7 Practical Applications of IIoT in Industrial Automation
It might be hard to imagine what Industrial IoT and industry 4.0 can do for you if you haven’t experienced it yet. That’s why we gathered 7 practical applications of IIoT in the manufacturing, energy, robotics and building industry.
What is Industrial IoT?
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) usually refers to interconnected sensors, controllers, and other devices networked together in an industrial setting. This connectivity allows for remote access and monitoring, but more importantly, it allows for data acquisition and collection, exchange and analysis of different data sources.
Industrial IoT has enormous potential and benefits for improving productivity, reducing costs and increasing efficiency. IIoT solutions are characterised by their low cost and fast implementation.
IoT in industrial automation
Industrial automation is the use of data-driven control systems, such as industrial computers, PLC controllers or robots, that reduces the need for human action by operating industrial processes or machinery. The industrial internet of things plays an important role in industrial automation as we see the number of IoT applications increase.
IoT helps in industrial automation to create systems that are effective, affordable and flexible to customer needs. Connecting industrial equipment (e.g. PLC, robots, actuators, sensors) to the cloud - and sharing real-time data - can drastically impact the efficiency, production and uptime and helps to develop next generation machines.
Getting started with IoT is only the basis for improvement. The next step is to fast-forward in the Industrial IoT model. To learn more about the full potential of IIoT from machine manufacturers perspective read this 20 pages rich white paper.
The essentials of an Industrial IoT solution
Typically IIoT solutions include:
- Industrial ‘things’ – Internet-enabled devices like PLCs, IPCs, Human Machine Interfaces (HMI), robots, vision cameras and sensors.
- Connectivity – Connecting ’things’ to the internet via 4G/cellular, Wi-Fi or ethernet connections.
- Data – Data, and how it is collected, stored and processed using edge devices, is central to the value of IIoT.
- A cloud platform – Key to IIoT is a centralised and secure cloud platform for hosting the data and enabling remote services
- Analytics dashboard – For analysing data and monitoring machines.
- Intelligence and action – The collected data must be analysed by either humans or smart functions to send out alarms or triggers to any other system.
7 practical Industrial IoT examples for daily use
In the following practical IIoT examples we’ve listed some industrial internet of things applications which are used in different industrial automation situations. Let’s find out how IoT is used in your industry.
1. Remotely solve PLC / robot problems if a custom-built machine is down
It happens in every factory: the emergency button is pressed accidentally, without anyone realising it. Because there’s no defect, engineers initially break their heads to locate the cause of the problem. In the meantime, the clock is running and valuable time and costs are being wasted due to the downtime. If the HMI doesn't tell you the problem, a phone call to your machine builder is the next logical step.
With industrial remote access, the machine builder can access the machine from their office, view the log files on the PLC or robot and reset the machine, if necessary. It only takes a few minutes to find the problem and saves a time-consuming service trip to the factory site.
2. Prevent the label printer from running out of paper
In the logistics sector or packaging industry, it’s fatal when a machine runs out of labels. To prevent this situation, service technicians or operators need to be notified well in advance before this happens.
The sensor’s data counter triggers an alarm, allowing the operator to take immediate action to prevent stagnation. A push notification or email alert on their smartphone, or a vibration of their smartwatch, ensures that the responsible people receive the message on time. In other industries such alarm notifications can be life-saving.
3. Publish new functionalities on the HMI screen for customers abroad
When a machine is delivered and your customer uses it in his daily operations, he may need extra functionality to make his job even easier. An expansion of their control panel with a new function, such as an on/off switch or a percentage counter for the pump, can easily be fixed by your programmer. Then the HMI software needs to be updated and tested to launch this new functionality.
HMI software updates can easily be applied remotely via secure network access. All you have to do is push the new software from your laptop over the internet, and you’ve made your customer happy once again. Using a web-based VNC (Virtual Network Connection), you and your customer can view and test the HMI functionality in the IIoT platform or on a mobile device.
4. Predict machine maintenance and analyse upfront which part needs to be replaced
Industrial machines, or energy products such as solar panels, require occasional maintenance. Sometimes it's easy to predict when maintenance needs to happen – for example when you know the degradation per a certain number of production hours or rotations. In these scenarios, it makes sense to implement predictive maintenance and generate reliable information to make decisions for driving performance.
Start by using the variables (counters) of your PLC software and log this data to the cloud via industrial protocols like OPC-UA, Modbus, Siemens S7, Ethernet IP etc. Then start with data visualisation in an IIoT dashboard (live or historical) or configure an email reminder when the counter reaches a maintenance limit.
On-site machine maintenance visits are more effective if you know the faults before you leave to go on your trip. By analysing potential problems upfront via remote access and the online diagnostics tool of the device’s web server, you’re more likely to turn up with the right spare parts during the lifecycle of your installation.
5. Analyse and optimize industrial robot actions
Industrial robots such as UR+ robots make repetitive work easy. Remote access and IIoT features are used to remotely change robot program actions for changeovers or to get insight into the log files and data of the robot for troubleshooting. In this video you’ll see a project where an IIoT platform with an industrial robot was being used.
Additionally, video analysis may help to improve the actions of a certain robot. Accessing the IP camera recordings or live streaming makes improvements easier. Quickly and easily set up a VPN connection for full network access to the robot's controller or use AR / VR technologies like the Hololens to inspect the circumstances and surroundings.
6. Live monitoring of full garbage containers in smart cities
No more useless driving around the city to check for full containers. Only take action on trash containers that send out an alarm that they need to be emptied.
Make use of the power of your sensors and make data accessible in a cloud environment. Then visualise this data in a monitoring dashboard and send out a notification to the garbage collector when the container reaches a threshold. All in the name of efficiency!
Learn more: How to make your machine data more valuable
Case study: Remote monitoring of livestock with smartphone alarms
7. Manage data from multiple buildings for central monitoring in your BMS system
In building automation, IIoT is used to monitor and control the energy consumption, heating, lighting, fire protection and other systems for multiple locations from a central location. To get a good overview of the building’s HVAC system’s status (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning), access to data from remote installations is needed.
Edge connectivity helps to transfer the real-time machine data to a central cloud application, using BACnet or Modbus protocols. For custom applications, you can use the rise of open cloud systems. They usually provide an API to collect data at specific intervals and transfer it to your Building Automation System (BMS) for central monitoring.
Looking for more inspiration for IoT projects and applications of industrial IoT in the industrial sector? Check our IIoT case studies.
Conclusion and route to further develop your IoT journey
You’ve been shown some examples of IoT projects in industrial automation. The main advantages of using IoT in industrial automation is to find bottlenecks in the process, reduce cycle times, prevent downtime and increase productivity.
The use of an Industrial IoT platform, like IXON Cloud, will help machine builders with corrective maintenance, condition-based monitoring and predictive maintenance of industrial installations and drives added value and new revenue streams based on data.
To help OEMs / machine builders in their quest for a successful application of IIoT within the industrial automation sector, we have compiled a white paper describing the route and steps from remote access to 'smart machines'. In this 20-page white paper you will find concrete tips and even more practical examples.
IXON offers a user-friendly Industrial IoT solution to machine builders called IXON Cloud which is a plug & play, scalable and secure IIoT solution. The IXON Cloud and IXrouter (integrated edge gateway / VPN router) can handle any industrial application and offers machine builders reliable and secure machine access, data acquisition, dashboard and alarm tools in one single platform.
To help better understand the capabilities of IXON Cloud, we’ve created a product tour. In this tour you can explore and test the VPN functionality, access HMI panels and view logged PLC data in live and historical dashboards.