Using cloud solutions to leverage IIoT and keep costs low

Cloud computing allows companies to enjoy the benefits of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) through cloud-based solutions that can improve operational efficiency and productivity.
By Saadi Kermani September 23, 2017

A farmer reviews the status of his irrigation pivots from his laptop using a cloud-based IIoT solution. Courtesy: Microsoft, Schneider ElectricAs the cost of sensors continues to drop and the amount of industrial data available increases exponentially, more and more companies are adopting Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies to derive value from their industrial Big Data. By implementing technologies such as Big Data analysis and predictive maintenance, companies can fundamentally transform their operations, create new efficiencies and develop new business models.

However, there are some companies with concerns over the cost of adopting these new technologies. Across multiple industrial sectors, capital expenditure budgets are shrinking, which means appetites are low for large software installations. Luckily, companies do not need a heavy software deployment to leverage the IIoT. Cloud computing allows companies to enjoy the benefits of the IIoT through scalable cloud-based solutions.

Lightweight IIoT deployments

By harnessing the power of the cloud, organizations are able to implement IIoT solutions while lowering the total cost of ownership. Advances in cloud computing have enabled the deployment of cloud-based solutions for data capture and storage, advanced analytics and more. These solutions allow companies to reap the benefits of digital transformation without large upfront costs or ongoing information technology (IT) burdens.

Cloud-based solutions enable a lighter approach to the IIoT which can be implemented quickly. Solutions with open integration can be added on top of existing investments, allowing companies to build on current infrastructure rather than conducting an expensive rip-and-replace. Cloud-based solutions that are functional out of the box, without requiring additional engineering, provide fast time to value. In addition, a cloud deployment model is very scalable, allowing rapid expansion across multiple sites. An open-source cloud solution that follows leading cybersecurity protocols and encrypts data both in transit and at rest ensures the safety and security of sensitive data.

Because cloud-based IIoT solutions are so scalable, they are perfect for small, pilot developments. Organizations that are wary of large expenditures can begin with a smaller cloud deployment to see fast time to value. Then once major stakeholders have seen the value that the IIoT provides, additional investments can be made to rapidly expand IIoT capabilities.

Lightweight IIoT deployments in action

In one example, farmers in New Zealand implemented a cloud-based IIoT solution to control irrigation pivots directly from their mobile devices, rather than driving back and forth across the farm. This led to significant time and energy savings for the farmers. In addition, advanced analytics provided the farmers with visibility into water and energy consumption at each irrigation pivot. This increased visibility enabled smarter decision-making, enabling them to reduce costs and increase efficiency. 

Another example involved a food and beverage company that implemented a very lightweight predictive maintenance deployment. Key performance metrics are captured from smart IoT sensors, which is then pushed to the cloud for reporting and analytics. The predictive maintenance solution is improving the company’s asset performance and reliability, and the cloud-based deployment model facilitated multi-site expansion.

The IIoT is available right now and companies across multiple industries are taking advantage. The cloud means implementing the IIoT doesn’t have to be complex or expensive—start with what you have and start small, perhaps with a small cloud deployment for a function such as data collection. Companies can take the first steps on why you should take data to the cloud and discover the benefits of improved connectivity across the plant.

Saadi Kermani is the global business development manager for the industrial information management portfolio at Schneider Electric. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.

Schneider Electric is a CSIA member as of 9/23/17.