The Internet of Things (IoT) – the concept or trend of network-enabling devices – is not new. If you’ve been in the market for a new refrigerator or television in the past five or so years, you’ve most likely been exposed to it – and quite possibly had a laugh about it. After all, why does a refrigerator need to be online? All it really needs to do is keep my milk and eggs fresh.
Although it may not be new – and not always as useful as enterprising product designers anticipate – the IoT is here to stay. In fact, it’s expanding into new areas. Medical devices are becoming network-enabled to allow healthcare professionals to monitor the health of patients and ensure they’re following doctor’s orders. And industrial equipment is also becoming network and cloud-enabled – pushing data about how it’s operating and functioning to those that own it, and even those that manufactured it. In these instances, the IoT is called the Industrial Internet of Things – or IIoT.
You may be wondering the same thing you were wondering when you saw the first network-connected refrigerator – WHY?
Well, to answer that question, we recently sat down with Lee House.
Lee is the Co-Founder and CEO of IoT83 – the company behind the industry-leading Method83 IIoT platform. He is also one of the newest members of the Modern Equipment Manufacturer editorial board, who will be contributing his thoughts to the site’s content and editorial direction in the future.
During our discussion with Lee, we asked about what the IIoT is, what types of devices are becoming network-enabled, the role that the cloud is playing in this movement and why owners and manufacturers should care about their industrial and commercial equipment is network-enabled. Here is what Lee had to say:
Modern Equipment Manufacturer (MEM): Can you tell our readers a bit about IoT83? What does the company do, and how did it get its start?
Lee House: IoT83 is an industrial IoT platform and software services provider. Our Internet of Things business combines a turn-key / ready-for-scale platform, with intuitive tools to connect devices and build new applications – all to drive a fast ROI on IoT programs. From the initial work of connecting and monitoring devices, to managing, automating and optimizing IoT systems, to building smart products, our platform makes it easier for businesses to apply their vertical market know-how and experience to the new world of the Internet of Things.
IoT83 was built for what we saw as an underserved aspect of the IoT market. There are lots of IoT solutions providers, but we wanted to create a new kind of total solution that would not only provide the platform but also the tools and expertise to build IIoT applications. This combination makes it much easier for businesses to see fast results in their IoT programs.
So, we focused on not only providing a ready-for-scale, secure and reliable platform and a great set of Application Creation tools, but also focus on providing businesses with results-oriented consulting to help them map their business needs to a fast-paced path building impactful IIoT solutions.
MEM: What is the IIoT and how does IoT83’s solutions enable it?
Lee House: Industrial IoT is really all about connecting data from a business’ assets, analyzing this data, and then optimizing asset performance. This can be in the form of fault detection, prevention and avoidance, system level automation for operations, service, preventative maintenance, or even adding new levels of system intelligence to tune asset performance according to current conditions.
The first step to this is to work with customers to identify the pain points in their operations, service, or asset management that – if solved – will have a material impact on business performance. From this, we identify low-risk / high-return solutions – from a library of IoT use-cases, often tuned for the situation – and then propose a fast-paced and practical solution using IoT, analytics, and automation that address the issue.
With of our library of use-cases and our Application Creation tools, we can quickly on-board new devices using our Connection Manager, monitor device behavior using our Policy and Trigger Manager, and create custom business logic using our Logic Studio. Our Dashboard Studio makes it easy to create custom user interfaces, and our Analytics Studio makes it easy to analyze the data being pulled in from devices to look for performance anomalies or optimization opportunities.
In short, we have a reliable, scalable and secure platform, the tools to create new IIoT solutions quickly, and we help business leaders leverage all of this to have a material impact on business performance quickly.
MEM: What role does the cloud play in enabling the IIoT?
Lee House: While IoT83’s IIoT solutions can be deployed in on-premise implementations, which is really “IIoT in-a-box,” cloud computing provides a low-cost, central, and highly scalable environment to build IIoT systems.
The IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) provided by Amazon, Microsoft Azure, Google and others provide great resources to build just about anything. From low-cost prototype / experimental systems, to connecting to millions of devices and processing reams of data, you only pay for what you consume. Customers can start small with just a few IIoT solutions, figure out what makes sense for their business, and then add new devices, new analytics, new automation, and new services seamlessly.
Also, with a cloud environment, customers can simultaneously run at-scale operational IIoT systems, while they simultaneously experiment with small-scale new ideas and product offerings. This way, cloud solutions enable continuous development, validation and deployment to allow constantly improvement, and new applications, services or system intelligence.
MEM: How can the IIoT benefit equipment owners? What benefits will it enable for them? What about the equipment manufacturers? What benefits can they realize from the IIoT?
Lee House: Both equipment owners and equipment manufacturers can gain a lot with smart IIoT implementation. First, for equipment manufacturers – by gathering telemetry, configuration and performance information on their products, they can offer preventative maintenance, faster and more responsive service for any system outage, and can even make their equipment responsive to environmental conditions or detected anomalies. Plus, by gathering on-going performance data, they can constantly improve their products.
The customers of equipment manufacturers that do this correctly love the increased reliability, performance, and reduce maintenance costs.
For equipment owners, IIoT solutions let them better understand how their assets are being utilized, the efficiency of the assets, and any anomalies that are detected. With the insight that this data provides there are lots of benefits: device as well as system-level performance can be improved, fault detection / prevention / and avoidance is possible, multiple operational activities can be automated, downtime can be reduced, and the preventative maintenance that IIoT enables extends the life of high capital assets.
The new predictability that IIoT provides to operators cannot be overemphasized.
MEM: How does the IIoT and IoT83’s solutions help to enable automation? What can automation do for equipment owners? How does it impact their bottom line?
Lee House: Not to get to technical, the short of it is by constantly monitoring telemetry data from devices, and then setting triggers on device events, or combinations of device events (anomaly or out-of-bounds conditions), operators can launch customized actions on these events, in effect implementing automation.
The form of this automation can range from auto-calibration of a device, scaling back a process, issuing a service ticket, triggering a back-up process, ordering a new widget, or just about anything. The applications for this kind of automation are impactful in manufacturing, chemical processing, power utilities, smart cities, smart buildings, healthcare delivery and across the board.
From a financial impact perspective, this kind of automation has a direct impact on the bottom line through workflow efficiency, improved service, reduced downtime, higher yields, fleet management, etc. IIoT can also have a top-line impact. First, with more reliable processes, operations and services, a business’ competitive position improves, which drives new sales. But, with IIoT integration, new services and product offerings are also possible which can expand a business’ portfolio as well.
All of IoT83’s solutions are designed to help customers make all of this not only possible, but easier to achieve. We work closely with our customers to stay focused on what will make a material impact and show near-term results.
MEM: What does the future of equipment ownership, equipment maintenance and equipment operation look like? How will these things evolve as new technologies develop and are implemented?
Lee House: From this perspective, IIoT is here to stay. Equipment manufacturers are either already leading in IIoT, and are enjoying the benefits, or seeing their competition deploying IIoT solutions and feeling the competitive pressure.
The same thing is true of operators. The efficiency gains from automation, feet management, service enablement, and overall business efficiency are a financial benefit when implemented or a financial liability when ignored. At least in my view, we are past the tipping point.
But – that said – for many equipment manufacturers and business operators, the concrete benefits of the IIoT can be unclear and IIoT solutions can still seem overly complicated and – often – too expensive. Still, over time – and this is changing week by week – IIoT solutions are getting easier to build, and less costly to implement. I am convinced that this will continue to improve.