As early as 2010, The Economist reported a new trend in connectivity – cows. While rarely considered cutting-edge technology, cows were being wired by a Dutch startup to let farmers know when they are sick or needed milking. This allowed the cows natural free-range movement since farmers had to no longer worry about missing distress signals.
If lumbering bovines can be wired and connected, anything can. But for a number of reasons, manufacturing and industrial sectors have fallen behind in the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution. The World Economic Forum reports “the vast majority” of industrial organizations that are struggling to adapt to IoT technology and face a serious risk of being left behind. The Industrial IoT (IIoT) needs a technology boost. By embracing secure and reliable over-the-air (OTA) software and firmware upgrades, manufacturing industries can fully harness the power of IoT and maintain a competitive edge.
The Challenge of IIoT
In a groundbreaking whitepaper, analysts at Cisco described the era of IoT as “the point in time when more ‘things or objects’ [are] connected to the Internet than people.” We are at that time. Gartner estimates there will be 8.4 billion connected devices in 2017, a 31% leap from 2016. It is an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars, and it is growing.
So why does the manufacturing sector still lack an IIoT infrastructure? Here are some of the reasons:
- Lack of Security: This might be the most crucial factor. IoT communication is vulnerable without the right security platform. Much like the automotive industry (though unlike smartphones), manufacturing industries view lack of security as more than just a financial risk, it can pose a physical danger. For instance, if a company’s communication is compromised and its assembly line components receive conflicting orders, the resulting chaos could damage machines and pose a threat to the humans operating them.
- Far-Flung Infrastructure: Imagine a deep-sea mining operation with headquarters in Australia, offices in Miami, Singapore and Amsterdam, and equipment all over the world. If a vastly complex operation relies on connected technology, it is a massive task to ensure that their equipment remains synced. If the system needs updates, technicians will have to fix hundreds of separate units in remote locations. Maintaining this kind of communication is expensive. In fact, a recent study shows that communication is currently responsible for 35-50% of total IIoT costs.
- Lifecycle Management: When a smartphone is developed, manufacturers expect it to be in the field for only about two years. This is not the case with industrial manufacturing. A field of wind turbines will not be replaced by next year’s model – they will operate for at least 20 or 30 years. This longevity creates enormous challenges. IoT technology advances rapidly, and updating equipment over such a long time span is prohibitively expensive and creates a nightmare for logistics.
How Does an OTA Infrastructure Enable the IIoT?
What all these problems have in common is their ability to be solved with dedicated and secure OTA communication. Right now, the auto industry is at the forefront of smart OTA updates as they work to enable self-driving cars. They are collaborating with tech companies and regulatory bodies to develop the necessary infrastructure to make V2V (Vehicle to Vehicle), V2I (Vehicle to Infrastructure), and V2X (Vehicle to Everything) communication possible.
A comprehensive OTA platform for IIoT enables the same innovations. Setting up a secure and reliable network lets companies receive data, communicate information, and send SOTA and FOTA upgrades to equipment all over the globe. A company with plants in Duluth, Mexico City, Johannesburg, and Bangalore will be able to keep all machines in constant communication, no matter how many software upgrades they go through and how long the lifespan of each piece of equipment is.
The core of the global economy is the manufacturing industry. All over the world, factory engineers, manufacturers, supply chain experts, ship captains and workers are united by the motivation to create something new. This is the backbone of the world and it needs to take advantage of technology but can only do so with a strong and secure OTA infrastructure. We are on the brink of world-changing technology that is set to be worth trillions of dollars across the manufacturing sector. Manufacturing businesses need to understand that doing things the old, unconnected, pre-IoT way is not going to be beneficial in the long run.
As the auto industry is changed by technological and economic currents, OEMs and Tier-1 manufacturers will need to partner with technological specialists to thrive in the era of the software defined car. Movimento’s expertise is rooted in our background as an automotive company. This has allowed us to create the technological platform that underpins the future of the software driven and self-driven car. Connect with us today to learn more about how we can work together.