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Impact of IoT in Inventory

Internet of Things (IoT) has revolutionized many industries including inventory management. IoT is a concept where devices are interconnected via the internet. It is expected that by 2020, there will be 26 billion devices connected worldwide. These connections are important because it allows data sharing which then can perform actions to make life and business more efficient. Since inventory is a significant portion of a company’s assets, inventory data is vital for an accounting department for the company’s asset management and annual report.

Inventory solutions based on IoT and RFID, individual inventory item receives an RFID tag. Each tag has a unique identification number (ID) that contains information about an inventory item, e.g. a model, a batch number, etc. these tags are scanned by RF reader. Upon scanning, a reader extracts its IDs and transmits them to the cloud for processing. Along with the tag’s ID, the cloud receives location and the time of reading. This data is used for updates about inventory items’, allowing users to monitor the inventory from anywhere, in real-time.

Industrial IoT

The role of IoT in inventory management is to receive data and turn it into meaningful insights about inventory items’ location, status, and giving users a corresponding output. For example, based on the data, and inventory management solution architecture, we can forecast the number of raw materials needed for the upcoming production cycle. The output of the system can also send an alert if any individual inventory item is lost.

Moreover, IoT based inventory management solutions can be integrated with other systems, i.e. ERP and share data with other departments.

RFID in Industrial IoT

RFID consist of three main components tag, antenna, and a reader

Tags: An RFID tag carries information about a specific object. It can be attached to any surface, including raw materials, finished goods, packages, etc.

RFID antennas: An RFID antenna receives signals to supply power and data for tags’ operation

RFID readers: An RFID reader, uses radio signals to read and write to the tags. The reader receives data stored in the tag and transmits it to the cloud.

Benefits of IoT in inventory management

The benefits of IoT on the supply chain are the most exciting physical manifestations we can observe. IoT in the supply chain creates unparalleled transparency that increases efficiencies.

Inventory tracking

The major benefit of inventory management is asset tracking, instead of using barcodes to scan and record data, items have RFID tags which can be registered wirelessly. It is possible to accurately obtain data and track items from any point in the supply chain.

With RFID and IoT, managers don’t have to spend time on manual tracking and reporting on spreadsheets. Each item is tracked and the data about it is recorded automatically. Automated asset tracking and reporting save time and reduce the probability of human error.

Inventory optimization

Real-time data about the quantity and the location of the inventory, manufacturers can reduce the amount of inventory on hand while meeting the needs of the customers at the end of the supply chain.

The data about the amount of available inventory and machine learning can forecast the required inventory which allows manufacturers to reduce the lead time.

Remote tracking

Remote product tracking makes it easy to have an eye on production and business. Knowing production and transit times, allows you to better tweak orders to suit lead times and in response to fluctuating demand. It shows which suppliers are meeting production and shipping criteria and which needs monitoring for the required outcome.

It gives visibility into the flow of raw materials, work-in-progress and finished goods by providing updates about the status and location of the items so that inventory managers see when an individual item enters or leaves a specific location.

Bottlenecks in the operations

With the real-time data about the location and the quantity, manufacturers can reveal bottlenecks in the process and pinpoint the machine with lower utilization rates. For instance, if part of the inventory tends to pile up in front of a machine, a manufacturer assumes that the machine is underutilized and needs to be seen to.

The Outcomes

The data collected by inventory management is more accurate and up-to-date. By reducing these time delays, the manufacturing process can enhance accuracy and reduce wastage. An IoT-based inventory management solution offers complete visibility on inventory by providing real-time information fetched by RFID tags. It helps to track the exact location of raw materials, work-in-progress and finished goods. As a result, manufacturers can balance the amount of on-hand inventory, increase the utilization of machines, reduce lead time, and thus, avoid costs bound to the less effective methods. This is all about optimizing inventory and ensuring anything ordered can be sold through whatever channel necessary.

Originally posted here

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After so many years evangelizing the Internet of Things (IoT) or developing IoT products or selling IoT services or using IoT technologies, it is hard to believe that today there are as many defenders as detractors of these technologies. Why does the doubt still assail us: "Believe or Not Believe in the IoT"? What's the reason we keep saying every year that the time for IoT is finally now?

It does not seem strange to you that if we have already experienced the power of change that involves having connected devices in ourselves (wearables), in our homes, in cities, in transportation, in business, we continue with so many non-believers. Maybe, because the expectations in 2013 were so great that now in 2020 we need more tangible and realistic data and facts to continue believing.

In recent months I have had more time to review my articles and some white papers and I think I have found some reasons to continue believing, but also reasons not to believe.

Here below there are some of these reasons for you to decide where to position yourself.

Top reasons to believe

  • Mackinsey continue presenting us new opportunities with IoT
    • If in 2015 “Internet of Things: Mapping the value beyond the hype” the company estimated a potential economic impact as much as 11,1 US trillions per year in 2025 for IoT applications in 9 settings.
    • In 2019 “Growing opportunities in the Internet of Things” they said that “The number of businesses that use the IoT technologies has increased from 13 percent in 2014 to about 25 percent today. And the worldwide number of IoT connected devices is projected to increase to 43 billion by 2023, an almost threefold increase from 2018.”
  • Gartner in 2019 predicted that by 2021, there will be over 25 Billion live IoT endpoints that will allow unlimited number of IoT use cases.
  • Harbor Research considers that the market opportunity for industrial internet of things (IIoT) and industry 4.0 is still emergent.
    • Solutions are not completely new but are evolving from the convergence of existing technologies; creative combinations of these technologies will drive many new growth opportunities;
    • As integration and interoperability across the industrial technology “stack” relies on classic IT principles like open architectures, many leading IT players are entering the industrial arena;
  • IoT regulation is coming - The lack of regulation is one of the biggest issues associated with IoT devices, but things are starting to change in that regard as well. The U.S. government was among the first to take the threat posed by unsecured IoT devices seriously, introducing several IoT-related bills in Congress over the last couple of years. It all began with the IoT Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2017, which set minimum security standards for connected devices obtained by the government. This legislation was followed by the SMART IoT Act, which tasked the Department of Commerce with conducting a study of the current IoT industry in the United States.
  • Synergy of IoT and AI - IoT supported by artificial intelligence enhances considerably the success in a large repertory of every-day applications with dominant one’s enterprise, transportation, robotics, industrial, and automation systems applications.
  • Believe in superpowers again, thanks to IoT - Today, IoT sensors are everywhere – in your car, in electronic appliances, in traffic lights, even probably on the pigeon outside your window (it’s true, it happened in London!). IoT sensors will help cities map air quality, identify high-pollution pockets, trigger alerts if pollution levels rise dangerously, while tracking changes over time and taking preventive measures to correct the situation. thanks to IoT, connected cars will now communicate seamlessly with IoT sensors and find empty parking spots easily. Sensors in your car will also communicate with your GPS and the manufacturer’s system, making maintenance and driving a breeze!. City sensors will identify high-traffic areas and regulate traffic flows by updating your GPS with alternate routes. These IoT sensors can also identify and repair broken street lamps. IoT will be our knight in shining, super-strong metallic armor and prevent accidents like floods, fires and even road accidents, by simply monitoring fatigue levels of truck drivers!. Washing machines, refrigerators, air-conditioners will now self-monitor their usage, performance, servicing requirements, while triggering alerts before potential breakdowns and optimizing performance with automatic software updates. IoT sensors will now help medical professional monitor pulse rates, blood pressure and other vitals more efficiently, while triggering alerts in case of emergencies. Soon, Nano sensors in smart pills will make healthcare super-personalized and 10x more efficient!

Top reasons not to believe

  1. Three fourths of IoT projects failing globally. Government and enterprises across the globe are rolling out Internet of Things (IoT) projects but almost three-fourths of them fail, impacted by factors like culture and leadership, according to US tech giant Cisco (2017). Businesses are spending $745 billion worldwide on IoT hardware and software in 2019 alone. Yet, three out of every four IoT implementations are failing.
  2. Few IoT projects survive proof-of-concept stage - About 60% of IoT initiatives get stalled at the Proof of Concept (PoC) stage. If the right steps aren’t taken in the beginning, say you don’t think far enough beyond the IT infrastructure, you end up in limbo: caught between the dream of what IoT could do for your business and the reality of today’s ROI. That spot is called proof-of-concept (POC) purgatory.
  3. IoT Security still a big concern - The 2019 annual report of SonicWall Caoture Labs threat researchers analyzing data from over 200,000 malicious events indicated that 217.5 percent increase in IoT attacks in 2018.
  4. There are several obstacles companies face both in calculating and realizing ROI from IoT. Very few companies can quantify the current, pre-IoT costs. The instinct is often to stop after calculating the cost impact on the layer of operations immediately adjacent to the potential IoT project.  For example, when quantifying the baseline cost of reactive (versus predictive or prescriptive) maintenance, too many companies would only include down time for unexpected outages, but may not consider reduced life of the machine, maintenance overtime, lost sales due to long lead times, supply chain volatility risk for spare parts, and the list goes on.
  5. Privacy, And No, That’s Not the Same as Security. The Big Corporations don’t expect to make a big profit on the devices themselves. the Big Money in IoT is in Big Data. And enterprises and consumers do not want to expose everything sensors are learning about your company or you.
  6. No Killer Application – I suggest to read my article “Worth it waste your time searching the Killer IoT Application?"
  7. No Interoperable Technology ecosystems - We have a plethora of IoT vendors, both large and small, jumping into the fray and trying to establish a foothold, in hopes of either creating their own ecosystem (for the startups) or extending their existing one (for the behemoths).
  8. Digital Fatigue – It is not enough for us to try to explain IoT, that now more technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, 5G, AR / VR are joining the party and of course companies say enough.

You have the last word

We can go on forever looking for reasons to believe or not believe in IoT but we cannot continue to deny the evidence that the millions of connected devices already out there and the millions that will soon be waiting for us to exploit their full potential.

I still believe. But you have the last word.

Thanks in advance for your Likes and Shares

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Can AI Replace Firmware?

Scott Rosenthal and I go back about a thousand years; we've worked together, helped midwife the embedded field into being, had some amazing sailing adventures, and recently took a jaunt to the Azores just for the heck of it. Our sons are both big data people; their physics PhDs were perfect entrees into that field, and both now work in the field of artificial intelligence.

At lunch recently we were talking about embedded systems and AI, and Scott posed a thought that has been rattling around in my head since. Could AI replace firmware?

Firmware is a huge problem for our industry. It's hideously expensive. Only highly-skilled people can create it, and there are too few of us.

What if an AI engine of some sort could be dumped into a microcontroller and the "software" then created by training that AI? If that were possible - and that's a big "if" - then it might be possible to achieve what was hoped for when COBOL was invented: programmers would no longer be needed as domain experts could do the work. That didn't pan out for COBOL; the industry learned that accountants couldn't code. Though the language was much more friendly than the assembly it replaced, it still required serious development skills.

But with AI, could a domain expert train an inference engine?

Consider a robot: a "home economics" major could create scenarios of stacking dishes from a dishwasher. Maybe these would be in the form of videos, which were then fed to the AI engine as it tuned the weighting coefficients to achieve what the home ec expert deems worthy goals.

My first objection to this idea was that these sorts of systems have physical constraints. With firmware I'd write code to sample limit switches so the motors would turn off if at an end-of-motion extreme. During training an AI-based system would try and drive the motors into all kinds of crazy positions, banging destructively into stops. But think how a child learns: a parent encourages experimentation but prevents the youngster from self-harm. Maybe that's the role of the future developer training an AI. Or perhaps the training will be done on a simulator of some sort where nothing can go horribly wrong.

Taking this further, a domain expert could define the desired inputs and outputs, and then a poorly-paid person do the actual training. CEOs will love that. With that model a strange parallel emerges to computation a century ago: before the computer age "computers" were people doing simple math to create tables of logs, trig, ballistics, etc. A room full all labored at a problem. They weren't particularly skilled, didn't make much, but did the rote work under the direction of one master. Maybe AI trainers will be somewhat like that.

Like we outsource clothing manufacturing to Bangladesh, I could see training, basically grunt work, being sent overseas as well.

I'm not wild about this idea as it means we'd have an IoT of idiots: billions of AI-powered machines where no one really knows how they work. They've been well-trained but what happens when there's a corner case?

And most of the AI literature I read suggests that inference successes of 97% or so are the norm. That might be fine for classifying faces, but a 3% failure rate of a safety-critical system is a disaster. And the same rate for less-critical systems like factory controllers would also be completely unacceptable.

But the idea is intriguing.

Original post can be viewed here

Feel free to email me with comments.

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Industrial Prototyping for IoT

I-Pi SMARC.jpg

ADLINK is a global leader in edge computing driving data-to-decision applications across industries. The company recently introduced I-Pi SMARC for Industrial IoT prototyping.

-       AdLInk I-Pi SMARC consists of a simple carrier paired with a SMARC Computer on Module

-       SMARC Modules are available from entry level PX30 Rockchip to top of the line Intel Apollo Lake.

-       SMARC modules are specifically designed for typical industrial embedded applications that require long life, high MTBF and strict revision control.

-       Use popular off the shelve sensors and create prototypes or proof of concepts on short notice.

Additional information can be found here

 

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By: Kelly McNelis

We have faced unprecedented disruption from the many challenges of COVID-19, and PTC’s LiveWorx was no exception. The definitive digital transformation event went virtual this year, and despite the transition from physical to digital, LiveWorx delivered.

Of the many insightful virtual keynotes, one that caught everyone’s attention was ‘Digital Transformation: The Technology & Support You Need to Succeed,’ presented by PTC’s Executive Vice President (EVP) of Products, Kevin Wrenn, and PTC’s EVP and Chief Customer Officer, Eduarda Camacho.

Their keynote focused on how companies should be prioritizing the use of best-in-class technology that will meet their changing needs during times of disruption and accelerated digital transformation. Wrenn and Camacho highlighted five of our customers through interactive case studies on how they are using PTC technology to capitalize on digital transformation to thrive in an era of disruption.

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Below is a summary of the five customers and their stories that were highlighted during the keynote.

1. Royal Enfield (Mass Customization)

Royal Enfield is an Indian motorcycle company that has been manufacturing motor bikes since 1901. They have British roots, and their main customer base is located in India and Europe. Riders of Royal Enfield wants their bikes to be particular to their brand, so they worked to better manage the complexities of mass customization and respond to market demands.

Royal Enfield is a long time PTC customer, but they were on old versions of PTC technology. They first upgraded Creo and Windchill to the latest releases so they could leverage the new capabilities. They then moved on to transform their processes for platform and variant designs, introduced simulation much earlier by using Creo Simulation Live, and leveraged generative design by bringing AI into engineering and applying it to engine and chassis complex custom forged components. Finally, they retrained and retooled their engineering staff to fully leverage the power of new processes and technologies.

The entire Royal Enfield team now has digital capabilities that accelerate new product designs, variants, and accessories for personalization; as a result, they are able to deliver a much-shortened design cycle. Royal Enfield is continuing their digital transformation trend, and will invest in new ways to create value while leveraging augmented reality with PTC's Vuforia suite.

2. VCST (Manufacturing Efficiency, Quality, and Innovation)

VCST is part of the BMT Group and are a world-class automotive supplier of precision-machined power train and brake components. Their problem was that they had high costs for their production facility in Belgium. They either needed to improve their cost efficiency in their plant or face the potential of needing to shut down the facility and relocate it to another region. VCST decided to implement ThingWorx so that anyone can have instant visibility to asset status and performance. VCST is also creating the ability to digitize maintenance requests and the ability to acquire about spare parts to improve the overall efficiency in support of their costs reduction goals.

Additionally, VCST has a goal to reach zero complaints for their customers and, if any quality problems appear to their customers, they can be required to do a 100% inspection until the problem is solved. Moreover, as cars have gotten quieter with electrification, the noise from the gears has become an issue, and puts pressure on VCST to innovate and reduce gear noise.

VCST has again relied on ThingWorx and Windchill to collect and share data for joint collaborative analysis to innovate and reduce gear noise. VCST also plans to use Vuforia Expert Capture and Vuforia Chalk to train maintenance workers to further improve their efficiency and cost effectiveness. The company is not done with their digital transformation, and they have plans to implement Creo and Windchill to enable end-to-end digital thread connectivity to the factory.

3. BID Group Holdings (Connected Product)

BID Group Holdings operates in the wood processing industry. It is one of the largest integrated suppliers and North American leader in the field. The purpose of BID Group is to deliver a complete range of innovative equipment, digital technologies, turnkey installations, and aftermarket services to their customers. BID Group decided to focus on their areas of expertise, an rely on PTC, Microsoft, and Rockwell Automation’s combined capabilities and scale to deliver SaaS type solutions to their own industry.

Leveraging this combined power, the BID Group developed a digital strategy for service to improve mill efficiency and profitability. The solution is named OPER8 and was built on the ThingWorx platform. This allowed BID Group to provide their customers an out of the box solution with efficient time-to-value and low costs of ownership. BID Group is continuing to work with PTC and Rockwell Automation, to develop additional solutions that will reduce downtime of OPER8 with a predictive analytics module by using ThingWorx Analytics and LogixAI.

4. Hitachi (Service Optimization)

Hitachi operates an extensive service decision that ensures its customers’ data systems remain up and running. Their challenge was not to only meet their customers uptime Service Level Agreements, but to do it without killing their cost structure. Hitachi decided to implement PTC’s Servigistics Service Parts Management software to ensure the right parts are available when and where they are needed for service. With Servigistics, Hitachi was able to accomplish their needs while staying cost effective and delighting their customers.

Hitachi runs on the cloud, which allows them to upgrade to current releases more often, take advantage of new functionality, and avoid unexpected costs.

PTC has driven engagement and support for Hitachi through the PTC Community, and encourages all customers to utilize this platform. The network of collaborative spaces in a gathering place for PTC customers and partners to showcase their work, inspire each other, and share ideas or best practices in order to expand the value of their PTC solutions and services.

5. COVID-19 Response 

COVID-19 has put significant strain on the world’s hospitals and healthcare infrastructure, and hospitalization rates for COVID brought into question the capacity of being able to handle cases. Many countries began thinking of the value field hospitals could bring to safely care for patients and ease the admissions numbers of ‘regular’ hospitals. However, the complication is that field hospitals have essentially no isolation or air filtration capability that is required for treating COVID patients or healthcare workers.

As a result, the US Army Corp of Engineers has put out specifications to create self-contained isolation units, which are fully functioning hospital rooms that can be transported or built onsite. But, the assembly needed to happen fast, and a group of companies (including PTC) led by The Innovation Machine rallied to help design and define the SCIU’s.

With buy-in from numerous companies, a common platform was needed for companies to collaborate. PTC felt compelled to react, and many PTC customers and partners joined in to help create a collaboration platform, with cloud-based Windchill as the foundation. But, PTC didn’t just provide software to this collaboration; PTC also contributed with digital thread and design advice to help the group solve some of the major challenges. This design is a result of the many companies coming together to create deployments across various US state governments, agencies, and FEMA.

Final Thoughts

All of the above customers approached digital transformation as a business imperative. They all had sizeable challenges that needed to be solved and took leadership positions to implement plans that leveraged digital transformation technologies combined with new processes.

PTC will continue to innovate across the digital transformation portfolio and is committed to ensuring that customer success offerings capture value faster and provide the best outcomes.

Original Post Link: https://www.ptc.com/en/product-lifecycle-report/liveworx-digital-transformation–technology-and-support-you-need-to-succeed

Author Bio: Kelly is a corporate communications specialist at PTC. Her responsibilities include drafting and approving content for PTC’s external and social media presence and supporting communications for the Chief Strategy Officer. Kelly has previous experience as a communications specialist working to create and implement materials for the Executive Vice President of the Products Organization and senior management team members.

 

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Helium Expands to Europe

Helium, the company behind one of the world’s first peer-to-peer wireless networks, is announcing the introduction of Helium Tabs, its first branded IoT tracking device that runs on The People’s Network. In addition, after launching its network in 1,000 cities in North America within one year, the company is expanding to Europe to address growing market demand with Helium Hotspots shipping to the region starting July 2020. 

Since its launch in June 2019, Helium quickly grew its footprint with Hotspots covering more than 700,000 square miles across North America. Helium is now expanding to Europe to allow for seamless use of connected devices across borders. Powered by entrepreneurs looking to own a piece of the people-powered network, Helium’s open-source blockchain technology incentivizes individuals to deploy Hotspots and earn Helium (HNT), a new cryptocurrency, for simultaneously building the network and enabling IoT devices to send data to the Internet. When connected with other nearby Hotspots, this acts as the backbone of the network. 

“We’re excited to launch Helium Tabs at a time where we’ve seen incredible growth of The People’s Network across North America,” said Amir Haleem, Helium’s CEO and co-founder. “We could not have accomplished what we have done, in such a short amount of time, without the support of our partners and our incredible community. We look forward to launching The People’s Network in Europe and eventually bringing Helium Tabs and other third-party IoT devices to consumers there.”  

Introducing Helium Tabs that Run on The People’s Network
Unlike other tracking devices,Tabs uses LongFi technology, which combines the LoRaWAN wireless protocol with the Helium blockchain, and provides network coverage up to 10 miles away from a single Hotspot. This is a game-changer compared to WiFi and Bluetooth enabled tracking devices which only work up to 100 feet from a network source. What’s more, due to Helium’s unique blockchain-based rewards system, Hotspot owners will be rewarded with Helium (HNT) each time a Tab connects to its network. 

In addition to its increased growth with partners and customers, Helium has also seen accelerated expansion of its Helium Patrons program, which was introduced in late 2019. All three combined have helped to strengthen its network. 

Patrons are entrepreneurial customers who purchase 15 or more Hotspots to help blanket their cities with coverage and enable customers, who use the network. In return, they receive discounts, priority shipping, network tools, and Helium support. Currently, the program has more than 70 Patrons throughout North America and is expanding to Europe. 

Key brands that use the Helium Network include: 

  • Nestle, ReadyRefresh, a beverage delivery service company
  • Agulus, an agricultural tech company
  • Conserv, a collections-focused environmental monitoring platform

Helium Tabs will initially be available to existing Hotspot owners for $49. The Helium Hotspot is now available for purchase online in Europe for €450.

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I have spent many years working with IoT projects. Most of them were typical, there was nothing unusual behind them and they were trying to copy the success of their competitors, however, the deeper I was diving into IoT startups environment more and more I was facing with innovators in this niche who have found how to adapt IoT technologies for their enterprises' specification. In this article, I will not mention my partners' names because of the reasons, however, I will try to push you to the idea of how to implement IoT to your company.
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