The internet of things (IoT) – which refers to the connecting of any device with an on and off switch to the internet and/or to each other – has been a hot topic of late. But IoT doesn’t only have consumer applications; it can be used in industries such as manufacturing, logistics and agriculture to make businesses run smarter and faster.
To find out more how companies can take advantage of industrial IoT solutions, Jaco Maritz spoke to Greg Kinsey, vice president for industrial solutions and innovation at Hitachi Vantara, on the sidelines of the Hitachi NEXT 2017 conference recently held in Las Vegas. Here are slightly-edited excerpts from the conversation.
For those not familiar with the term, how would you define industrial IoT?
Industrial IoT is integrating and aggregating data from things that play a role in industrial processes. Some industries have a lot of IoT data already. An example is the automobile industry, which is one of the most automated and sophisticated industries today. But on the other end of the spectrum, you will find industrial activities with close to zero connected objects or connected things. So in those cases the challenge is to determine where to collect data from, and what can be done with that data to improve operations.
If you look at many factories today, they have many assets, but they are what we call dark assets – they are not connected to the internet. So the first stage is to connect a machine. One needs to establish what kind of sensors would be used to connect it and how data can be gathered from that machine. For instance, the physical characteristics of a machine – such as motion, vibration or temperature – can be measured.
In most African countries the manufacturing industry is focused on relatively low-value-added production. Is industrial IoT only relevant for high-tech manufacturing, or can it also be applied in areas such as agri-processing or clothing production?