Jan 11


Despite a rather gloomy global economic outlook as we move into 2016, the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to be one of the most talked about technology domains this year (besides network virtualization that is!).

Perhaps unsurprisingly that’s because it is such a broad subject and touches nearly every walk of life where internet connected devices and automation can add significant value over and above point solutions, and its potential is just mind blowing!

The main drivers are expected to be in Manufacturing and Transportation, according to a new report released recently by market research company IDC (International Data Corporation), with the Internet of Things spending forecast predicted to reach $1.3 Trillion by 2019.

IoT involves connecting and managing devices over the internet and makes use of M2M (Machine to Machine) communications technology. It provides dedicated services such as monitoring smart meters, managing connected buildings and using vehicle/highway telematics to improve driving experience and road safety, just to name a few. It is these global applications which promise an endless supply of innovative solutions leveraging process automation and big data analytics to create intelligent systems for more efficient manufacturing and smarter transportation.


So what does IoT really offer manufacturing over and above other existing forms of process automation?

Although many modern factories are highly automated with robotic assembly lines and computer aided design and manufacturing, many of these systems are still made up of ‘islands of automation’. Only some industries like car manufacturing are much further down the line of fully integrated supply chain and production facilities, like for example, BMW’s Mini plant in Oxford.

Many industries are challenged with agile manufacturing where product lines can be quickly re-configured to produce different products on-demand as customer requirements change. This is partly due to the costs in re-structuring traditional plant and the complexities of integrating legacy manufacturing systems.

Because IoT uses the internet for communications, and can leverage low cost device technology, huge savings can be made in both time and cost in creating more agile manufacturing processes. Data analytics, ‘big data’ and cloud computing can all be employed to create new and sophisticated management applications.

Advantages of IoT in manufacturing include:

  • More efficient process flows which can be enabled due to increased connectivity between machines, systems, sites and people.
  • Existing plant and machinery can be retained and upgraded without the expense of a large capital outlay (by adding a smart ‘overlay’ management system to production facilities and using low cost add-on devices)
  • Production and supply bottlenecks can be predicted using ‘big data’ and data analytics, thus avoidance methods can be deployed (such as ramping-up another production line just in time or re-routing supplies via a different route).


A good example of IoT in public transport is in the real-time passenger information systems (PIS) used for updating passengers with the latest bus times. Remote devices mounted in each vehicle continually monitor the exact whereabouts of the bus over time using GPS to locate its position. This information is sent to the management system which collects and processes the data and estimates the due arrival times of each bus for each service, at each stop. A real-time digital display of the expected arrival times of the buses is then updated at each bus stop.

These displays are quite commonplace today in many cities but some challenges needed to be overcome, especially for rural bus stops where there is no mains power or cabled communications network. However, thanks to solar powered digital displays which connect to the management system over the internet using the mobile phone network, it is now possible. These displays only need to be updated every few minutes and so the relative bandwidth requirements are quite low.

For both manufacturing and transportation systems, two key things are vital. 1). Robust and secure communications (since these systems use the public internet) and 2). Efficient data usage to keep costs down and avoid network congestion. It is cloud based IoT applications using M2M protocols for efficient and secure data communication that make these types of systems increasingly viable and cost effective going forwards.

For more information on the IDC report go to Worldwide Semiannual Internet of Things Spending Guide

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