Not too long ago, I wrote a column on the Internet of Things (IoT). I’m revisiting the topic, simply because there’s just so much excitement, momentum, and activity around IoT. It’s rare that one topic can be fancied by a group that’s so diverse.
Within Design News, we cover a lot of ground. We talk to design engineers of just about every discipline, and we discuss just about every aspect of a design, from the time that it originates in your head, to when the final production products roll out of the factory. Strangely enough, you can make an argument that IoT hits every one of those stages -- and there are many, many stages, as you’re well aware.
Just a few weeks ago, a panel session at Dartmouth College tackled a related topic, the Internet of You. The panel explored how “the Internet is expanding from a network of connected PCs to a far broader array of devices that enable highly personalized interactions with technology.”
From the panel’s findings, they claim that in 10 years, an average household with two teenagers (oh, the pain) will have about 50 devices connected to the Internet (it’s about 10 devices today). That comes with all kinds of implications, ranging from various types of interference between devices to having enough IP addresses to support all the devices.
On the industrial side, where Design News spends its time, connecting all the sensors in a manufacturing facility can revolutionize a fab. I had a little trouble digesting this information, but Jeremy Read, vice-president of automation products at Applied Materials, set me straight.
Having a sensor sitting at every node of your operation might seem like information overload, but it’s actually not. Applied claims to be able to make use of all that data, so they know exactly what’s happening at every stage of every manufacturing process. The real key is being able to make sense of all that information, and to be able to process (and use) it in real time. There’s clearly more to it than “shut down that machine,” as shutting down any process can be costly.
Such sensors aren’t simply pass-fail or on-off. They can indicate the specific health of a machine, to let the operator know when a machine is due for service, well in advance of a failure. And adjustments made on one machine can have a ripple effect (hopefully, in a positive way) downstream.
Another interesting (and very conflicting) data point comes from a survey conducted (in December, 2013) by the American Society for Quality. It claims that only 13% of the manufacturers it surveyed said they use smart manufacturing within their organizations. So question is, if this technology is so compelling, why have so few taken the plunge?