When discussing the internet of things in any situation, it is always beneficial to have a specific use case identified. Some examples seem a bit far-fetched or overthought for normal technology situations while others seem too modern to have relevance for a practical use case. There is one situation, however, that is ripe for innovation and a natural use case for innovation at the hands of IoT: the industrial technology space.
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The industrial technology space is an interesting one. Having spent a large part of my career working in industrial automation and supply chain systems, I can speak firsthand to the opportunity for innovation here. There is a general dichotomy in this segment: some parts are very high-tech and automated while others are not. There is an interesting mix of very modern technology and completely manual processes. What’s interesting is that this can occur in the same facility for the same products and use cases!
Let’s put this in a practical example that meets the expectations of today: Businesses and consumers demand the ability to order a good from their phone or computer and have it show up that same day or the next day, with 100% accuracy and at a very competitive price. This is a reality for today. Yet many industrial and distribution systems don’t have the operational efficiency to meet this demand. This places many organizations at a competitive disadvantage — and you know what happens then. The moment a shopper sees that one vendor can’t meet the demand, they’ll simply proceed to the next one who can. This is the equivalent of the modern handshake, that first impression that will dictate how a business relationship will go.
To see the IoT opportunity here for the industrial technology space, we must work backwards in this workflow. From the business or consumer perspective, it’s simply going to a website to make an order. From the industrial technology perspective, there are a lot of steps to make this occur seamlessly every time. The IoT opportunity comes in devices and systems that can make industrial technology more automated, more accurate and more utilized. Each of these top-level goals will introduce momentum to permit orders to be fulfilled in the example above more accurately, quicker and more automated.
Underpinning this initiative is a primitive task that industrial technology must be available. In fact, it is the tale of two DCs: The data center and the distribution center. Historically at war with each other, now these two different personas and organizational groups are required to unite to meet the common goal of addressing the competitive pressures of the marketplace. Specifically, for industrial and distribution systems, this competition is intense and there is no margin for error, downtime or data loss. They are all related now to meet the goals of the organization.
This can happen several ways for the industrial technology space. It can be as simple as camera systems that provide more data points for better visibility overseeing an industrial process or a completely modern system top-to-bottom that removes all barriers of previous partially automated or otherwise inadequate systems and processes that are unfit to meet the demands of today’s competitive workspace.
The successful path will be about connecting information and the output of industrial technology. IoT brings the information: what, where, how many, when. The industrial technology space is the vehicle to meet the demands and here on out they are one united to a common goal.
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