Connecting sensors and automation to the Internet of Things

The medical, manufacturing and food industries rely on automation and sensors, and their interconnectivity may result in big changes in a short amount of time.

04/11/2014


The combination of wireless and wired Ethernet technology and a low connection cost is making the Internet of Things possible. Courtesy: Control Engineering

The Internet continues to connect mobile and stationary devices and manufacturing systems to computers and to each other. The combination of wireless and wired Ethernet technology and a low connection cost is making the Internet of things (IoT) possible. The scale and sophistication of this manufacturing hardware and software interconnectivity is a game changer. Old methods will fade, and the impact will be felt from the robotics field to the health and manufacturing fields.

The Internet of Things will create opportunities for new classes of products. Let's look at some industries that may especially feel the brunt of this technology transformation:

Medicine is an area that has advanced quite rapidly over the last three decades. Still, blood pressure is measured with a cuff, and illness requires a visit to the doctor. According to a September 2013 ASME.org article, “Implantable sensors make medical implants smarter,” in a few years, an implanted sensor, for example, will detect blood pressure, oxygen levels, pulse rates, and even blood sugar while providing warning markers for imminent heart attacks. Doctor visits may ultimately be replaced by diagnostic chips than can determine what ails you by analyzing a drop of blood. These advancements can potentially revolutionize the medical field, and they will help attack endemic diseases. In addition, robotic surgery is already a reality, but advances in integrating computer assistants will augment the repair of damage and removal of problem tissues.

Manufacturing will see smarter and much cheaper robots. Those ubiquitous smart sensors will allow simpler programming, with humans working closely with robots. Your phone or tablet will have apps to interact with the sensors in close proximity and give instant information on anything from scrap parts to units on the shelf.

Food delivery will also change dramatically. Information about expiration dates will be augmented with sensors that can detect a fruit's ripeness or bacterial contamination. Meat inspection will become cheaper and faster, and automation is on the way. Restaurants will manage food inventories and freshness with sensors potentially saving a lot of manual work.

Connecting sensors to the Internet of things will impact countless aspects of our lives and continue to enhance efficiency in manufacturing. Some of these ways may still be inconceivable.

- Jim O'Reilly is president of Volanto, providing consulting services for storage and cloud computing business strategies and technologies. Edited by Jessica DuBois-Maahs, associate content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, jdmaahs@cfemedia.com

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