THE Internet of Things (IoT) will make lives easier, more comfortable, and safer. These overriding value propositions are core to most of its progressive advancements and are present in many connected things that affect our lives on a daily basis.
From something as simple as making an online purchase, to the more sophisticated applications such as autonomous vehicles – the IoT is having a widespread impact and sees a rapid adoption in many industries including manufacturing.
An important element that enables the IoT in the first place is literally small in nature. Sensors called micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) are highly sensitive, tiny helpers that enable things to “sense.” They collect, translate, and process information gathered from touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste into readable data.
Bosch is a leading global supplier of these “sensory organs” with around 4.5 million MEMS sensors produced every day. Without sensors, the IoT would not be possible.
IoT is gradually changing the way work is done across all industries. In addition to manual and technical skills; processing, evaluating, and securing of data becomes increasingly important as speed and access to information is crucial in the implementation of IoT. For example, plant managers are able to access the latest production data instantly via a mobile device or access available inventory with the push of a button.
Using sensors and analytic solutions, companies can improve a wide range of business processes for contextual data and real time analysis. For example, if some machinery is vibrating too much, IoT solutions can slow down the manufacturing line just enough to ensure the equipment can operate without damage until the technicians can service it.
As companies continue to invest in hardware, software and IT services, they will need to harness the large and growing amounts of existing data that is necessary as a basis for a highly efficient production. Smart manufacturing enabled by IoT ultimately offers customers significant value-added services. The flow of data, on available materials production performance for example helps manufacturers lower their inventory costs, workflow disruptions and reduce the overall amount of capital required to run their business.
This is exemplified in Bosch’s new smart factory in Thailand, which utilises connected solutions to identify opportunities for automating manufacturing operations and to use data analytics to improve the overall performance of the manufacturing process within a framework that supports Industry 4.0.
IoT holds great promise for the future by making Industry 4.0 possible, and companies that are driving this change are more likely to succeed. However, they will need to continuously adapt to keep up with a constantly and rapidly changing digital landscape.
This is only the beginning as more powerful networks with the ability to rapidly process vast amounts of information are being introduced faster than ever before - inevitably shifting the technological landscape and norm further.
Nevertheless, the benefits reaped through these technologies are exponential. It not only makes our daily lives easier, more comfortable, and safer, it also lowers costs for manufacturers or businesses to produce products with efficiency, profitability and with environmental protection and resource conservation in mind. While we are still in the early stages of the IoT era, we are already witnessing positive outsets unfolding from the tiniest of sensors.
Contributed by Joseph Ngo Hong, managing director of Robert Bosch Limited (Thailand)