Putting IoT Within Reach
An unprecedented amount of data – data that can be processed quickly to make operational decisions – is coming in daily through connected machines. But until now, many manufacturers have been reluctant to make major investments in Internet of Things systems and realize the full potential of this data.
The Internet of Things (IoT) consists of the machines, devices and other physical objects connected to a network. Sensors attached to all of those things can provide a steady stream of data to a central IoT platform. With custom dashboards, each department in a manufacturing organization could work with the data in the way it sees fit. Even the IoT platform itself could act on the data. Read more about how need technologies are Putting IoT Within Reach in this interview with CSC's manufacturing experts.
by Lucy Nolan
Open source and shared platform bring IoT benefits to more companies
An unprecedented amount of data — “actionable data” that can be processed quickly to make operational decisions — is coming in daily through connected machines. But until now, many manufacturers have been reluctant to make major investments in Internet of Things (IoT) systems and realize the full potential of this data.
The IoT consists of the machines, devices and other physical objects connected to a network. Sensors attached to all of those items can provide a steady stream of data to a central IoT platform. With custom dashboards, each department in a manufacturing organization could work with the data in the way it sees fit. Even the IoT platform itself could act on the data.
“Today, fast computing is accessible to everybody. It doesn’t matter if an organization has 10 people or 10,000. Open source technologies are bringing costs down to a commodity level.”
— Chris Fangmann CTO for global manufacturing at CSC
“IoT systems are intelligent enough to tune management solutions automatically,” says Chris Fangmann, chief technology officer for global manufacturing at CSC. “Now let’s add a capability to simulate a change in a production line before a part is physically executed. That will save companies millions of dollars.”
The potential benefits of setting up an IoT platform are huge — the ability to intelligently track and trace materials, parts, and equipment and ensure that they’re delivered to the right product at precisely the right time, or perhaps to predict deviations and react accordingly. That same intelligence can optimize production schedules and improve machine uptime or react quickly to last-minute customer changes.
Other applications can help manufacturers harness vast amounts of data streaming in from connected products. Major automotive firms not only see these connections as a way to take the driver’s experience to the next level with predictive services, but they are also looking at ways to harness the data for third-party partners such as insurance companies.
Equipment manufacturers are also looking at ways they can utilize this data to provide better services to their customers.
While commercial IoT platforms are available from a variety of vendors, manufacturers have been slow to adopt these systems, which often require a major upfront investment.
“That is one of the biggest barriers to implementing an IoT platform,” Fangmann says. “Companies are either not willing to make the large upfront investment to stand up their own environment, or they’re concerned that they don’t have enough knowledge to do so. The costs — and time involved for valuable IT staff — would quickly become prohibitive.”
“This is not just automating the process of how a truck gets from Point A to Point B. This is going to have a pervasive effect on how we live our lives in the future.”
— Rick Tomredle, IoT engineering and delivery manager for CSC
Open source opens the way
Using open source technologies is one approach to keeping costs down, and a commitment to open source was a guiding principle in the development of CSC’s new industrial connectivity and data exchange platform, which connects and harmonizes data flow among all types of machines. The CSC environment is based on Hadoop Apache Storm, an open source framework for storing and processing large streams of data.
“We wanted to have as many open standards as we possibly could,” says Andrew Doble, an enterprise architect at CSC. “We’re very familiar with open source products — and they’re quickly becoming standard for streaming analytics.”
Nico Krebs, mobility consultant with CSC, also believes in the power of using open source. Shop floors often use proprietary vendor protocols, making machine-to-machine connectivity difficult. These challenges, Krebs explains, can be overcome with protocols based on open standards.
“We believe in open IoT standards such as MQTT [a machine-to-machine IoT productivity protocol],” he said. ”It’s free to use, and I think we will see many libraries for this protocol in the future. We think open protocols will dominate the market in a few years.”
Share the burden
An individual manufacturer might have difficulty dedicating the resources necessary to build out a Hadoop IoT/big data system, but CSC built its platform so that it can be offered to multiple companies on a pay-per-usage basis.
“Offering a shared platform produces cost savings for us, which we can pass along to our clients,” Doble explains. “And we further reduce our costs by not being tied to a large licensing fee — something manufacturers should consider as well.”
Not being tied to a specific vendor also solves the matter of portability. “With open standards, you’re not locked into a specific platform or technology,” Doble explains. “So if one vendor becomes too expensive, you can move to another.”
Fangmann also points out that open source helps to ensure a DevOps environment, where the system can be continually updated.
“Any company can now take advantage of the most modern system available without having to worry about upfront investments, ongoing maintenance fees or looming obsolescence,” Fangmann says. “By using an as-a-service model, any manufacturer should be able to find an IoT platform to support the specific use case it needs.”
IoT Around the World
By connecting machines to each other and to business operations, the Internet of Things gives companies the ability to analyze data to make better-informed decisions. Here are two successful uses of CSC’s IoT platform, OmniLocation®, built entirely from open source tools.
Pharmaceutical manufacturer simplifies supply chain. A large pharmaceutical manufacturer uses IoT to better manage its assets, operations and supply chain. Data from public and private sources, including suppliers around the world, is aggregated and analyzed to keep track of operations and recognize problems and disruptions. The system alerts the necessary workers of supply chain issues.
“We are continuously updating, through automated notification via text message and email… exactly what’s going on across the company, across the supplier network, so they can make real-time adjustments that allow their operations to keep moving smoothly,” says Dan Munyan, Internet of Things product manager at CSC.
Industrial site overcomes environmental challenges. CSC overcame a number of challenges to install an IoT at a large surface mine. The industrial site did not have available cell coverage or power. In fact, Rick Tomredle, IoT Engineering and Delivery Manager for CSC, described the environment as resembling “the surface of Mars.”
To reliably generate IoT data in this environment, CSC engineered an extensive “extrastructure,” says Tomredle, complete with radio towers and power. The company can now pull important data from the site to improve business operations.
Lucy Nolan is a content editor with CSC’s global content team.