Like any other aspect of IoT, the ability to gather real-time information can change how a company operates.  It makes them more efficient, safer and allows them to offer better service to their customers.  This definitely applies to the world of Industry. 


By allowing 2-way communication with devices, both those in a factory and those that are remote, companies can truly see how things are going.  This may be the status of machines, the location of a key asset or the current health of a remote employee.  In addition, this information can be easily “crunched” to see trends both in real-time and historically. 


In a world where pennies can make the difference between a successful offering and one that fails, IoT allows all Industries to change the way they do business.

Why Do We Need Smart Industry

Even when making machines that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, companies do their best to shave pennies off of the cost wherever they can do so safely.  However, in any company, there is always waste … wasted product, electricity or productivity.  IoT’s ability to provide feedback in real-time prevents outages, waste and downtime, allowing companies to do more with less. 


It even goes further than that in many cases.  Companies in all areas are trying to find ways to move one-time revenue into recurring service revenue.  By having a better understanding of how products are used, forward-thinking companies are changing their business model to both increase margins and to differentiate themselves from their competitors. 


Finally, companies are being asked to produce better, less-expensive products, but to do so with less impact on the environment.  IoT solutions can prevent unwanted use of machinery, ensure devices are operating efficiently and prevent unnecessary visits to remote sites.  All of these things help a company “go green.” 

5 ways that Industry is using IoT

The first type of IoT involves the monitoring of key equipment used by the company in their own facilities, such as printing presses, assembly line equipment, heaters and much more.  While these devices may be used by team members on a continual basis, they are not always monitored closely to ensure they are working at their optimal settings.  By receiving real-time updates, often as often as a few times a minute, the machines can operate at their maximum potential, which also reduces unwanted downtime. 

As important as it may be to maximize the productivity of machinery, maintaining an ideal and safe work environment can be equally as beneficial.  Sensors are used to monitor various conditions in a work area, ranging from temperature to humidity to controlling access.  This ensures that work areas are both safe and productive.  The same monitoring can be done after work is done, to ensure that the space remains secure after hours. 

Many companies operate large fleets of vehicles that they use to deliver products and services or to service their products in the field.  These vehicles are necessary but any savings that can be gathered often goes straight to the bottom line.  On-board GPS-based equipment can be used to ensure that the vehicles are operating well, to prevent unwanted downtime.  The same solutions can be used to dispatch the closest vehicle for maximum services levels and to ensure that they are being operated safely. 

For many companies, work can take place in very remote areas.  This is true of works being done in many trades, such as construction, but it can apply to other areas as well.  Many of the same points above can be done just as easily at a remote location.  Sensors are often used to track key items to prevent theft and wasted time.  Environmental sensors are used to ensure that a workplace is safe, such as alerting to extreme temperatures or vibration that may point to an upcoming earthquake. 

The final area has to do with the product that a company produces, as many companies want to be able to access information from the device after it has been delivered to the customer.  It may be the case that a company is leasing the equipment, that they may need to make post-delivery updates or that a company uses this connection to provide better support to their customers.  This is commonly used in large machinery, vehicles, HVAC systems and more. 

Six steps to making Industrial IoT work

Data Gathering 

In some cases, external sensors are used to gather information about a particular area.  In the case of monitoring a device, much of the required information is often gathered by the device itself. 

Local area networks 

The information needs to be sent from the device/sensor to a gateway and this is done using what is referred to as a Local area network.  It may use common technologies such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, it may be a physical cable running from the device to the gateway, or it may use long-range technology like LoRa or ZigBee. 


All of the devices and sensors send their information back through a gateway.  There are two main types.  The first simply passes all of the data that it receives, acting more as a pipe.  The more expensive ones are able to make decisions based on the data, often leading to faster information processing. 

Wide Area networks 

In some rare cases, the company may be processing all of the information locally on-site, so there is no need for a wide area network.  In most cases, though, information is sent across the Internet to the application where it is processed.  This is done using traditional landline networks or increasingly, via cellular networks. 


Every day, more and more applications are being moved into the cloud, as it offers many advantages.  In this scenario, the application takes all of the information and breaks it down so that it can be access via a team member directly, or the data is sent to another application, such as a CRM or ERP system. 

User interface 

This is often the key step, as all of the other steps will be useless if the information is not easy to use when needed.  It may be a text message that is sent to alert a team member, it may be a recent graph showing a trend or the data may be put into a historical table to show long-term trends.  In any case, users can make decisions, often in real-time, about a situation using data that was previously never available. 

As factories grow, the amount of people and machinery to monitor, track and optimize also increases. Sensors are used in many of these areas to save time,  money and gain a competitive edge.

Remote device Monitoring 

Whether a device is used by a manufacturer for their own use or is one that they are leasing to a customer, companies are vulnerable to theft, unwanted usage and vandalism when devices are not locked away.  Remote monitoring allows companies to have a better understanding of a key device. 


In some cases, the concern may be that the device is continually operated as needed.  Sensors and on-board technology allow for real-time reporting of things like run-time, the level of fuel on-board and the operating temperature.  In other cases, the real-time GPS location of the device may be updated, and an alert sent if a device leaves a particular area. 


Regardless of the information that is desired, IoT solutions allow companies to keep track of remote assets to maximize productivity and billing and to maintain service levels. 


Tracking key equipment on-site 

Nothing decreases on-site productivity at a factory like misplaced tools and equipment.  Whether it be skids, tools, safety equipment or car keys at a car dealership, any time spent looking for items reduces productivity and potentially safety levels.  Low-cost, rugged sensor are being used to track the location of an item within your four walls.  The sensors communicate with gateways that are strategically located to pinpoint the location of a key item. 


The added benefit is that if someone attempts to remove a monitored device from your site, an alert can be sent.  This reduces the chance of theft of a key item.


More accurate evaluation of collateral items 

Whether it be a customer looking to buy a home or to insure a valuable item, it can often be difficult for an evaluator to get a complete assessment of the item.  Many are starting to use sensor-based applications to both better understand the condition of an item now, as well as to monitor the item on-going.  Sensors are placed in key areas to evaluate items such as the effectiveness of a key mechanical system, the amount of movement/travel a vehicle may go and to access key diagnostic information. 


With this information, evaluators have a better understanding of any potential short- and long-term issues that may affect the item’s value.  This same solution is often used for tracking the location of key valuables during shipment if the items are being insured.  Finally, in many cases, these sensors may be left in place on a permanent basis if the financial institution may need to maintain a better understanding about any change in conditions that may affect an item’s value. 

Property managers and building owners are increasingly looking to IoT and sensor technology to ensure safety and comfort of their tenants.

Supply distribution using vending machines 

One of the easiest ways to control the large costs of running a facility is to control the use of many low-cost items.  It may be bandages at a hospital, screws and fasteners at a manufacturing site or chalk at a school.  While the loss of an individual item is not large, the cumulative extra money spent on these items can surprisingly add up. 


One way to control the distribution of these items (as well as items that may have restricted access, such as narcotics) is through the use of automated dispensers, which often resemble vending machines.  These machines require the use of either a passcode or, increasingly, biometrics like fingerprints to distribute an item.  This allows for a better level of inventory control, preventing unwanted use or loss.  

Automated individual heating and lighting 

One of the most heated topics at any office is often the level of light and the temperature.  One way to ease tensions and make things more productive is the use of individualized environmental settings for each person’s area.  Newer installations are allowing for smart lights and heating systems to allow each person to choose their own level of heat, natural light and other factors. 


One new twist to this is that many of these settings can be set once a person enters into the building.  In an age where there may not be permanent desks, the person scanning in will be assigned a desk and since the system knows their desired preferences, the area will be set to those before they arrive at their desk! 

Hazardous condition monitoring 

Something that may surprise some (especially those who live in warmer climates) is the level of injuries that happen due to slipping on ice at work facilities.  To combat this, companies are using sensors to detect ice build-ups in key areas.  If ice is detected, workers are either directed to a different entrance or asked to wait until the situation is rectified. 


However, many locations have chemicals and materials on-site that are a lot more toxic than ice.  Many are using smart ID tags that are capable of alerting to high levels of a known toxic substance and alerting the worker to take precautions.  Those same tags may be used to ensure people keep social distance if needed.


SCADA monitoring has undergone a true digital transformation with both the cloud and sensor technology. Accuracy, timeliness and accessibility to reporting has never been greater.

OEM device monitoring 

Manufacturers of a product are always looking for more information about their products in the field.  They are looking to know if they are being used as designed, if there are any potential areas of weakness, how they may reduce costs on any redesign and even if a key new feature is being used often.  IoT solutions are allowing these engineers to find all of this great data. 


In cases where the user is likely to connect the device to either their phone or their home Wi-Fi network, the designers are using technologies like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.  Over that connection, they are able to also gather anonymous usage data that helps them make better products.  If the product is mobile or not normally connected to a network (like a car), the use of cellular modules allows the engineers to gather information as required. 


Repair / fix 

Manufacturers are not the only ones who want to gather information.  Distributors, resellers and repair shops can greatly benefit from the data produced by an IoT solution.  In some cases, repairs to a device can be done simply by a software change or via a reboot of the device.  When companies deploy an IoT solution, they are able to remotely view any trouble codes and more often than not, fix the problem quickly and remotely.  Even in cases where an on-site repair is still needed, they now have more information to make the repair faster and on the first visit. 


There are also gains on the potential business models that an IoT solution will now allow to happen.  As an example, a rental company can now offer models that involve real-time usage and charge for excessive use.  They can also use the GPS functionality to better track the locations of their devices 


Less greenhouse gas emissions 

In the production of key materials and devices, creating greenhouse gas and emissions may be unavoidable, at least by today’s technology.  However, it doesn’t mean that there may not be room for improvement.  By ensuring that all key devices are operating efficiently, companies can improve the efficiency of key machines.  They can also better monitor emission levels and make decisions in real time that can help. 


It also works by reducing unnecessary trips.  As mentioned earlier, performing repairs and maintenance over the air prevents unnecessary trips to locations, which reduces fuel use and makes your team more productive.  It also improves your level of customer service, which is always a good thing. 



Despite a strong public opinion about farming not being as technology-savvy as many other industries, the food industry has often been early adopters to many different IoT solutions.  They have used these solutions to improve crop yields, reduce fuel, fertilizer and water use and to provide better tracking of their products. 


As farming can often be resource-intensive, there has been a lot of pressure on the industry to produce a greater amount of food per acre, while reducing their environmental footprint.  Moisture sensors in the field allow farmers to improve the use of water while ensuring they are not overwatering vulnerable plants.  The same holds true for planting, as we will see in a future point. 


The use of pesticides is not only a significant cost for the food industry, but can also have environmental impacts, as well as to humans.  Sensors allow farmers to better understand the presence of bacteria and other harmful items that may hurt the plants, letting them better understand how to use these chemicals. 


Finally, as you will see in a future point, tracking devices placed on animals help streamline the operation for farmers.  They will be able to see the exercise level of an animal, know their location and it will help keep track of the animal during all aspects of its life.  This allows for easier tracking in the case of a food recall. 


On-site weather 

Weather has a huge impact on the agricultural industry, whether it is the amount of rain, the level of winds, natural disasters and more.  While there is nothing that can be done to control the weather, on-site weather stations are allowing farmers to better predict weather and to make better decisions. 


Mini weather stations are often placed on the remote part of a farmer’s land.  They allow the farmer to better understand current weather patterns, view the current rainfall and be alerted sooner in the event of an incoming disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado.  This allows them to make decisions that may save equipment, but more importantly, lives. 

Animal tracking 

A common site for years on farms has been numbered tags on animals.  This allows for easier counts and accountability.  What has emerged recently is that these tags are becoming smarter by allowing for tracking and for information to be stored on them that can be scanned. 


By scanning the tag, the farmer can use a phone/tablet to pull up the history of this particular animal.  With some tags, this may indicate which other animals they have been in close proximity with, which may be key in the event of a disease outbreak.  Most of the tags are also equipped with GPS-based tracking in the event that an animal may escape their cage. 

Self-driving tractor 

While it may be an odd site to see a tractor driving without a driver, it does not mean that it is not effective.  Using advanced tracking/location technology, the tractors are able to follow precise lines of planting.  This ensures that there is perfect spacing between each row, which both maximizes the crop yield as well as reduces the amount of water/fertilizer that may have to be used. 

The construction industry has often been regarded as being behind on their use of technology.  While they may use some advanced equipment, they were late to the computing game.  However, this is not always the case when it comes to the world of IoT.  Smart companies have long seen the value of a good IoT solution to reduce costs, improve safety and to make their teams more productive. 


The industry did see some strong early obstacles to the adoption of IoT.  Most of their sites required very rugged equipment that was often not available or cost prohibitive.  Their work in extremely remote areas made the availability of data networks rare, making it difficult to send data back in real time.  Finally, the transient nature of many construction sites (many workers are contract or temporary) made training and compliance difficult. 


However, the emergence of new IoT technology, the availability of smartphones and the expansion of cellular networks has removed many of the key obstacles.  Today, IoT solutions are allowing companies to do more with less and to do it safer than ever before. 

Machinery monitoring 

Many marvel at the sheer size and capability of many pieces of modern day heavy equipment.  They are capable of performing incredible amounts of work in a short period of time.  However, they are also incredibly costly pieces of machinery to own and operate, so companies need to ensure that they are running at all times. 


IoT solutions use a combination of sensors and readings from the on-board computers on equipment to retrieve valuable information.  This may include thousands of different diagnostic readings, their GPS location and their usage data.  This allows for alerts to be sent if a device is likely going to have a failure and an alert if the device was being removed from a site. 


The result is much less downtime and devices that operate more efficiently.  This reduces cost and lowers down greenhouse emissions. 

Self-driving vehicles 

A lot of talk has gone on about how taxis may one day move towards self-driving cars.  However, in many construction sites, that day has already arrived.  It has become common place to see large dump trucks going down a dirt road at a job site delivering a payload without a human onboard.  While a driver on the road may have a lot of variables to account for, the remote nature of these sites makes them ideal for this technology. 


Why would a company invest in such technology?  The first answer is cost.  It is expensive to employ and house remote skilled workers at sites.  From a safety standpoint, it also reduces the risk of injury, especially if a driver becomes fatigued.   

On-site environmental monitoring 

Many companies use on-site environmental monitoring during three different phases of a construction project.  The first is during the planning cycle.  A company may want to know things such as average wind speeds for the site, the current flow of water in a nearby river or any signs of earthquake activity. 


During the project’s construction phase, the focus moves towards occupant safety and the reduction in losses of material.  Many areas have laws that restrict work during periods of extreme cold or heat, while others may require warning systems in the event of an upcoming storm.  In terms of materials, some materials may need to be stored in controlled areas that limit the level of moisture, which sensors can be used to alert to any issues. 


After a project, the focus shifts more towards occupant comfort and long-term environmental impact.  Many of the sensors that were used to determine the temperature and humidity levels for workers can do the same for tenants to ensure occupant comfort.  On the outside of the building, sensors can detect the levels of any toxins or harmful chemicals in nearby environmentally sensitive areas, such as rivers.