The Internet of Things or IOT is just getting started, but we are beginning to see a number of changes across the board. Let’s look at a few of the ways the IoT is changing the industry.
The IT Expectations of Engineers
Engineering has traditionally focused on hardware and physical objects. Civil engineers design roads, buildings, and drainage systems. Electrical engineers designed circuits in computers or electrical grids. Mechanical engineers focused on HVAC systems or mechanical systems like gears and motors. Industrial engineers used to design production lines or improve the manufacturability of a product. The IoT is integrating “smart” devices into nearly everything. This is forcing many engineers to learn how to program devices or mine data coming from sensors to determine what is going om A new role appearing in manufacturing facilities are engineers who monitor and analyze the stream of production data to try to determine what events or trends indicate that a piece of equipment is going to fail or the production line will
start putting out defective product.
The Reduced Need for People on the Shop Floor
The smarter factory needs fewer workers. This continues the automation trend of the past century that led to armies of thousands of workers being replaced by hundreds of robots. The average factory has a few assemblers handling the complex tasks that can’t be automated for a lower cost than the wages paid to skilled labor. Tasks like assembling boxes, filling crates and packaging product are predominantly manual, but a number of machines are coming out to handle these tasks, too. Humans are becoming machine tenders, handling jammed parts or loading new material so the company doesn’t have to put in an expensive conveyor belt system. These few assembly line support staffs are assisted by a number of mechanics. These mechanics may fix broken belts and broken sensors, but they use far more advanced tools to determine the issue. And they may have been summoned by a smart chip placement machine or optical sensing Al that reported the problem to them
The Distribution of Data
We haven’t yet determined who exactly owns the data generated by devices or who can access it. This means that motor control centers may be sharing their data with both the shop floor manager who dispatches mechanics and the manufacturer. This data could end up being used by manufacturers to deny warranty claims by customers using them because the device says it wasn’t properly maintained. Conversely, we could see businesses sharing masses of production data with consultants to come up with optimized production settings. This may be done to improve product quality or lower costs.
The internet of things is innovating industry was promoted with the promise of saving money. The biggest benefit to date has been closer monitoring of power usage and carefully controlling what runs when to minimize energy usage and costs. Energy usage data can be analyzed by utility companies, allowing them to recommend specific items be shut down in industrial facilities so the local power grid going through brownouts don’t experience a blackout. To avoid having the entire internet shut down because of the volume of data generated, smarter data processing nodes are going in near the source of the sensors. This creates a distributed data processing network that’s ever smarter, but it also creates new IT security holes. Imagine someone using something like the Stuxnet virus to destroy your manufacturing equipment, whether it is a rival firm or a hacker who hates your industry.
Bridging the Divide between Public and Private
We’ve already mentioned the power company analyzing data from smart devices and asking people to turn things off. We may one day see utility companies turn off your pool pump or raise the thermostat so that they don’t have to turn on a reserve power plant. People are able to monitor their home security system or power usage via a device, though that data is often available to third party services, too. Now IT security has to include the apps controlling the locks on your doors and the software in the smart fridge that can call for a mechanic who could be let into your home.