For manufacturing companies, the Internet of Things (IoT) is the most important trend of our time. With the combination of sensors embedded in physical objects, and the use of the data that is generated by these sensors, manufacturers see IoT as a new strategy to improve efficiency in production.

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The potential of, combined digital and physical systems also called, “cyber-physical systems” to improve efficiency in the production process and the supply chain is vast. Consider processes that govern themselves, where smart products can take corrective action to avoid damages and where individual parts are automatically replenished. Such technologies already exist and could drive what some German industry leaders call the fourth industrial revolution—following the steam engine, the conveyor belt, and the first phase of IT and automation technology.

With the rapid growth of the Internet of Things space design, engineering, and manufacturing will remain at the heart of the industry of the future – but they will be transformed by new technology.

The Internet of Things has the potential to unlock new potential and innovation in manufacturing. But what drives the Internet of Things? What is behind the buzzword IoT that is transforming our business today?

Enablers of the Internet of Things

Mobile computing: Affordable access to information

Mobile computing plays an important role in this development. We are incorporating mobile communication capabilities in computers and other devices. The bandwidth is constantly increasing, allowing us to access or transmit information at increasing rates of speed. Also important: mobile components have become affordable for everybody.

Social media: Knowledge shared in communities

Consumers are getting more and more connected and informed, in many cases by-passing company information channels completely. 74% of all consumer buying decisions are influenced by social media. Open innovation is going mainstream.

Internet: Connected via one protocol

In order to facilitate communication between devices, they all need a common protocol – the internet protocol. IP4 to IP6 standard has increased the number of available IP addresses from: 4.3 *10^9 to: 3.4 *10^38. In the future, every physical thing or asset may be connected to the network and have a virtual representation.

Machine to machine: Self-regulation in production

Nowadays, we have a combination of computer aided machines and fast and affordable communications. Machines communicate amongst themselves (not via a central control hub). The result: Self-regulation and autonomy of processes. The machines can even “reach out” proactively to consumers and suppliers. In the future, the work piece carries the information of “what it wants to be at the end” and the machines simultaneously process and route the work piece based on capabilities and availability.

Big Data and predictive analytics: Understanding and extrapolation at speed

The net result of millions of machines communicating with each other – sensors constantly sending data, people being connected all the time – will inevitably be an explosion in data. Storing, analyzing and making use of this data is key. Big Data technologies provide means for businesses to quickly sift through these extraordinary amounts of data to understand and analyze patterns.

Benefits of the technological revolution

The Internet of Things is the enabling for an industrial revolution, which is happening in an evolutionary way. This provides manufacturers opportunities to improve service levels that will lead to increased customer satisfaction. Individualized, smart products that meet the demand of a new generation of empowered customers are a prerequisite for manufacturers to win in a global and highly competitive environment. But this development will not only help increase efficiency in manufacturing, it will also help to create additional value that goes beyond the product itself. Dynamic service processes based on information that is sent from the product itself will help improve the customer experience. (Think of connected cars that tell the driver where to find a good restaurant nearby.) The Internet of Things also has a positive impact on asset performance of your production facilities. It helps to reduce energy consumption and to increase equipment uptime.

The opportunities are infinite – we are currently just scratching the surface. And the question is: How will your business leverage Internet of Things technology to prosper amidst the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

If you are interested in this topic, join me at SAPPHIRE NOW in Orlando June 3-5. and register for the NETWORKED ECONOMY FORUM.

If you want to read more, have a look at our e-book “Production of the Future” .

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