The Internet of Things continues to generate a lot of “buzz”. One market research firm forecasts $1.9 trillion in revenue by 2020 in global economic value created by companies supplying IoT hardware and services. That’s a big deal.
Information and communication are now independent of location. As long as there is a cellphone tower or fiber optic cable near by, it is possible to get information and send in anywhere in the industrialized world. This is completely different from the recent past where hard wire and bandwidth presented significant limits.
For manufacturers, the IoT represents a technology platform that makes the cost of information very inexpensive. It is possible to know anything about the manufacturing process at every moment in time. But at a practical level, how much do we really want to know? Pepsi probably doesn’t need to know about every can of soda at the rate of 1 million cans per day at multiple locations.
IoT means almost infinite amounts of data being generated. So we are faced with the question; “what do we want to know?” or “what do we need to know?” in order to manage something using the Internet.
Managing things using the Internet is very subtle. From a mechatronics perspective there are many useful techniques that can be adopted to help manage any load attached to an electric motor. Simply knowing when a motor load is “mis-behaving” is incredibly valuable in real terms. Preventive maintenance and avoiding the cost of failure can be calculated in the thousands and tens-of-thousands of dollars for many businesses.
All of which leads to the conclusion that adoption of the Internet of Things rests on the creation of real value, not on the technology itself. Irrespective of the cost to implement, even with free “apps” and hardware connections at less than $1, IoT will be limited by what users perceive as real value. This becomes a purely economic equation.
Managing the home with IoT technology creates huge value for Nest temperature controls. The “connected” thermostat can reduce energy consumption dramatically by regulating heating and air conditioning loads during the day. How far can we take management of our homes and “stuff” before it becomes absurd?
Every light bulb could be an Internet device in a home so that the owner can dial in lighting levels and colors. Great idea. Not sure how many people will bother to take the time to manage that application. A new clothes washer could be designed to send you an email when it’s done. Refrigerators are already being designed to send email to your phone about the stuff inside the fridge.
Where does it end? It will be like all that nuisance email that comes to your in box every day. Hours of productive time will be wasted with unimportant tasks until we quit paying attention to all the new “toys”.
There are lots of great ideas for applying the Internet to manufacturing and personal use. The ones that will be useful will be the ones that create the most value.