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28-01-2021
5 min. read
Shelly Boom
Last update: 23-06-2021

5 Industrial IoT trends machine builders should watch in 2021

In 2020, we experienced what IoT can do for the manufacturing industry. The adoption of Industrial IoT gained momentum as many machine builders had no other choice. Despite the fact that we had to deal with flight restrictions and were often not allowed to visit customers on site, IIoT made it possible to keep doing our jobs. Because of these new challenges, the implementation of connectivity solutions for remote access saw a sudden spike across the world.

We learned a lot of new methods that will help us continue to do our job better and more efficiently. These five key Industrial IoT trends will play a big role in 2021:

  1. Increasing IIoT implementations
  2. The revolution of wireless connection
  3. Adoption of Virtual Reality for remote operations
  4. Use machine data to improve customer relationships
  5. Self training machine learning

Tip: Check out last year's Industrial IoT Trends to see if you're keeping up with the latest innovations.

Trend 1: Increasing IIoT implementations 

Manufacturing automation continues to be on the rise, with the number of companies choosing to automate and implement IIoT soaring to new levels due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Machine learning and robotics are two applications that increase automation. Machine learning will be increasingly automated, so less human intervention is needed and the growing number of takeovers of human work by robotics results in fewer people on the work floor.

Automation supports employees in making their tasks more efficient and time-saving, but also to avoid human contact as much as possible. Automation helps prevent human errors and increases overall productivity. As a result, the number of people needed in the production facility decreases. That final result is, at the moment, a big deciding factor in businesses implementing IIoT as it reduces the number of people on-site who are able to spread infections.

Trend 2: The revolution of wireless connection

Not every IIoT application has access to local sockets. Mobile applications will need a battery or harvested power. This is one of the reasons that more and more companies use advanced wireless technologies in IoT, such as 4G and 5G, to connect with IIoT equipment in transit. The arrival of 5G is tailored to IoT connectivity needs and will make a big change in connectivity for the Industrial IoT industry. 5G is up to 100 times faster than 4G and brings increased security, greater reliability and agility, lower latency and possibilities for edge computing.

A good example of this is DC Airco, a company that has customers who don't have access to local sockets and AC power. They are a manufacturer of HVAC solutions for mobile applications like trains and excavators and connect their PLC via 4G with the IoT platform. An additional advantage is that 4G ensures that the company network is completely isolated, so everything is safe and accessible.

Read the full story of DC Airco here

Trend 3: Adoption of Virtual Reality for remote operations

Virtual Reality will become mainstream for industrial applications in 2021 in terms of training and commissioning. Devices with a display, camera and mic combined, will be much more sophisticated and machine builders will more often work together with their customers or service engineers via VR. In 2020 we saw how IoT helps companies to keep up and running when there are restrictions for being on-site. The ability to commission machines remotely made companies realise it's not always necessary to be on location. 

The machine builder is able to collaborate with the customer through an augmented reality headset, like a HoloLens. The customer sees virtual reality instructions and maintenance data and has his hands free to perform the necessary tasks, while the machine builder gets a live stream of what the customer sees. Many machine builders will therefore not want to go back to the old way of commissioning and so remote commissioning will keep growing in 2021.

Trend 4: Use machine data to improve customer relationships

Connected machines opened new doors for the use of machine data and the improvement of customer relationships. It’s not only interesting for big companies, but also for smaller companies to make use of their data. It’s becoming mainstream. Due to the increase of connected machines, the amount of companies with access to critical machine data also increased enormously. It’s a big challenge for many companies to discover what the possibilities are. What can they do with their machine data and why should they use it?

Using your data is not only important for improving and optimising your machines, but also to build a better long-term relationship with your customers. Machine data can, for example, be used to prevent equipment failures by anticipating and performing machine maintenance before an error occurs. This way, machine downtime can eventually be reduced. You are delivering high-quality service and your customers will be grateful for that.

Trend 5: Self training machine learning 

Machine learning is a branch of artificial intelligence where systems need to be able to automatically learn and improve from experience without being programmed by people. Implementing machine learning can be quite hard, because pre-processing to tag and normalise lots of data takes time. In 2021, unsupervised learning for AI will emerge. This means that no human intervention is needed anymore, since data from the device is automatically sent to the algorithm. Machine learning will detect patterns of normal usage and therefore, after some time, also monitor unusual patterns. 

For example, a machine generates a number of patterns, but when one part of the machine starts to fail, new patterns are generated with some deviations outside the normal pattern. When such a situation occurs, the machine builders will get a notification, so they are aware that maintenance is needed.

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