the very least it behooves us to do our homework so that, whatever decision we make, it is an informed one.

Cara Sawyer currently works as a Marketing Associate for Absolute Process Instruments | Cecomp Electronics in Libertyville, IL. In a past life she was a full-time professional freelance Classical musiciann and is now enjoying applying the infinitely transferable skills of music to marketing.  This post is an assignment for the Social Media Specialization course through Northwestern University and Coursera.org. She can be reached at @ApiCecomp

API manufactures high-accuracy industrial Signal Conditioners & Isolators, and Cecomp specializes in manufacturing ultra-ruggedized digital pressure gauges for companies like Boeing to the racing industry and everyone in between.