IoT in Industrial Applications

In a previous article we wrote about Zigbee, Bluetooth, WiFi and cellular in the context of IoT applications, along with the benefits and disadvantages of each of the technologies. It clearly shows that it’s a very turbulent time for IoT, and we’re yet to see which protocol prevails and rises to become a global standard.
For now, the prediction is that only a protocol-agnostic devices that consolidate various connectivity solutions such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Smart, Z-Wave and 802.15.4 (used by ZigBee/Thread) are really future-proof. Companies like Google, Samsung, and Huawei clearly came to the conclusion when developing their smart home hubs – devices that play a pivotal role in connecting and ensuring compatibility of all IoT smart home appliances. SmartThings – Samsung’s home automation ecosystem – uses Zigbee radio (2.4GHz) and a Z-Wave radio (900MHz) concurrently.
Many devices are being developed with more than just one IoT protocol on board – clearly with the goal to protect it from becoming obsolete when the technology changes in the future.

Which Protocol for the Smart Home?

Popular Internet of Things devices for the smart home “speak” different protocols, which removes a lot of limitations in the design phase. The three leading standards are Bluetooth, and network-based standards like Wi-Fi and ZigBee.
The choice of specific protocol is dictated by many considerations like power consumption, time to connect, range and speed of data transfer. But while this should be carefully taken into consideration when creating a mesh of hundreds of nodes in big buildings like factories (the hassle of maintenance, e.g. changing batteries is rather daunting), but it should not bother a smart home owner. Neither of these factors like range or battery life should seriously impact the choice of technology for the smart home.

IoT Protocols for Industrial Applications

While IoT for smart home typically makes the news, it’s the industrial IoT (IIoT) where big money is. By 2020, it is estimated that each industry such as discrete manufacturing, transportation/logistics and utilities will have spent $40 billion on IoT platforms, systems and services. The IIoT market is predicted to reach $123 billion in 2021.
Since traditional Internet of Things protocols were not created with industrial applications in mind, manufacturers are using the tried-and-tested protocols like MQTT, AMQP, REST and OPC UA.

6LowPAN

6LowPAN is one of the leading IoT technologies (unlike IoT protocols like Bluetooth, 6LowPAN is a IP-based network-based protocol).
The standard can also be used across multiple communications platforms, including Ethernet, Wi-Fi, 802.15.4 and sub-1GHz ISM. It uses the IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6) stack, which has been a very important introduction in recent years to enable the IoT.
6LowPAN was designed with home or building automation. The IPv6 protocol provides a basic transport mechanism to produce complex control systems and to communicate with devices in a cost-effective manner via a low-power wireless network.

6LowPAN sends IPv6 packets over IEEE802.15.4-based networks, and enables implementing open IP standards like TCP, UDP, HTTP, COAP, MQTT, and websockets.

How IoT Can Benefit the Industry

IoT implementations in industrial environments offer a range of benefits:

Predictive maintenance

Facilities can tap into real-time data generated from IIoT systems to monitor the health of individual components and predict defects before they happen. In this way, they can take action to address serious problems before the whole machinery.

Streamlined service

IIoT technologies help service technicians working in the field spot potential issues in equipment before they become major issues. The list of possible technological improvements here is long and very promising. For example, technicians can immediately reach the faulty component and then, using smart glasses, they can consult other experts remotely.

Asset tracking

Suppliers, manufacturers and customers can use IoT for improved asset management systems to track the location, status and condition of products throughout the supply chain. The system will send instant alerts in case of damage of the goods.

Enhanced customer satisfaction

With a simple IoT device attached to each product, the manufacturer can collect and analyze data about how customers use their products. This provides insights and statistics about the use of the product, and customer-centric product roadmaps can serve for more educated product development and improved user experience.

Energy management

IoT can help reduce energy in industrial companies and cut their energy bills. IoT devices can track how resources are distributed and consumed, and where they’re simply wasted. This can lower operating costs, reduce thefts and improve forecasting.
Various machinery like compressors or lighting can consume up to 70% while not being used by the staff. IoT devices can help to identify such places and reduce energy consumption by remotely managing manufacturing assets using connected sensors. Indirectly, this can contribute to lower CO2 emission and operational costs of the company.