Most of us are familiar with the “Internet of Things” (IoT), a system of related computing devices that can transfer data without any human-to-human or human-to-computer contact. We may be most familiar with the term as it is used to describe the connected residential home, with thermostats, light bulbs, stereo systems, and even fridges and stoves that can be controlled remotely and can share data with each other via the internet. Since its beginnings in 1999, the IoT has taken off—so much so that Cisco’s CEO valued the IoT market at $19 trillion.

However, of that $19 trillion, a significant subset was the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Essentially, the Industrial Internet of Things incorporates aspects of the IoT such as machine learning, big data technology, and machine-to-machine communication into the industrial field. IIoT systems are generally made up of multiple pieces of complex equipment and machinery that are also able to collect and share information.

By involving the digital world of the internet in their industries, businesses hope to maximize efficiency surrounding critical physical assets.  Such businesses include Shell (oil), Pure Technologies (pipeline management), and Awesense (electricity). These three companies have used the IIoT to improve information accuracy, communication efficiency, and worker safety. By involving machines as an active part of their business process, all three companies have seen an increase in revenue. Here’s how.

Three IIoT Success Stories:

  1. Shell’s Smart Mobile Worker: Shell has utilized the IIoT in its business ventures for over 15 years. In one innovation, Shell introduced the “Smart Mobile Worker” Program. With this system, each worker carries a tablet device and has a camera and voice-integrator system in his/her helmet. When faced with a problem in the field, this worker uses these resources in order to connect instantly with experts in the head office. These experts can then analyze the safety of the situation and propose a solution. With this IIoT system in place, problems are solved more efficiently, safety standards are improved, and business runs more smoothly.
  2. Pure Technologies’ Acoustic Fiber Optic Sensor: In order to manage water and waste pipelines more effectively, Pure Technologies implemented their Fiber Optic Sensor. This sensor detects deterioration in concrete water pipelines, determining both the location and rate of deterioration. Once the information is gathered, the sensor alerts operators to erosion, allowing the company to respond in an effective and time-appropriate manner. By preventing unexpected failures in pipelines, Pure Technologies’ use of the IIoT has enabled the company to avoid dangerous and costly pipeline bursts.
  3. Awesense’s True Grid Insight: Utilities face more than $200B in annual electrical losses and theft, a number increasing by 2.5% every year. In order to more safely predict overloads, avoid outages, and diagnose causes of losses, Awesense came up with True Grid Insight, a series of secure wireless sensors that use IIoT technology to monitor and report utility usage through actual line measurements, accurately showing the operating condition of the distribution grid.

Clearly, IIoT technology is going to be a valuable investment for many businesses. By incorporating the digital world into their physical industries, companies have reaped the benefits of our ever-developing technology. And yet, despite its overwhelming success, the IIoT presents companies with some concerning (although not surprising) issues.

Humans vs. Machines?

Users of the IIoT believe that smart machines are better than workers at accurately analyzing and consistently communicating information. And more often than not, that’s true: to put it bluntly, machines are more efficient. So does that mean that the Hollywood sci-fi movies are right, and machines have finally triumphed over humans?

Not quite. The obvious problem with a heavy reliance on machines is that machines break down. And because IIoT systems are often made up of a chain of interrelated processes, they are particularly susceptible—one outage in the chain can bring the entire system to a grinding halt. All of a sudden, a significant and critical part of your production line is no longer operating, and you’re losing money by the minute.

With so much at stake, effective electrical troubleshooting has never been more important. While it is true that these systems tend to have diagnostic capabilities, they may not be sufficient in all cases. The workers tending to them still require troubleshooting skills.

To ensure your company doesn’t suffer from excessive downtime due to machine malfunctions, you will still need human troubleshooters on your staff who are confident and equipped to deal with this new, complex level of connected machinery.

Simutech’s Troubleshooting Skills Training System™ can provide this confidence for your employee. Our systematic training program simulates real-life electrical faults, teaching staff to solve electrical faults in a methodical, systematic manner, and giving employees a safe environment in which to gain first-hand experience. Employees receive continuous feedback to ensure they understand the strategies and techniques of troubleshooting, correct their mistakes, and can confidently solve problems on the job.

There’s even more upside to being upskilled: Staff who successfully acquire new skills add value to the company, too. They are more proficient at multiple aspects of the job, can crossover to cover other positions more easily, experience greater job satisfaction, and are more likely to stay with the company longer.

The IIoT is changing the world of business. Business automation is more prevalent and more high-tech than ever before. However, this exciting technology will inevitably come with its challenges. With companies depending on machines for their business, skilled technicians have never been more vital to keep operations running smoothly. It’s time to take training seriously, and at Simutech, we do.

Sources:

  1. “The Industrial Internet of Things.” McRock Capital. http://www.mcrockcapital.com/uploads/1/0/9/6/10961847/mcrock_industrial_internet_of_things_report_2014.pdf
  2. “The Industrial Internet of Things.” IoT Agenda. March 2015. http://internetofthingsagenda.techtarget.com/definition/Industrial-Internet-of-Things-IIoT
  3. “Accenture Labs: Reimagining the world through the Industrial Internet of Things.” https://www.accenture.com/us-en/service-labs-industrial-internet-strategic-innovation-initiative
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