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The Internet of Things (IoT) enables vendors to create an entirely new line of “smart” solutions for its existing and new markets. While the decision to go “smart” is straightforward, the decision of how to do so is not. Vendors are faced with a “build, buy, partner” decision – build it themselves, buy or license it from someone, or partner with a complementary solution provider and go to market together. This article discusses some of the key considerations product managers and executives must study in order to make the most appropriate decision.


“Build, buy, partner” is a strategic decision

For many vendors, IoT means adding a technology layer to products that never had any before. Even for tech savvy vendors, IoT presents a whole new set of technologies that they are less familiar with. Equally important, IoT is not just technology, but includes data, security, user experience, and business/business model elements. Figure One shows an IoT product management framework developed by Daniel Elizalde of TechProductManagement. A company going “smart” has a lot of decisions to make, of which technology is just one component.

Figure One. IoT Product Management Stack.

The framework shows that the “build, buy, partner” decision is multi-dimensional. There are six decision areas, spread across components from the edge to the user applications. Each represents a different “build, buy, partner” decision point, and each takes the company down a different path. In today’s fragmented and dynamic IoT ecosystem, many companies will need to “build, buy, partner” simultaneously. For example, cybersecurity is a specialized field that many vendors cannot address on their own, and must buy or license for their solution. The actual proportion of “build, buy, partner” each vendor does varies based on their specific situations.


The company creates the solution themselves with the resources they own, control or contract to. Companies who choose this option, but have limited internal expertise may contract with Original Design Manufacturers (ODM). These ODMs provide a portfolio of services, from design, prototyping, test, certification, to manufacturing.

The “Build” option enables full management oversight of the development process, the solution functionality and the intellectual property. Conversely, this option may result in a longer time to market, and require additional capital and resources beyond what is scoped.

Companies consider this approach when:

  • They have the requisite skill sets and resources to do it
  • They can do it faster, cheaper and at lower risk
  • This is a strategic competence they own or want to own
  • There is strategic knowledge or critical intellectual property to protect
  • They are fully committed throughout the company


The company procures all or part of the solution components from a 3rd party. This includes licensing technology and services. Companies may also acquire technology through mergers and acquisitions, as well as buying the rights to technology from companies willing to part with it. This option eliminates “reinventing the wheel”, enables faster time to market, maximizes resource efficiency with limited execution risk. One common variant of this approach is to buy technology platform from a vendor, and then build their specific solution components on top of that. 

The downsides of the “Buy” option include a loss of control in the development process, and limited agility to respond in a timely manner to changes in the market and customer needs.

Companies consider this approach when:

  • They don’t have the skills or resources to build, maintain and support it
  • There is some or all of a solution in the marketplace and no need to “reinvent the wheel”
  • Someone can do it faster, better and cheaper than they can
  • They want to focus their limited resources in other areas that make more sense
  • Time is critical and they want to get to market faster
  • There is a solution in the market place that gives you mostly what you want.


The company allies itself with a complementary solution or service provider to integrate and offer a joint solution. This option enables both companies to enter a market neither can alone, access to specialized knowledge neither has, and a faster time to market. This option adds additional management and solution integration complexity. For some companies, reliance on partners for some aspects of the solution may be uncomfortable due to a limited loss of control.

Companies consider this approach when:

  • Neither party has the full offering to get to market on their own.
  • Each party brings specialized knowledge or capabilities, including technology, market access, and credibility.
  • It lowers the cost, time and risk to pursue new opportunities


Management considerations for “build, buy, partner”

Before the company chooses a path to go “smart”, executives and managers must base their decision along three “build, buy, partner” dimensions – execution, strategy, and transformation.


The first dimension focuses on the company’s ability to execute successfully. Managers must audit and assess their capabilities and resources to answer the following questions:

  • Do I have the necessary skills in-house to successfully develop, test, support and operate an IoT enabled “smart” solution and business (Figure One)?
  • Do I have the right human, capital, financial, and management resources to do this? Is this the best use of my resources relative to other initiatives and projects?
  • What am I willing to commit, sacrifice and re-prioritize to see this through? Am I willing to redeploy top management and company resources? How long am I willing to do this?
  • How much budget and resources am I willing to commit?
  • Is there anyone that can do it better than me? Does it make sense for me to do it? What am I willing to do and not do?
  • What infrastructure (processes, policies, systems) do I have, or need to build, maintain, support and operate these new solutions?


The second dimension relates to the company’s current and future strategic needs. These are company specific as it relates to its current situation, its customer and channel, and its position within the industry. Key considerations to be addressed include:

  • How does going “smart” align with the company’s vision and strategy? Which parts align and which doesn’t? Does the vision and strategy need to be updated to reflect the realities of going “smart”?
  • How important is time to market? Do I need or want to be a first mover? How long will it take to execute with the resources that I have?
  • Am I trying to reach existing or new markets with IoT? Do I understand their needs well enough that I can execute on meeting it?
  • Do I have any critical proprietary technology, processes, and other intellectual property that I need to protect?
  • What are the risks? How much risk am I willing to tolerate? What are the costs of those risks? How much risk can I mitigate with my current capabilities?
  • How much control do I want or need to go “smart”? What areas do I want to control myself and how? Can I afford to control those areas?
  • What is your real value to customers and your channel? Why do they buy from you, and why do they come back? What do you do well?


The third dimension is the company’s ability to manage transformation. Going “smart” doesn’t stop with the IoT technology. The entire organization, its operations, policies, systems and business models must transform to support and operate the “smart” business. Furthermore, resellers and service channels, and suppliers and partners, are also impacted.

  • What is your corporate culture and how well does it support change? Do you have the right people to manage and sustain this change? Are you nimble and agile?
  • What degree of disruption will there be to internal processes, channels, organization readiness, and business models? How agile are your current capabilities?
  • How prepared are you to operate a “smart” business? Do you have the skills and infrastructure required? Can you support a recurring revenue business model? How willing are you to invest in order to develop and sustain these capabilities?


What should you do next?

Each company is unique, and its situation will dictate its response to these dimensions. There is no one “right” universal answer to the “build, buy, partner” decision. Equally important, what’s right today, may not be right tomorrow. Companies that want to go “smart” start by looking inward first and doing the following:

  • Establish a current baseline. Audit and catalog current and planned offerings, strategy, human resources and skill sets, channel and suppliers, internal operations and policies, and culture.
  • Evaluate the IoT product management stack (Figure One) against your baseline using the three “smart” dimensions. The list of questions listed are starter questions, but answering those will lead to more questions to be addressed.
  • Evaluate and assess your company’s future state capabilities against the baseline using the three “smart” dimensions. Understand where the gaps are, and the extent of those gaps.
  • Identify your risk tolerance level. Going “smart” is not without risk, especially if you have never done it before. The key is to identify what and how much risk you are willing to take. Once you do so, you can develop a risk management plan and incorporate the appropriate tactics to manage it.
  • Update your business vision and strategy as applicable.
  • Develop your “build, buy, partner” decision and strategy. This strategy must align to the broader business vision and strategy.



Benson Chan is an innovation catalyst at Strategy of Things, helping companies transform the Internet of Things into the Innovation of Things through its innovation laboratory, research analyst, consulting and acceleration (execution) services. He has over 25 years of scaling innovative businesses and bringing innovations to market for Fortune 500 and start-up companies. Benson shares his deep experiences in strategy, business development, marketing, product management, engineering and operations management to help IoTCentral readers address strategic and practical IoT issues.

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5 IIoT Use Cases from Global Leaders

“I talk to a dozen or more companies involved in IoT every week. One thing they all have in common is their desire for the projected IoT volumes and revenues to come to fruition...the sooner the better”.

Mike Krell

Analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy covering the Internet of Things, Forbes.


Internet of things has always been functioning in a context of business transformation.

If you’re in business, just read on, as we are to have several working IIoT solutions to consider right now.


To be successful today you need to:

  1. really love what you do;
  2. move with the times;
  3. make the IIoT technology a part of your business development plan;
  4. and find an Industrial IoT company for you to cooperate with.

Here I gathered 5 IIoT solutions implemented by global industry leaders and the key examples of their efficient cooperation with IoT developers:


#1 Predictive Maintenance for Wind Energy


The IIoT solution is projected to be implemented into the maintenance of wind energy. The smart wind turbines will be applied to reveal how employees can get additional insights by using ML about the equipment performance in different conditions. Thus, smart sensors are supposed to give the information in a real-life regime.

The system can give reliable statistics for the future planning and help to replace vital parts of the engines during the less windy periods:

Source: Schaeffler Group & IBM


#2 Health Detectors for Caterpillar Equipments


Recently, the American machinery and equipment giant, Caterpillar implemented a new IIoT solution to help its customers better understand the workability and health of the equipment. It should also be said that the company uses IoT solutions for tracking fuel efficiency, idle times, location, and many more. The new project lets clients directly address the company maintenance service and timely repair the sensitive spots by using the IoT platform.

The end-to-end platform for predictive diagnostics allows for better monitoring and timely replacement of the interchangeable parts. The Caterpillar CEO, Doug Oberhelman supposes the IIoT, which is primarily applied to the fleet and fuel monitoring, will take the clients offering to the next level.


#3 Airbus Smart Manufacturing


You know the biggest European aircraft manufacturer has already applied the IoT solutions to its products. Today Airbus is working at implementing the IIoT to the tools its workers use during the manufacturing process.

For this reason, Airbus opts to involve its employees and the factory floor. The workers will manage to use smart tablets or glasses to evaluate a task and then send the data to a robotic tool that will finish it.

Jean-Bernard Henz, the head of PLM R&T Innovation at Airbus ICT, says the IoT platform manufacturing will speed up the processes and improve the reliability of the production.


#4 Siemens -- a 75% automated plant


You know the Siemens AG plant is a part of a concerted effort by the German government to develop fully automated factories. Guess what? Siemens is claimed to be 75% automated with 1,150+ employees on board.

All the employees are mainly operating computers and monitoring the process of manufacturing by using the IIoT solutions. Sinalytics, which is a critical component of the IIoT Platform was implemented in 2015. Today Siemens continues developing the Web of System, which directly connects devices to the open Internet and with each other. Besides, Siemens launched a new company in 2016 that is named Innovations AG. The company is dedicated to the search and support of the emerging start-ups that can be a good technological investment for Siemens. This has influenced the factory efficiency, opened the new technological opportunities and reduced costs.


#5 ThyssenKrupp Elevates IIoT Implementation


The CGI global tech firm claims ‘that thing is an elevator’ for the company. Well, let’s see it. Having joined forces with Microsoft and CGI, the ThyssenKrupp Elevator company has now obtained a predictive maintenance for elevators manufacturing.

The IIoT solution securely connects tens of thousands of sensors and elevators systems across the plant. The technology allows for monitoring every stage of production starting from motor temperature and finishing with shaft alignment. The real-life IIoT gathered data lets the company identify vulnerabilities and repair them before an actual breakdown occurs:


What’s the bottom line?

IIoT solutions undoubtedly contribute to production efficiency. The predictive maintenance and pre-emptive repair, manufacturing automation and further spending cuts are just a tiny bit of what I recorded here.

I am almost done here...

Feel like you have something to tell about your IIoT use case?

Drop me a line below!

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Blockchain and IIoT


Blockchain and IoT both are present in the Gartner’s Hype Cycle 2017.

Clubbing Blockchain and IoT bring the Intelligent Digital Mesh

The Intelligent Digital Mesh

Gartner calls the entwining of people, devices, content, and services the intelligent digital mesh. It’s enabled by digital models, business platforms and a rich, intelligent set of services to support digital business.

Intelligent: How AI is seeping into virtually every technology and with a defined, well-scoped focus can allow more dynamic, flexible and potentially autonomous systems.

Digital: Blending the virtual and real worlds to create an immersive digitally enhanced and connected environment.

Mesh: The connections between an expanding set of people, business, devices, content and services to deliver digital outcomes [2]


What is Industrial IoT? 

The term industrial Internet of things (IIoT) is often encountered in the manufacturing industries, referring to the industrial subset of the IoT.

Uses cases of Industrial IoT

Industrial Internet of Things brings a lot of advantages some of them are listed below:

  • Predictive & Proactive maintenance
  • Real-Time Monitoring
  • Asset/Resource Optimization
  • Remote Diagnosis

but all these are under the security threat. Blockchain has begun to have a significant influence on the Internet of Things by enhancing security, empowering the incorporation of an increasing number of devices into the ecosystem. The enhancements in IoT device security facilitate faster adoption of this revolutionary innovation and will open up a wide range of possibilities for enterprises in the days to come.


Blockchain and IIoT

IIoT solutions using blockchain can be built to maintain a continuously growing list of cryptographically secured data records protected against alteration and modification. It can set up trust, accountability, and transparency while streamlining business processes.


1. Blockchain reducing the cost of IIoT Solution 

It is important for IoT edge devices to reduce processing overhead and eliminate the 'middle man' (IoT gateways) from the procedure. Communication, data exchanges, and device information are conducted on a peer-to-peer basis, removing any additional traditional protocol, hardware, or communication overhead costs.


 2. Blockchain confirm and enable the trust

Blockchain empowering Industrial IoT solution with trust. It empowers devices to engage in transactions and communications with trusted parties. While device A may not know device B, and may not believe it verifiably, a permanent record of exchanges and information from devices stored on the blockchain confirm and enable the vital trust for organizations, individuals, and devices to cooperate.


3. Accelerate Data Exchanges 

Blockchain eliminates the role of “ IoT gateway” or an intermediate device, which helps in improving data exchange in the process of data transfer. Peer-to-peer device based contracts and ledgers (blockchain) decrease time required to complete device information exchange and processing time.


4. Blockchain scaled security in  IIoT Solution 

Decentralized technologies hold great promise for a system that needs to handle storing and retrieving information of millions—if not billions—of connected devices. These future systems have to provide low latency, high throughput, querying, permissions, and decentralized control




Blockchain and IoT Solution in the Framework - 

Ease of Implementation and Business Impact

High Business Impact and Ease of Implementation put this in the Quick win quadrant.

For Industrial Implementation- Lot of Frameworks, options are available from Ethereum to Hyperledger. IBM Hyperledger Fabric development in the past few months is noticeable.

Ease of Blockchain Implementation is a business challenge rather than a test of technology implementation as it involves connecting multiple parties across multiple processes.  




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2018 Analyst IIoT Predictions

Each year we like to go inside FreeWave and ask our team what the Industrial IoT forecast looks like for the upcoming year. Throughout 2017 we were hard at work developing some of our industry-leading Edge intelligence and industrial Wi-Fi products, so this year, instead of looking inward, we decided to take a peek around the world at 2018 IIoT predictions from some of the leading experts.

Network World

Based off a Forrester report, three immediate trends spring to the forefront: specialization, security, and Edge infrastructure. Taking a bird’s eye view, as the market proliferates, many Industrial IoT providers will no longer need to be a one-size-fits-all solution, instead being able to double down on proprietary technology that has a highly specific and specialized purpose. Edge Infrastructure, already one of the hottest sectors of IoT, will possibly determine the future of big data and predictive analytics, in turn driving machine learning and beyond. And then, of course, there is the security element.

As the domains of Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT) converge, the traditionally more vulnerable standards and practices of OT will take on more of an IT flavor, incorporating more hardened cybersecurity elements as IT managers (with security ALWAYS on their minds) take on more prominent roles in industrial operations and implement the next generation of IoT-ready devices and systems.


In early November, IDC put together a list of 10 predictions for IIoT covering myriad facets of the industry, including:

  • As much as a 25 percent increase in security spending
  • 10 percent growth in IoT sensors on Blockchain distributed ledgers
  • In three years more than $1 trillion of enterprise IoT project investments will be built on net new technology spending

These are interesting predictions and fall in line with the general trend of the industry over the last five years. But there was one prediction that caught our eye:

  • “By 2020, IT spend on Edge Infrastructure will reach up to 18 percent of the total spend on IoT Infrastructure, driven by deployments of converged IT/OT systems that reduce the time to value of data collected from their connected devices.”

Essentially, IDC is predicting that in two years Edge intelligence will use nearly 20 percent of the industry’s total IoT spend. This Edge intelligence will be driven by IT/OT convergence that enables faster data transmission via Fog Computing, enabling predictive analytics and real-time data monitoring. This is a significant note, as many companies are focused almost exclusively on figuring out how to transmit data from the Edge in usable packets.

Maciej Kranz, vice president of strategic innovation at Cisco

Kranz wrote the book on IoT (literally, check it out: Building the Internet of Things), and he tends to view it from more of a business standpoint. However, as more companies attempt to jump into the IoT fray, taking a strong – and long – business perspective could be the difference between success and failure.

In his ten predictions, Kranz finds similar footing with many analysts and thought leaders (paraphrasing):

  • IoT will become the key security domain as organizations ‘finally begin to take IoT security seriously.’
  • IoT will revolutionize data analytics as technology shifts to dynamic or real-time analytics and streaming data using AI and machine learning
  • The focus of IoT will move from driving efficiency to creating new business value as companies use IoT to create new value propositions: in manufacturing mass customization, and more mass personalization.

To us, however, the most interesting prediction offered up by Kranz has to do with standardization:

  • “We will see an industry-wide, accelerated move to open standards, open architectures and interoperability.”

At FreeWave, we have been huge proponents of opening up architectures to make the creation of IIoT software applications easier and more accessible to critical industries. Currently, many IIoT software needs require sophisticated and complex development chops. But, with the rise of NODE Red – and with the growth of language agnostic hardware – development and interoperability opportunities are opening up for everyone.

2018 could be a watershed year for the Industrial IoT. We highlighted three analyst and thought leader predictions here, but many carried the same tenor: security, analytics and proliferation will drive the growth of the industry over the next few years.

We’d love to hear from the community as well: what predictions do you have for IIoT in 2018?

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The phrase, “the future is here,” is overused and has evolved into a catchphrase for companies struggling to position themselves in times of technological or digital transformations. Still, the sentiment is understood, especially in times like today, where the Internet of Things is quite literally changing the way we think about hardware and software. We’d like to offer an addendum to the phrase: “The future is here more quickly than we thought it would be.”

Digital transformation, increased computing ability, smart hardware and the growth of connectivity capabilities created a perfect storm of accelerated industry, and many were left scrambling to sift through the large amounts of information and solutions available. With that in mind, we wanted to provide some advice for companies across the industrial sector for the best ways to optimize operations for the Industrial IoT.

1) Upgrade your network and throughput capabilities.

Nothing can kill the ROI of automated processes more quickly than the literal inability to function. It’s important to understand that as you upgrade machinery and invest in the software to run it all, those systems demand greater bandwidth in order to effectively utilize the big data and analytics capabilities. Several options exist, but for most companies some combination of industrial-strength broadband (WiFi), narrow-band, cellular and RF communications will create the most effective network for the needs.

2) Invest in smart hardware.

This may seem like a no-brainer, and really, in the not-too-distant future, you may not even have a choice, but the shift toward Fog Computing is gaining momentum and being able to run decentralized computing between hardware and the Cloud can not only create greater operational efficiency, but it can also allow your data transmission to run more smoothly as well. The beauty of a Fog Computing system is that it allows a greater number of devices to transmit smaller data packets, which frees up bandwidth and speeds real-time data analytics. The core of this lies in the smart hardware.

3) Be proactive about application development.

Smart hardware means that it has the ability to host applications designed specifically for your needs. Previously, many companies shied away from app development because it required highly skilled developers and devices capable of hosting those apps – a combination that wasn’t readily available. Today, the scene has changed. With the rise of Node-RED, it is much easier today to create proprietary applications without a computer engineering degree, and any company serious about leveraging IIoT technology needs to be able to to use the full scope of its data.

4) Secure your communications.

There isn’t much more to be said about the importance of cybersecurity. If the last few years of massive data breaches haven’t rung alarm bells, then you aren’t paying attention. Cybersecurity today is a multi-layered need. Most companies building smart hardware are beginning to build encryption directly into the devices. But, since many companies use Cloud applications for computing and analytics, it is important to invest in strong security measures at that level as well. Unfortunately, the sophistication of cyber-attacks are only going to increase, along with the increase in importance of the data needing to be protected. It pays to be paranoid and act accordingly.

Further Reading:

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A recent study by Cisco suggests that 75% of IoT initiatives will fail. However, there is growing pressure to invest in IoT. Ensuring the success of enterprise IoT initiatives is definitely not easy given technology immaturity, culture obstacles as well as well as the challenges of traditional organizational structure. So put the odds of success back into your favor using a customer-centric, integrated team (IT) philosophy.
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Fog Computing is a slippery concept. It combines two critical components of data computing today, Edge and Cloud computing, into a system that leverages the strength – and necessity – of both. This idea of local computing (the Edge) combined with more complicated analytics engines (the Cloud) opens up a world of possibilities for data communications.

Fog Computing & Emergency Response

Earlier this fall, researchers at Georgia Tech looked at the application of Fog Computing in areas struck by natural disasters. In these areas, traditional means of internet connection are often knocked out of commission, leaving rescuers and victims unable to communicate with one another, even though there are many apps designed to help facilitate rescue. Where Fog Computing comes in is that rather than relying on a direct connection to the internet, different Fog nodes can be leveraged to create an ad hoc network that can still send basic messages:

However, one important advantage of a fog system is that messages can be distributed between a broad network of computers through temporary ad hoc connections, even without live internet connections.

The geo-distributed network of fog nodes, which could be phones, tablets or any device part of the Internet of Things, could generate communication channels in areas where there were none before, allowing the creation of population density maps in flooded areas.

Another application would allow users to check the fog network to see if their family members are safe after a crisis event.

Fog Computing applied in this setting is applicable around the world, as we are reminded daily of both the ubiquity and fragility of wireless communications against the whims of nature.

Smart Grids Need Fog Computing

Across the globe, more and more countries are jumping into smart grid deployments. The good side is that smart energy tools are critical to managing resources. The bad side is that most are not sufficiently developed with the necessary security infrastructure in place. When considering the rapid development of smart grid tech, Fog Computing quickly comes up as a viable tool for ensuring reliable data communication and information transfer between consumers, grid operators and larger energy providers. The Open Fog Consortium, a global Fog Computing group comprised of technology and academic thought leaders, has formed Resilient Information Architecture Platform for Smart Grid (RIAPS), a project aimed at developing software for Fog Computing platforms:

RIAPS is very different from conventional platforms as it was designed for inherently distributed and decentralized applications. An application is composed of interconnected real-time software components (similar to micro-services) that can be event- and/or time-triggered and that interact via well-defined communication patterns, including publish/subscribe and synchronous and asynchronous service invocations. Such components are location transparent and agnostic about the underlying messaging framework.

Although the project is based out of Vanderbilt University, in the United States, the repercussions will be felt throughout the world.

Is Fog Computing the Final Answer?

While Fog Computing has yet to be standardized and applied across the wide range of IoT technologies out in the field today, its ability to combine both local and Cloud data analytics is something that can have an impact in both the consumer and the Industrial IoT. However, the first adapters, companies that play in IIoT settings, will be largely responsible for driving the growth of this concept moving forward into the future.

Additional Reading:

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The manufacturing industry is undergoing many changes. Those specializing in traditional manufacturing are finding it difficult to keep up with the changes. Perhaps the biggest change has been how traditional manufacturing has come under pressure to manage vast amounts of data captured from different sources. Here are some of the reasons the Internet of Things (IoT) can help.


Quality control has become easier because IoT helps keep an eye on suppliers. This makes for easier manufacturing processes. Keeping an eye on suppliers is all about looking at all the constituents that the supplier offers. Capturing data about these constituents through IoT helps make for faster data processing and better quality control.


Thanks to IoT, many manufacturers are now building self-correcting systems. Missing parts are replaced and parts are replenished, giving rise to greater productivity. Since manufacturing industries are looking in particular for ways to boost productivity, there is no way for them to overlook what IoT can do for them. In addition to greater productivity, there is also more convenience since the need for human labor reduces.


The Internet of Things is expected to help manufacturers stick to lean manufacturing while at the same time helping maintain supply lines. Since lean manufacturing often requires smart management of the supply lines – to ensure that components are never in short supply but there is no overstock – IoT is expected to help resolve many problems. It will help ensure that suppliers located in different regions can be kept in the loop and supply lines can be managed smoothly so that there is no shortage. It will also help reduce waste and optimize the use of resources.


Usually, manufacturing is divided into many processes, from sourcing of raw materials to production, transportation and reaching the customer. However, with the Internet of Things, experts envision something extra. The entire process will be smooth and effective. The raw materials will be already marked for production, intended to reach a particular buyer. This is how experts see things play out as IoT advances to new levels.


As IoT gains more efficiency, manufacturers can expect to see lowered costs. This is one of the primary reasons manufacturing experts are enthusiastic about the role of IoT. It will become easier to track information about products and processes and more automation would help bring about greater efficiency, thus eventually reducing costs. Lowered costs are expected to boost profit margins. If your manufacturing plant has not invested in IoT yet, this might be the right time to start.


With IoT, studying needs and launching new products becomes easier. There is less jostle and inefficiency than traditional systems. Manufacturing is thus one of the key areas where you can expect a lot of improvement, thanks to the Internet of Things.


Traditionally data and manufacturing have been treated as separate entities. However, in manufacturing industries where IoT advances, this is expected to change. As products begin to carry information about them, it becomes easier to assign a processing and logistics path to them. This is why it becomes critical to involve IoT in your manufacturing plant.


Products are, in the end, manufactured to suit the consumer. Thanks to IoT, it becomes easier to stay connected to the consumer and create products that match their requirements. This offers two-way benefits, as the consumer gets the best products and the manufacturing plant is able to manufacture products per exact specification. There are a lot of benefits that manufacturers can expect in the long term, thanks to the Internet of Things.As manufacturing processes undergo change, it becomes imperative for manufacturers to make the most of the coming revolution. Supply chains and logistics will become smoother thanks to the industrial Internet of Things. According to many experts, we are at the cusp of another major revolution that will change not only how things are manufactured but also the market economy. It is a good idea to be prepared for these changes by investing in the right IoT system.

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Why Edge Computing Is an IIoT Requirement

How edge computing is poised to jump-start the next industrial revolution.

From travel to fitness to entertainment, we now have killer apps for many things we never knew we needed. Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed tremendous improvements in terms of democratizing data and productivity across the consumer world.

Building on that, we’re entering a new era of software-defined machines that will transform productivity, products and services in the industrial world. This is the critical link which will drive new scenarios at even faster rates of innovation. By 2020, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is expected to be a $225 billion market.

To jump-start the productivity engine of IIoT, real-time response is needed at the machine-level at scale and that requires an edge-plus-cloud architecture designed specifically for the Industrial Internet. From Google maps to weather apps, we’ve been experiencing the benefits of cloud and edge computing working together in our daily lives for quite some time.

But, what is edge? Edge is the physical location that allows computing closer to the source of data. Edge computing enables data analytics to occur and resulting insights to be gleaned closer to the machines. While edge computing isn’t new, it’s beginning to take hold in the industrial sector – and the opportunity is far greater than anything we’ve seen in the consumer sector, and here’s why:

Real-time data in a real-time world: The edge is not merely a way to collect data for transmission to the cloud. We are now able to process, analyze and act upon the collected data at the edge within milliseconds. It is the gateway for optimizing industrial data. And when millions of dollars and human lives are on the line, edge computing is essential for optimizing industrial data at every aspect of an operation.

Take windfarms for example. If wind direction changes, the edge software onsite would collect and analyze this data in real-time and then communicate to the wind turbine to adjust appropriately using an edge device, such as a field agent and connected control system, and successfully capture more kinetic energy. Because the data is not sent to the cloud, the processing time is significantly faster. This increases wind turbines’ production, and ultimately distributes more clean energy to our cities, increasing the value of the renewable energy space.

Big data, big trade-offs: The harsh and remote conditions of many industrial sites make it challenging to connect and cost-effectively transmit large quantities of data in real-time. We are now able to add intelligence to machines at the edge of the network, in the plant or field. Through edge computing on the device, we’re bringing analytics capabilities closer to the machine and providing a less expensive option for optimizing asset performance.

Consider the thousands of terabytes of data from a gas turbine. Sending this data to the cloud to run advanced analytics maybe technologically possible, but certainly too cost prohibitive to do a daily basis. Through edge computing, we can capture streaming data from a turbine and use this data in real-time to prevent unplanned downtime and optimize production to extend the life of the machine.

What’s Next

Today, only 3% of data from industrial assets is useable. Connecting machines from the cloud to the edge will dramatically increase useable data by providing greater access to high powered, cost effective computing and analytics tools at the machine and plant level.

Consider the fact that for years traditional control systems were designed to keep a machine running the same way day in and day out for the lifecycle of the machine. At GE Energy Connections, we recently debuted the Industrial Internet Control System (IICS), which successfully allows machines to see, think and do and will enable machine learning at scale. To take IICS to the next level, we’re creating an ecosystem of edge offerings to accelerate widespread adoption across the industrial sector. We’re advancing this ecosystem and empowering app developers who want to play a role in driving the new industrial era. 

Currently, to add value to a software system, a developer writes the code, ports it into the legacy software stack, shuts down the devices and finally, updates it. That’s all going to change. We are working on creating an opportunity for any developer to create value-added edge applications. Customers will be able port the necessary apps to their machine without having to shut it down, just like we do on our phones today. Companies will be able to download apps for their needs and update frequently to ensure their business is running smoothly. While no one likes to run out of battery on their smart phone, an outage for a powerplant is far more costly, so the ability to port apps without shutting down devices and being able to detect issues before it occurs will be a game changer.

From wind turbines to autonomous cars, edge computing is poised to completely revolutionize our world. It’s forcing change in the way information is sent, stored and analyzed.  And there’s no sign of slowing down.

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The Digital Twin: Key Component of IoT

A Digital Twin uses data from sensors installed on physical systems to represent their near real-time status, working condition or position. This modelling technology allows us to see what is happening inside the system without having to be able to get inside the system. It forms a critical step in the information value chain without which it is often impossible to get from raw data to insight, and therefore to value. As the Internet of Things grows, Digital Twins will become a standard tool for Data Scientists and Engineers wishing to use all this new data to automatically understand and respond to what is going on in the real world.
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The Information Value Chain

Why do IoT Architects need to think about value, not just data?

Several years ago I was pitching what would now be called an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solution to the Production Manager of a large manufacturing plant. After describing all the data we could collect, and the metrics we could turn it into, I thought I had done pretty well. What Production Manager wouldn't want our system to get his finger on the pulse of his operation?

Instead, his next question floored me:

"If I don't do anything with the data your system collects, then it doesn't create any value for me, does it?"

I had never imagined that someone presented with real-time, detailed information wouldn't immediately grab it and use it to improve their business. I was so taken aback I could not think of an intelligent response, and needless to say, we didn't win that deal.

I'm not going to suggest that he was right, since "doing something with the data" was implicit in his job description, but there is a germ of wisdom for the IoT community in what he said:

Merely delivering data does not deliver value.

Even lots of accurate data, even in real time. Many IoT systems -- still -- have clearly been designed under the assumption that their responsibility ends at collecting, storing and presenting data: systems where data is collected and put in a data repository or historian; systems where data is collected an put on on-line graphs.

A real-world ACTION that benefits a group of stakeholders is still the only way that any IT system delivers value. For an IoT system to deliver that value, it must construct a chain from data to action. I suggest we call this chain:

The Information Value Chain.

The Information Value Chain is only just starting when you collect the data. Turning that data into information and ultimately into ACTION is harder, and if anything your "data only" Internet of Things (IoT) system has made the problem worse, not better: understanding a small amount of data to turn it into action is extremely taxing, and takes many different skills. Doing that with a torrent of data is overwhelming.

What is the Information Value Chain?

Very simply, the Information Value Chain is the insight that data only creates value if it goes through a series of steps, steps which eventually result in action back in the real world.

Like so:

If we focus primarily on collecting data, then we will create Data Lakes, which are impressive Information Technology constructs, but on their own are passive entities that deliver no inherent value to the organisation.

If we focus primarily on action, then we will make decisions based on inaccurate information and misleading data, resulting in the wrong action, wasted money and lost opportunity. A great example is this Case Study.

How to solve this conundrum? Before we get into the mechanics of building a robust Information Value Chain, the starting point is human, not technological.

To succeed you must start with the right goal

The starting point is this: What is the motivation for your project?

If it is to build an "IoT System," then I suggest that you are heading down the road to failure. An IoT System is a means, not an end, and has as many different embodiments as the word vehicle - Ferrari; Ford Focus; Mack truck; oil tanker.

Here is what you should be setting as your goal:

"To build a system that creates value in [this] way; by enabling [these] actions; using the best methods; with the minimal required human intervention; based on the best possible information; in as close to real time as possible."

There is a lot in this statement. Let's unpack it.

The central message of the Information Value Chain is to see our information systems as part of a sequence who's end result is action that delivers value.

  1. When I approach systems analysis for a Customer, the first thing I write on the right hand side of the whiteboard is a "$" sign.
  2. To the left I have the Customer help me develop an ROI model:
    • Before: X1 action by X2 participant creates X3 value at X4 cost;
    • After: Y1 action by Y2 participant creates Y3 value at Y4 cost.
  3. Then we step left again to describe the decisions that lead to those actions. Now we can write:
    • Who (or what!) will make those decisions; on
    • What timescale;
    • Based on what algorithm.
  4. Now we can ask what information they will need to make these decision and
    • How to extract this information from the data available.
  5. Then, and only then, do we know what data to collect; how to process it, how -- or whether -- to present it; and how much of it and how to store it.

We have found this approach moves IoT from a vague concept of something the Client thinks "maybe" they should do, but are not clear on how it will impact their business, to a compelling business tool with clear purpose and value. That what this is all about!

What do the links in The Information Value Chain mean?

The terms data, information and decision, as well as knowledge and intelligence get thrown around a lot, often interchangeably, yet these are distinct concepts. It is important to understand what we are talking about so that we can define and deliver each link in the chain successfully. Let's start from right to left, as we have just described in our systems analysis process so that we always keep our end goal in mind:

  • Action: something that results in a change in the real-world which has a $ measurable value to a key stakeholder;
  • Decision: a choice between possible Actions made according to a set of rules that maximize the value of the action taken;
  • Information: Data interpreted in a specific context to best support the Decisions the User needs to be able to make;
  • Data: individual facts collected from the Real World environment, as accurately and as timely as possible, not all of which will be relevant to the Decisions to be made;
  • Real World: The totality of systems, machines, people and environmental factors that can affect the right Action to take in any given circumstance.

How do we turn The Information Value Chain into practice?

The Information Value Chain is a great conceptual framework to think about how to get from Data to Value, but as IoT system architects, we are concerned with the practical question of how to deliver Value from Data. This is the purpose of the 5D IoT Architecture, which maps the links in The Information Value Chain to 4 specific architectural components, suggests core requirements for each of those components, and adds a 5th component to continuously improve the solution itself.

This paper is the development of a series on concepts in Big Data, IoT and systems architecture originally published on Fraysen Systems.

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In the United States, precision agriculture is one of the largest industries by both operational scale and economic impact. The technology utilized is typically on the cutting edge, especially for automation and control. Things like sensors, programmable IoT radios and generally more complex software applications have allowed that industry to evolve, domestically, to a point where land and other resources are used optimally. Internationally, although there have been ‘smart’ or ‘precision’ practices in certain sectors of agriculture, many countries are just now starting to adopt the technology to its fullest extent, including the ability to innovate via start-ups and new practices.

India & the Digital Agriculture Revolution

According to an article in India Times (image credit), the country is aiming to secure a 20 percent stake in the IoT market share in the next five years through its ‘Digital India’ initiative. While many might look at India and think of the sprawling and diverse urban environments that could offer some potential complications for IoT, it is rural areas seeing the most interesting developments. There has been a noticeable growth in tele-medicine operations, which can allow patients in remote areas to interact with doctors for consultation, eliminating the need to get to a city, or vice versa. Perhaps an even greater area of growth lies in the agricultural realm. According to the article, agriculture employs 50 percent of the country’s population, so the potential for a digital revolution is high. Farmers are just starting to implement sensor technology, automation hardware, and even leading-edge tools like voluntary milking systems the allow cows to be milked on an automated machine according to biological needs.

Israel’s Precision Ag Start-Up Community

In Israel, where IoT technology is starting to mature, the name of the game is data collection and analytics. Mobile applications, sensor data collection hardware, and advanced analytics software are three areas that Israel is seeing significant market growth, according to Israel21c:

Israel stands out in precision-ag subsectors of water management, data science, drones and sensors, says Stephane Itzigsohn, investment associate at OurCrowd. … “Multiple startups are aiming toward the same goal — providing good agricultural data — but approaching it from slightly different angles,” Itzigsohn tells ISRAEL21c. “One might use satellite images or aerial photography; another might use autonomous tractors. Not all will get to that peak in the long journey of farming becoming more efficient.”

For example, CropX, an investor-backed advanced adaptive irrigation software solution, can be placed throughout a farming area and synced with a smart phone, allowing the operators to receive real-time data updates on things like soil and weather conditions. CropX is based in both Tel Aviv and San Francisco, indicating that the technology may be poised for wide international adoption in the future.

Analytics Drive Italy’s Drought Recovery

Italy is perhaps best known for a single agricultural export: wine. However, many would be surprised to find out that it is one of the top corn producers in the European Union, producing more than 7 million tons of corn in 2015, according to an RCR Wireless report. In 2016, the EU’s total corn output dropped noticeably due to year-long droughts affecting production. In Italy, start-up companies collaborated with industrial ag operations develop and deploy widespread soil sensor and water automation technology to help streamline farming practices and create a more efficient system for resource use. The technology allowed farmers to get a comprehensive look at their operations and identify high and low yield areas in order to better utilize the available space.

Precision Agriculture and the Industrial IoT

The continued maturation of IIoT technology is enabling countries around the globe to better utilize resources like water, energy, and land area to create better agricultural operations. As populations continue to expand, and food production becomes even more important, being able to connect these technologies across the globe could become a key factor in optimizing crop output in critical areas. Imagine the above farm in Italy being able to send its data to data scientists in Germany or the Eastern Europe who could in turn analyze it and provide actionable feedback. Or an industrial farm in Israel managing its yields sending that information in real-time around the country. These possibilities are not far off, and as the networks, hardware and software continue to be adapted, the future of precision ag internationally, will become the present.

For additional reading:

India Times:

Israel 21c:


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Building a system to get value from the Internet of Things (IoT) or Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a complex process involving a number of very distinct components. We need an Architecture for IoT to define the components which are necessary and sufficient for the system to deliver value. An information system only delivers value if it completes the Information Value Chain, causing real-world action to take place in response to the data it collects. This is what the 5D Architecture does. Luckily, every IoT or IIoT system needs to perform the same 5 core functions in order to deliver value, and therefore the architecture of all these systems is — pleasingly — the same!
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Imagine your worst winter day. Bone-chilling cold, howling, bitter winds, blinding snow and sleet, and your truck is encased in ice. What do you do? You tough it out, scrape the ice off the windshield and get to work.

The radio network deployed at one of the world’s most important weather research facilities has to endure and perform in extremely brutal climates nearly every day of the year, 24/7/365. Lives depend on its successful transmission of weather data. And for over a decade, wireless data radios have gotten the job done at the Mount Washington Observatory.

LOCATION: The private, non-profit Mount Washington Observatory (MWO) in New Hampshire, USA, one of the most important state-of-the-art climate research facilities in the world.

With a weather recording history dating back to 1932, the MWO’s mission is to research the Earth’s climate. Weather observations are reported to the National Weather Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for use in nationwide and global forecasting models.

Additionally, the New Hampshire State Park (NHSP), US Forest Service Snow Rangers, and New Hampshire Fish and Game all rely on the MWO’s current weather data to determine the safety and viability of launching search operations.

In short, the MWO saves lives and provides critical climate data, and rugged wireless data radios delivers it – no matter what the weather conditions may be.

Located on the highest peak in the Northeast United States (elevation 6,288 ft.), the MWO operates mission-critical weather stations in notoriously brutal and erratic weather conditions that are amongst the worst in the world. The long-standing slogan of the MWO is “The Home of the World’s Worst Weather” and summit conditions certainly prove this.

During the summer, researchers encounter 50-100 mph winds with penetrating fog.  Winter conditions include sub-arctic temperatures, 140+ mph winds, freezing fog, and heavy glaze icing.  The weather can change rapidly, going from clear and warm to fogged-in and freezing within minutes.  Additionally, ice accretion rates of up to 12”/hour are often observed. Winter winds can change from light and variable to hurricane-force, and beyond, without notice, with blinding snow eliminating all visibility.  In fact, at one time Mt. Washington held the world record for recorded wind speed of 231 mph.

These unique conditions make the Observatory an ideal location for research and product testing. If a product is stamped “Mt Washington Tested”, know that it has experienced the harshest conditions imaginable on this continent.

It is because of these year-round brutal conditions that the MWO turns to proven data radio technology for mission-critical and extremely rugged wireless communications.


On its mountaintop weather station, MWO deploys a radio network of 900 MHz frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) radios (both serial and Ethernet) connecting a network of 28 sensors and devices on five different remote weather stations. These stations and sensors measure temperature, humidity, wind speed/direction and ground temperature. Continuous links are vital to provide real-time weather feeds.

The master radio is located 4 miles away on the summit of 4,063 ft. Wildcat Mountain, with 5 client stations situated at 1,000 ft. intervals along the Mt. Washington Auto Road, a privately owned 7.6 mile gravel and tar road that winds its way to the summit at 6,288 ft. These combined stations comprise MWO’s Auto Road Vertical Profile (ARVP). The Auto Road is closed to the public in winter, but the staff of the MWO and the NHSP routinely travel its treacherous path to and from the summit in full-sized snowcats, breaking through snowdrifts of 10 and 20 feet, carving a notch into its side in the vicinity of the actual road.

Because this type of winter travel is so treacherous, current weather data along the road is crucial for the safety of the crew, and both the MWO and the NHSP rely on FreeWave radios to maintain the constant communications links between weather stations and data servers.

The FHSS radio network has been in operation since 2004.

All 6 weather stations are solar-powered in locations that only get sunlight approximately 40% of the year, so the MWO needs radios that consume minimal power while providing constant 24/7/365 connectivity on the Mount Washington Regional Mesonet. In meteorology, a mesonet is a network of automated weather and environmental monitoring stations designed to observe meteorological phenomena.


According to the MWOs IT Manager, Peter Gagne, “For almost 13 years these radios have been on duty continuously, and I personally can attest to their durability and reliability in conditions that, frankly, radios shouldn’t survive. These radios routinely are exposed to bitter cold and winds that far exceed the radios specifications, and have always passed the test. It is because of this outstanding record of performance, as well as the superior customer support we receive, that we have decided to stay with FHSS radios, despite the multitude of competitors, in the upgrade of our ARVP sites this year of 2017.”

Highlights include:

  • Cost-effective, real-time data transmission enabled by a rugged serial communication solution.
  • Mount Washington Observatory is able to issue severe warnings that assist operations and rescue efforts.
  • Real-time weather data and highly reliable performance in extreme weather conditions.

FreeWave Technologies has been a supplier to the MWO for more than a decade and has provided a reliable and rugged wireless data communiocation network in spite of the brutal weather conditions. To learn more, visit:  

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Manufacturers seek quantifiable ROI before making leap to IIoT implementation

By now, most manufacturers have heard of the promise of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

In this bold new future of manufacturing, newly installed sensors will collect previously unavailable data on equipment, parts, inventory and even personnel that will then be shared with existing systems in an interconnected “smart” system where machines learn from other machines and executives can analyze reports based on the accumulated data.

By doing so, manufacturers can stamp out inefficiencies, eliminate bottlenecks and ultimately streamline operations to become more competitive and profitable.

However, despite the tremendous potential, there is a palpable hesitation by some in the industry to jump into the deep end of the IIoT pool.

When asked, this hesitation stems from one primary concern: If we invest in IIoT, what specific ROI can we expect and when? How will it streamline my process such that it translates into greater efficiencies and actual revenue in the short and long term?

Although it may come as a surprise, the potential return can actually be identified and quantified prior to any implementation. Furthermore, implementations can be scalable for those that want to start with “baby steps.”

In many cases, this is being facilitated by a new breed of managed service providers dedicated to IIoT that have the expertise to conduct in-plant evaluations that pinpoint a specific, achievable ROI.

These managed service providers can then implement and manage all aspects from end-to-end so manufacturers can focus on core competencies and not becoming IIoT experts. Like their IT counterparts, this can often be done on a monthly fee schedule that minimizes, or eliminates, up-front capital investment costs.


Despite all the fanfare for the Internet of Things, the truth is many manufacturers still have a less-than-complete understanding of what it is and how it applies to industry.

While it might appear complicated from the outside looking in, IIoT is merely a logical extension of the increasing automation and connectivity that has been a part of the plant environment for decades.

In fact, in some ways many of the component parts and pieces required already exist in a plant or are collected by more manual methods.

However, a core principle of the Industrial “Internet of Things” is to vastly supplement and improve upon the data collected through the integration of sensors in items such as products, equipment, and containers that are integral parts of the process.

In many cases, these sensors provide a tremendous wealth of critical information required to increase efficiency and streamline operations.

Armed with this new information, IIoT then seeks to facilitate machine-to-machine intelligence and interaction so that the system can learn to become more efficient based on the available data points and traffic patterns. In this way, the proverbial “left hand” now knows what the “right hand” is doing.

In addition, the mass of data collected can then be turned into reports that can be analyzed by top executives and operations personnel to provide further insights on ways to increase operational savings and revenue opportunities.

In manufacturing, the net result can impact quality control, predictive maintenance, supply chain traceability and efficiency, sustainable and green practices and even customer service.


The difficulty, however, comes from bridging the gap between “here” and “there.”

Organizations need to do more than just collect data; it must be turned into actionable insights that increase productivity, generate savings, or uncover new income streams.

For Pacesetter, a national processor and distributor of flat rolled steel that operates processing facilities in Atlanta, Chicago and Houston, IIoT holds great promise.

“At Pacesetter, there are so many ways we can use sensors to streamline our operation, says CEO Aviva Leebow Wolmer. “I believe we need to be constantly investigating new technologies and figuring out how to integrate them into our business.”

Pacesetter has always been a trendsetter in the industry. Despite offering a commodity product, the company often takes an active role in helping its customers identify ways to streamline operations as well.

The company is currently working with Industrial Intelligence, a managed service provider that offers full, turnkey end-to-end installed IIoT solutions, to install sensors in each of its facilities to increase efficiency by using dashboards that allow management to view information in real time.

“Having access to real-time data from the sensors and being able to log in and see it to figure out the answer to a problem or question so you can make a better decision – that type of access is incredible,” says Leebow Wolmer.

She also appreciates the perspective that an outsider can bring to the table.

“Industrial Intelligence is in so many different manufacturing plants in a given year and they see different things,” explains Leebow Wolmer. “They see what works, what doesn’t, and can provide a better overall solution not just from the IIoT perspective but even best practices.”

For Pacesetter, the move to IIoT has already yielded significant returns.

In a recently completed project, Industrial Intelligence installed sensors designed to track production schedules throughout the plant. The information revealed two bottlenecks: one in which coils were not immediately ready for processing – slowing production – and another where the skids on which they are placed for shipping were often not ready.

By making the status of both coil and skids available for real time monitoring and alerting key personnel when production slowed, Pacesetter was able to push the production schedule through the existing ERP system.

This increased productivity at the Atlanta plant by 30%. Similar implementations in the other two facilities yielded similar increases in productivity.


According to Darren Tessitore, COO of Industrial Intelligence, the process of examining the possible ROI begins with a factory walk-through with trained expertise in manufacturing process improvement and IoT engineers that understand the back-end technologies.

A detailed analysis is then prepared, outlining the scope of the recommended IIoT implementation, exact areas and opportunities for improvement and the location of new sensors.

“The analysis gives us the ability to build the ROI,” says Tessitore. “We’re going to know exactly how much money this will make by making the changes. This takes much of the risk out of it so executives are not guessing how it might help.”

Once completed, a company like Industrial Intelligence can then provide a turnkey, end-to-end-solution.

According to Tessitore, this covers the entire gamut: all hardware and software, station monitors, etc.; the building of real-time alerts, reports & analytics; training management on how to use data points to increase profits; and even continuously monitoring and improving the system as needed.

“Unless you’re a huge company, you really don’t have somebody who can come in and guide you and create a cost effective solution to help you compete with the larger players in the space,” says Pacesetter’s Leebow Wolmer. “I think that’s what Industrial Intelligence offers that can’t be created on your own.”

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach,” she adds. “They have some things that can give you a little bit of IIoT or they can take an entire factory to a whole new level. By doing this they can be cost effective for a variety of sizes of organizations.”

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