4 Ways To Overcome The Complexity Of IoT Implementation
In the consumer space, it is well publicized how nearly every device is becoming smarter and more connected. What receives less attention in mainstream media is the considerable impact the Internet of Things (IoT) is having in the industrial sector. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is already helping enterprises operate more safely and productively while improving efficiency and reducing costs.
While the IoT can offer significant benefits, they can be challenging to implement. Forbes Insights recently surveyed more than 500 executives and, when asked about their greatest challenge in building out their IoT capabilities, 29% said it was the quality of IoT technology. This isn’t surprising. In some cases, IoT platforms must support thousands of vendors, dozens of standards, and be able to scale to millions of devices, together sending and receiving billions of messages.
Challenges With Managing IoT Technologies Today
IoT-based solutions are typically made up of a group of technologies, some already existing and some entirely new. Each has its own path of development, and when they’re combined, they can create an environment that is complex and rapidly changing. Here are four challenges with managing IoT technologies today.
- Integrating New Technologies Into Existing Environments
In the era of the smartphone, it may seem as though every machine is connected and sharing information, but that’s not the case. In the consumer world, a mix of technologies are competing for dominance, and standardization remains elusive. As a result, relatively few homes, appliances and other consumer goods are actually IoT-enabled and connected.
In the industrial world, it gets even more complicated because of the nature of the investments. Capital equipment that has been in the field for 20 years or more is not always a viable target for replacement, as a stove or refrigerator may be in the consumer world. Retrofitting is often the only realistic solution to bring IoT capabilities to existing equipment. However, retrofitting is neither simple nor assured. While connecting legacy equipment and systems offers big benefits and is an important step in the IoT initiatives at many industrial companies, the hurdles to implementation can be formidable.
That said, companies are making important strides in this area. They’re adding stand-alone sensors and cameras to existing environments and devices to monitor and collect data about machine performance and health. These sensors attach directly to existing devices and connect to gateways to securely collect and transmit data, which can then be analyzed and used to help prevent failures and downtime.
As Rich Rogers, SVP, product and engineering, industrial IoT portfolio at Hitachi Vantara, explains: “There’s a whole bunch of legacy stuff out there that needs to be integrated, and we’re looking at the best ways to do that. We’re thinking of a Fitbit-like approach for industrial machines. If legacy machines don’t have sensors built into them today, how can we attach them in a cost-effective manner? Doing so would enable us to begin measuring things like vibration, temperature, the climate where the machine is deployed, dust in the air and other factors. Cameras also play a big role, enabling companies, through a common platform, to pop open a video and get a real-time sense for where a machine is and how it’s being used.”
- Managing Complexity: Protocol Proliferation
Another big challenge in the deployment of the IIoT is the vast number of protocols. Some of the more common standards include:
- BLE (Bluetooth low energy)
In some ways, BLE, ZigBee, Z-Wave and Thread are similar. They’re all wireless technologies that use mesh networks to wirelessly connect and network IoT devices without involving a cellular or Wi-Fi signal. But they differ in the radio frequency they use, their operating range and the number of devices they can support at a given time. We-Mo, however, does require Wi-Fi, which eliminates the need for a hub or controller, and allows devices to connect directly via the internet. Two of the big disadvantages of this system are that it requires significantly more power and processing capability than other, lower-energy options.
Again, this is just a short list; the number of protocols is extensive. Each has its advantages and drawbacks, but since there is no single common standard, companies must determine the right protocol for each use case and ensure the technologies they choose are compatible with their overall platform. As standards continue to evolve, it may be advantageous to replace or upgrade along the way.
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Article Credit: Forbes
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