Thursday, 18 June 2015

Neil Ritchie, ABB's Division Manager, Discrete Automation & Motion for UK & Ireland, writes: You’ll no doubt have heard of the Internet of Things, or the Internet of Things, Services and People (IoTSP). It’s been described as the fourth industrial revolution and not without good reason, as it’s set to fundamentally change the way in which we live and work in a similar paradigm shift to that of water and steam power in the 19th century, mechanization in the early 20th century and the digital revolution of the late 1990s and early 2000.

This isn’t just marketing bluster, it’s really happening as we speak with 50 billion devices expected to be connected to the IoTSP by 2022.

The potential for industry is mind-boggling. This isn’t about having everything done by robots, it’s about machinery working WITH us, and WITH other machines to increase productivity and efficiency. The IoTSP doesn’t replace people, it helps people to work smarter.

Consider this recent real life example in which an unknown assailant sabotaged the communications attached to a 500kV substation on the assumption that, with no communications, he or she could merrily sabotage the rest of the substation undetected. However, as the temperature of the transformers began to rise, local systems recognised that there was a problem and shut off the current before further damage could be done.

That’s the tip of the iceberg, as the possibilities are truly endless. And that example is one not just of devices talking to each other, but taking executive action based on what is said. Smart manufacturing will allow micro-adjustments on an individual unit level, on-the-fly trend analysis for constant efficiency improvement, and increased up-time.

So why, if the building blocks are already there, is industry and commerce not already bursting with fully integrated IoTSP technology? The answer is interoperability. It’s no good having smart devices talking to each other if they’re all talking different languages, and so off-the-shelf devices may not necessarily be able to work as effectively with others.

This is why ABB, Robert Bosch GmbH and Cisco Systems Inc., three of the biggest players in the technology market and the IoTSP, have joined forces to create a standardized open-software platform to be used by any IoTSP device, anywhere. Adoption of it will accelerate the rate at which we can get this technology into our lives, and help us to do more.

The Internet of Things, Services and People is without a doubt the future of manufacturing, and its potential is limited only by the creativity and ingenuity of people to come up with ways in which it can be implemented.

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