No Time Like the Present: Why Forward-Thinking Businesses Are Adopting IoT Solutions

Justin Slade -
No Time Like the Present
Illustration: © IoT For All

January 2022 Update: As more companies strive to solve modern challenges and engage customers in new ways, IoT technology provides a competitive advantage. Previously, we showcased the ways in which our partners are driving innovation and digital transformation in key industries through a series of partner webinars. Explore the latest IoT solution webinars from Microsoft partners that have gone live since our last publication and check back for more content as other webinars continue to go live.  

IoT is revolutionizing the ways that companies do business today, and they aren’t looking back. Across industries, cutting-edge technology such as AI, edge computing, and digital twins are going mainstream as companies build more agile factories, deliver innovation, and create more resilient supply chains. Indeed, in today’s complex and fast-paced marketplace, IoT adoption is becoming critical to maintaining a competitive edge, and—through a series of use cases and informative webinars—successful organizations are showing how it’s done.

Read on to find out how IoT is impacting manufacturing, smart spaces, the energy industry, and automotive and transportation: helping companies of all kinds solve some of their greatest day-to-day challenges and increase their bottom lines. While there are various reasons for adopting IoT, as well as common roadblocks, the Microsoft partner webinars highlighted below are great examples of how the benefits outweigh the costs.

Manufacturing Leads the Charge

Given the pandemic’s impact on supply chains, it’s no surprise that some of the most compelling steps toward digital transformation are taking place in the manufacturing industry. According to the latest Microsoft IoT Signals report, 67 percent of those surveyed in manufacturing industries stated they planned to accelerate use of IoT solutions over the next two years.

As the world’s industries accelerate their digital transformations, the existence of a rich and diverse partner ecosystem is becoming critical to provide the thousands of specialized solutions that use industrial IoT capabilities.

“Enterprises are being challenged by a plethora of technologies, applications, concepts and solutions,” says Shankar Gopalkrishnan, Senior Vice President, Manufacturing Vertical Business, HCL. Yet too often, these new technologies and applications “are siloed in nature,” Gopalkrishnan says. IoT aims to change that.

Among discrete manufacturers, production flow monitoring is the top reported application of IoT devices. And as recent studies are finding out, conventional machine vision systems used on assembly lines leave a lot to be desired. One study has shown that anywhere from 10  up to 40 percent of products can be defective. Unreliable tools can lower productivity further by identifying “false positives” that needlessly halt the production lines, thereby increasing costs, wasting time, and frustrating employees. 

That’s why the latest IoT solutions use deep learning, IoT, and the cloud to detect defects and reduce their occurrence. Conventional tools are great at noticing mechanistic faults and deviations on production lines. “But how many of you work at sites”, asks Mariner’s David Dewhirst, Vice President of Marketing at Mariner, “where everything … is always clean, clear, and simple?” In response, many companies have developed visual inspection solutions designed to detect so-called “fuzzy” problems with a given product that a conventional machine vision system cannot, setting in motion a domino effect of advantages.

To find out more about IoT in manufacturing, these informative webinars are good places to start.

Building Smarter Spaces For a More Sustainable World 

Just as IoT solutions are making manufacturing smarter, they’re also transforming the spaces around us, ranging from individual buildings to campuses to entire communities. The facility shutdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic put this issue top of mind. Studies showed that despite an occupancy drop of up to 50 percent in many buildings when the stay-at-home orders were enacted, energy consumption in those same spaces barely dropped at all.

“Owners and facilities managers have historically relied on site-specific tools, data, or existing capabilities, cobbling together various pieces of information to try to understand what is going on and what could be better,” says e-Magic’s Dale Kehler, Vice President of Business Development at E-Magic. Yet, because of the global pandemic, decision-makers have started to change their approach, leveraging technologies that help us use space more safely, efficiently, and sustainably.

Utilizing Digital Twins

Digital twins are a model-based framework around which data can be organized to provide meaning and insights. A digital twins platform, like e-Magic’s TwinWorX®, models the attributes, capabilities, and relationships of people, spaces, and things into digital twins. When connected to IoT telemetry data like air quality measures and occupancy status, and mapped to 3D and 2D geospatial data, these twins become dynamic representations of the real world.  By providing situational awareness on a ‘Single Pane of Glass’ view, digital twins offer a way to harness investments in IoT into the kinds of insights needed to meet health and safety and ESG goals.

Other digital twin solutions, such as the one powered by Johnson Controls’ OpenBlue provide digital replicas and 3D visualizations of spaces, assets, and people, unlocking insights for next-generation buildings. Its flagship solution, OpenBlue Enterprise Manager, enables building owners and facility managers to view a building’s energy, air quality, and occupant key performance indicators (KPIs) in a single pane of glass, giving you the ability to monitor and optimize lighting, heating, ventilation, HVAC, and other metrics with the click of a mouse.

Through a 3D BIM of the building, heat maps, and data-driven analytics, the digital twin visualization enhances OpenBlue Enterprise Manager’s features, providing a greater context of alarms and notifications across building spaces, assets, and events as well as a new dimension of context for making decisions. Solution providers like Johnson Controls and others are using these capabilities to help customers modernize their entire building portfolios, making sense of building data in order to align sustainability, comfort, and wellness strategies.

Advancing Sustainability 

Building and infrastructure data collected and controlled by IoT solutions can reduce energy usage and costs and improve carbon emissions while also making workplaces more comfortable and healthier for employees. Solution software from ICONICS uses IoT and AI to help customers understand and make decisions that optimize their usage patterns and make progress toward meeting LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) compliance. 

“Forty percent of energy use globally is in buildings and their construction, and this needs to be tracked. There’s no way we can get to carbon-zero effectively without doing so,” said Carl Payne, Business Development Manager for ICONICS.  

In addition to the technologies mentioned above, analytics and machine learning capabilities are able to let users find out ahead of time whether machines need to be serviced, or electrical wires are nearing the end of their shelf lives before the outage happens. Watch the webinars below to see these concepts brought to life: 

Reimaging Energy with IoT

Energy is another area where IoT devices are making a critical impact as companies look to digital solutions to help them plan for hurricanes, droughts, storms, and other challenges we will likely face in a warmer world. “There is a growing sense of collective responsibility as public attitudes and expectations are changing,” says Oscar Pegg, a Climate Change Evangelist at EdgeMethods, who predicts that organizational efforts to reduce carbon emissions will rapidly increase in the coming years. While the average time to use may be longer in energy than in other industries, the vast majority of stakeholders tend to agree that the data and insights gleaned from IoT are critical to the industry’s future.

IoT can assist energy companies with a diverse range of functions such as grid asset management tools, which can identify faulty power lines so they can be modernized before a storm knocks them out, and smart meters, which help customers avoid wasting utilities that they aren’t using. Want to find out more? Watch the webinar below to get a firsthand glimpse into the ways in which businesses are using the intelligent edge and cloud to make improve sustainability and energy management:

Smarter Ways of Getting Around

The adoption of IoT is robust in the automotive industry, where technologies are furnishing automakers with all kinds of new opportunities. Emerging tools such as AI, edge computing, and digital twins are capable of everything from increasing organizational productivity to reducing unplanned machine downtime, allowing products to get to market faster. Given the inevitable environmental and human costs imposed by driving automobiles, the larger industry players are making new efforts to ensure that production processes are as efficient, sustainable, and safe.

In transportation planning and management, IoT solutions are being pitted against seemingly universal challenges such as traffic congestion and roadway safety, as sensors provide real-time data about the numbers of vehicles at intersections and peak traffic times. Access to these types of data can help engineers and planners decide when and where to build new roadway infrastructure and transit hubs, while “smart” streetlights placed along the roads can detect vehicle counts and pollution levels. 

Improving Retail Efficiency 

Retail companies are harnessing IoT technology to increase operational efficiency, track and order inventory, and improve security and loss prevention. Efficiency enhancements include using IoT solutions to analyze and then manage staff surges during peak hours, energy use, as well as product placement and inventory changes to increase sales. During the pandemic, IoT systems have helped retail spaces monitor customer numbers to maintain social distancing as needed. AI-enhanced systems can help companies create self-service kiosks and new, individualized customer experiences to highlight a retailer’s products and services. Watch the webinar below to see how retailers are embracing different IoT solutions: 

What’s Up Next with IoT 

There are a lot of challenges that organizations face in adopting IoT solutions. Sometimes the costs seem too prohibitive. Sometimes there are security concerns about uploading data to the cloud. Sometimes there’s not enough readily accessible information, training, technical knowledge, or human resources to reliably manage the implementation. Yet having seen their benefits throughout a period of global crisis into a period of changing values and rising expectations that we are experiencing now, it is hard to discount their value. As business investments, they often end up paying for themselves.

Justin Slade - Director of Azure IoT Marketing, Microsoft

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Our mission is to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more.