Scalable agile and flexible IoT architectures
Manufacturers of everyday products such as home appliances, or day-to-day manufacturing tools such as industrial screwdrivers, nut runners or welders have started to identify the benefits of IoT and connected products.
Monitoring the performance and usage of these products will provide important data for potential value added services to customers such as predictive maintenance or warranty management. What the connected product will deliver in addition are opportunities for enterprises to design and develop new services based on this real-time data. This could include usage-based billing in the case of home appliances; business models enabling white goods OEMs or service providers to charge by the load or wash are now available on the market.1 For industrial tools, being able to locate and identify tools as part of asset registers is one benefit. Another is to ensure that the industrial tool was used in the proper way (correct angle, tension, speed, etc.) and within the proper locations adds new and innovative levels to both quality control and health and safety procedures.2
What is common for both scenarios is that connected products evolve fairly quickly, generating crucial data for not just the performance or maintenance of the product but also allowing enterprises to introduce new applications and ultimately benefits. It is having this flexibility and agility in the architectures that is important. Removing any friction potentially encountered by enterprises is what will grow and sustain IoT solutions, and deliver those new and exciting applications for end customers.
Platforms Make Up the Core of IoT Architectures
M2M, in its early days, required a focus on managing devices and connectivity. These architectures focused on the data from sensors. In IoT, devices and connectivity continue to play an important role yet the focal point in architectures has shifted. This shift is one to the platforms and middleware components of the architecture which enable applications and data management. It is a shift that reflects the growing value identified in processing and using and reusing that data in applications as compared to ‘just’ extracting and storing it.
To manage the growing scale, variety and complexity of the data, IoT platforms such as ThingWorx have been designed to connect to anything via ‘3rd party device clouds, direct network connections, Open APIs, and secure edge connectivity.’Having implemented this agnostic approach to device and connectivity management, platforms and middleware have become core enablers in IoT architectures, requiring particularly platforms to deliver as scalable, agile and flexible structures given the volume of data and sensors, the diversity of data structures and the heterogeneity of protocols, connections and devices.
The Future of IoT
What the future of IoT holds will certainly be reflected in more applications and data usage. It is encouraging to see so numerous new and innovative services being created by enterprises as part of IoT, and this trend is set to continue. What applications will emerge and which data sets will be more important will be difficult to determine but enterprises will remain ahead of the game with investments in scalable, agile and flexible IoT platforms.
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1 Uw Huismeester in the Netherlands is one such company that has launched a pay as you use scheme for customers with their Caretaker Bundles.
2 Bosch Rexroth Nexo nut runner is one example of an industrial connected tool able to provide data across a wide range of parameters, enabling the industrial tool to be part of a Category A safety critical applications list.