The effects of the Internet of Things (IoT) is something we experience in our everyday lives through the proliferation of smartphones, cars, thermostats, and even smart refrigerators entering our homes. These smart devices provide us with a rich source of sensor data that can be networked, gathered and analysed by software to detect potential issues, allowing us to work more productively and save more energy.
A less frequently talked about phenomenon, the Industrial IoT (IIoT), is the application of these same principles to a wide range of industrial plants and processes. The IIoT has been developing in parallel to the more consumer-focused IoT, and it promises to revolutionise industrial prowess by improving efficiency at manufacturing plants, mining operations, oil refineries and off-shore oil platforms, and more.
Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure
Looking for opportunities to expand its digital offering through the application of the IoT to industrial environments, plants and factories, Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure promises to change South Africa’s mining, food, beverage, and water industries.
“Gathering technical data, tracking equipment and monitoring maintenance activity would help to reduce downtime, process energy usage, maintenance costs and time-to-market,” says Marc Ramsay, vice president of Schneider Electric South Africa’s Industry Business Unit. “This smart IIoT software ultimately serves to make plants more efficient, safe and reliable.”
IIoT technology has continued to develop at a steady rate, and a number of trends are expected to guide these developments for 2018. Adoption of the IIoT has increased significantly as more and more industrial devices get connected to the Internet. As the networks have expanded, volumes of data have increased and more information is now at risk, therefore it comes as no surprise that the focus on creating applications and data storage solutions capable of providing the necessary security has intensified.
“We understand that robust cybersecurity protection is a must, and Schneider Electric’s solutions apply rigorous policies and methodologies to ensure the protection of critical infrastructure,” adds Ramsay. “We also assess risk, implement cyber-specific solutions and maintain onsite defences over time. Cybersecurity solutions are applied from the operations perspective while making sure all appropriate IT policies and requirements are implemented. I think this is what sets Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure apart.”
While early IIoT implementations were generally focused on improving asset utilisation through better monitoring and predictive analytics, such as predictive maintenance, many industries are now taking advantage of increased connectivity in order to implement more autonomous systems.
“Schneider Electric is a leader in the digital transformation of energy management and industrial automation in South Africa, and the rest of the globe,” explains Ramsay. “Our EcoStruxure solutions offer a new level of efficiency and performance, and specific products such as Edge Control allow for remote automation, process automation and machine automation.”
Maintaining plant equipment can be a daunting and costly task, and creating efficiencies and using predictive maintenance has become a top priority in the future of the IIoT. Here, sensors and real-time monitoring could help organisations understand precisely where and when equipment needs to be adjusted or replaced.
“This connected ‘smart’ technology is capable of automatically measuring, monitoring and controlling energy consumption and demands,” concludes Ramsay. “When automation and energy is coupled with software and analytics, an unprecedented level of operational intelligence can be delivered, leading to better, and more predictive decision-making in real-time.”
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