From construction to mining to manufacturing, the Internet of Things offers businesses new ways to improve their processes to become safer and more efficient.

Over the last ten years, data has become increasingly important and useful to businesses as the technology to gather, store, and analyze it has improved. 

One of the most prevalent advancements from the industrial world throughout the last decade has been the introduction of the Internet of Things (IoT), which has been the centerpiece for the fourth industrial revolution, otherwise known as Industry 4.0.

The backbone of industrial IoT (IIoT) is constructed upon low-powered sensors and internet-connected devices, which gather and transmit data to users quickly, informing day-to-day and long-term decisions. By executing these sensors, industrial leaders can present online engineering and operational technologies, vastly improving productivity.

Industrial IoT covers a wide area of technological advancements in addition to sensors, such as artificial intelligence, machine-to-machine communications, and cloud technologies.

Experts agree that as these technologies improve, the demand for IIoT will rise. Forecasts indicate the global IIoT market will reach $751.3 billion by 2023, with the fastest growth in IIoT software. To understand why there are such high expectations for IIoT, let us take a look at how some of the top industries will benefit.

Industrial IoT Offers Oil and Gas Improved Regulation and Automation

Modern IIoT solutions have made it easier for leaders in the oil and gas industry to track their hardware for signs of failure as well as reduce production costs.

Energy is regarded as a volatile industrial industry. As market prices for oil and gas fluctuate so frequently, there is pressure on manufacturers to continuously enhance collection and refining approaches to decrease their prices while maintaining their own productivity. Additionally, the collection and refining of oil and gas is a complex procedure with serious consequences if there is a failure.

Industry leaders such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell have all partnered with technology companies to increase their services, from calling the time for equipment servicing to increasing drilling generation.

There are a number of areas where IoT benefits the oil and gas market.

Here are a few examples:

Drilling Management: For companies that are drilling offshore or deep underground, so it can be difficult to track the machinery that, if not handled with precision, can have dire consequences. Using IoT devices, coupled with an IIoT platform, users get constant measurements to narrow any margins for error, as well as get alerts ahead of any impending barking errors.

Pipeline Tracking: Pipeline leaks are an important issue from the petroleum and gas business, both from a business and humanitarian perspective. Over the past 10 years, pipeline leaks have caused nearly 200 deaths, 900 injuries and $5.75 billion, according to the US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

By implementing IIoT sensors along pipelines, workers can continue to keep a close watch on potential points of failure to limit physical dangers, and businesses can invest fewer resources on constant human inspections by automating that job instead.

Increase Long-term Revenue: Oil and gas is extremely competitive, which means companies will need to find areas to cut costs to remain in business. While short-term solutions may help a company stay in the green, they may be detrimental over the long term. 

By investing in IoT, companies can gather data within the short and long term, using big data analytics to change additional big-picture inefficiencies. For example, using IoT sensors, organizations can monitor their levels of inventory in different geographic areas to improve supply chain management. 

Internet-connected sensors can also help identify optimal drilling areas, which for companies such as ExxonMobil, is known to increase production by nearly 50,000 barrels-per-day from 2025.

Mining Companies Use Sensors to Increase Safety and Efficiency

Industrial IoT in the mining business is still in its relative infancy, however, business leaders are already using IIoT to create a safer, more effective operational ecosystem.

IIoT enabled machinery can help optimize material and equipment flow for increased efficiency and return. Equipment failures can be anticipated and real-time monitoring allows for sophisticated decision making and predictive maintenance strategies,

Mining[Dot]Com reports. During IIoT, drilling and blasting can be optimized, leading to improved mine and logistics scheduling.

Employing IIoT companies can monitor efficiencies in all steps of the extraction process, such as automated drilling. Mining company Goldcorp is using IIoT to construct AI-driven drilling machines that can”detect materials and boundaries and have an automatic guidance system for cutting edge,” Industry Week reports.

Meanwhile, Fortescue Metals Group has outfitted a fleet of trucks with IIoT sensors to tell supervisors when vehicles are not operating at maximum capacity and adjust accordingly, increasing overall earnings.

These sensors can also improve employee safety as well. At Goldcorp, miners have IIoT sensors embedded in their helmets, providing live-updated locations in case of an emergency.

Manufacturers Experience Greater Oversight Over Supply Chain

As manufacturers expand their distribution channels to fit a global, digital economy, visibility to supply chain management is crucial to make sure customers receive quality products in a timely manner.

Sensors can also help organize warehouses where goods are stored to fit together with the demand for the geographical region.

Together with the Internet of Things, stocks can be automatically monitored and integrated with customer demands in certain regions; hence, if you are a distributor in a certain area, then you’ll be able to save the best number of products in your warehouse. 

Through IIoT, employees can also track different elements of their operations instantaneously, allowing them to keep a keen eye on how their products are moving from start to finish.

Powered by Low Power Broad Area (LPWA) networks, Bluetooth, GPS, radio frequency identification (RFID), and other technologies, tracking solutions allow manufacturers to visualize exact asset location in real-time. 

Smart sensors placed with the goods can provide granular data about transportation conditions like temperature, humidity, and light exposure, sending alerts in case of damage or exceeded thresholds.”

Utilities Use IIoT to Create Energy Efficient Smart Grids

Utilities companies suffer from a monitoring procedure that is”rooted in aging technology,” according to John Geiger, Vice President Business Development at software solutions company MACHFU.

This causes an infrastructure that is dominated by legacy and proprietary systems using a historical reluctance to adapt to new, open standards-based paradigms, one that does not facilitate moving to a contemporary distributed energy resources smart grid”

The debut of IIoT for utilities began with Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), a system of complex communications and data collection systems that”allowed for two-way communication of customer, control, and event data,” IoT World Today explains.

The area of IIoT in utilities has since expanded as automation methods have advanced, allowing for greater control of voltage regulation and electricity distribution.

Employing IIoT, energy companies can restructure their management methods to fit a smart grid worthy of being a part of the 21st-century. Constant streaming of data from strategically placed sensors can ensure energy nodes are functioning at optimal capacity and are being replaced when needed. This is especially true for companies working in renewable resources such as wind and solar, where multiple sensors are needed to not only measure the efficiency of each node, but also relevant environmental conditions.

IIoT for utilities promises empowerment and opportunity enabling utilities to oversee communications that reach across and into the homes and workplaces of their customers. 

Having a unified, global solution approach to utility communications, along with the lessons utilities have already learned about safety, privacy and engagement with consumers — utilities should embrace the uncertainty ahead and lead in the IIoT era.”

Railway Tracking and Maintenance Enriched by IIoT Integration

Trains are the heart of metropolitan areas around the world, in New York City alone, 1.7 billion people rely on the subway system every year. But many urban, and cross-country railway systems are rife with maintenance issues and a poor level of customer service for riders. However, new forays into IIoT may provide solutions to some of the most prevalent issues for this public transportation service.

Train cars have traditionally been serviced utilizing a reactionary, time-based maintenance program. In other words, don’t fix it if it is not broken. This kind of passive approach to railway operations can lead to train cars moving far too long without being properly inspected employees are not thinking about factors such as use frequency, leading to inefficient travel, unhappy customers, and, in some cases, tragic accidents.

At the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), researchers are looking into ways to integrate IoT sensors into train cars and stations as part of a new condition-based management (CBM) system that makes railway operations safer, timely, and efficient.

By introducing IoT sensors into trains that are placed into circulation, coupled with an IIoT data dashboard to record and remotely monitor data, railway organizations can forecast when a train is likely to need repairs and start preparing to service those cars.

This solution is not just for maintenance either. The larger the system of connected devices, the more seamless a railway system can be. Industrial IoT sensors can be utilized to measure how trains are moving throughout the tracks, local environmental conditions, train car geolocation and passenger traffic.

Housing all of this information under a single management system opens the door for a holistic approach to railway management.

Structure Enters the Digital Age with IIoT

According to a recent report from the World Economic Forum, the construction business, despite accounting for 6 percent of the world’s GDP, is lagging behind other industries in adopting technology associated with the fourth industrial wave.

There are many moving parts to a construction site, from heavy machinery to design placement to employee safety, however, any useful data within these areas are siloed or not collected at all. Industrial IoT has many safety and productivity implications for building sites when the IIoT is integrated into these various site components.

One specific use case for IoT is the ordering of new materials, which can lag due to human error. If materials are not onsite punctually, it can delay crucial deadlines and be bad news financially for the building company. Together with IIoT sensor and AI, ordering new materials can be automated, cutting out the possibility of any late deliveries due to employee oversight.

Overall, the inclusion of IIoT sensors unifies a plethora of moving parts in a construction site by aggregating data across many, otherwise separated, bits. By doing so, website managers can track the whole project easily and ensure projects remain on schedule.

The usage of IIoT is still early, with some industries further along than others. However, the fourth industrial revolution is approaching fast, and IIoT will only have a larger role to play, which means today is the time to invest.

About the Author

Santiago Picco

Partner @ 4i Platform - Data Driven Innovation Electronic Engineering specified in control automation. Master in Stategic Management of Techology. Data scientist. Industry 4.0. IIoT and Digital transformation.

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