The Internet of Things is taking the world by storm as it is slowly woven into our everyday lives. With about 328 million devices being connected to the internet each month, Industry 4.0 is growing at an astronomical rate. IoT is quickly being implemented in global industries such as mining, manufacturing, agriculture, smart buildings, asset tracking and IoT healthcare and allowing us humans to work and live much more efficiently.
Technology is having an unprecedented impact on how healthcare is provided. As remote monitoring allows healthcare providers to understand more about their patients, the power of the cloud enables quick feedback loops that personalise healthcare in remarkable ways. IoT has the potential to not only keep patients safe and healthy but to improve how physicians deliver care. Healthcare IoT can also boost patient engagement and satisfaction. This is done by giving patients the opportunity to spend more time interacting with their doctors.
What will IoT healthcare do for the future of the medical industry?
The Internet of Things is already changing so much about how we live, work and stay healthy. The main point of IoT is to make systems and processes more effective and efficient. That is precisely what it is doing for the healthcare industry. IoT technology is becoming a more influential presence in the healthcare field by making things easier for medical providers to keep track of and monitor patients between visits. As well as helping to predict future healthcare trends that can make diagnosing patients easier and more accurate. Implementing IoT helps to guide treatment in ways that are effective and timely. This, in turn, offers patients better care as well as more peace of mind during their recovery.
The fact is that physicians, nurses, administrators, patients, visitors, and medical devices are all continually requiring access to a reliable enterprise network. A single integrated platform that’s connected to multiple systems, applications, protocols and ‘things’ with a single operational and manageable user interface. That is IoT. It all sounds rather complicated. However, once everything is connected, productivity, efficiency, and patient satisfaction will increase significantly without any sweat off your back.
IoT healthcare solutions
Due to the positive results of IoT healthcare solutions have had in the medical industry, its use has rapidly increased. IoT has numerous applications in healthcare. This is including research, devices, care, medical information distribution, and emergency care, as well as remote monitoring, smart sensors, and medical device integration.
Access to modern research tools has rapidly developed over the years. However, the resources that are currently available to medical professionals do still lack critical real-world information. Much of the medical research that is conducted with IoT is predominantly based on past cases, controlled environments, and physical medical examinations. The use of IoT technology allows access to more valuable and accurate data and information obtained through analysis, real-time field data, and testing.
Like in many other industries, IoT can deliver data to the healthcare industry that is far superior to standard analytics. This is through making use of instruments that are capable of performing extensive research. Essentially, IoT healthcare solutions provide more practical and reliable data. As a result, the investigation into better medical solutions and discovery of unknown issues is not only far more accessible but also more accurate than current research methods. Research provides vast insights into patient care, illnesses, and medical solutions. Making it one of the most critical IoT applications in healthcare.
IoT healthcare devices
We know that IoT has the potential to unlock existing technology. Therefore, implementing it into current medical devices that are already improving in their power, precision and availability mean that we can unlock better healthcare and medical device solutions at a more rapid rate. As better healthcare is the end goal, the ability to get their faster is invaluable.
IoT is systematic in the way that it works to fill the gaps between the way we currently deliver healthcare and the equipment we use to do so. IoT devices essentially work by detecting flaws and revealing patterns and missing elements and then suggesting improvements as well as guiding the way forward. Examples of these devices include air quality monitors, wearable body area sensors, internet-connected gateways and cloud, and big data support systems.
Imagine if the wearable device connected to a patient tells you when their heart-rate is going off course. Or if the patient is skipping steps in their prescribed healthcare routine. Then, it shared that information with you, the healthcare professional. According to an article by HIT Consultant, “By updating the personal health data of patients on the cloud and eliminating the need to feed it into the Electrical Medical Records, IoT ensures that every tiny little detail is taken into consideration to make the most advantageous decisions for patients. Moreover, it can be used as a medical adherence and home monitoring tool.”
Care for patients
Even just implementing the Internet of Things into a medical practice allows professionals to use their already extensive knowledge and training more efficiently and practically to solve problems. The ability to monitor a patient’s health and recovery in real-time is something that will completely revolutionise the healthcare industry. With empowered medical professionals and capable technology to back them, patients have wider access to more practical care.
Most patients now are looking for a more personal experience with their doctors. They want to find someone they can trust. Patients also expect for a hospital they visit to have their medical records on file. From doctor’s visits to prescriptions to known allergies and possible predisposed conditions. They expect treatment in a timely and attentive manner and are hoping to avoid the chance of complications or misdiagnosis. Now, this may make it sound like medical patients are a bit of hard work. However, when it comes to the handling and treatment of medical issues, everyone is well within their right to have a few expectations. And IoT has the power to make them happen.
This is why IoT solutions fit so well into the supply and demand of healthcare. More and more healthcare providers are turning to IoT to offer their patients the care they want. By implementing IoT into already existing systems, hospitals have been able to reduce wait times, monitor patients’ health remotely, ensure the availability and accessibility of critical hardware, address chronic disease and even enhance drug management.
Mt. Sinai Medical Centre in New York City was able to effectively cut their emergency room wait times by 50%. That’s 50% of patients receiving the health care they need and quickly. With remote monitoring, some patients don’t even need to pay a visit to the emergency room or hospital. Their condition could simply be managed through remote contact with their doctor while their health is being monitored.
A continuum of care
As many patients prefer for their medical information to be easily accessible by their healthcare professional, it’s advantageous for there to be a system in place that keeps a record of each visit. An article by CIO states that “IoT can streamline this process and make it possible to notify relevant providers of any visits, treatments, and medications that have been prescribed between routine visits, creating a more comprehensive continuum of care.”
Therefore, if patients are seeking different medical treatments from various specialists, or visit a different practitioner, a record of their treatment is kept and made available to relevant parties.
Medical information distribution
The distribution of accurate and current medical information to patients is one of the most challenging concepts of medical care. Ever heard those horror stories of people receiving the wrong medical file and being told they have cancer when in fact they have a common cold? Well, it happens, more than you’d think.
IoT devices not only improve health in the daily lives of individuals but also in medical, professional facilities. As with so many other industries, IoT technology removes the risk of detrimental human error. It is expected that by 2020 medical data will double every 73 days. This is with each person creating 1 million gigabytes of personal health data. There will be approximately 646 million IoT devices used by medical providers, payers, and consumers.
This staggering increase of data production means, instead of generating all this data and sending it to the cloud, IoT devices can process it to gain insights so professionals can act as quickly and accurately as possible.
Emergency care services have long suffered from limited resources, an excess of demand and disconnection from the base facility. IoT analytics and automation mean that emergencies can be tended to remotely. Relevant healthcare providers can gain access to the patient files before they even arrive at the hospital. The allows for the appropriate actions to be taken immediately after the patient arrives.
Connected patients, connected beds, connected medications, and critical supplies all have a massive impact on how things are handled in the emergency room. If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to visit an emergency room, you’ll know how painful endless wait times and dismissive service can be. When you’re already in pain, this is the last thing you want.
To effectively bottleneck the delivery of emergency room care, many elements need to be tightly choreographed. These include the patient’s arrival, intake staff, processes, doctors, specialists, beds, medical equipment, drug doses, supplies, and other hospital resources. Any delay or hiccup regarding any of these elements can cause a domino effect. This slows down the entire operation of that emergency room. IoT connected devices could provide actionable data that helps rescue and expedite the patient experience.
Remote monitoring with IoT Healthcare
With aging populations and an increase in chronic disease all over the world, the need for efficient healthcare solutions that help maintain the well-being of people is at an all-time high. IoT remote monitoring is one solution that is proving to help decrease the pressure on hospitals and other healthcare providers, reduce healthcare costs, improve homecare for patients as well as provide more extensive ongoing support for the elderly and people suffering from chronic diseases.
As traditional health-monitoring models are typically quite time consuming and inconvenient, there is a high demand for efficient healthcare solutions that can help to deliver smarter, more accurate and timely treatment to medical patients. Since the birth of IoT, there has been an increase in the use of mobile technologies and smart devices in the healthcare industry.
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) offer medical patients better access to caregivers. This is as IoT healthcare solutions increase the capacity of medical workers to treat more patients. As well as improving the quantity of care, RPM also can improve the quality of care. As mentioned before, patients may be able to decrease the number of visits they make to the doctor significantly. For people living with chronic diseases, this can help to improve their quality of life factors by a mile.
When it comes to the health of the medical providers, RPM connects them more directly with relevant patient data. This makes their daily routines more efficient and eases the possibility of them burning out. Happy doctors generally mean happy patients.
Furthermore, remote monitoring helps patients be more accountable for their health. This is by giving them access to comfortable, familiar and easy to understand technology. This level of familiarity – with some take-home devices resembling that of a smartphone or tablet – patients are far more likely to engage in tracking their health from home. Better engaged patients also tend to take more control of their health. They want to stay healthy, therefore, are more likely to embrace caregivers’ recommendations and track their progress.
The future of IoT healthcare solutions
IoT healthcare is not without its challenges. As the Internet of Things is still in its infancy, there are many developments yet to come. Some challenges that lie in front of IoT healthcare include:
- Security threats – the security of personal health information, stored and conveyed through connected devices.
- Multiple device integration – device manufacturers are yet to agree upon set protocols and standards. A difference in protocols results in complications with the process of grouping the information.
- Inferring results from extensive data – coming up with results from such a significant amount of data can be challenging without a refined analytics program and data experts.
However, since the creation of IoT health, organisations within the healthcare industry, as well as IoT providers, have been able to manage these challenges through implementation. In fact, nearly 60% of health organisations have introduced IoT devices into their facilities. While 73% use IoT for maintenance and monitoring.
Furthermore, 87% of healthcare organisations plan to implement IoT technology into their facilities by 2019. This is slightly higher than the 85% of businesses across various other industries.
It is clear that IoT healthcare is on the rise and taking the healthcare industry by storm. With the right IoT provider, you can implement IoT technology into your healthcare facility without disruption to everyday operations. With technology-agnostic IoT solutions, a digitalised, interconnected environment can be overlaid into existing setups. Meaning your older equipment can be protected, data feeds have more interconnectivity, and real-time actionable insights can be drawn. Therefore, with the IoT healthcare community set to account for $117 billion by 2020, IoT healthcare solutions are not to be ignored.
Local Internet of Things (IoT) technology innovator, IoT.nxt is making waves in the US with its patented Raptor gateway solution currently being rolled out in a multimillion-dollar project designed to optimise energy usage at schools in Florida and Dallas.
On the back of this, IoT.nxt is fast-tracking its plans to expand into the US with the establishment of a US office similar to the one the Pretoria-based company established in the Netherlands 12 months ago.
IoT.nxt CEO Nico Steyn said expansion to the US had been a goal for the company which had been exploring various opportunities since late last year.
“The project which we are rolling out with two partners, Ensight Solutions of Australia and Minimise USA, has fast-tracked our USA strategy,” he said.
The first phase of the energy management project will run to the end of this month with three team members from IoT.nxt SA currently in the US to manage it. Thereafter, employees at Ensight Solutions and Minimise USA, will be trained to manage further phases of the roll-out.
Read the full article, here: https://bit.ly/2oM93Yc
XLink has announced that it has entered into a strategic partnership with IoT innovator IoT.nxt, with the aim of enabling businesses to digitalise their operations and take advantage of the Internet of Things.
IoT.nxt is a Microsoft Gold Partner for Data Platforms and winner of several innovation and IoT awards. The company opened an office in The Hague in September last year, and is currently expanding into the US, having concluded partnership agreements with key industry players, including Dell.
With over fourteen years as a secure machine-to-machine connectivity expert, XLink intends to leverage its core capabilities and grow a best-of-breed partner ecosystem to bring new value propositions to the market.
“We believe IoT.nxt offers a premium solution that will strengthen our offering as the orchestration partner of choice for digital transformation,” says XLink MD, Roy van Vuuren. “Furthermore, we foresee that our collaboration will unlock opportunity and value creation for both our businesses, customers and our ecosystems.”
Connectivity is in XLink’s DNA and it is an expert in developing Industry 4.0 solutions, using the best products and practices. It ensures that the mission-critical devices and connectivity networks upon which the digital solution relies can be installed, monitored and maintained for optimum uptime.
“We are delighted that XLink invested in our technology,” says IoT.nxt CEO, Nico Steyn. “It is IoT.nxt’s strategy to build innovative software that we can take to market through channel and strategic partnerships. Our technology stack is designed to be a toolset for partners to utilise as part of their technology ecosystems, which enables digital transformation. XLink is a dynamic company in the local market with a clear view of how it wants to transform its company. Through the agreement with IoT.nxt, it can now offer innovative new solutions for its customers.
Read more, here.
Africa, along with the rest of the world, is currently charging through the fourth industrial revolution. Society is beginning to be reshaped by the smart use of information and technology. One of the most apparent examples of this change is the acceleration of the implementation of the Internet of Things. Smart, connected devices are not only being deployed in industries but cities globally. This is to gather and glean contextual insights used to achieve higher levels of efficiency and productivity. As well as better use of scarce and natural resources.
In no place is the struggle to manage basic utilities and runoffs such as water, electricity and wastage more pressing than right here in Africa. Nico Steyn, co-founder and CEO of IoT.nxt, recently noted that ‘the reach of IoT is staggering. The implementation we’ve seen using our technology in the agricultural sector alone has showcased the possibilities for truly sustainable agriculture, Africa-wide. The future of industry in our country is bright.”
As the demand for food and the effects of climate change on production force agricultural operations to make more, better and faster smart agricultural practices are needed more than ever. Practices IoT can not only highlight, but help deliver.
If these are the possibilities in agriculture, imagine IoT being applied to the ecosystem of a city.
Much like each part of a farm needs to be connected to the whole to ensure it can be optimised without creating black holes in the overall picture, so do cities.
It’s crucial that the necessary infrastructure is built in order to allow businesses, residents and tourists to seamlessly and securely connect with what they need when they need it. And, although much of the current IoT infrastructure development is about preparing for the future and adapting to a digital world, some of it can have a more immediate effect.
So, what is a smart city, anyway?
Essentially, smart cities use data and technology to create efficiencies, improve sustainability, create economic development, and enhance quality of life factors for people living and working in the city. It also means that the city has a smart energy infrastructure. Smart cities are very people-centric in that they are all about improving people’s experiences in that city so it better meets their needs.
IoT is allowing for everyday processes such as traffic control, utilities and city infrastructure, to be connected to networks. Its capabilities reach every aspect of the way a city is run. This renders the opportunities for smart agriculture as endless.
Many countries in Africa are still in the early stages of the urbanisation process. However, they are very quickly catching up to the rest of the world. And, even though Africa was the least urbanised region in the world in 2015, it is now the second fastest urbanising region behind Asia, which it is expected to surpass by 2020.
Smart city challenges in Africa
Although Africa is still a developing continent, it has come a long way during the fourth industrial revolution. However, there are still many challenges and constraints that lie in the way of full digitalisation. These challenges include things like inadequate physical infrastructure, widespread populations, unemployment, a large density of rural and remote areas, poor quality social services and vulnerability to disasters and climate change.
With a population of 1.216 billion people, a landmass of 30.37 million km squared, and a population density of 113 people per mile squared, Africa is the second largest continent in the world. As African cities evolve, the challenges of electricity and water shortages, wastage and other resources will continue to grow. These issues have become significant drivers of conversations focusing on smart cities.
However, the development of smart cities in Africa is not without constraints. As well as the challenges mentioned above, the availability of certain resources, such as finance, skills, technology, and energy, has caused for Africa to slightly lag behind in the process of smartening their cities.
Despite the obvious constraints, the implementation of smart technology in African cities would offer huge opportunities. Especially in terms of increasing quality of life for residents, improving the efficiency of the city services by eliminating redundancies, finding ways to save money and streamlining workers’ responsibilities.
The state of Africa today
African cities continue to be hampered with underdevelopment and weak standards of living, partially due to rapid and massive urbanisation. These have brought about further issues of proper waste management, traffic congestion and flow, various health concerns due to overcrowding, air pollution, lack of regular and sufficient electricity generation and its distribution and billing, poor water resource management, water availability and its distribution, deteriorating state of infrastructure, insufficient housing and schooling, and the list goes on.
Steyn added that “anyone would think that the odds are completely stacked against Africa when it comes to developing and digitalising its cities. However, it just so happens that Africa is the perfect blank canvas for a smart city. The technological capabilities of IoT can help lead a new generation of thinking whilst demonstrating tangible benefits to Africa’s citizens and to the world.”
Why IoT is the answer
IoT infrastructure opens the door to technological innovation from the private sector. Whether it’s in the private sector with smart cabs and smart parking. Or in public infrastructure with traffic and waste management. There’s a big push to embrace smart city connectivity and the innovation it can enable.
A recent article on MyBroadband notes that “IoT is essential to the success of a smart city. It enables the bridging of the physical world with the digital one. This allows a metropolitan area to gather real-time data from millions of objects. For example, water meters, electricity meters, waste bins, traffic lights and street lights. This then forms the basis upon which contextual data can be collected, analysed and used to manage the city in a smarter, predictive and proactive way.”
IoT is playing a pivotal role in the development of critical infrastructure in smart cities in Africa. IoT can be used to manage multi-trillions of data points making smart cities a benefactor of connected solutions. The application of these new technologies with the urban context allows the implementation of an interconnected strategy for the whole city combining and using data from buildings, as well as from public and private transport.
Steyn added “It’s no secret that there are limitations to infrastructure rollouts in Africa. As the population grows denser, it becomes vital that more viable solutions be looked at.” From environmental monitoring to urban planning, energy management to events and festivals. IoT technology is what’s going to aid in bringing sustainability and interconnectivity to African cities. Propelling them to new heights.
The future of African agriculture
Africa continues to face dramatic demographic development. Therefore, it’s vital for its technological advances to meet the surging demands of new migrants. Africa has several constraints when it comes to digitalising its cities. However, this surging demand almost forces policymakers to adopt these technological breakthroughs with the growth of smart cities. Instead of moving into more curative processes that are very expensive, it’s necessary to change those resources into building better facilities to reduce the number of diseases, to improve sanitation, traffic, housing and other challenges the continent faces.
An example of this is the product use of sensor data in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The city is filled with thousands of sensors that capture data ranging from street water levels to developing traffic jams. That data is then streamed to a central nerve centre and city officials there use the same data captured to make real-time decisions on pending emergencies or events that occur.
Building smart cities is a viable way for Africa to cope with its booming urban populations. With smart cities already being implemented around Africa, many of the continent’s urban problems are turning into endless opportunities for technological development. From Vision City in Rwanda, which is the largest residential housing project in the country to date. This smart city is conceived as a fully self-sustaining neighbourhood with easy access to amenities like first-rate asphalt roads and pedestrian walkways, secure open parking, street lamps, a pre-installed fibre-optic network, and safe public spaces that are ideal for children and communal activities.
Vision City is just one of many smart city initiatives that are planned for Africa’s future. And with IoT technology constantly advancing beyond anything we’ve ever imagined, the possibilities for Africa’s smart future are endless.
Anyone would think that the odds are completely stacked against Africa when it comes to developing smart cities. However, with the help of IoT, Africa’s smart future is just a stone’s throw away. IoT technology is what’s going to aid in bringing sustainability and interconnectivity to African cities, propelling them to new heights.
Industrial IoT and the connected factory concept are red-hot topics. Yet often, there is confusion among professionals in both on and offline discussions around the role of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications. Questions like, “Does IoT replace SCADA?”, “Can the two be integrated?” and “What is the difference between IoT, SCADA & PLC?” always arise.
Essentially, IoT should be viewed as a technology that is implemented on top of SCADA. It makes things like scalability, data analytics, standardisation and interoperability realities.
So, does the Internet of Things replace SCADA, or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition as the textbooks call it? With the implementation of IoT, Industry 4.0 and the interaction with the well-established SCADA systems, these questions of uncertainty are being raised more and more. For over 40 years, SCADA has helped various industries monitor and manage their applications and processes. It helps boost the efficiency of operations and reduce costs. Yet with technological advances expanding the range of both systems and monitoring methods available, and as the world connects via smartphones and internet cloud technologies, some believe that perhaps SCADA has had its day.
Co-founder and CEO of IoT.nxt, Nico Steyn, noted that “in fact, IoT is what’s going to bring SCADA systems to the next level. Instead of fighting against each other, the two technologies can instead integrate to push industry even closer to the edge.”
What is SCADA?
Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition is just as the name suggests. Essentially, it is a system of software and hardware that allows industries to control industrial processes locally or at remote locations, monitoring, gathering and processing real-time data. It also allows direct interaction with smart devices and human-machine interface software and records events into a log file.
So, SCADA is much like IoT. Yet IoT, the shiny new technology, is developing faster than anything we’ve seen in recent years. However, SCADA is still an important concept in the oil and gas industry. Especially when it comes to monitoring offshore or onshore extraction processes or pipeline from a central remote location. It is used similarly in the mining industry to monitor environmental factors and to track assets. Power utilities use SCADA in Energy Management Systems (EMS) as well as Distribution Management Systems (DMS) to optimise the performance of transmission and distribution networks and to protect the grid network. Then, SCADA is also used by railways to control traction power supply, implement train control automation, and manage communication, electrical and mechanical assets at stations.
So, SCADA systems are still predominant within heavy asset industries. With three generations of SCADA – standalone, distributed and networked – some industries are starting to utilize what some know as the fourth generation SCADA application. Some also know this to be the Internet of Things. And, as the fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us, implementing fourth generation SCADA with the revolutionizing technology of IoT seems very fitting.
What is PLC?
One technology that has been running relatively parallel to SCADA over the past few decades is the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC). The PLC is yet another form of technology that is believed to be becoming slightly outdated due to so many IoT developments within Industry 4.0.
The Programmable Logic Controller receives information from connected sensors or input devices, processes the data, and triggers outputs based on pre-programmed parameters. Essentially, a PLC can monitor and record real-time data such as machine productivity or operating temperature. It can also automatically start and stop processes, and generate alarms if a machine malfunctions.
Many of the functions of a PLC operate in correlation to those of SCADA and IoT. However, in Industry 4.0, programmable controllers are still being called upon to communicate data via web browser, connect to databases via Structured Query Language (SQL) and to the cloud via Message Queuing Telemetry Transport.
“We don’t believe that there has ever been, or likely ever will be, a technology that will be rendered irrelevant. When it comes to IoT, the technology will rather enhance device capabilities and further technological developments. This will protect legacy infrastructure and future-proofing a plant or factory,” Mr Steyn added.
A partner in IoT
Ease of installation, reduced cost, increased data accuracy and worldwide remote control and monitoring are all things that IoT offers heavy asset industries. However, as IoT is a relatively new technology in relation to SCADA and PLC, its capabilities are naturally adaptable to modern industry demands. That being said, when SCADA began, it allowed manufacturers’ systems to work together in real-time, much like IoT is doing now. Therefore, it’s very much apparent that the strength of SCADA systems and its technological capabilities are still relevant even in industry 4.0. Where it falls short, however, is processing to the rest of a business to create a truly connected ecosystem. The question shouldn’t be about getting rid of or replacing SCADA, but rather SCADA, then what?
Currently, IoT is revolutionising SCADA by offering more standardisation and openness. IoT is also providing scalability, interoperability and enhanced security by introducing the concept of the IoT platform. Essentially, both platforms are used to increase overall productivity by integrating smart maintenance. As well as waste reduction, increase in efficiency, a decrease in downtime and the extension of equipment life.
Information generated from SCADA systems acts as one of the data sources for IoT. SCADA’s focus is on monitoring and controlling. Whereas, IoT is more focused on analysing machine data to improve your productivity and impact your top line. IoT is essentially a culmination of advances in the connectivity of hardware and data networks that SCADA provides. As well as cloud computing and bit-data processing. In short, IoT begins where SCADA and PLC end.
So, while the IoT market is still in early production, it can coexist with SCADA. IoT is bringing about a wave of new business models and technologies that are changing the landscape of SCADA. However, the SCADA paradigm has always been one that is flexible to industry shifts.
Integrate or die
Admittedly, the SCADA platform is lacking particular innovations, otherwise, the need for IoT would be far more subjective. SCADA is currently being influenced by IoT concepts and solutions that are quickly being integrated into SCADA architecture. This is done so seamlessly that we won’t ever notice a difference.
However, SCADA is still currently limited to the factory floor. Data taken from the factory devices are being viewed only inside the plant. Whereas IoT takes that data, offers insights to the user and makes it available anywhere, anytime. This, in turn, enables new business models to be created.
Steyn also noted that “without the supportive innovations that IoT offers the SCADA and PLC platforms, it is possible that these technologies could, down the track, lose some necessity as more technologies come along that don’t consist of the same integrative nature that IoT carries.”
How IoT can help
If you already have a SCADA system in place, you can integrate the IoT solution with your SCADA system and collect data from a Data Acquisition Systems (DAS) machine. By leveraging the power and scalability of IoT, you can use collected data to create a wide range of reports such as Overall Equipment Effectiveness reports, Production Data reports as well as utility reports (gas, water, power).
In the future, it’s likely that SCADA systems will evolve into those of IoT. Equipment and PLC will become more intelligent and will be able to integrate different cloud platforms. This will enable new security platforms that will further secure any data that is recorded. This means that improvements that will save money can be performed.
SCADA is more about allowing humans to interact remotely with a process. Whereas IoT is generally used as a machine-to-machine communication tool. Rather than something that exists primarily to present information to a human. That is just a small part of its process. IoT ensures that information is shared with both people and machine, rather than just people. In short, it makes sure that everyone and everything is kept in the loop at all times.
The comparative analysis
In the end, both SCADA and IoT involve sensors and data acquisition. Although they do differ in many aspects, they both share the one common goal. The optimization of use and, eventually, better control over some devices or a process. The whole idea of a smart grid leads to SCADA and IoT integration. As SCADA is not a full control system, rather a computer system that gathers and analyses real-time data, it is useful in monitoring and controlling a plant or industrial equipment. It will gather information about a mishap, transfer it back to a central site and alert the home station. It will then carry out any necessary analysis and control and display the information in a logical and organized fashion for humans to then interpret and use accordingly.
The Internet of Things is made up of a network of physical devices connected via electronic embedding, software setups, sensor-actuators and network connectivity which all act together for the objects to connect and exchange data. IoT allows objects to be sensed or controlled remotely across different networking infrastructures. Therefore, it creates opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems. This results in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit and also cuts down on human intervention.
Both platforms offer an abundance of advantages, as well as some vulnerabilities. It is predicted that by 2020, 50 billion devices or things will be connected to the internet. Therefore, the dynamics of an Internet-based control system are becoming a living reality. Industry 4.0 is an era in which emerging trend automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies are allowing for a shift from traditionally implemented SCADA to an IoT implemented one. With SCADA, cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things, cloud computing and cognitive computing, Industry 4.0 is an era that will change the dynamics of the entire automation industry.
It’s no secret that large organisations are faced with numerous threats to their people, assets and operations. When an incident occurs, the faster you can react, the more likely it is that you can minimise potential losses. Delayed awareness and slow response times can be costly for production rates, profitability, reputation and the health and safety of employees. Despite waves of automation elsewhere in large enterprises, emergency responses are often still stuck in manual, reactive and often much-delayed process.
Workplace safety for industrial environments and their employees has increasingly gained widespread attention and concern due to increasing production pressures and an ever-increasing international competitiveness, in conjunction with more complex operations. This has the potential to increase health and safety risks of employees if the various risks are not adequately monitored and controlled. This is ever so present within the construction and mining industries where injuries and fatalities are far more common.
Even with the growing use of AI and robotics, things can still go wrong. Although the use of technology is typically thought to increase productivity and IT strategy, it is gaining more traction when it comes to health and safety. And with the pressures being placed on organisations to comply with health and safety laws and standards, the emergence of more sophisticated safety strategies is vital.
In no time is the conversation of mechanisation more crucial. In a recent comment to Bloomberg on mining fatalities having risen in South Africa, Peter Bailey, chairman for health and safety at the National Union of Mineworkers, commented, “Companies are maximizing profits while violating safety procedures.”
Operators in South Africa, are still using labour-intensive mining methods such as hand drilling. This backs up the notion/opinion that companies are maximising profits whilst violating safety procedures. Bloomberg also recently chatted to Patrice Motsepe, executive chairman of African Rainbow Minerals Ltd., about the increase in mining fatalities, who said “In a country where there’s so much unemployment, where all of us are committed to creating jobs, if you look at the mines that have the lowest fatalities, it tends to be the ones that are more mechanized.”
The risk of human error
The majority of risk management systems and safety solutions are heavily reliant on data from the various work areas. The challenge is that the status quo around data generation is paper and people driven. According to Eric Croeser, Director of Partnerships in Mining, “currently, mines rely on people to conduct these assessments and update system logs.”
As competent as these safety systems are, there is always the added risk of human error. No matter the skills and training, there is always a degree of uncertainty implied when it comes to the accuracy of each assessment based on our inability to completely separate our perception of events and outcomes. As humans, our perceptions are naturally biased by common order and, therefore, a 100% assessment cannot be obtained.
Naturally, humans are biased by their own perception of things. Human judgement and decision making are distorted by an array of cognitive, perceptual and motivational biases. This unconscious bias is pervasive within the workplace and it affects a number of business decisions. When it comes to assessing certain risks, we need to understand that it is subjective to our own thinking about risk.
According to Daniel Kahneman, Author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, there is a pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and behaviour. Kahneman states that “we’re generally overconfident in our opinions and our impressions and judgments”. His book outlines the impact of loss aversion and overconfidence on corporate strategies, the challenges of correctly framing risks at work and home, and the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from the stock market to planning the next vacation
Croeser also noted that “within that short interval control, if you’re relying on people you’re not getting the actual data. You’re getting biased opinions and run the risk of having paperwork being filled out without actual assessments being done. You don’t know if the paper-based exercise has been completed. And to what degree it was done accurately.”
Technology: The upside to workplace safety
The workplace health and safety systems are in place to protect the well-being of the workers, as well as the productivity of the company’s machinery. Therefore, it’s important to ensure the sophistication of each process. When it comes to workplace safety within mining and industry, risks are naturally increased as the area is objectively more accident-prone.
So, we know that some change is needed to ensure more accurate assessments of safety risks. We also know that workers dislike change. As humans, we naturally tend to favour what we already know. Therefore, bringing big changes to a workplace can sometimes prove to be quite challenging. However, change is inevitable with industry markets becoming more reliant on technology and companies opening their doors to smart devices.
The Internet of Things is proving to be a game changer by revolutionising safety management. IoT is generating big gains in safety, efficiency and profitability for companies worldwide, including those heavy asset industries.
Adopting technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics is made easier with IoT and the technology also offers managers more control over the time frame between event and response to event.
Using real-time data to ensure accuracy
Automating and integrating processes will open up a new level of safety and transparency in production. Industrial safety technology allows for humans and machines to interact with each other in smart factories without any incidents. Essentially, using near-real-time data to verify and accurately quantify potential safety risks within the factory will allow managers to gain access to real, unfiltered data. These technologies will also reconstruct scenarios so they’re not affected by biases and allow for actual risk-based assessments to be made.
IoT devices offer businesses smarter devices and smarter possibilities. These devices offer something beyond simple data capture. They recognise patterns within that data and assist the worker to make an informed, statistically driven decision. Sensors within this technology will learn your machinery’s ‘normal state’ and detect patterns that deviate from it. First line managers are notified instantaneously so they can respond in a way that will better ensure the safety of the workers.
By tracking things like environmental factors that have bearing on the health and safety of the workers, businesses can assess any and all potential dangers and then create an appropriate response before an event even occurs. By using IoT and smart devices to track the risk of the operations of your mine, you will also be ensuring long-term safety, improving compliance, and assessing risks and then taking proactive action.
The early Bird
Industry safety is all about accurate, near real-time data. Operations need to be tracked 24/7 for businesses to stay on top of the safety of their workers. When it comes to accurately assessing injury and fatality rates, as well as all the near misses and unsafe acts, we need to look to the bottom of the Bird Triangle. With hundreds of unsafe, no-injury incidents being reported, and many more near-misses, for every major injury including fatality and major disability, it can be easy to miss all the times that an event almost occurred.
“The base incidents and near misses or collisions, excessive machine use or damages, PLCs integrated into different systems showing how many times conveyor belts fall out on pull keys – those are the events that are likely caused by someone doing something unsafe. In a digitalised world, you can start exploring the correlation of these events to factors like people position, environmental factors and other input KPIs into the process for more information.”
Companies can track these near misses in near real-time to create and implement more accurate systems of prevention. It also allows managers to stay educated on the behaviours that the workers typically adopt that may prove to be unsafe and, therefore, lead to incident. As a result, more relevant training programs and industry education can be implemented to assist the human side of accident prevention. There is also the possibility that, through IoT, these data points could be integrated into a model that can be used for training in a simulated VR environment. An interactive training environment that emulates the existing control systems, the physical plant design and layout and the operator consoles will optimize the transfer of skills from off-line training environments to the actual work environment as well as maximise team training and communication.
Going digital will also reduce the amount of paperwork and time required to report on any and all incidents, major and minor, within the workplace. “Consider an employer who downgrades performance ratings based on incidents being filed. Would you track them all accurately, even if no-one is injured?”
Using real-time data to gain access to more accurate recordings in the bottom two portions of the triangle ensure that you are able to intervene before, minor and non-injury incidents, and at-risk behaviours occur within the Bird Triangle occur, filling it up to Lost Time Injury/fatality.
Better communication for companies
The aim of IoT integrated technologies, is to connect enterprise sensory data, system data, and employee smart devices together to create a single multi-channel critical communication platform. By collecting data from all pieces of operating machinery and converting that data into meaningful 24/7 information, disruptions in operations are minimised while employees are kept safe and informed. A single multi-channel communication platform will also ensure that all communications and interactions coming in from various channels are tracked, measured and managed accordingly.
Using technology to harness the strengths of high-speed communication is fundamental for improving workplace safety. Critical communication platforms are deployed to warn people in the event of a crisis.
By integrating critical communications with IoT technology, organisations can improve physical security and business continuity as well as minimise the impact of crisis including machinery malfunction, security breaches, physical injury and a mechanical warehouse fire.
Digital technology is providing the answers
With technology advancing daily, it’s vital to stay in tune with the smart devices available within your industry. By using IoT smart devices, you can generate data that will always keep you up to date on what’s happening a job site, in real-time. Then, by combining this data with other other innovative tools like the Cloud, mobile, VR, AR, and automation, companies can help others strengthen safety programs and initiatives.
So, when it comes to supporting the health and safety measures of your company, digitalisation is just what the doctor ordered. The solutions and thinking discussed here don’t just hold true for the health and safety of your workers, but also for operational efficiency. Any employee downtime could result in production and operational downtime for the company. Implementing the IoT technological measures will also reduce the amount of operational downtime a company has when things go wrong. By continuously tracking the operations of the factory and the safety of its workers, improvements can be made and solutions can be implemented without laying impact on the efficiency of production.
Isn’t it time decisions were made in real-time, rather than waiting for the weekly management meeting or for your superior to gather, analyse and disclose data findings? We think so.
It’s a commonly concluded outcome in any industrial setting. Technology and automation will end up cutting out jobs. The robots will take over. The imminent change will destroy our livelihood.
It’s not an altogether wrong sentiment. Automation certainly will remove the need for a few pairs of hands in the process, but does that mean the end of careers? Absolutely not.
Let’s look to Asia to find out why automation isn’t the enemy.
Worrying about being able to embed delicate technology into a rugged environment, or whether a data network will be able to handle the load placed on it by an interconnected, industrial ecosystem are the least of your worries. Rest-assured, we’ve got these issues covered. It’s time for you to start focusing on how you’ll build a digital agriculture business that can stop any investor in their (muddy) tracks.
The machine to machine economy is being, and will continue to be, enabled by the broad adoption of industrial internet of things (IIoT). This is already moving beyond the hype cycle into significant adoption. However, the interoperability and intelligence brought about by the IoT is only half a solution when considering the machine to machine economy. Crypo-currencies represent the other half of this exponential rubicon.
But is the blockchain too “heavy” for the billions of micro-transactions needed to enable the machine to machine economy?
Keep an eye on our blog as Gareth Rees digs further into the relationship between blockchain and IoT over the coming weeks.