Subscribe to our Newsletter | Join our LinkedIn Group | Post on IoT Central


Management (34)

In my last post, I explored how OTA updates are typically performed using Amazon Web Services and FreeRTOS. OTA updates are critically important to developers with connected devices. In today’s post, we are going to explore several best practices developers should keep in mind with implementing their OTA solution. Most of these will be generic although I will point out a few AWS specific best practices.

Best Practice #1 – Name your S3 bucket with afr-ota

There is a little trick with creating S3 buckets that I was completely oblivious to for a long time. Thankfully when I checked in with some colleagues about it, they also had not been aware of it so I’m not sure how long this has been supported but it can help an embedded developer from having to wade through too many AWS policies and simplify the process a little bit.

Anyone who has attempted to create an OTA Update with AWS and FreeRTOS knows that you have to setup several permissions to allow an OTA Update Job to access the S3 bucket. Well if you name your S3 bucket so that it begins with “afr-ota”, then the S3 bucket will automatically have the AWS managed policy AmazonFreeRTOSOTAUpdate attached to it. (See Create an OTA Update service role for more details). It’s a small help, but a good best practice worth knowing.

Best Practice #2 – Encrypt your firmware updates

Embedded software must be one of the most expensive things to develop that mankind has ever invented! It’s time consuming to create and test and can consume a large percentage of the development budget. Software though also drives most features in a product and can dramatically different a product. That software is intellectual property that is worth protecting through encryption.

Encrypting a firmware image provides several benefits. First, it can convert your firmware binary into a form that seems random or meaningless. This is desired because a developer shouldn’t want their binary image to be easily studied, investigated or reverse engineered. This makes it harder for someone to steal intellectual property and more difficult to understand for someone who may be interested in attacking the system. Second, encrypting the image means that the sender must have a key or credential of some sort that matches the device that will decrypt the image. This can be looked at a simple source for helping to authenticate the source, although more should be done than just encryption to fully authenticate and verify integrity such as signing the image.

Best Practice #3 – Do not support firmware rollbacks

There is often a debate as to whether firmware rollbacks should be supported in a system or not. My recommendation for a best practice is that firmware rollbacks be disabled. The argument for rollbacks is often that if something goes wrong with a firmware update then the user can rollback to an older version that was working. This seems like a good idea at first, but it can be a vulnerability source in a system. For example, let’s say that version 1.7 had a bug in the system that allowed remote attackers to access the system. A new firmware version, 1.8, fixes this flaw. A customer updates their firmware to version 1.8, but an attacker knows that if they can force the system back to 1.7, they can own the system. Firmware rollbacks seem like a convenient and good idea, in fact I’m sure in the past I used to recommend them as a best practice. However, in today’s connected world where we perform OTA updates, firmware rollbacks are a vulnerability so disable them to protect your users.

Best Practice #4 – Secure your bootloader

Updating firmware Over-the-Air requires several components to ensure that it is done securely and successfully. Often the focus is on getting the new image to the device and getting it decrypted. However, just like in traditional firmware updates, the bootloader is still a critical piece to the update process and in OTA updates, the bootloader can’t just be your traditional flavor but must be secure.

There are quite a few methods that can be used with the onboard bootloader, but no matter the method used, the bootloader must be secure. Secure bootloaders need to be capable of verifying the authenticity and integrity of the firmware before it is ever loaded. Some systems will use the application code to verify and install the firmware into a new application slot while others fully rely on the bootloader. In either case, the secure bootloader needs to be able to verify the authenticity and integrity of the firmware prior to accepting the new firmware image.

It’s also a good idea to ensure that the bootloader is built into a chain of trust and cannot be easily modified or updated. The secure bootloader is a critical component in a chain-of-trust that is necessary to keep a system secure.

Best Practice #5 – Build a Chain-of-Trust

A chain-of-trust is a sequence of events that occur while booting the device that ensures each link in the chain is trusted software. For example, I’ve been working with the Cypress PSoC 64 secure MCU’s recently and these parts come shipped from the factory with a hardware-based root-of-trust to authenticate that the MCU came from a secure source. That Root-of-Trust (RoT) is then transferred to a developer, who programs a secure bootloader and security policies onto the device. During the boot sequence, the RoT verifying the integrity and authenticity of the bootloader, which then verifies the integrity and authenticity of any second stage bootloader or software which then verifies the authenticity and integrity of the application. The application then verifies the authenticity and integrity of its data, keys, operational parameters and so on.

This sequence creates a Chain-Of-Trust which is needed and used by firmware OTA updates. When the new firmware request is made, the application must decrypt the image and verify that authenticity and integrity of the new firmware is intact. That new firmware can then only be used if the Chain-Of-Trust can successfully make its way through each link in the chain. The bottom line, a developer and the end user know that when the system boots successfully that the new firmware is legitimate. 

Conclusions

OTA updates are a critical infrastructure component to nearly every embedded IoT device. Sure, there are systems out there that once deployed will never update, however, those are probably a small percentage of systems. OTA updates are the go-to mechanism to update firmware in the field. We’ve examined several best practices that developers and companies should consider when they start to design their connected systems. In fact, the bonus best practice for today is that if you are building a connected device, make sure you explore your OTA update solution sooner rather than later. Otherwise, you may find that building that Chain-Of-Trust necessary in today’s deployments will be far more expensive and time consuming to implement.

Originally posted here.

Read more…

Wi-Fi, NB-IoT, Bluetooth, LoRaWAN… This webinar will help you to choose the appropriate connectivity protocol for your IoT application.

Connectivity is cool! The cornucopia of connectivity choices available to us today would make engineers gasp in awe and disbelief just a few short decades ago.

I was just pondering this point and – as usual – random thoughts started to bounce around my poor old noggin. Take the topic of interoperability, for example (for the purposes of these discussions, we will take “interoperability” to mean “the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information”).

Don’t get me started on the subject of the Endian Wars. Instead, let’s consider the 7-bit American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) that we know and love. The currently used ASCII standard of 96 printing characters and 32 control characters was first defined in 1968. For machines that supported ASCII, this greatly facilitated their ability to exchange information.

For reasons of their own, the folks at IBM decided to go their own way by developing a proprietary 8-bit code called the Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code (EBCDIC). This code was first used on the IBM 360 computer, which was presented to the market in 1964. Just for giggles and grins, IBM eventually introduced 57 different variants EBCDIC targeted at different countries (a “standard” that came in 57 different flavors!). This obviously didn’t help IBM machines in different countries to make use of each other’s files. Even worse, different types of IBM computers found difficult to talk to each other, let alone with machines from other manufacturers.

There’s an old joke that goes, “Standard are great – everyone should have one.” The problem is that almost everybody did. Sometime around late-1980 or early 1981, for example, I was working at International Computers (ICL) in Manchester, England. I recall being invited to what I was told was going to be a milestone event. This turned out to be a demonstration in which a mainframe computer was connected to a much smaller computer (akin to one of the first PCs) via a proprietary wired network. With great flourish and fanfare, the presenter created and saved a simple ASCII text file on the mainframe, then – to the amazement of all present – opened and edited the same file on the small computer.

This may sound like no big deal to the young folks of today, but it was an event of such significance at that time that journalists from the national papers came up on the train from London to witness this august occasion with their own eyes so that they could report back to the unwashed masses.

Now, of course, we have a wide variety of wired standards, from simple (short range) protocols like I2C and SPI, to sophisticated (longer range) offerings like Ethernet. And, of course, we have a cornucopia of wireless standards like Wi-Fi, NB-IoT, Bluetooth, and LoRaWAN. In some respects, this is almost an embarrassment of riches … there are so many options … how can we be expected to choose the most appropriate connectivity protocol for our IoT applications?

Well, I’m glad you asked, because I will be hosting a one-hour webinar on this very topic on Tuesday 28 September 2021, starting at 8:00 a.m. Pacific Time (11:00 a.m. Eastern Time).

Presented by IoT Central and sponsored by ARM, yours truly will be joined in this webinar by Samuele Falconer (Principal Product Manager at u-blox), Omer Cheema (Head of the Wi-Fi Business Unit at Renesas Semiconductor), Wienke Giezeman (Co-Founder and CEO at The Things Industries), and Thomas Cuyckens (System Architect at Qorvo).

If you are at all interested in connectivity for your cunning IoT creations, then may I make so bold as to suggest you Register Now before all of the good virtual seats are taken. I’m so enthused by this event that I’m prepared to pledge on my honor that – if you fail to learn something new – I will be very surprised (I was going to say that I would return the price of your admission but, since this event is free, that would have been a tad pointless).

So, what say you? Can I dare to hope to see you there? Register Now

Read more…

4 key questions to ask tech vendors

Posted by Terri Hiskey

Without mindful and strategic investments, a company’s supply chain could become wedged in its own proverbial Suez Canal, ground to a halt by outside forces and its inflexible, complex systems.

 

It’s a dramatic image, but one that became reality for many companies in the last year. Supply chain failures aren’t typically such high-profile events as the Suez Canal blockage, but rather death by a thousand inefficiencies, each slowing business operations and affecting the customer experience.

Delay by delay and spreadsheet by spreadsheet, companies are at risk of falling behind more nimble, cloud-enabled competitors. And as we emerge from the pandemic with a new understanding of how important adaptable, integrated supply chains are, company leaders have critical choices to make.

The Hannover Messe conference (held online from April 12-16) gives manufacturing and supply chain executives around the world a chance to hear perspectives from industry leaders and explore the latest manufacturing and supply chain technologies available.

Technology holds great promise. But if executives don’t ask key strategic questions to supply chain software vendors, they could unknowingly introduce a range of operational and strategic obstacles into their company’s future.

If you’re attending Hannover Messe, here are a few critical questions to ask:

Are advanced technologies like machine learning, IoT, and blockchain integrated into your supply chain applications and business processes, or are they addressed separately?

It’s important to go beyond the marketing. Is the vendor actually promoting pilots of advanced technologies that are simply customized use cases for small parts of an overall business process hosted on a separate platform? If so, it may be up to your company to figure out how to integrate it with the rest of that vendor’s applications and to maintain those integrations.

To avoid this situation, seek solutions that have been purpose-built to leverage advanced technologies across use cases that address the problems you hope to solve. It’s also critical that these solutions come with built-in connections to ensure easy integration across your enterprise and to third party applications.

Are your applications or solutions written specifically for the cloud?

If a vendor’s solution for a key process (like integrated business planning or plan to produce, for example) includes applications developed over time by a range of internal development teams, partners, and acquired companies, what you’re likely to end up with is a range of disjointed applications and processes with varying user interfaces and no common data model. Look for a cloud solution that helps connect and streamline your business processes seamlessly.

Update schedules for the various applications could also be disjointed and complicated, so customers can be tempted to skip updates. But some upgrades may be forced, causing disruption in key areas of your business at various times.

And if some of the applications in the solution were written for the on-premises world, business processes will likely need customization, making them hard-wired and inflexible. The convenience of cloud solutions is that they can take frequent updates more easily, resulting in greater value driven by the latest innovations.

Are your supply chain applications fully integrated—and can they be integrated with other key applications like ERP or CX?

A lack of integration between and among applications within the supply chain and beyond means that end users don’t have visibility into the company’s operations—and that directly affects the quality and speed of business decisions. When market disruptions or new opportunities occur, unintegrated systems make it harder to shift operations—or even come to an agreement on what shift should happen.

And because many key business processes span multiple areas—like manufacturing forecast to plan, order to cash, and procure to pay—integration also increases efficiency. If applications are not integrated across these entire processes, business users resort to pulling data from the various systems and then often spend time debating whose data is right.

Of course, all of these issues increase operational costs and make it harder for a company to adapt to change. They also keep the IT department busy with maintenance tasks rather than focusing on more strategic projects.

Do you rely heavily on partners to deliver functionality in your supply chain solutions?

Ask for clarity on which products within the solution belong to the vendor and which were developed by partners. Is there a single SLA for the entire solution? Will the two organizations’ development teams work together on a roadmap that aligns the technologies? Will their priority be on making a better solution together or on enhancements to their own technology? Will they focus on enabling data to flow easily across the supply chain solution, as well as to other systems like ERP? Will they be able to overcome technical issues that arise and streamline customer support?

It’s critical for supply chain decision-makers to gain insight into these crucial questions. If the vendor is unable to meet these foundational needs, the customer will face constant obstacles in their supply chain operations.

Originally posted here.

Read more…

Waste management is a global concern. According to The World Bank report, about 2.01 billion tonnes of solid waste is generated globally every year. 33% of that waste is not managed in an environmentally safe manner. Waste management in densely populated urban areas is a major problem. The lack of it leads to environmental contamination. It ends up spreading diseases in epidemic proportions. It is a challenge for both developed and developing countries.

By 2050, it is estimated to grow to 3.40 billion tonnes. But here is the catch. IoT waste management systems can help, Municipalities across the globe can employ IoT to manage waste better. IoT technologies are already being employed for modern supply chains. IoT waste management systems have become invaluable as they optimize and automate most of the processes in the industry. IoT adoption, however, is far more significant on the supply chain side. While many IoT-based waste management systems are already in place, a lot of challenges hold them back. 

A smart city collects data of personal vehicles, buildings, public transport, components of urban infrastructures such as power grids and waste management systems, and citizens. The insights derived from the real-time data help municipalities to manage these systems. IoT waste management is a new frontier for local authorities, aiming to reduce municipal waste. As per a recent survey by IoT Analytics, over 70% of cities have deployed IoT systems for security, traffic, and water level monitoring. It is yet to be fully deployed for smart waste management systems using IoT.

With rapid population increase, sanitation-related issues concerning garbage management are on a decline. It creates unhygienic conditions for the citizens in the surrounding areas, leading to the spread of diseases. IoT in waste management is a trending solution. By using IoT, waste management companies can increase operational efficiency and reduce costs. 

The waste collection process in urban areas is complex. It requires a significant amount of resources. More than $300 million per capita is spent annually in collecting and managing waste. Most of the high-income cities charge their citizens to cover a fraction of this expense. The rest of the expense is compensated from the tax revenue, which financially burdens the local government.

Municipalities and waste management companies have improved route efficiencies. But they haven't leveraged technological innovations for improving operational efficiency. Even with the route optimization process, the manual process wastes money and time. The use of smart devices, machine-to-machine connectivity, sensors, and IoT can reduce costs. A smart waste management system using IoT can reduce expenses in the trash collection process. But how? How does the use of IoT in waste management improve waste collection efficiencies?

 

How Does IoT in Waste management Respond to Operational Inefficiencies?


A smart waste management system using IoT improves the efficiency of collecting waste and recycling. Route optimization is the most common use case for using IoT waste management solutions, which reduces fuel consumption. 

IoT-powered, smart waste management solutions comprise endpoints (sensors), IoT platforms, gateways, and web and mobile applications. Sensors are attached to dumpsters to check their fill level. Gateways bridge the gap between the IoT platform and the sensor, sending data to the cloud. IoT platforms then transform the raw data into information. 

 

Benefits of IoT Waste Management Solutions


There are several advantages of using IoT-powered waste management solutions. 

  • Reduced Waste Collection Costs:
    Dumpsters that employ IoT can transmit their real-time information on fill-level. The data is shared with the waste collectors. The use of data and selection of optimum routes leads the waste collection trucks to consider the dumpsters with high fill levels. This saves fuel, money, and effort. 
  • No Missed Pickups:
    The smart IoT waste management system eliminates the overflowing of trash bins. The authorities are immediately notified when the trash bins are about to fill up to their capacity. And the collection trucks are scheduled for pickup. 
  • Waste Generation Analysis:
    IoT waste management isn't about route optimization alone. The actual value of an IoT-powered process lies in data analysis. Most IoT solutions are coupled with data analytics capabilities. They help IoT waste management companies anticipate future waste generation.
  • Reduction In Carbon Dioxide Emission:
    Optimized routes cause less fuel consumption. They reduce the carbon footprint and make the waste management process eco-friendlier.
  • Efficient Recycling:
    Over the years, the appearance of consumer electronic devices in landfills has become a growing concern. This is due to its harmful chemicals and valuable components. But this concern also presents an opportunity. IoT offers an opportunity for businesses by using sanitation systems to recycle e-waste for resources.
  • Automating IoT Management Systems:
    IoT waste management can also be helpful in waste categorization. The use of digital bins can help in automating the sorting, segregation, and categorization of waste. This saves a lot of man-hours. A Polish company Bin-e combines AI-based object recognition, fill level control and data processing. Its 'Smart Waste Bins' identifies and sorts waste into four categories - paper, glass, plastic, and metal. This makes waste processing more efficient. 


Future of IoT Waste Management


IoT waste management is a boon. The growing use of IoT linked with the management of everyday urban life improves the everyday experience of the citizens. Additionally, it reduces carbon footprint. But to do so in the waste management segment, more support is needed from the public sector through incentives and regulations. The private sector needs to contribute via innovation. Engagement from the various state agencies is required to implement the usage of IoT applications. This will help build a more sustainable future.


Conclusion


Those managing the waste collection, sorting, segregation and categorization, can benefit from a smart waste management system using IoT. By employing IoT in waste management, waste management companies can increase operational efficiency. It can reduce costs and enhance the satisfaction level of citizens by ensuring dumpsters don't overflow.

Read more…

By Ricardo Buranello

What Is the Concept of a Virtual Factory?

For a decade, the first Friday in October has been designated as National Manufacturing Day. This day begins a month-long events schedule at manufacturing companies nationwide to attract talent to modern manufacturing careers.

For some period, manufacturing went out of fashion. Young tech talents preferred software and financial services career opportunities. This preference has changed in recent years. The advent of digital technologies and robotization brought some glamour back.

The connected factory is democratizing another innovation — the virtual factory. Without critical asset connection at the IoT edge, the virtual factory couldn’t have been realized by anything other than brand-new factories and technology implementations.

There are technologies that enable decades-old assets to communicate. Such technologies allow us to join machine data with physical environment and operational conditions data. Benefits of virtual factory technologies like digital twin are within reach for greenfield and legacy implementations.

Digital twin technologies can be used for predictive maintenance and scenario planning analysis. At its core, the digital twin is about access to real-time operational data to predict and manage the asset’s life cycle. It leverages relevant life cycle management information inside and outside the factory. The possibilities of bringing various data types together for advanced analysis are promising.

I used to see a distinction between IoT-enabled greenfield technology in new factories and legacy technology in older ones. Data flowed seamlessly from IoT-enabled machines to enterprise systems or the cloud for advanced analytics in new factories’ connected assets. In older factories, while data wanted to move to the enterprise systems or the cloud, it hit countless walls. Innovative factories were creating IoT technologies in proof of concepts (POCs) on legacy equipment, but this wasn’t the norm.

No matter the age of the factory or equipment, everything looks alike. When manufacturing companies invest in machines, the expectation is this asset will be used for a decade or more. We had to invent something inclusive to new and legacy machines and systems.

We had to create something to allow decades-old equipment from diverse brands and types (PLCs, CNCs, robots, etc.) to communicate with one another. We had to think in terms of how to make legacy machines to talk to legacy systems. Connecting was not enough. We had to make it accessible for experienced developers and technicians not specialized in systems integration.

If plant managers and leaders have clear and consumable data, they can use it for analysis and measurement. Surfacing and routing data has enabled innovative use cases in processes controlled by aged equipment. Prescriptive and predictive maintenance reduce downtime and allow access to data. This access enables remote operation and improved safety on the plant floor. Each line flows better, improving supply chain orchestration and worker productivity.

Open protocols aren’t optimized for connecting to each machine. You need tools and optimized drivers to connect to the machines, cut latency time and get the data to where it needs to be in the appropriate format to save costs. These tools include:

  • Machine data collection
  • Data transformation and visualization
  • Device management
  • Edge logic
  • Embedded security
  • Enterprise integration
This digital copy of the entire factory floor brings more promise for improving productivity, quality, downtime, throughput and lending access to more data and visibility. It enables factories to make small changes in the way machines and processes operate to achieve improvements.

Plants are trying to get and use data to improve overall equipment effectiveness. OEE applications can calculate how many good and bad parts were produced compared to the machine’s capacity. This analysis can go much deeper. Factories can visualize how the machine works down to sub-processes. They can synchronize each movement to the millisecond and change timing to increase operational efficiency.

The technology is here. It is mature. It’s no longer a question of whether you want to use it — you have it to get to what’s next. I think this makes it a fascinating time for smart manufacturing.

Originally posted here.

Read more…

By Jacqi Levy

The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming every facet of the building – how we inhabit them, how we manage them, and even how we build them. There is a vast ecosystem around today’s buildings, and no part of the ecosystem is untouched.

In this blog series, I plan to examine the trends being driven by IoT across the buildings ecosystem. Since the lifecycle of building begins with design and construction, let’s start there. Here are four ways that the IoT is radically transforming building design and construction.

Building information modeling

Building information modeling (BIM) is a process that provides an intelligent, 3D model of a building. Typically, BIM is used to model a building’s structure and systems during design and construction, so that changes to one set of plans can be updated simultaneously in all other impacted plans. Taken a step further, however, BIM can also become a catalyst for smart buildings projects.

Once a building is up and running, data from IoT sensors can be pulled into the BIM. You can use that data to model things like energy usage patterns, temperature trends or people movement throughout a building. The output from these models can then be analyzed to improve future buildings projects. Beyond its impact on design and construction, BIM also has important implications for the management of building operations.

Green building

The construction industry is a huge driver of landfill waste – up to 40% of all solid waste in the US comes from the buildings projects. This unfortunate fact has ignited a wave of interest in sustainable architecture and construction. But the green building movement has become about much more than keeping building materials out of landfills. It is influencing the design and engineering of building systems themselves, allowing buildings to reduce their impact on the environment through energy management.

Today’s green buildings are being engineered to do things like shut down unnecessary systems automatically when the building is unoccupied, or open and close louvers automatically to let in optimal levels of natural light. In a previous post, I talk about 3 examples of the IoT in green buildings, but these are just some of the cool ways that the construction industry is learning to be more sustainable with help from the IoT.

Intelligent prefab

Using prefabricated building components can be faster and more cost effective than traditional building methods, and it has an added benefit of creating less construction waste. However, using prefab for large commercial buildings projects can be very complex to coordinate. The IoT is helping to solve this problem.

Using RFID sensors, individual prefab parts can be tracked throughout the supply chain. A recent example is the construction of the Leadenhall Building in London. Since the building occupies a relatively small footprint but required large prefabricated components, it was a logistically complex task to coordinate the installation. RFID data was used to help mitigate the effects of any downstream delays in construction. In addition, the data was the fed into the BIM once parts were installed, allowing for real time rendering of the building in progress, as well as establishment of project controls and KPIs.

Construction management

Time is money, so any delays on a construction project can be costly. So how do you prevent your critical heavy equipment from going down and backing up all the other trades on site? With the IoT!

Heavy construction equipment is being outfitted with sensors, which can be remotely monitored for key indicators of potential maintenance issues like temperature fluctuations, excessive vibrations, etc. When abnormal patterns are detected, alerts can trigger maintenance workers to intervene early, before critical equipment fails. Performing predictive maintenance in this way can save time and money, as well as prevent unnecessary delays in construction projects.

Originally posted here.

Read more…

By Ashley Ferguson

Thanks to the introduction of connected products, digital services, and increased customer expectations, it has been the trend for IoT enterprise spend to consistently increase. The global IoT market is projected to reach $1.4 trillion USD by 2027. The pressure to build IoT solutions and get a return on those investments has teams on a frantic search for IoT engineers to secure in-house IoT expertise. However, due to the complexity of IoT solutions, finding this in a single engineer is a difficult or impossible proposition.

So how do you adjust your search for an IoT engineer? The first step is to acknowledge that IoT solution development requires the fusion of multiple disciplines. Even simple IoT applications require hardware and software engineering, knowledge of protocols and connectivity, web development skills, and analytics. Certainly, there are many engineers with IoT knowledge, but complete IoT solutions require a team of partners with diverse skills. This often requires utilizing external sources to supplement the expertise gaps.

THE ANATOMY OF AN IoT SOLUTION

IoT solutions provide enterprises with opportunities for innovation through new product offerings and cost savings through refined operations. An IoT solution is an integrated bundle of technologies that help users answer a question or solve a specific problem by receiving data from devices connected to the internet. One of the most common IoT use cases is asset tracking solutions for enterprises who want to monitor trucks, equipment, inventory, or other items with IoT. The anatomy of an asset tracking IoT solution includes the following:

9266380467?profile=RESIZE_710x

This is a simple asset tracking example. For more complex solutions including remote monitoring or predictive maintenance, enterprises must also consider installation, increased bandwidth, post-development support, and UX/UI for the design of the interface for customers or others who will use the solution. Enterprise IoT solutions require an ecosystem of partners, components, and tools to be brought to market successfully.

Consider the design of your desired connected solution. Do you know where you will need to augment skills and services?

If you are in the early stages of IoT concept development and at the center of a buy vs. build debate, it may be a worthwhile exercise to assess your existing team’s skills and how they correspond with the IoT solution you are trying to build.

IoT SKILLS ASSESSMENT

  • Hardware
  • Firmware
  • Connectivity
  • Programming
  • Cloud
  • Data Science
  • Presentation
  • Technical Support and Maintenance
  • Security
  • Organizational Alignment

MAKING TIME FOR IoT APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT

The time it will take your organization to build a solution is dependent on the complexity of the application. One way to estimate the time and cost of IoT application development is with Indeema’s IoT Cost Calculator. This tool can help roughly estimate the hours required and the cost associated with the IoT solution your team is interested in building. In MachNation’s independent comparison of the Losant Enterprise IoT Platform and Azure, it was determined that developers could build an IoT solution in 30 hours using Losant and in 74-94 hours using Microsoft Azure.

As you consider IoT application development, consider the makeup of your team. Is your team prepared to dedicate hours to the development of a new solution, or will it be a side project? Enterprise IT teams are often in place to maintain existing operating systems and to ensure networks are running smoothly. In the event that an IT team is tapped to even partially build an IoT solution, there is a great chance that the IT team will need to invite partners to build or provide part of the stack.

HOW THE IoT JOB GETS DONE

Successful enterprises recognize early on that some of these skills will need to be augmented through additional people, through an ecosystem, or with software. It will require more than one ‘IoT engineer’ for the job. According to the results of a McKinsey survey, “the preferences of IoT leaders suggest a greater willingness to draw capabilities from an ecosystem of technology partners, rather than rely on homegrown capabilities.”

IoT architecture alone is intricate. Losant, an IoT application enablement platform, is designed with many of the IoT-specific components already in place. Losant enables users to build applications in a low-to-no code environment and scale them up to millions of devices. Losant is one piece in the wider scope of an IoT solution. In order to build a complete solution, an enterprise needs hardware, software, connectivity, and integration. For those components, our team relies on additional partners from the IoT ecosystem.

The IoT ecosystem, also known as the IoT landscape, refers to the network of IoT suppliers (hardware, devices, software platforms, sensors, connectivity, software, systems integrators, data scientists, data analytics) whose combined services help enterprises create complete IoT solutions. At Losant, we’ve built an IoT ecosystem with reliable experienced partners. When IoT customers need custom hardware, connectivity, system integrators, dev shops, or other experts with proven IoT expertise, we can tap one of our partners to help in their areas of expertise.

SECURE, SCALABLE, SEAMLESS IoT

Creating secure, scalable, and seamless IoT solutions for your environment begins by starting small. Starting small gives your enterprise the ability to establish its ecosystem. Teams can begin with a small investment and apply learnings to subsequent projects. Many IoT success stories begin with enterprises setting out to solve one problem. The simple beginnings have enabled them to now reap the benefits of the data harvest in their environments.

Originally posted here.

Read more…

By GE Digital

“The End of Cloud Computing.” “The Edge Will Eat The cloud.” “Edge Computing—The End of Cloud Computing as We Know It.”  

Such headlines grab attention, but don’t necessarily reflect reality—especially in Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) deployments. To be sure, edge computing is rapidly emerging as a powerful force in turning industrial machines into intelligent machines, but to paraphrase Mark Twain: “The reports of the death of cloud are greatly exaggerated.” 

The Tipping Point: Edge Computing Hits Mainstream

We’ve all heard the stats—billions and billions of IoT devices, generating inconceivable amounts of big data volumes, with trillions and trillions of U.S. dollars to be invested in IoT over the next several years. Why? Because industrials have squeezed every ounce of productivity and efficiency out of operations over the past couple of decades, and are now looking to digital strategies to improve production, performance, and profit. 

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) represents a world where human intelligence and machine intelligence—what GE Digital calls minds and machines—connect to deliver new value for industrial companies. 

In this new landscape, organizations use data, advanced analytics, and machine learning to drive digital industrial transformation. This can lead to reduced maintenance costs, improved asset utilization, and new business model innovations that further monetize industrial machines and the data they create. 

Despite the “cloud is dead” headlines, GE believes the cloud is still very important in delivering on the promise of IIoT, powering compute-intense workloads to manage massive amounts of data generated by machines. However, there’s no question that edge computing is quickly becoming a critical factor in the total IIoT equation.

“The End of Cloud Computing.” “The Edge Will Eat The cloud.” “Edge Computing—The End of Cloud Computing as We Know It.”  

Such headlines grab attention, but don’t necessarily reflect reality—especially in Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) deployments. To be sure, edge computing is rapidly emerging as a powerful force in turning industrial machines into intelligent machines, but to paraphrase Mark Twain: “The reports of the death of cloud are greatly exaggerated.”

The Tipping Point: Edge Computing Hits Mainstream

We’ve all heard the stats—billions and billions of IoT devices, generating inconceivable amounts of big data volumes, with trillions and trillions of U.S. dollars to be invested in IoT over the next several years. Why? Because industrials have squeezed every ounce of productivity and efficiency out of operations over the past couple of decades, and are now looking to digital strategies to improve production, performance, and profit. 

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) represents a world where human intelligence and machine intelligence—what GE Digital calls minds and machines—connect to deliver new value for industrial companies. 

In this new landscape, organizations use data, advanced analytics, and machine learning to drive digital industrial transformation. This can lead to reduced maintenance costs, improved asset utilization, and new business model innovations that further monetize industrial machines and the data they create. 

Despite the “cloud is dead” headlines, GE believes the cloud is still very important in delivering on the promise of IIoT, powering compute-intense workloads to manage massive amounts of data generated by machines. However, there’s no question that edge computing is quickly becoming a critical factor in the total IIoT equation. 

What is edge computing? 

The “edge” of a network generally refers to technology located adjacent to the machine which you are analyzing or actuating, such as a gas turbine, a jet engine, or magnetic resonance (MR) scanner. 

Until recently, edge computing has been limited to collecting, aggregating, and forwarding data to the cloud. But what if instead of collecting data for transmission to the cloud, industrial companies could turn massive amounts of data into actionable intelligence, available right at the edge? Now they can. 

This is not just valuable to industrial organizations, but absolutely essential.

Edge computing vs. Cloud computing 

Cloud and edge are not at war … it’s not an either/or scenario. Think of your two hands. You go about your day using one or the other or both depending on the task. The same is true in Industrial Internet workloads. If the left hand is edge computing and the right hand is cloud computing, there will be times when the left hand is dominant for a given task, instances where the right hand is dominant, and some cases where both hands are needed together. 

Scenarios in which edge computing will take a leading position include things such as low latency, bandwidth, real-time/near real-time actuation, intermittent or no connectivity, etc. Scenarios where cloud will play a more prominent role include compute-heavy tasks, machine learning, digital twins, cross-plant control, etc. 

The point is you need both options working in tandem to provide design choices across edge to cloud that best meet business and operational goals.

Edge Computing and Cloud Computing: Balance in Action 

Let’s look at a couple of illustrations. In an industrial context, examples of intelligent edge machines abound—pumps, motors, sensors, blowout preventers and more benefit from the growing capabilities of edge computing for real-time analytics and actuation. 

Take locomotives. These modern 200 ton digital machines carry more than 200 sensors that can pump one billion instructions per second. Today, applications can not only collect data locally and respond to changes on that data, but they can also perform meaningful localized analytics. GE Transportation’s Evolution Series Tier 4 Locomotive uses on-board edge computing to analyze data and apply algorithms for running smarter and more efficiently. This improves operational costs, safety, and uptime. 

Sending all that data created by the locomotive to the cloud for processing, analyzing, and actuation isn’t useful, practical, or cost-effective. 

Now let’s switch gears (pun intended) and talk about another mode of transportation—trucking. Here’s an example where edge plays an important yet minor role, while cloud assumes a more dominant position. In this example, the company has 1,000 trucks under management. There are sensors on each truck tracking performance of the vehicle such as engine, transmission, electrical, battery, and more. 

But in this case, instead of real-time analytics and actuation on the machine (like our locomotive example), the data is being ingested, then stored and forwarded to the cloud where time series data and analytics are used to track performance of vehicle components. The fleet operator then leverages a fleet management solution for scheduled maintenance and cost analysis. This gives him or her insights such as the cost over time per part type, or the median costs over time, etc. The company can use this data to improve uptime of its vehicles, lower repair costs, and improve the safe operation of the vehicle.

What’s next in edge computing 

While edge computing isn’t a new concept, innovation is now beginning to deliver on the promise—unlocking untapped value from the data being created by machines. 

GE has been at the forefront of bridging minds and machines. Predix Platform supports a consistent execution environment across cloud and edge devices, helping industrials achieve new levels of performance, production, and profit.

Originally posted here.

Read more…

Computer vision is fundamental to capturing real-world data within the IoT. Arm technology provides a secure ecosystem for smart cameras in business, industrial and home applications

By Mohamed Awad, VP IoT & Embedded, Arm

Computer vision leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to enable devices such as smart cameras to interpret and understand what is happening in an image. Recreating a sensor as powerful as the human eye with technology opens up a wide and varied range of use cases for computers to perform tasks that previously required human sight – so it’s no wonder that computer vision is quickly becoming one of the most important ways to capture and act on real-world data within the Internet of Things (IoT).

Smart cameras now use computer vision in a range of business and industrial applications, from counting cars in parking lots to monitoring footfall in retail stores or spotting defects on a production line. And in the home, smart cameras can tell us when a package has been delivered, whether the dog escaped from the back yard or when our baby is awake.

Across the business and consumer worlds, the adoption of smart camera technology is growing exponentially. In its 2020 report “Cameras and Computing for Surveillance and Security”, market research and strategy consulting company Yole Développement estimates that for surveillance alone, there are approximately one billion cameras across the world. That number of installations is expected to double by 2024.

This technology features key advancements in security, heterogeneous computing, image processing and cloud services – enabling future computer vision products that are more capable than ever.

Smart camera security is top priority for computer vision

IoT security is a key priority and challenge for the technology industry. It’s important that all IoT devices are secure from exploitation by malicious actors, but it’s even more critical when that device captures and stores image data about people, places and high-value assets.

Unauthorized access to smart cameras tasked with watching over factories, hospitals, schools or homes would not only be a significant breach of privacy, it could also lead to untold harm—from plotting crimes to the leaking of confidential information. Compromising a smart camera could also provide a gateway, giving a malicious actor access to other devices within the network – from door, heating and lighting controls to control over an entire smart factory floor.

We need to be able to trust smart cameras to maintain security for us all, not open up new avenues for exploitation. Arm has embraced the importance of security in IoT devices for many years through its product portfolio offerings such as Arm TrustZone for both Cortex-A and Cortex-M.

In the future, smart camera chips based on the Armv9 architecture will add further security enhancements for computer vision products through the Arm Confidential Compute Architecture (CCA).

Further to this, Arm promotes common standards of security best practice such as PSA Certified and PARSEC. These are designed to ensure that all future smart camera deployments have built-in security, from the point the image sensor first records the scene to storage, whether that data is stored locally or in the cloud by using advanced security and data encryption techniques.

Endpoint AI powers computer vision in smart camera devices

9197834489?profile=RESIZE_710x

The combination of image sensor technology and endpoint AI is enabling smart cameras to infer increasingly complex insights from the vast amounts of computer vision data they capture. New machine learning capabilities within smart camera devices meet a diverse range of use cases – such as detecting individual people or animals, recognizing specific objects and reading license plates. All of these applications for computer vision require ML algorithms running on the endpoint device itself, rather than sending data to the cloud for inference. It’s all about moving compute closer to data.

For example, a smart camera employed at a busy intersection could use computer vision to determine the number and type of vehicles waiting at a red signal at various hours throughout the day. By processing its own data and inferring meaning using ML, the smart camera could automatically adjust its timings in order to reduce congestion and limit build-up of emissions automatically without human involvement.

Arm’s investment in AI for applications in endpoints and beyond is demonstrated through its range of Ethos machine learning processors: highly scalable and efficient NPUs capable of supporting a range of 0.1 to 10 TOP/s through many-core technologies. Software also plays a vital role in ML and this is why Arm continues to support the open-source community through the Arm NN SDK and TensorFlow Lite for Microcontrollers (TFLM) open-source frameworks.

These machine learning workload frameworks are based on existing neural networks and power-efficient Arm Cortex-A CPUs, Mali GPUs and Ethos NPUs as well as Arm Compute library and CMSIS-NN – a collection of low-level machine learning functions optimized for Cortex-A CPU, Cortex-M CPU and Mali GPU architectures.

The Armv9 architecture supports enhanced AI capabilities, too, by providing accessible vector arithmetic (individual arrays of data that can be computed in parallel) via Scalable Vector Extension 2 (SVE2). This enables scaling of the hardware vector length without having to rewrite or recompile code. In the future, extensions for matrix multiplication (a key element in enhancing ML) will push the AI envelope further.

Smart cameras connected in the cloud

Cloud and edge computing is also helping to expedite the adoption of smart cameras. Traditional CCTV architectures saw camera data stored on-premises via a Network Video Recorder (NVR) or a Digital Video Recorder (DVR). This model had numerous limitations, from the vast amount of storage required to the limited number of physical connections on each NVR.

Moving to a cloud-native model simplifies the rollout of smart cameras enormously: any number of cameras can be provisioned and managed via a configuration file downloaded to the device. There’s also a virtuous cycle at play: Data from smart cameras can be now used to train the models in the cloud for specific use-cases so that cameras become even smarter. And the smarter they become, the less data they need to send upstream.

The use of cloud computing also enables automation of processes via AI sensor fusion by combining computer vision data from multiple smart cameras. Taking our earlier example of the smart camera placed at a road intersection, cloud AI algorithms could combine data from multiple cameras to constantly adjust traffic light timings holistically across an entire city, keeping traffic moving.

Arm enables the required processing continuum from cloud to endpoint. Cortex-M microcontrollers and Cortex-A processors power smart cameras, with Cortex-A processors also powering edge gateways. Cloud and edge servers harness the capabilities of the Neoverse platform.

New hardware and software demands on smart cameras

9197835086?profile=RESIZE_710x

The compute needs for computer vision devices continue to grow year over year, with ultra-high resolution video capture (8K 60fps) and 64-bit (Armv8-A) processing marking the current standard for high-end smart camera products.

As a result, the system-on-chip (SoC) within next-generation smart cameras will need to embrace heterogenous architectures, combining CPUs, GPUs, NPUs alongside dedicated hardware for functions like computer vision, image processing, video encoding and decoding.

Storage, too, is a key concern: While endpoint AI can reduce storage requirements by processing images locally on the camera, many use cases will require that data be retained somewhere for safety and security – whether on the device, in edge servers or in the cloud.

To ensure proper storage of high-resolution computer vision data, new video encoding and decoding standards such as H.265 and AV1 are becoming the de facto standard.

New use cases driving continuous innovation

Overall, the demands from the new use cases are driving the need for continuous improvement in computing and imaging technologies across the board.

When we think about image-capturing devices such as CCTV cameras today, we should no longer imagine grainy images of barely recognizable faces passing by a camera. Advancements in computer vision – more efficient and powerful compute coupled with the intelligence of AI and machine learning – are making smart cameras not just image sensors but image interpreters. This bridge between the analog and digital worlds is opening up new classes of applications and use cases that were unimaginable a few years ago.

Originally posted here.

Read more…

Augmented Reality not only enhances reality through virtual and bundled information, but also offers untapped opportunities for companies and their customers. This technology can significantly support customers in processing information more efficiently and relieve them cognitively. Early adopters such as Amazon and IKEA are already using augmented reality in online shopping for product demonstrations. This gives customers a more comprehensive insight into the product, which supports their purchase intention. Industry is already using the technology in a more versatile way and exploiting the advantages, for example, in engineering, in production, in service or for employee training. This justifiably raises the question of why this potential of AR is not also being exploited at the customer level.

For customer participation, it would be groundbreaking to reliably empower customers in their contribution to involvement, regardless of their skills and prior knowledge. In the future, customers would no longer have to bother with paper instructions when assembling furniture but would be able to follow work instructions more easily using their smartphones. This can also be applied to other everyday situations, such as repairing one's own bicycle or helping to indicate a malfunction in the heating system when it displays a message again.

The examples listed all have the common feature that AR acts as a medium for guided work instructions so that customers can be supported more efficiently in their actions. As an expert in the field of AR and IoT, I have questioned at this point whether there really an increase in efficiency is, how this possible increase in efficiency makes itself felt, and how the effects could be explained. To get to the bottom of the problem, an empirical survey was designed in which a 26-step assembly task had to be accomplished. The test persons were divided into two groups. While the experimental group received instructions in an AR app via iPad, the control group worked with classic paper instructions. After the experiment, all participants were asked about their subjective perceptions during assembly using a standardized questionnaire.

The results of the empirical study are in line with the media perception or hype of augmented reality. The members of the experimental group had a significantly shorter processing time, made significantly fewer errors and were more satisfied overall with the assembly task. Based on the subjective perception of our test subjects, it can be shown that the increase in efficiency on the part of the experimental group can be explained by a reduction in their cognitive load.

Overall, the survey not only reveals efficiency gains using augmented reality, but also raises the prospect of other factors. The participants were more efficient in their actions and were also significantly more satisfied with the process. According to existing marketing literature on satisfaction, it follows that there is an increased repurchase intention, an increased willingness to pay, positive eWOM, and sustained customer loyalty. It can be shown that the use of augmented reality can not only reduce existing costs by increasing efficiency but promises additional revenue. With the advancement of technical realities in private households, the use of AR at the consumer level is no longer a utopia. The technology is ready! So, are you?

Read more…

By Sachin Kotasthane

In his book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, the historian Yuval Noah Harari highlights the complex challenges mankind will face on account of technological challenges intertwined with issues such as nationalism, religion, culture, and calamities. In the current industrial world hit by a worldwide pandemic, we see this complexity translate in technology, systems, organizations, and at the workplace.

While in my previous article, Humane IIoT, I discussed the people-centric strategies that enterprises need to adopt while onboarding IoT initiatives of industrial IoT in the workforce, in this article, I will share thoughts on how new-age technologies such as AI, ML, and big data, and of course, industrial IoT, can be used for effective management of complex workforce problems in a factory, thereby changing the way people work and interact, especially in this COVID-stricken world.

Workforce related problems in production can be categorized into:

  1. Time complexity
  2. Effort complexity
  3. Behavioral complexity

Problems categorized in either of the above have a significant impact on the workforce, resulting in a detrimental effect on the outcome—of the product or the organization. The complexity of these problems can be attributed to the fact that the workforce solutions to such issues cannot be found using just engineering or technology fixes as there is no single root-cause, rather, a combination of factors and scenarios. Let us, therefore, explore a few and seek probable workforce solutions.8829066088?profile=RESIZE_584x

Figure 1: Workforce Challenges and Proposed Strategies in Production

  1. Addressing Time Complexity

    Any workforce-related issue that has a detrimental effect on the operational time, due to contributing factors from different factory systems and processes, can be classified as a time complex problem.

    Though classical paper-based schedules, lists, and punch sheets have largely been replaced with IT-systems such as MES, APS, and SRM, the increasing demands for flexibility in manufacturing operations and trends such as batch-size-one, warrant the need for new methodologies to solve these complex problems.

    • Worker attendance

      Anyone who has experienced, at close quarters, a typical day in the life of a factory supervisor, will be conversant with the anxiety that comes just before the start of a production shift. Not knowing who will report absent, until just before the shift starts, is one complex issue every line manager would want to get addressed. While planned absenteeism can be handled to some degree, it is the last-minute sick or emergency-pager text messages, or the transport delays, that make the planning of daily production complex.

      What if there were a solution to get the count that is almost close to the confirmed hands for the shift, an hour or half, at the least, in advance? It turns out that organizations are experimenting with a combination of GPS, RFID, and employee tracking that interacts with resource planning systems, trying to automate the shift planning activity.

      While some legal and privacy issues still need to be addressed, it would not be long before we see people being assigned to workplaces, even before they enter the factory floor.

      During this course of time, while making sure every line manager has accurate information about the confirmed hands for the shift, it is also equally important that health and well-being of employees is monitored during this pandemic time. Use of technologies such as radar, millimeter wave sensors, etc., would ensure the live tracking of workers around the shop-floor and make sure that social distancing norms are well-observed.

    • Resource mapping

      While resource skill-mapping and certification are mostly HR function prerogatives, not having the right resource at the workstation during exigencies such as absenteeism or extra workload is a complex problem. Precious time is lost in locating such resources, or worst still, millions spent in overtime.

      What if there were a tool that analyzed the current workload for a resource with the identified skillset code(s) and gave an accurate estimate of the resource’s availability? This could further be used by shop managers to plan manpower for a shift, keeping them as lean as possible.

      Today, IT teams of OEMs are seen working with software vendors to build such analytical tools that consume data from disparate systems—such as production work orders from MES and swiping details from time systems—to create real-time job profiles. These results are fed to the HR systems to give managers the insights needed to make resource decisions within minutes.

  2. Addressing Effort Complexity

    Just as time complexities result in increased  production time, problems in this category result in an increase in effort by the workforce to complete the same quantity of work. As the effort required is proportionate to the fatigue and long-term well-being of the workforce, seeking workforce solutions to reduce effort would be appreciated. Complexity arises when organizations try to create a method out-of-madness from a variety of factors such as changing workforce profiles, production sequences, logistical and process constraints, and demand fluctuations.

    Thankfully, solutions for this category of problems can be found in new technologies that augment existing systems to get insights and predictions, the results of which can reduce the efforts, thereby channelizing it more productively. Add to this, the demand fluctuations in the current pandemic, having a real-time operational visibility, coupled with advanced analytics, will ensure meeting shift production targets.

    • Intelligent exoskeletons

      Exoskeletons, as we know, are powered bodysuits designed to safeguard and support the user in performing tasks, while increasing overall human efficiency to do the respective tasks. These are deployed in strain-inducing postures or to lift objects that would otherwise be tiring after a few repetitions. Exoskeletons are the new-age answer to reducing user fatigue in areas requiring human skill and dexterity, which otherwise would require a complex robot and cost a bomb.

      However, the complexity that mars exoskeleton users is making the same suit adaptable for a variety of postures, user body types, and jobs at the same workstation. It would help if the exoskeleton could sense the user, set the posture, and adapt itself to the next operation automatically.

      Taking a leaf out of Marvel’s Iron Man, who uses a suit that complements his posture that is controlled by JARVIS, manufacturers can now hope to create intelligent exoskeletons that are always connected to factory systems and user profiles. These suits will adapt and respond to assistive needs, without the need for any intervention, thereby freeing its user to work and focus completely on the main job at hand.

      Given the ongoing COVID situation, it would make the life of workers and the management safe if these suits are equipped with sensors and technologies such as radar/millimeter wave to help observe social distancing, body-temperature measuring, etc.

    • Highlighting likely deviations

      The world over, quality teams on factory floors work with checklists that the quality inspector verifies for every product that comes at the inspection station. While this repetitive task is best suited for robots, when humans execute such repetitive tasks, especially those that involve using visual, audio, touch, and olfactory senses, mistakes and misses are bound to occur. This results in costly reworks and recalls.

      Manufacturers have tried to address this complexity by carrying out rotation of manpower. But this, too, has met with limited success, given the available manpower and ever-increasing workloads.

      Fortunately, predictive quality integrated with feed-forwards techniques and some smart tracking with visuals can be used to highlight the area or zone on the product that is prone to quality slips based on data captured from previous operations. The inspector can then be guided to pay more attention to these areas in the checklist.

  3. Addressing Behavioral Complexity

    Problems of this category usually manifest as a quality issue, but the root cause can often be traced to the workforce behavior or profile. Traditionally, organizations have addressed such problems through experienced supervisors, who as people managers were expected to read these signs, anticipate and align the manpower.

    However, with constantly changing manpower and product variants, these are now complex new-age problems requiring new-age solutions.

    • Heat-mapping workload

      Time and motion studies at the workplace map the user movements around the machine with the time each activity takes for completion, matching the available cycle-time, either by work distribution or by increasing the manpower at that station. Time-consuming and cumbersome as it is, the complexity increases when workload balancing is to be done for teams working on a single product at the workstation. Movements of multiple resources during different sequences are difficult to track, and the different users cannot be expected to follow the same footsteps every time.

      Solving this issue needs a solution that will monitor human motion unobtrusively, link those to the product work content at the workstation, generate recommendations to balance the workload and even out the ‘congestion.’ New industrial applications such as short-range radar and visual feeds can be used to create heat maps of the workforce as they work on the product. This can be superimposed on the digital twin of the process to identify the zone where there is ‘congestion.’ This can be fed to the line-planning function to implement corrective measures such as work distribution or partial outsourcing of the operation.

    • Aging workforce (loss of tribal knowledge)

      With new technology coming to the shop-floor, skills of the current workforce get outdated quickly. Also, with any new hire comes the critical task of training and knowledge sharing from experienced hands. As organizations already face a shortage of manpower, releasing more hands to impart training to a larger workforce audience, possibly at different locations, becomes an even more daunting task.

      Fully realizing the difficulties and reluctance to document, organizations are increasingly adopting AR-based workforce trainings that map to relevant learning and memory needs. These AR solutions capture the minutest of the actions executed by the expert on the shop-floor and can be played back by the novice in-situ as a step-by-step guide. Such tools simplify the knowledge transfer process and also increase worker productivity while reducing costs.

      Further, in extraordinary situations such  as the one we face at present, technologies such as AR offer solutions for effective and personalized support to field personnel, without the need to fly in specialists at multiple sites. This helps keep them safe, and accessible, still.

Key takeaways and Actionable Insights

The shape of the future workforce will be the result of complex, changing, and competing forces. Technology, globalization, demographics, social values, and the changing personal expectations of the workforce will continue to transform and disrupt the way businesses operate, increasing the complexity and radically changing where, and when of future workforce, and how work is done. While the need to constantly reskill and upskill the workforce will be humongous, using new-age techniques and technologies to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the existing workforce will come to the spotlight.

8829067296?profile=RESIZE_710x

Figure 2: The Future IIoT Workforce

Organizations will increasingly be required to:

  1. Deploy data farming to dive deep and extract vast amounts of information and process insights embedded in production systems. Tapping into large reservoirs of ‘tribal knowledge’ and digitizing it for ingestion to data lakes is another task that organizations will have to consider.
  2. Augment existing operations systems such as SCADA, DCS, MES, CMMS with new technology digital platforms, AI, AR/VR, big data, and machine learning to underpin and grow the world of work. While there will be no dearth of resources in one or more of the new technologies, organizations will need to ‘acqui-hire’ talent and intellectual property using a specialist, to integrate with existing systems and gain meaningful actionable insights.
  3. Address privacy and data security concerns of the workforce, through the smart use of technologies such as radar and video feeds.

Nonetheless, digital enablement will need to be optimally used to tackle the new normal that the COVID pandemic has set forth in manufacturing—fluctuating demands, modular and flexible assembly lines, reduced workforce, etc.

Originally posted here.

Read more…

Provisioning, managing and securing devices in an IoT product requires careful planning at the very start of the process. Rigorous evaluation of options, then a Proof of Concept helps determine the right solution. Once the POC has been approved, the IoT product moves to production. Then the real fun starts and many strategic considerations come into play. We can list them as follows:

  • Robust and secure OTA software updates

  • Security by design

  • Scalability

  • Automation

  • Remote terminal management

  • Device configuration, monitoring & troubleshooting

Robust and secure OTA software updates

Robust and secure OTA software updates are essential for keeping IoT devices secure as the software on these devices will become outdated during their lifetime and vulnerabilities are certain to arise if left in their initial states. Therefore a secure, risk-tolerant, and efficient update mechanism must be at the core of each product development team from the inception of the project to the end of its life.

How about a homegrown solution?

Homegrown solutions are less likely to be best-of-breed, can be hard to scale, can suffer from over customisation and scope creep, come at an inherently high cost and can be left in trouble if the star developers behind their creation suddenly jump ship and leave the organisation.  They also often lack the requirements needed to ensure security and robustness of software updates. Various open source solutions exist, but none provide an end-to-end solution and lack the overall functionality to make them enterprise-grade. Generic public cloud IoT stacks wish to cater to the entire IoT value chain but fail to deliver a purpose-built solution for software updates. Proprietary and platform solutions cause lock-in to specific cloud infrastructure, operating system, or development tools.

The common thread among all of these solutions is the lack of a fully optimized end-to-end OTA software update and device management infrastructure that can minimize risk, increase efficiency and enhance security and uptime.

Security by design

A device security breach incident can interrupt operations, damage systems, and negatively impact both virtual and physical processes. This translates into unhappy customers and lost business. As Colin Duggan, the Founder and CEO at BG Networks says in an interview with the Device Chronicle, “It is difficult to add security after the design has been completed. There are a number of reasons for this. Embedded systems have limited MHz, memory, and limitations of network interfaces on embedded processors. Security features can be added after the fact but usually will not close off all the vulnerabilities.” That is why it is so important to ensure security by design, in the very early stages of the product’s lifecycle.

IoT product security should be approached holistically with a framework that addresses the people, devices and process. To help IoT professionals make the right decisions concerning their product development, we designed a simple framework based on these factors and called it the Triangle of Trust:
Triangle_of_Trust-1024x575.png

Scalability

There’s a significant difference between managing a small number of embedded devices and having thousands or even millions of devices deployed in the field. Microsoft’s new IoT Signals report found lack of scalability as a leading cause for IoT project failures. Complexity is one of the greatest scalability issues. As such, choosing the right solution with the right architecture is important to safeguard the long-term management viability of your fleet of connected devices. More on the topic of IoT scalability can be read here.

Automation

When one of the arms of the Triangle of Trust fails, the other two are endangered. To prevent any risks arising from human mistakes, automating some of the processes is a solution that might save your business thousands of dollars. Mender.io is an OTA software update manager for Linux-based embedded devices, and it also offers a wide range of automations to securely manage these devices. One of the features that Mender offers is automatic retry of failed device deployments. Deployments to devices might fail for various intermittent reasons like loss of power, network or device usage. Automatic retry upon failures reduces device deployment error rates up to 90%. This translates to time and money savings managing deployments, and also leads to customers receiving the updates faster.

Remote Management

Remote management is a necessity for any kind of embedded device. Any company rolling out its IoT products needs to have control of its systems from a central location. SSH, secure tunneling and remote terminal access is preferred by service providers to VPN access as they can assure their customers of security when accessing and troubleshooting devices. Furthermore, the management involves grouping and accessing embedded devices, provisioning, configuring, and monitoring remotely and securely.

Seeing the necessity for not only secure over-the-air processes, but also for reliable ways of monitoring, provisioning, configuring, grouping, and accessing the embedded devices, the team behind Mender decided to expand their offering by the mentioned remote management features. Mender is open source software meaning there are many contributors to make it better and support a variety of customer hardware and software such as NVIDIA Jetson and NXP's family of iMX processors. It provides flexibility in choosing your infrastructure, software, and hardware from prototyping to production which means there is no vendor lock-in. Mender supports all device software updates from a full disk image to application updates with the freedom to customize the update and installation process to fit your workflow. It is also integrated with Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure IoT for easy device authentication. 

Device configuration, troubleshooting and monitoring

A proper device management set up should never be overlooked. Robust and secure device management is a necessary cornerstone for an IoT product and therefore you need to find a high quality solution. Once you deploy thousands or millions of devices into the field you’ll need to be able to configure them properly, gather the data, and quickly troubleshoot any arising problems. Many organisations treat these capabilities as an afterthought. Engineers realize that they need some kind of device management solution right before their deadlines and product releases, which results in rushed fixes being made, that may have serious implications for the robustness and security of connected devices.

Conclusion

In order to roll out a successful, secure, and robust IoT product a few things have to be taken into consideration before the release. To ensure security by design from the earliest stages of the product life cycle, the team behind the IoT product needs to find a solution for deploying secure and robust OTA updates, remotely monitor, configure, and troubleshoot the devices, and automate necessary processes in order to avoid human-made mistakes.

Read more…

IoT in Mining

Flowchart of IoT in Mining

by Vaishali Ramesh

Introduction – Internet of Things in Mining

The Internet of things (IoT) is the extension of Internet connectivity into physical devices and everyday objects. Embedded with electronics, Internet connectivity, and other forms of hardware; these devices can communicate and interact with others over the Internet, and they can be remotely monitored and controlled. In the mining industry, IoT is used as a means of achieving cost and productivity optimization, improving safety measures and developing their artificial intelligence needs.

IoT in the Mining Industry

Considering the numerous incentives it brings, many large mining companies are planning and evaluating ways to start their digital journey and digitalization in mining industry to manage day-to-day mining operations. For instance:

  • Cost optimization & improved productivity through the implementation of sensors on mining equipment and systems that monitor the equipment and its performance. Mining companies are using these large chunks of data – 'big data' to discover more cost-efficient ways of running operations and also reduce overall operational downtime.
  • Ensure the safety of people and equipment by monitoring ventilation and toxicity levels inside underground mines with the help of IoT on a real-time basis. It enables faster and more efficient evacuations or safety drills.
  • Moving from preventive to predictive maintenance
  • Improved and fast-decision making The mining industry faces emergencies almost every hour with a high degree of unpredictability. IoT helps in balancing situations and in making the right decisions in situations where several aspects will be active at the same time to shift everyday operations to algorithms.

IoT & Artificial Intelligence (AI) application in Mining industry

Another benefit of IoT in the mining industry is its role as the underlying system facilitating the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). From exploration to processing and transportation, AI enhances the power of IoT solutions as a means of streamlining operations, reducing costs, and improving safety within the mining industry.

Using vast amounts of data inputs, such as drilling reports and geological surveys, AI and machine learning can make predictions and provide recommendations on exploration, resulting in a more efficient process with higher-yield results.

AI-powered predictive models also enable mining companies to improve their metals processing methods through more accurate and less environmentally damaging techniques. AI can be used for the automation of trucks and drills, which offers significant cost and safety benefits.

Challenges for IoT in Mining 

Although there are benefits of IoT in the mining industry, implementation of IoT in mining operations has faced many challenges in the past.

  • Limited or unreliable connectivity especially in underground mine sites
  • Remote locations may struggle to pick up 3G/4G signals
  • Declining ore grade has increased the requirements to dig deeper in many mines, which may increase hindrances in the rollout of IoT systems

Mining companies have overcome the challenge of connectivity by implementing more reliable connectivity methods and data-processing strategies to collect, transfer and present mission critical data for analysis. Satellite communications can play a critical role in transferring data back to control centers to provide a complete picture of mission critical metrics. Mining companies worked with trusted IoT satellite connectivity specialists such as ‘Inmarsat’ and their partner eco-systems to ensure they extracted and analyzed their data effectively.

 

Cybersecurity will be another major challenge for IoT-powered mines over the coming years

 As mining operations become more connected, they will also become more vulnerable to hacking, which will require additional investment into security systems.

 

Following a data breach at Goldcorp in 2016, that disproved the previous industry mentality that miners are not typically targets, 10 mining companies established the Mining and Metals Information Sharing and Analysis Centre (MM-ISAC) to share cyber threats among peers in April 2017.

In March 2019, one of the largest aluminum producers in the world, Norsk Hydro, suffered an extensive cyber-attack, which led to the company isolating all plants and operations as well as switching to manual operations and procedures. Several of its plants suffered temporary production stoppages as a result. Mining companies have realized the importance of digital security and are investing in new security technologies.

Digitalization of Mining Industry - Road Ahead

Many mining companies have realized the benefits of digitalization in their mines and have taken steps to implement them. There are four themes that are expected to be central to the digitalization of the mining industry over the next decade are listed below:

8782971674?profile=RESIZE_710x

8782971687?profile=RESIZE_710x

The above graph demonstrates the complexity of each digital technology and its implementation period for the widespread adoption of that technology. There are various factors, such as the complexity and scalability of the technologies involved in the adoption rate for specific technologies and for the overall digital transformation of the mining industry.

The world can expect to witness prominent developments from the mining industry to make it more sustainable. There are some unfavorable impacts of mining on communities, ecosystems, and other surroundings as well. With the intention to minimize them, the power of data is being harnessed through different IoT statements. Overall, IoT helps the mining industry shift towards resource extraction, keeping in mind a particular time frame and footprint that is essential.

Originally posted here.

Read more…

Five IoT retail trends for 2021

In 2020 we saw retailers hard hit by the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic with dozens of retailers—Neiman Marcus, J.C. Penney, and Brooks Brothers to name a few— declaring bankruptcy. During the unprecedented chaos of lockdowns and social distancing, consumers accelerated their shift to online shopping. Retailers like Target and Best Buy saw online sales double while Amazon’s e–commerce sales grew 39 percent.1 Retailers navigated supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19, climate change events, trade tensions, and cybersecurity events.  

After the last twelve tumultuous months, what will 2021 bring for the retail industry? I spoke with Microsoft Azure IoT partners to understand how they are planning for 2021 and compiled insights about five retail trends. One theme we’re seeing is a focus on efficiency. Retailers will look to pre-configured digital platforms that leverage cloud-based technologies including the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and edge computing to meet their business goals. 

a group of people standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera

Empowering frontline workers with real-time data

In 2021, retailers will increase efficiency by empowering frontline workers with real-time data. Retail employees will be able to respond more quickly to customers and expand their roles to manage curbside pickups, returns, and frictionless kiosks.  

In H&M Mitte Garten in Berlin, H&M empowered employee ambassadors with fashionable bracelets connected to the Azure cloud. Ambassadors were able to receive real-time requests via their bracelets when customers needed help in fitting rooms or at a cash desk. The ambassadors also received visual merchandising instructions and promotional updates. 

Through the app built on Microsoft partner Turnpike’s wearable SaaS platform leveraging Azure IoT Hub, these frontline workers could also communicate with their peers or their management team during or after store hours. With the real-time data from the connected bracelets, H&M ambassadors were empowered to delivered best-in-class service.   

Carl Norberg, Founder, Turnpike explained, “We realized that by connecting store IoT sensors, POS systems, and AI cameras, store staff can be empowered to interact at the right place at the right time.” 

Leveraging live stream video to innovate omnichannel

Livestreaming has been exploding in China as influencers sell through their social media channels. Forbes recently projected that nearly 40 percent of China’s population will have viewed livestreams during 2020.2 Retailers in the West are starting to leverage live stream technology to create innovative omnichannel solutions.  

For example, Kjell & Company, one of Scandinavia’s leading consumer electronics retailers, is using a solution from Bambuser and Ombori called Omni-queue built on top of the Ombori Grid. Omni-queue enables store employees to handle a seamless combination of physical and online visitors within the same queue using one-to-one live stream video for online visitors.  

Kjell & Company ensures e-commerce customers receive the same level of technical expertise and personalized service they would receive in one of their physical locations. Omni-queue also enables its store employees to be utilized highly efficiently with advanced routing and knowledge matching. 

Maryam Ghahremani, CEO of Bambuser explains, “Live video shopping is the future, and we are so excited to see how Kjell & Company has found a use for our one-to-one solution.” Martin Knutson, CTO of Kjell & Company added “With physical store locations heavily affected due to the pandemic, offering a new and innovative way for customers to ask questions—especially about electronics—will be key to Kjell’s continued success in moving customers online.” 

20191026_JagerandKokemor_Attabotics_RobotOnWhite_15519.FIN (1)

Augmenting omnichannel with dark stores and micro-fulfillment centers  

In 2021, retailers will continue experimenting with dark stores—traditional retail stores that have been converted to local fulfillment centers—and micro-fulfillment centers. These supply chain innovations will increase efficiency by bringing products closer to customers. 

Microsoft partner Attabotics, a 3D robotics supply chain company, works with an American luxury department store retailer to reduce costs and delivery time using a micro-fulfillment center. Attabotics’ unique use of both horizontal and vertical space reduces warehouse needs by 85 percent. Attabotics’ structure and robotic shuttles leveraged Microsoft Azure Edge Zones, Azure IoT Central, and Azure Sphere.

The luxury retailer leverages the micro-fulfillment center to package and ship multiple beauty products together. As a result, customers experience faster delivery times. The retailer also reduces costs related to packaging, delivery, and warehouse space.  

Scott Gravelle, Founder, CEO, and CTO of Attabotics explained, “Commerce is at a crossroads, and for retailers and brands to thrive, they need to adapt and take advantage of new technologies to effectively meet consumers’ growing demands. Supply chains have not traditionally been set up for e-commerce. We will see supply chain innovations in automation and modulation take off in 2021 as they bring a wider variety of products closer to the consumer and streamline the picking and shipping to support e-commerce.” 

a group of people wearing costumes

Helping keep warehouse workers safe

What will this look like? Cognizant’s recent work with an athletic apparel retailer offers a blueprint. During the peak holiday season, the retailer needed to protect its expanding warehouse workforce while minimizing absenteeism. To implement physical distancing and other safety measures, the retailer  leveraged Cognizant’s Safe Buildings solution built with Azure IoT Edge and IoT Hub services.   

With this solution, employees maintain physical distancing using smart wristbands. When two smart wristbands were within a pre-defined distance of each other for more than a pre-defined time, the worker’s bands buzzed to reinforce safe behaviors. The results drove nearly 98 percent distancing compliance in the initial pilot. As the retailer plans to scale-up its workforce at other locations, implementing additional safety modules are being considered:   

  • Touchless temperature checks.  
  • Occupancy sensors communicate capacity information to the management team for compliance records.  
  • Air quality sensors provide environmental data so the facility team could help ensure optimal conditions for workers’ health.  

“For organizations to thrive during and post-pandemic, enterprise-grade workplace safety cannot be compromised. Real-time visibility of threats is providing essential businesses an edge in minimizing risks proactively while building employee trust and empowering productivity in a safer workplace,” Rajiv Mukherjee, Cognizant’s IoT Practice Director for Retail and Consumer Goods.  

Optimizing inventory management with real-time edge data

In 2021, retailers will ramp up the adoption of intelligent edge solutions to optimize inventory management with real-time data. Most retailers have complex inventory management systems. However, no matter how good the systems are, there can still be data gaps due to grocery pick-up services, theft, and sweethearting. The key to addressing these gaps is to combine real-time data from applications running on edge cameras and other edge devices in the physical store with backend enterprise resource planning (ERP) data.  

Seattle Goodwill worked with Avanade to implement a new Microsoft-based Dynamics platform across its 24 stores. The new system provided almost real-time visibility into the movement of goods from the warehouses to the stores. 

Rasmus Hyltegård, Director of Advanced Analytics at Avanade explained, “To ensure inventory moves quickly off the shelves, retailers can combine real-time inventory insights from Avanade’s smart inventory accelerator with other solutions across the customer journey to meet customer expectations.” Hyltegård continued, “Customers can check online to find the products they want, find the stores with product in stock, and gain insight into which stores have the shortest queues, which is important during the pandemic and beyond. Once a customer is in the store, digital signage allows for endless aisle support.” 

a person standing in front of a building

Summary

The new year 2021 holds a wealth of opportunities for retailers. We foresee retail leaders reimagining their businesses by investing in platforms that integrate IoT, AI, and edge computing technologies. Retailers will focus on increasing efficiencies to reduce costs. Modular platforms supported by an ecosystem of strong partner solutions will empower frontline workers with data, augment omnichannel fulfillment with dark stores and micro-fulfillment, leverage livestream video to enhance omnichannel, prioritize warehouse worker safety, and optimize inventory management with real-time data. 

Originally posted here.

Read more…

The benefits of IoT data are widely touted. Enhanced operational visibility, reduced costs, improved efficiencies and increased productivity have driven organizations to take major strides towards digital transformation. With countless promising business opportunities, it’s no surprise that IoT is expanding rapidly and relentlessly. It is estimated that there will be 75.4 billion IoT devices by 2025. As IoT grows, so do the volumes of IoT data that need to be collected, analyzed and stored. Unfortunately, significant barriers exist that can limit or block access to this data altogether.

Successful IoT data acquisition starts and ends with reliable and scalable IoT connectivity. Selecting the right communications technology is paramount to the long-term success of your IoT project and various factors must be considered from the beginning to build a functional wireless infrastructure that can support and manage the influx of IoT data today and in the future.

Here are five IoT architecture must-haves for unlocking IoT data at scale.

1. Network Ownership

For many businesses, IoT data is one of their greatest assets, if not the most valuable. This intensifies the demand to protect the flow of data at all costs. With maximum data authority and architecture control, the adoption of privately managed networks is becoming prevalent across industrial verticals.

Beyond the undeniable benefits of data security and privacy, private networks give users more control over their deployment with the flexibility to tailor their coverage to the specific needs of their campus style network. On a public network, users risk not having the reliable connectivity needed for indoor, underground and remote critical IoT applications. And since this network is privately owned and operated, users also avoid the costly monthly access, data plans and subscription costs imposed by public operators, lowering the overall total-cost-of-ownership. Private networks also provide full control over network availability and uptime to ensure users have reliable access to their data at all times.

2. Minimal Infrastructure Requirements

Since the number of end devices is often fixed to your IoT use cases, choosing a wireless technology that requires minimal supporting infrastructure like base stations and repeaters, as well as configuration and optimization is crucial to cost-effectively scale your IoT network.

Wireless solutions with long range and excellent penetration capability, such as next-gen low-power wide area networks, require fewer base stations to cover a vast, structurally dense industrial or commercial campuses. Likewise, a robust radio link and large network capacity allow an individual base station to effectively support massive amounts of sensors without comprising performance to ensure a continuous flow of IoT data today and in the future.

3. Network and Device Management

As IoT initiatives move beyond proofs-of-concept, businesses need an effective and secure approach to operate, control and expand their IoT network with minimal costs and complexity.

As IoT deployments scale to hundreds or even thousands of geographically dispersed nodes, a manual approach to connecting, configuring and troubleshooting devices is inefficient and expensive. Likewise, by leaving devices completely unattended, users risk losing business-critical IoT data when it’s needed the most. A network and device management platform provides a single-pane, top-down view of all network traffic, registered nodes and their status for streamlined network monitoring and troubleshooting. Likewise, it acts as the bridge between the edge network and users’ downstream data servers and enterprise applications so users can streamline management of their entire IoT project from device to dashboard.

4. Legacy System Integration

Most traditional assets, machines, and facilities were not designed for IoT connectivity, creating huge data silos. This leaves companies with two choices: building entirely new, greenfield plants with native IoT technologies or updating brownfield facilities for IoT connectivity. Highly integrable, plug-and-play IoT connectivity is key to streamlining the costs and complexity of an IoT deployment. Businesses need a solution that can bridge the gap between legacy OT and IT systems to unlock new layers of data that were previously inaccessible. Wireless IoT connectivity must be able to easily retrofit existing assets and equipment without complex hardware modifications and production downtime. Likewise, it must enable straightforward data transfer to the existing IT infrastructure and business applications for data management, visualization and machine learning.

5. Interoperability

Each IoT system is a mashup of diverse components and technologies. This makes interoperability a prerequisite for IoT scalability, to avoid being saddled with an obsolete system that fails to keep pace with new innovation later on. By designing an interoperable architecture from the beginning, you can avoid fragmentation and reduce the integration costs of your IoT project in the long run. 

Today, technology standards exist to foster horizontal interoperability by fueling global cross-vendor support through robust, transparent and consistent technology specifications. For example, a standard-based wireless protocol allows you to benefit from a growing portfolio of off-the-shelf hardware across industry domains. When it comes to vertical interoperability, versatile APIs and open messaging protocols act as the glue to connect the edge network with a multitude of value-deriving backend applications. Leveraging these open interfaces, you can also scale your deployment across locations and seamlessly aggregate IoT data across premises.  

IoT data is the lifeblood of business intelligence and competitive differentiation and IoT connectivity is the crux to ensuring reliable and secure access to this data. When it comes to building a future-proof wireless architecture, it’s important to consider not only existing requirements, but also those that might pop up down the road. A wireless solution that offers data ownership, minimal infrastructure requirements, built-in network management and integration and interoperability will not only ensure access to IoT data today, but provide cost-effective support for the influx of data and devices in the future.

Originally posted here.

Read more…

by Philipp Richert

New digital and IoT use cases are becoming more and more important. When it comes to the adoption of these new technologies, there are several different maturity levels, depending on the domain. Within the retail industry, and specifically food retail, we are currently seeing the emergence of a host of IoT use cases.

Two forces are driving this: a technology push, in which suppliers in the retail domain have technologies available to build retail IoT use cases within a connected store; and a market pull by their customers, who are boosting the demand for such use cases.

Retail-IoT-use-case-technology-push-and-market-pull-1136x139.png

However, we also need to ask the following questions: What are IoT use cases good for? And what are they aiming at? We currently see three different fields of application:

  • Increasing efficiency and optimizing processes
  • Increasing customer satisfaction
  • Increasing revenues with new business models

No matter what is most important for your organization or whatever your focus, it is crucial to set up a process that provides guidance for identifying the right use cases. In the following section, we share some insights on how retailers can best design this process. We collated these insights together with the team from the Food Tech Campus.

How to identify the right retail IoT use cases

When identifying the right use cases for their stores, retailers should make sure to look into all phases within the entire innovation process: from problem description and idea collation to solution concept and implementation. Within this process, it is also essential to consider the so-called innovator’s trilemma and ensure that use cases are:

  • Desirable ones that your customer really needs
  • Technically feasible
  • Profitable for your sustainable business development

Before we can actually start identifying retail IoT use cases, we need to define search fields so that we can work on one topic with greater dedication and focus. We must then open up the problem space in order to extract the most relevant problems and pain points. Starting with prioritized and selected pain points, we then open up the solution space in order to define several solution concepts. Once these have been validated, the result should be a well-defined problem statement that concisely describes one singular pain point.

In the following, we want to take a deep dive into the different phases of the process while giving concrete examples, tips and our top-rated tools. Enjoy!

Search fields

Retailers possess expertise and face challenges at various stages along their complex process chains. It helps here to focus on a specific target group in order to avoid distraction. Target groups are typically users or customers in a defined environment. A good example would be to focus your search on processes that happen inside a store location and are relevant to the customer (e.g., the food shopper).

Understand and observe problems

User research, observation and listening are keys to a well-defined problem statement that allows for further ideation. Embedding yourself in various situations and conducting interviews with all the stakeholders visiting or operating a store should be the first steps. Join employees around the store for a day or two and support them during their everyday tasks. Empathize, look for any friction and ask questions. Take your key findings into workshops and spend some time isolating specific causes. Use personas based on your user research and make use of frameworks and canvas templates in order to structure your findings. Use working titles to name the specific problem statements. One example might be: Long queueing as a major nuisance for customers.

Synthesize findings

Are your findings somehow connected? Single-purpose processes and their owners within a store environment are prone to isolated views. Creating a common problem space increases the chances of adoption of any solution later. So it is worth taking the time to map out all findings and take a look at projects in the past and their outcome. In our example, queueing is linked to staff planning, lack of communication and unpredictable customer behavior.

Prioritize problems and pain points

Ask users or stakeholders to give their view on defined problem statements and let them vote. Challenge their view and make them empathize and broaden their view towards a more holistic benefit. Once the quality of a problem statement has been assessed, evaluate the economic implications. In our example, this could mean that queueing affects most employees in the store, directly or indirectly. This problem might be solved through technology and should be further explored.

The result of a well-structured problem statement list should consist of a few new insights that might result in quick gains; one or two major known pain points, where the solution might be viable and feasible; and a list with additional topics that exist but are not too pressing at the moment.

Define opportunity areas

Map technologies and problems together. Are there any strategic goals that these problem statements might be assigned to? Have things changed in terms of technical feasibility (e.g., has the cost of a technology dropped over the past three years?). Can problems be validated within a larger setup easily or are we talking about singular use cases? All these considerations should lead towards the most attractive problem to solve. Again, in our example, this might be: Queuing is a major problem in most locations, satisfying our customers should be our main goal, existing solutions are too expensive or inflexible.

Retail-IoT-use-case-problem-solution-space-1-1136x580.png

When identifying the right use cases for their stores, retailers should make sure to look into all phases within the entire innovation process: from problem description and idea collation to solution concept and implementation.

Ideate and explore use cases

When conducting an ideation session, it is very helpful to bring in trends that are relevant to the defined problem areas so as to help boost creativity. In our example, for instance, this might be technology trends such as frictionless checkout for retail, hybrid checkout concepts, bring your own device (BYOD) and sensor approaches. It is always important to keep the following in mind: What do these trends mean for the customer journey in-store and how can they be integrated in (legacy) environments?

Define solutions concepts

In the process of further defining the solution concepts, it is essential to evaluate the market potential and to consider customer and user feedback. Depending on the solution, it might be necessary to ask the various stakeholders – from store managers to personnel to customers – in order to get a clearer picture. When talking to customers or users, it is also helpful to bring along scribbles, pictures or prototypes in order to increase immersion. The insights gathered in this way help to validate assumptions and to pilot the concept accordingly.

Set metrics and KPIs to prove success

Defining data-based metrics and KPIs is essential for a successful solution. When setting up metrics and KPIs, you need to consider two aspects:

  • Use existing data – e.g., checkout frequency – in order to demonstrate the impact of the new solution. This offers a very inexpensive way of validating the business potential of the solution early on.
  • Use new data – e.g. measure waiting time – from the solution and evaluate it on a regular basis. This helps to get a better understanding of whether you are collecting the right data and to derive measures that help to improve your solution.

Prototype for quick insights

In terms of technology, practically everything is feasible today. However, the value proposition of a use case (in terms of business and users) can remain unclear and requires testing. Instead of building a technical prototype, it can be helpful to evaluate the value proposition of the solution with humans (empathy prototyping). This could be a person triggering an alarm based on the information at hand instead of an automatic action. Insights and lessons learnt from this phase can be used alongside the technical realization (proof-of-concept) in order to tweak specific features of the solution.

Initiate a PoC for technical feasibility

When it comes to technical feasibility, a clear picture of the objectives and key results (OKRs) for the PoC is essential. This helps to set the boundaries for a lean process with respect to the installation of hardware, an efficient timeline and minimum costs. Furthermore, a well-defined test setup fosters short testing timespans that often yield all needed results.

How IoT platforms can help build retail IoT use cases

The strong trend towards digitization within the retail industry opens up new use cases for the (food) retail industry. In order to make the most of this trend and to build on IoT, it is crucial first of all to determine which use cases to start with. Every retailer has a different focus and needs for their stores.

In the course of our retail projects, we have identified some of the recurring use cases that food retailers are currently implementing. We have also learnt a lot about how they can best leverage IoT in order to build a connected store. We share these insights in our white paper “The connected retail store.”

Originally posted here.

Read more…

By Sanjay Tripathi, Lauren Luellwitz, and Kevin Egge

There are petabytes of data generated by intelligent, interconnected and autonomous systems of Industry 4.0. When combined with artificial intelligence tools that provide actionable insight, it has the potential to improve every function within a plant, i.e. operations, engineering, quality, reliability and maintenance.

The maintenance function, while crucial to the smooth functioning of a plant has, until recently not seen much innovation. Many among us have experienced the equipment downtime, process drifts, massive hits to yield, and decline in product reliability because of maintenance performed poorly or late. Yet, Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) systems – ERP systems that help maintain assets – remained as systems of record that typically generated work-orders and recorded maintenance performed. Even as production processes became mind-numbingly complex, EAM systems remained much the same.

IBM Maximo 8.0, or Maximo Application Suite, is one example of a system that combines artificial intelligent (AI), big data and cloud computing technologies with domain expertise from operating technologies (OT) to simplify maintenance and deliver production resilience.

Maximo 8.0 leverages AI to visually inspect gas pipelines, rail tracks, bridges and tunnels; AI guides technicians as they conduct complex repairs; it provides maintenance supervisors real-time visibility into the health and safety of their technicians. Domain expertise is incorporated in the form of data to train AI models. These capabilities improve the ability to avoid unscheduled downtime, improve first-time-fix rate, and reduce safety incidents.

Maintenance records residing in Maximo are combined with real-time operational data from production assets and their associated asset model to better predict when maintenance is required. In this example, asset models embody domain expertise. These models characterize how a production asset such as a power generator or catalytic converter should perform in the context of where it is installed in the process.

The Maximo application itself is encapsulated (containerized) using Red Hat’s OpenShift technology. Containerization allows the application to be easily deployed on-premises, on private clouds or hybrid clouds. This flexibility in deployment benefits IT organizations that need to continually evolve their infrastructure, which is almost every organization.

Maximo 8.0 is available as a suite that includes both core and advanced capabilities. A single software entitlement provides access to all capabilities. The entitlement provides access to the core EAM functionality of work and resource scheduling, asset management, industry-specific customizations, EHS guidelines, and mobile functionality. And it provides access to advanced functionality such as Maximo Monitor, which automatically detects anomalies in how an asset may be performing; Maximo Health, which measures equipment health; Maximo Predict, which, as the name suggests, predicts when maintenance is required; and Maximo Assist which assists technicians conduct repairs.

Originally posted here.

Read more…

By Sanjay Tripathi, Kevin Egge, and Shane Kehoe

Each Industrial Revolution has been catalyzed by the convergence of technologies from multiple domains. Industry 4.0 is no different.

Machines were first introduced into a manual manufacturing process between 1760 and 1820.  But, it was the concurrent introduction of means to power machines that led to the First Industrial Revolution. An example is the first commercially viable Textile Power Loom which was introduced by Edmund Cartwright in England. It used water-power at first. But in two short years water-powered looms were replaced with looms powered with the steam-engines created by James Watts. The relatively smaller steam-engines allowed textile looms to be deployed in many sites enabling persons to be employed in factories.

Multiple innovations such as new manufacturing methods, electricity, steel, and machine tools ushered in the era of mass manufacturing and the Second Industrial Revolution. Henry Ford’s River Rouge Complex in Michigan, completed in 1928, deployed these modern inventions and was the largest integrated factory in the world at that time. The era of mass manufacturing subsequently brought about an explosion in the consumption of goods by households.

The Third Industrial Revolution improved Automation and Controls across many industries through the use of Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs). PLCs were first introduced by Modicon in 1969. PLC-based automation and controls were introduced to a mostly mechanical world, and helped improve yields and decrease manufacturing costs. This revolution helped provide cheaper products.

Fast forward to the Industry 4.0 Revolution made possible by the synergistic combination of expertise from the worlds of Operating Technologies (OT) and Information Technologies (IT). The current revolution is bringing about intelligent, interconnected and autonomous manufacturing equipment and systems. This is by augmenting deep domain expertise within OT companies with IT technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data, cloud computing and ubiquitous connectivity.

The widespread use of open protocols across heterogeneous equipment makes it feasible to optimize horizontally across previously disjointed processes. In addition, owner/operators of assets can more easily link the shop-floor to the top-floor. Connections across multiple layers of the ISA-95/Purdue Model stack provides greater vertical visibility and added ability to optimize processes.

The increased integration brings together both OT data (from sensors, PLCs, DCS, SCADA systems) and IT data (from MES, ERP systems). However, this integration has different impacts on different functions such as operations, engineering, quality, reliability, and maintenance.

To learn more about how the integration positively impacts the organization, read the next installment in this series to see how you can bridge the gap between OT and IT teams to improve production resilience.

Originally posted here.

Read more…

Then it seemed that overnight, millions of workers worldwide were told to isolate and work from home as best as they could. Businesses were suddenly forced to enable remote access for hundreds or thousands of users, all at once, from anywhere across the globe. Many companies that already offered VPN services to a small group of remote workers scurried to extend those capabilities to the much larger workforce sequestering at home. It was a decision made in haste out of necessity, but now it’s time to consider, is VPN the best remote access technology for the enterprise, or can other technologies provide a better long-term solution?

Long-term Remote Access Could Be the Norm for Some Time

Some knowledge workers are trickling back to their actual offices, but many more are still at home and will be for some time. Global Workplace Analytics estimates that 25-30% of the workforce will still be working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021. Others may never return to an official office, opting to remain a work-from-home (WFH) employee for good.

Consequently, enterprises need to find a remote access solution that gives home-based workers a similar experience as they would have in the office, including ease of use, good performance, and a fully secure network access experience. What’s more, the solution must be cost effective and easy to administer without the need to add more technical staff members.

VPNs are certainly one option, but not the only one. Other choices include appliance-based SD-WAN and SASE. Let’s have a look at each approach.

VPNs Weren’t Designed to Support an Entire Workforce

While VPNs are a useful remote access solution for a small portion of the workforce, they are an inefficient technology for giving remote access to a very large number of workers. VPNs are designed for point-to-point connectivity, so each secure connection between two points – presumably a remote worker and a network access server (NAS) in a datacenter – requires its own VPN link. Each NAS has a finite capacity for simultaneous users, so for a large remote user base, some serious infrastructure may be needed in the datacenter.

Performance can be an issue. With a VPN, all communication between the user and the VPN is encrypted. The encryption process takes time, and depending on the type of encryption used, this may add noticeable latency to Internet communications. More important, however, is the latency added when a remote user needs access to IaaS and SaaS applications and services. The traffic path is convoluted because it must travel between the end user and the NAS before then going out to the cloud, and vice versa on the way back.

An important issue with VPNs is that they provide overly broad access to the entire network without the option of controlling granular user access to specific resources. Stolen VPN credentials have been implicated in several high-profile data breaches. By using legitimate credentials and connecting through a VPN, attackers were able to infiltrate and move freely through targeted company networks. What’s more, there is no scrutiny of the security posture of the connecting device, which could allow malware to enter the network via insecure user devices.

SD-WAN Brings Intelligence into Routing Remote Users’ Traffic

Another option for providing remote access for home-based workers is appliance-based SD-WAN. It brings a level of intelligence to the connectivity that VPNs don’t have. Lee Doyle, principal analyst with Doyle Research, outlines the benefits of using SD-WAN to connect home office users to their enterprise network:

  • Prioritization for mission-critical and latency-sensitive applications
  • Accelerated access to cloud-based services
  • Enhanced security via encryption, VPNs, firewalls and integration with cloud-based security
  • Centralized management tools for IT administrators

One thing to consider about appliance-based SD-WAN is that it’s primarily designed for branch office connectivity—though it can accommodate individual users at home as well. However, if a company isn’t already using SD-WAN, this isn’t a technology that is easy to implement and setup for hundreds or thousands of home-based users. What’s more, a significant investment must be made in the various communication and security appliances.

SASE Provides a Simpler, More Secure, Easily Scalable Solution

Cato’s Secure Access Service Edge (or SASE) platform provides a great alternative to VPN for remote access by many simultaneous workers. The platform offers scalable access, optimized connectivity, and integrated threat prevention that are needed to support continuous large-scale remote access.

Companies that enable WFH using Cato’s platform can scale quickly to any number of remote users with ease. There is no need to set up regional hubs or VPN concentrators. The SASE service is built on top of dozens of globally distributed Points of Presence (PoPs) maintained by Cato to deliver a wide range of security and networking services close to all locations and users. The complexity of scaling is all hidden in the Cato-provided PoPs, so there is no infrastructure for the organization to purchase, configure or deploy. Giving end users remote access is as simple as installing a client agent on the user’s device, or by providing clientless access to specific applications via a secure browser.

Cato’s SASE platform employs Zero Trust Network Access in granting users access to the specific resources and applications they need to use. This granular-level security is part of the identity-driven approach to network access that SASE demands. Since all traffic passes through a full network security stack built into the SASE service, multi-factor authentication, full access control, and threat prevention are applied to traffic from remote users. All processing is done within the PoP closest to the users while enforcing all corporate network and security policies. This eliminates the “trombone effect” associated with forcing traffic to specific security choke points on a network. Further, admins have consistent visibility and control of all traffic throughout the enterprise WAN.

SASE Supports WFH in the Short-term and Long-term

While some workers are venturing back to their offices, many more are still working from home—and may work from home permanently. The Cato SASE platform is the ideal way to give them access to their usual network environment without forcing them to go through insecure and inconvenient VPNs.

Originally posted here

Read more…

By Patty Medberry

After 2020’s twists and turns, here’s hoping that 2021 ushers in a restored sense of “normal.” In thinking about what the upcoming year might bring for industrial IoT, three key trends emerge.

Trend #1: Securing operational technology (OT)

 IT will take a bolder posture to secure OT environments.

Cyber risks in industrial environments will continue to grow causing IT to take bolder steps to secure the OT network in 2021. The CISO and IT teams have accountability for cybersecurity across the enterprise. But often they do not have visibility into the OT network. Many OT networks use traditional measures like air gapping or an industrial demilitarized zone to protect against attacks. But these solutions are rife with backdoors. For example, third-party technicians and other vendors often have remote access to update systems, machines and devices. With increasing pressure from board members and government regulators to manage IoT/OT security risks, and to protect the business itself, the CISO and IT will need to do more.

Success requires OT’s help. IT cybersecurity practices that work in the enterprise are not always appropriate for industrial environments. What’s more, IT doesn’t have the expertise or insight into operational and process control technology. A simple patch could bring down production (and revenues).

Bottom line? Organizations will need solutions that strengthen cybersecurity while meeting IT and OT needs. For IT, that means visibility and control across their own environment to the OT network. For OT, it means security solutions that allow them respond to anomalies while keeping production humming.

Trend #2: Remote and autonomous operations

The need for operational resiliency will accelerate the deployment of remote and autonomous operations – driving a new class of networking.

The impact of changes brought on in 2020 is driving organizations to increasingly use IoT technologies for operational resiliency. After all, IoT helps keep a business up and running when people cannot be on the ground. It also helps improve safety and efficiencies by preventing unnecessary site visits and reducing employee movement throughout facilities.

In 2021, we will see more deployments aimed at sophisticated remote operations. These will go well beyond remote monitoring. They will include autonomous operational controls for select parts of a process and will be remotely enabled for other parts. Also, deployments will increasingly move toward full autonomy, eliminating the need for humans to be present locally or remotely. And more and more, AI will used for dynamic optimization and self-healing, in use cases such as:

  • autonomous guided vehicles for picking and packing, material handling, and autonomous container applications across manufacturing, warehouses and ports
  • increased automation of the distribution grid
  • autonomous haul trucks for mining applications
  • Computer-based train control for rail and mass transit

All these use cases require data instantly and in mass, demanding a network that can support that data plus deliver the speed required for analysis. This new class of industrial networking must provide the ability to handle more network bandwidth, offer zero latency data and support edge compute. It also needs security and scale to adapt quickly, ensuring the business is up and running – no matter what.

Trend #3: Managing multiple access technologies

Organizations will operate multiple-access technologies to achieve operational agility and flexibility.

While Ethernet has always been the foundation for connectivity in industrial IoT spaces, that connectivity is quickly expanding to wireless. Wireless helps reduce the pain of physical cabling and provides the flexibility and agility to upgrade, deploy and reconfigure the network with less operational downtime. Newer wireless technologies like Wi-Fi 6 and 5G also power use cases not possible in the past (or possible only with wired connectivity).

As organizations expand their IoT deployments, the need to manage multiple access technologies will grow. Successful deployments will require the right connectivity for the use case, otherwise, costs, complexity and security risks increase. With wireless choices including Wi-Fi, LoRaWAN, Wi-SUN, public or private cellular, Bluetooth and more, organizations will need to determine the best technology for each use case.  

Cisco’s recommendation: Build an access strategy to optimize costs and resources while ensuring security. Interactions between access technologies should deliver a secured and automated end-to-end IP infrastructure – and must avoid a “mishmash” leading to complexity and failed objectives.

As the end of 2020 fast approaches, I wish everyone a safe and healthy New Year. As you continue building and refining your plans for 2021, please consider how you can unleash these IoT network trends to reduce your cybersecurity risks and increase your operational resiliency. 

Originally posted HERE.

Read more…
RSS
Email me when there are new items in this category –

Premier Sponsors

Upcoming IoT Events

More IoT News

IoT Career Opportunities