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“As traditional products become more commoditized, the data collected from smart, connected products will deliver more business value than the physical component.”

So, why do I believe that smart, connected products are the future for equipment manufacturers? From my work at the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA), we have seen many equipment manufacturers pivoting towards becoming software and analytics companies with promising results. They are doing this by stretching the definition of what a product is and creating service offers that revolve around improving customer outcomes. In the age of IoT (Internet of Things), the true opportunity for equipment manufacturers lies in the development of smart services that support their products.

The Data is Out There, Capture It!

A single jet engine can generate 1 terabyte of data on a cross-Atlantic flight, and monitoring the performance of 1 gas turbine compressor blade can create 500 gigabytes per day. In turn, the collection and analysis of that data provide insights that can be used to improve service delivery and create new service offers.

The amount of data being generated globally is exploding. It has been estimated that in the history of the world up until 2003, there have been 2.3 exabytes of data collected. Even more staggering, IDC and EMC estimate that by 2020 we will have collected over 40,000 exabytes. To put it into perspective, 1 exabyte can hold the entire content in the Library of Congress . . . 3,000 times! That’s a lot of data!

Smart Products, Digital Twins, and The Edge

While there is no doubt that smart, connected products have the potential to transform the industrial equipment marketplace, it’s important to provide an overview and some definitions of how the Internet of Things works for equipment manufacturers.

First of all, a “smart, connected product” is:

  • A Product is some type of electro-mechanical device.
  • This product becomes Smart when some type of sensor technology is applied that enables a company to capture a digital representation of performance, status or usage.
  • Then these products are Connected enabling companies to communicate with the product.

The data that is generated from smart, connected products can create a living digital model of the physical product. In 2015, Siemens came up with the term Digital Twin to describe this living model that can be used to test, develop, and digitally validate component and / or system performance.

While storing a digital twin in the cloud offers tremendous benefits, many industrial applications cannot rely exclusively on centralized data storage and processing. For instance, mission critical applications that operate in difficult terrain need immediate action, unencumbered by transmission bottlenecks. This is where Edge Computing comes into play.

An edge device provides an entry point into the cloud, ie Edge-to-Cloud. Examples include routers, routing switches, integrated access devices (IADs), multiplexers, and a variety of metropolitan area network (MAN) and wide area network (WAN) access devices. However, edge computing is more than an access point – it includes Embedded Diagnostics and software that can perform meaningful localized Real Time Analytics.

These analytics can enable Real Time Decisions / Actions, i.e. safety mechanisms that stop a machine, the collection of local data that provide alerts to respond to changes. The additional computational resources that are now available with edge computing enable Software Defined Machines that can continuously update and increase functionality through the deployment of new software.

Having this basic understanding of how IoT works for equipment manufacturers is important for a number of reasons:

  • product development teams need to incorporate sensor technology and edge devices into their design activity.
  • positioning edge computing as a way to enable real time analytics and decisions without reliance on a connection to the cloud, and
  • identifying meaningful data to store in the cloud to create the digital twin that can be used to improve service delivery and inform future offers.

In my next post, I will share how equipment manufacturers are taking advantage of IoT and introduce a helpful framework – the Remote Services Continuum – to guide your activities.