11 Aug 2022

Harnessing the power of data:  a collaborative approach to supporting IIoT

Power of data

The consequences of COVID-19 on the manufacturing and other industry sectors are still unravelling, however it is obvious that the adoption of automation across a huge spectrum of applications is here to stay. Central to this is the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), encompassing a vast and burgeoning array of technologies, all with the power to gather, process and act upon huge quantities of data.

However, according to Jash Bansidhar, managing director – Europe at Advantech, the challenge lies in harnessing the power of this data to deliver real and lasting business value: “At least as important as the IIoT technologies is the availability of a structured network of expertise allowing the creation and delivery of appropriate and effective IoT solutions where data is an enabler to optimised business performance.

“What this means is transforming data into information which can influence strategic decision-making, deliver best practice and impact the bottom line. The positive economic impact of the IoT is expected to exceed £3 trillion annually by 2025, and could be as high as £11 trillion according to some research, so the potential benefits are enormous for companies that go about this in the right way.”

Advantech’s own IIoT business grew by more than third in the last financial year and while the pandemic can certainly be said to have influenced this, Jash Bansidhar believes that the realisation by companies of the achievable benefits is just as important.

“In the ever-increasing drive for competitiveness in local and global markets, companies can’t afford to neglect any opportunity that may give them an advantage over other players in their sector.

“Technology had held the key to this for many years – but it has always been about more than just investing in the latest innovation. A strategic approach to understanding what technologies are needed and how to get the best out of them by ensuring they work together harmoniously is critical.”

According to Jash Bansidhar, investment in IIoT entails a change in thinking compared with previous approaches to technology adoption: “Traditionally, companies have looked for point-in-time solutions to point-in-time problems. But this line of thinking does not lend itself well to the modern manufacturing facility, where the impact of Industry 4.0, requiring real time decision-making and flexible production, has been significant and irreversible. And this will only deepen further as we move towards Industry 5.0, founded on the interaction of human intelligence and cognitive computing.

“IIoT doesn’t fit neatly into this box, as it requires a suite of wide-ranging hardware and software skills but also has a deeply transformative effect on business activities. Instead of choosing between a number of off-the-shelf solutions, each operating in its own silo, decision-makers must think deeply about what they’re seeking to achieve holistically, then rely on providers to deliver that for them.”

The daunting nature of this process has in the past stymied the initiation of some projects. However, Jash Bansidhar states that the combination of the pandemic and commercial necessity has brought these implementations to the top of the priority list. Even so, finding the most suitable partners to deliver on their behalf has often proved challenging for some industrial customers.

“In the past, many industrial customers have worked with systems integrators who have positioned themselves as providers of complete turnkey solutions. This was all very well in the days of lower complexity and pre-Industry 4.0 strategies. However, the sheer breadth of technologies available today makes it virtually impossible for these integrators to develop the required depth of understanding to engineer a complete end-to-end IoT solution. Harnessing the true power of IoT technologies is only possible if they are seamlessly integrated with the other key elements.

“Finally, the deeper employment of technology and data gathering and transfer brings its own challenges in the field of data security. Security provisions must be robust and future-proof. As a niche area, this is something that traditional systems integrators may not understand – let alone their customers.”

Jash Bansidhar says these points are key because of the likely swingeing costs of poor decision-making in any of these areas – and suggest that Advantech’s approach and unique business model has positioned the company ideally and uniquely to support industrial businesses with their IoT implementations: “As a company, we’re well known for our leadership in advanced embedded computing technology, as well as state-of-the-art technology in communication, sensing and cloud computing. However, we recognised a while ago that we could not do it all ourselves – and that the way to deliver real value for customers, in both IoT and other technology spheres, was to create an ecosystem of partners each offering the best solutions in their field of expertise.”

In response to this, Advantech has developed a community of co-creation partners, each focused on differing vertical domain areas and so ideally placed to assist with integrating end-to-end system solutions.

Working in close partnership with Advantech, this community is bringing to market solution-ready packages (SRPs) blending best-in-class hardware and software elements designed for specific business applications, in both IIoT and beyond.

Jash Bansidhar concludes: “This approach delivers true ‘out of the box’ solutions for customers and drastically reduces the risk and implementation time as these SRPs are readily configurable, often in as little as a day.

“The benefits are immediate and enable manufacturers to enjoy all the benefits of IIoT implementation as part of Industry 4.0 and as we move into Industry 5.0, through a truly future-proof solution. This solution is based on tried and tested data gathering and management technologies, enabling rapid, informed decision-making across multiple applications.”

Company info: Advantech