Seven industrial internet of things examples: IoT in heavy industry

We've seen how the internet of things will help our homes, but how are the heavy industries making the most of the technology?

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For some time now, we’ve been hearing a lot of noise about the internet of things (IoT) in the  consumer space – smart thermostats and such. See also: 12 best uses of IoT in the enterprise.

But another area it’s making a difference is in the heavy industries, allowing businesses to optimise the work of the big machinery and infrastructure they count upon.

This is the industrial internet of things, or the IIoT, where big machinery is connected and talking to one another, and back to centralised systems.

And analyst house Gartner believes IoT will move toward mainstream adoption in 2016 for many more industries. (See also: what is a graph database?)

Whether that’s in aerospace, defence, or oil and gas, we take a look at some areas where the ‘industrial internet of things’ is already proving its worth for the new, connected heavy industries.

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Image: Flickr / Richard Masoner

Industrial internet of things: Oil and Gas

Royal Dutch Shell uses big data, high performance computing and imaging to find oil and gas resources.

Using visualisation technology and vast quantities of seismic data, Shell maps out areas where oil and gas can be found like a giant MRI of the earth.

And connected sensors are also useful for monitoring vast oil pipelines – with Enbridge, TransCanada and PG&E all creating data about potential bottlenecks using sensors inside and outside the pipelines, according to Deloitte University Press.

These can emulate the senses to monitor all aspects of the pipeline – from sight to touch, smell and hearing, and feed back this information if anything goes wrong.

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Image: Tidworth / Wikipedia

Industrial internet of things: Water infrastructure

In the small garrison town of Tidworth, South West England, a company called Veolia has equipped a 100km water main and a sewer with monitoring equipment to keep a check on water quality, detect leaks, and instantly send notifications to field workers with connected device.

Using multi-vendor SCADA systems, the company manages its 1,500 sensors – which are able to check the quality of the water every 15 minutes. 

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Image: Flickr / Adam Hilliker

Industrial internet of things: Manufacturing

Manufacturing giant Caterpillar contracted Accenture to build telematics into a range of its products, including industrial gas turbines, diesel-electric locomotives, for the construction industry and for diesel and natural gas engines.

And the Connected Vehicle Business Service from Accenture provides connectivity services, telematics and data integration. Using these services, it can monitor equipment in areas like hours of use, fault codes and fuel consumption.

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Image: Fran├žois Jaques: Peasants Enjoying Beer at Pub in Fribourg

Industrial internet of things: Brewing

American beer distributor B United is using a GPS-enabled system of sensors to monitor the quality of its beer and cider while it flies around the world in transit. Using satellite technology from Ovinto, and with Globalstar’s satellite communications, the distributor is able to keep close watch on the temperature and pressure of its craft beer.

Craft beer can spoil more easily than high-volume commercial beers because of the strains they use. And while in transport, natural re-fermentation sometimes increases the CO2 level, ruining the beer.

But by fitting the Ovinto sensors in a 14,000-litre tank of beer, B United was able to monitor temperature, pressure and location – and its first trial led to zero waste, leading to Ovinto sensors being installed in all of B United’s containers.

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Image: Wikipedia / General Electric shop in 1896

Industrial internet of things: Aerospace

General Electric and Accenture joint venture Taleris diagnoses and predicts aircraft maintenance problems before they happen.

Using sensors to monitor aircraft parts, components and systems, its analytics program hunts anomalies in engineering systems and their overall health, and can determine whether the unites need replacement or repairing.

The idea is that unscheduled maintenance can be transformed into regular maintenance, allowing airline carriers to properly plan and reduce downtime.

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Image: Flickr / Andrew W. Sieber

Industrial internet of things: Logistics

A DHL and Cisco trend report on IoT highlights just how useful connected, smart sensors can be in optimising logistics. For example, sensors can be placed in pick-up points on the last mile to determine if a postal box is empty or not – and then communicate this information to the receipient.

And in supply chain risk management, global disruptions can be checked against the effect they’d have on trading lanes. If they pose a risk, both the information and a mitigation strategy can automatically be communicated.  

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Image: Flickr / Rob Reedman

Industrial internet of things: Transport

As well as the potential for installing track-side monitoring networks and connecting up signalling equipment on the railways, the Internet of Things could even help avoid collisions between trains.

The Railway Collision Avoidance System from Intelligence on Wheels, uses GPS to understand where it’s travelling and on which part of the track – as well as sensors to understand whether it’s on the left or right-hand side of the rail.

There are portable products designed for rolling stock, and personal protection devices that inform workers when trains are approaching their section of the tracks.

“It’s our vision that everyone who wears a reflective vest should also wear a personal protection device,” Intelligence on Wheels says. “Due to the potentially long braking distances of approaching trains, it’s of at least equal importance to warn the human worker of the approaching train – as the human can de-escalate a potential threat much faster.”

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