Two engineers on the floor of a manufacturing plant

How IoT is Helping To Reinvent Production Systems

Two engineers on the floor of a manufacturing plant
Thanks to IoT technology, instantaneous feedback is available on what’s happening in the production process and how to improve it.

The Internet of Things is disrupting every aspect of retail, design, manufacturing, sales, and consumer space. So it’s no surprise that the rise of IoT is making itself felt within production systems in the manufacturing environment.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s talk a moment about what the IoT is reinventing – production systems. Simply put, a production system is composed of the elements and guiding principles that define how a business runs, reviews and improves its operations.

Designing the Production System

This is the stuff of systems engineering; it maps the guiding principles that define how tools, methods, and manpower are used to design and produce the product. A business’s production system also includes a continuous improvement loop, which reviews the results of the operation and brings changes in quality, productivity, scale and other considerations to continuously hone the overall business.

While production systems define that overall structure of a businesses’ operations, the reality is that production systems are often somewhat unstructured, defined in general terms by a variety of disparate tools and workforces, documented in various ways with best practices and printed guidelines. And whether you call yours a production system or not, your business’s manufacturing floor lives and dies by how well it performs.

Transformation From The Ground Up

The IoT is slowly transforming production systems from the ground up, and the future holds almost unlimited potential. An industrial IoT’s network of sensors, for example, combined with edge processing – processing the data at the edge of the network, on the shop and manufacturing floor – adds up to unprecedented levels of potential integration.

When you add the kind of near-real-time analytics you can get thanks to crunching the numbers stored in data lakes on site, it’s possible to get immediate and continuous feedback on the effectiveness of the production system, and to make changes in real time. Problem solving will become vastly simpler, with a wealth of current and historical data at managers’ fingertips. Isolating root causes of production problems will be much easier to accomplish.

Getting Instantaneous Feedback

Moreover, the continuous improvement process is traditionally a somewhat lumbering affair, one that often can’t respond until entire production cycles have completed – whether that’s a single shift or a complete manufacturing run. But now, thanks to the IoT, instantaneous feedback is available on what’s happening in the production process and how to improve it.

And critically, the entire production system can finally be codified – not in a set of binders, but thanks to the automation that the IoT delivers, in the settings and specifications of the actual tools and production workflows. This is no small feat, because it ensures that best practices aren’t simply referenced, but are instead implemented in the equipment and processes by design. The IoT ensures that the most efficient path is the one that’s automatically executed, and course corrections can be made in real-time via online dashboards.

Real World Examples

Early adopters are starting to reap the benefits of these kinds of production system improvements. Black & Decker, for example, integrated an IoT into its manufacturing plant in Reynosa, Mexico, for example. By adding Wi-Fi radio frequency tags to all of the materials used in the manufacturing process, Black & Decker was able to monitor the status and quality of every stage of the production process. The company said it has improved labor efficiency by 10 percent and bolstered quality, with first-time pass defects reduced by 16%.

Similarly, AW North Carolina – which manufactures automatic transmissions – added an IoT to its 1.3 million square-foot factory in Durham. The company produces over 3,000 transmissions per day, and each one contains as many as 800 specialized parts with their own set of quality and performance standards. AW is using the network to perform new and sophisticated enterprise resource planning (ERP) and manufacturing execution systems (MES) to automate and analyze its data and processes.


How Edge Computing Will Enhance the IoT

What is edge computing
Edge computing is a bit of a throwback, like the IT version of disco or flared jeans.

Recently, you might have started to hear a new term: Edge computing. And because it’s a trending buzzword, you might think it represents a sea change in the way we approach some aspect of computing. But if anything, it’s a bit of a throwback, like the IT version of disco or flared jeans.

Edge computing, simply put, is an approach to system design where the computing is done close to the source of the data.

Edge computing and IoT

But what’s that actually mean? Well, you need to think about this in the context of the modern Internet of Things, where sensors and other “things” live locally, at the edge of the network. But the data that’s generated at the edge is often packaged up and sent elsewhere for processing. That “elsewhere” can be a centrally managed server, or more often, the cloud.

Whether we’re talking about the IoT or more mundane computing tasks, we are living soundly in the Age of the Cloud, where seemingly everything is uploaded, stored, and often processed, remotely on an Amazon AWS or other third-party servers. After the data has been processed, the results are then sent back downstream to local computers for additional conditioning, decision making, reporting, and action.

Real world examples

But there are limitations with this approach, often related to bandwidth and latency. Consider an extreme example that’s a little outside the realm of IoT: space exploration. Mars probes like the Curiosity rover are too far away from earth for engineers at NASA or JPL to help inform the rover’s moment-to-moment decision-making. Rather than upload telemetry and observations to earth (depending on where the planets are in the orbit, that adds up to anywhere from a 13-to-24-minute delay), wait for processing, and then another 13-to-24 minutes for the return path, Curiosity can make some decisions on its own. Curiosity, in a sense, makes use of edge computing.

And that same philosophy applies to a similar real-world case of IoT here on earth: self-driving cars. Clearly, when the roads are filled with a fleet of autonomous vehicles, there isn’t time for the vehicles to take measurements of its surrounding, upload that data to cloud, wait for centralized computers to calculate a decision, and send that information back. Even at the speed of light, the round-trip data path is unworkably slow for life-and-death decisions at highway speeds. Instead, self-driving cars need to process that data locally. They perform edge computing.

Preventing slow responses

Latency isn’t just a concern at 60 mph, either. We know from extensive user testing and research, for example, that when people use a computer interface, if it responds in 200 milliseconds or less, it “feels” instantaneous – and obviously, slower responses from the computer are noticeably annoying. This is becoming important as more and more computing is offloaded from local systems and moved to the cloud.

In some cases, it’s unavoidable. Consider smart home devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home. These devices listen for human speech, but don’t have the resources to interpret it locally. Instead, the data is packaged, uploaded to the cloud, and the device waits to be told what to say or do in response. The lag can be quite pronounced, which you have no doubt experienced if you own one of these devices. Some edge computing is already done on these devices – Alexa figures out when you’re talking to it on its own without the help of the cloud – but in the future, Amazon will add more and more edge computing tasks to the device, speeding up its response time.

Question of bandwidth

And then there’s a question of bandwidth. As IoTs expand and become richer and more capable, the networks they run on will have ever greater demands on their resources to move data to a central storehouse or the cloud. Consider a network of cameras, for example – if all of the data must be sent to the cloud in order to analyze it for motion events, for example, that’s potentially an enormous amount of data. If the cameras have edge computing abilities to flag interesting events and only send those moments to the cloud, it can potentially save the company a fortunate in bandwidth and data warehousing costs.

Edge computing isn’t quite a return to the old days of performing all computing, processing, and analysis on local machines, but does represent a smart compromise between a completely cloud-based, central computing solution and agile, local processing.

Have questions about how edge computing might impact your IoT project? Contact Us today for a free consult ››


What is LoRaWAN?

What is LoRaWAN?
LoRaWAN, or Lo(ng) Ra(nge) Wide Area Network, is a long-range communication technology that can offer up to about six miles of connectivity.

There are some exciting developments afoot in the world of wireless networking. After all, with applications for the Internet of Things limited to a large degree by the ability of the “things” – sensors, controllers, actuators, and so on – to communicate effectively with the IoT platform, wireless is the watchword in 2019.

Some legacy implementations of IoT have been limited by the physical structure of the network. Notably, it is sometimes difficult to deploy an Internet of Things project when the network range and battery life of the endpoints isn’t sufficient for persistent, reliable connectivity. Looking ahead, 5G networks promise to alleviate some of those problems, but that is still several years away from widespread adoption. A smart alternative gaining traction right now? LoRaWAN.

As abbreviations go, LoRaWAN might be something of a mouthful, but it defines the network architecture for LoRa. LoRa is a long-range communication technology, named, naturally enough, as an abbreviation for Lo(ng) Ra(nge) and pronounced like a woman’s name – Laura.

Interestingly, it promises something that few networks today can offer: extremely long range on the order of about 6 miles (10 kilometers). Of course, LoRa trades range for data rate, so it’s limited to a modest 50kbps.

That means that IoT projects that rely on LoRaWAN for endpoint connectivity won’t be sending and receiving real-time video feeds, for example. Instead, it thrives in environments that only need to share low-bitrate datastreams.

LoRaWAN has a flexible network architecture. It uses a star topology (similar to Wi-Fi) and recognizes three different classes of devices at network end points. Each class is designed with a different power profile in mind:

  • Class A LoRaWAN devices are power-savvy, transmitting asynchronously only when needed and spending most of their time in a low-power standby mode.
  • Class B devices are designed to transmit in predictable, timecode-based patterns so battery-powered nodes can spend most of their time in standby and only wake to listen for a signal at predictable intervals.
  • Finally, Class C devices are intended to be AC-powered, which means they’re awake all the time, able to send and transmit anytime.

Currently, LoRaWAN is championed by the LoRa Alliance, an organization that currently boasts more than 500 members across Europe, Asia, and the US, with a goal of enabling large scale deployment of IoT projects with Low Power Wide Area Networks by development and promoting the LoRaWAN open standard.

Here in the US there are a number of LoRaWAN operators offering network services, including LORIOT, The New Things Foundation, Senet, and machineQ – but real-world LoRaWAN implementations are happening around the globe. In France, for example, there are dozens of implementations in progress. France’s utility company, Veolia, recently began an IoT project to digitize and network three million residential water meters, for example, and LoRaWAN was selected as the connective tissue for this enormous project. There are other projects in progress in industries as diverse as pharmaceuticals, the steel industry, and water processing plants.

In addition, a LoRaWAN-powered IoT project is being deployed in Australia by Goanna Ag, a major Australian agriculture company, to bring smarter irrigation management to cotton growers on the continent. A similar LoRaWAN network will connect a cattle monitoring IoT project in Russia. And in South Korea, police are using the technology to deploy a healthcare IoT project to track at-risk Alzheimer’s patients.

These are just some of the many LoRaWAN IoT deployments currently taking place around the world.

Want to learn how an IoT platform would work with a LoRaWAN project?

Contact Us today to learn more ››


Executive Overview of IoT Platforms

An Executive's Overview of IoT Platforms

Executive Overview of IoT Platforms
An IoT platform is a sort of operating system that interfaces with applications and offers a security layer, data storage, device management, analytics services and more.

An Internet of Things project is composed of lots of moving parts. Sometimes, in fact, the parts are literally moving.

There are sensors, controllers, applications, data storage, analytics and analysis software, and more. But underlying all of that, there needs to be some software layer that holds it all together.

And in a nutshell, that’s the IoT platform.

Think of it this way: You may have a specific use case for your business in mind – perhaps in manufacturing, retail, a smart building, or transportation. Your specific use case suggests that you may need a particular suite of applications and analytics tools. But applications aren’t stand-alone solutions; they can’t deliver actionable results on their own. So, like Windows for the desktop computer market, an IoT platform is a kind of middleware that relies on a slew of important ingredients to deliver a complete IoT solution.

Making sense of the layers

Extending the Windows metaphor, an IoT platform is a sort of operating system that interfaces with applications and offers a security layer, data storage, device management, analytics services and more. And like a good operating system, the IoT platform “virtualizes” the connections between applications and hardware.

That means that software doesn’t necessarily need to be written to specifically work with every kind of device from every manufacturer on the market; apps can communicate with virtual hardware and the platform takes it from there.

Data flows from hardware to the software

To put all this in context, it can be helpful to think about your overall IoT project, which is generally composed of a number of layers.

Any IoT project will start with the hardware at the bottom – sensors and controllers, the “things” that make up the Internet of Things. Data streaming from that hardware has to inevitably pass through some sort of gateway, which is a hardware layer that conditions the data to go back through a communications network to the software that will analyze, report and take action on the information.

The platform level

The platform delivers most of the functionality between the things and the applications. A platform offers its own layers for infrastructure – the plumbing that connects the hardware.

In addition, the platform enables two-way communication between the devices and the cloud and collects data. And like a modern operating system, the platform also does essential maintenance and housekeeping: configuration management and over-the-air (OTA) software updates to components.

At the top of the platform? Data processing. The platform enables the IoT to generate reports, run analytics, send notifications, and pass data to applications that can take action on the information.

Questions to ask

Clearly, a platform is critical to your IoT project. But since platforms bring so much to the table, it can be difficult to know how to narrow your search for the right one. Here are five questions you can ask when sizing up potential platforms.

1. What kind of security does the platform offer? Does it meet the needs of security and privacy requirements?
2. Is the platform compatible with your current business applications, or applications to plan to deploy as a part of the IoT?
3. Is the platform adept at managing the data your use cases will require? Can it rapidly consume and process the volume of data you are expecting, and can it properly process, filter, and format the data appropriately?
4. Is the platform agile enough to process and analyze data at the edge of the network, or does it need to be imported to the cloud first?
5. What kind of infrastructure does the platform work on? Does the provider have its own cloud, or does it work with a third party cloud infrastructure?

Now that you know what an IoT platform is, learn more about how it actually works to streamline operations and reduce expenses.

Read More ››


How IoT Analytics are Transforming Manufacturing

Man in a manufacturing plant with IoT capabilities.
By implementing an Internet of Things solution, manufacturing systems can be better informed about both supply chain and customer data.

The Internet of Things is a perfect fit for the universe of manufacturing; no matter what products are being made or who the customer is, the IoT offers a wealth of data that can be leveraged for significant returns on investment.

And that’s not hypothetical; the good news is that these kinds of IoT successes are already happening in the real world. For one example, look at Harley-Davidson, which last year deployed smart sensors and edge analytics at its York, Pa., factory. The result? The classic motorcycle maker was able to slash the time it took to create customized motorbikes from 21-days to just six hours – while simultaneously reducing operating costs by $200 million. Likewise, jet engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce used an IoT project to get data from engines it sold while in-flight; this information was fed back to engineering and manufacturing teams to create better designs and implement predictive maintenance that saved customers an average of $25,000 per plane – a compelling competitive advantage.

Approaching Analytics Differently

As we’ve mentioned already, it’s important to understand that capitalizing on the IoT in your business will require thinking differently. Rather than integrating your new flood of information into a data warehouse and running traditional analytics tools, the IoT begs you to approach your analytics differently. You’ll wade into data lakes and perform edge analytics – in which you implement automated systems to analyse data at the point of collection, at sensors and devices spread across your network. This let you easily analyse just the relevant subsets of data embedded within vast seas of information.

That transformation is powerful, because it allows you to get important insights and make decisions faster than would be possible through traditional human analysis alone. Combining the right sensors with edge analytics, for example, can lead to significantly streamlined shop floor control. Sensors can lead the way to improving planning and scheduling to deliver the optimum production rate; predictive maintenance can combine historical failure data with real-time feedback on wear and tear to predict anomalies before they occur and schedule maintenance at the optimal time. IoT analytics can also reduce waste of raw materials and lead to better scheduling of human resources.

In addition, manufacturing systems can be better informed about both supply chain and customer data. On the supply chain front, IoT analytics can be used – automatically – to set up feedback loops between raw material inventory and production systems, so manufacturing can be programmed based on scheduled availability and vendor lead time. And at the other end of the production cycle, customer data can feed back into systems for planning production tempo, warranty planning, and stocking parts.

Analytics to Inform Engineering

Indeed, it should be clear that one of the most interesting characteristics of the IoT is that it offers value holistically across your business. If, like Rolls-Royce, you’ve properly instrumented the product you manufacture, then it can deliver usage and failure information long after it rolls off the factory floor. You can lean into that data to monitor its lifecycle; analytics can inform engineering to improve the design. It can also be used to automatically advise the customer when maintenance, updates, or replacements are needed. And seasonal usage or other demographic insights can further inform the production cycle, raw material inventory, and the rest of your supply chain.

That’s not the whole story, either. While the obvious applications for IoT data include cost savings and additional revenue by applying the analytics to your own internal processes, there’s also an opportunity to sell the raw data or analytic insights your IoT captures to other businesses in your ecosystem. It’s a whole new way to look at your business, your data, and the real value of the data you collect.

Find out how an IoT platform like Canopy can help uncover value in your manufacturing program.

Learn More ››


The Business Impact of Smart Buildings and IoT

Connected buildings
These days, buildings can be engineered from the ground up to feature an environmentally conscious design with embedded, networked computer systems – an Internet of Things .

The average building wastes 30 percent of the energy it consumes. That’s according to the EPA, which cites a variety of common inefficiencies leading to the poor performance of traditional building design and operation. The agency, of course, advocates for buildings to become EnergyStar compliant as a way to mitigate this problem in existing structures, but there’s perhaps a much more compelling fix on the horizon: Smart buildings. These days, buildings can be engineered from the ground up to feature an environmentally conscious design with embedded, networked computer systems – an Internet of Things – with sensors embedded throughout the building to detect and help eliminate traditional waste.

Smart buildings are, to use an engineering term, “highly instrumented.” Like a high-tech space probe or a piece of industrial machinery, smart buildings are packed with embedded sensors that measure a wealth of information like temperature, light levels, energy use, and occupancy – and then take action, automatically, in programmed responses to rules and thresholds established by the building manager.

Where's The Value?

Of course, that might sound a little familiar even if you don’t operate a smart building. One could argue that many (if not most) commercial buildings already have at least some instrumentation in place without being networked into an IoT. Thermostats control the temperature in offices; light sensors illuminate rooms only when they’re occupied; doors and gates lock at specified hours but respond to security badges. With all that tech already in play, where’s the value in ‘smartify-ing’ a building from the ground up?

Well, there are a number of reasons, but it turns out that energy consumption is the low-hanging fruit for any smart building. With the IoT, building managers can control heating, cooling, airflow, and other essential settings in a holistic, whole-structure way. And the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy estimates that buildings which leverage the IoT for a holistic approach to energy management can save as much as 50 percent, ten times more than when engineers upgrade individual systems in existing structures. In other words, there’s a lot of value in leveraging the IoT rather than managing discrete sensors and environmental controls.

Less Obvious Advantages

Moreover, the IoT delivers less obvious value in a smart building as well. For example, in addition to measuring and tracking analytics like whether a room is occupied – and therefore may or may not need lighting and temperature control – it can also record and assess occupancy and foot traffic by time of day, day of week, and time of year. It can assess how people enter the building, where they go, and how long they stay.

This kind of indirect surveillance can have implications not just for energy saving, but logistical support and security as well. Building managers can assess how rooms are used and detect when large conference rooms or meeting facilities are routinely used by small groups or large groups which need the space are displaced by smaller groups. With the right algorithms and monitoring, that can lead to happier, more productive, and more efficient employees, since the IoT of the building itself can help teams reserve, use, and maintain the facilities they need more efficiently.

Enter Analytics Tools

And the big data that smart buildings amass allows algorithms – not people – to obsess over the details, optimizing then facilities within. Analytics tools can process day-to-day performance data of all the connected hardware within the building to look for malfunctioning equipment, safety concerns, and energy waste.

At the same time, because all of this data is Internet-connected, it lets building managers virtualize and extend control over aspects of building systems to more users. To wit: Today, can occupants and users of the building directly control the environmental systems in a typical office building? Not at all. But the IoT suggests a future in which everyday building occupants can directly affect the building’s HVAC systems via web interface or smartphone apps, at the discretion of building managers. And that’s a win for everyone.

Find out how an IoT platform like Canopy can help uncover value in your smart building project.

Learn More ››


Operator at emergency center

How The IoT Can Help Cities Affected By Natural Disasters

Operator at emergency center
For the first time in history, it’s possible for emergency responders to know where a city’s population is located (at least in aggregate) in real time, not just estimates based on statistical and historical models.

Most of the time, we think about the Internet of Things as a value-added technology with obvious (and sometimes not-so-obvious) business applications. But IoT’s potential is far-reaching, and not unlike firefighters and FEMA, it offers the ability to help cities prepare for and better respond to natural disasters. Indeed, given a choice between responding to an earthquake with Duane “The Rock” Johnson or a thoughtfully deployed IoT, there’s no contest: Bet on the tech.

Consider the fact that without the kind of detailed geo-located sensor data provided by the IoT, most emergency responders can’t get reliable information about a disaster area until they actually arrive on the scene. But with the right sensor network (and the infrastructure to receive, process, and interpret the incoming data) they can intelligently react to conditions before they even arrive, giving responders military intelligence-style situational awareness and additional time to plan and deploy.

So what kind of sensors are we talking about? Imagine sensors positioned in critical facilities like power stations and distributed throughout urban areas on power lines and telephone poles. They can also be mounted along sea walls for coastal towns and on dams and at hydroelectric facilities.

These sensors can monitor and transmit a lot of information – temperature, water level, air and water quality (for example, the presence of smoke, chemicals and even toxins), and more. Camera-equipped sensors can even deliver real-time visuals from countless locations around the city. And because most people carry smartphones, data from those devices can be included as well – for the first time in history, it’s possible for emergency responders to know where a city’s population is located (at least in aggregate) in real time, not just estimates based on statistical and historical models.

With sufficient operational planning, ground-based sensors can be augmented, when needed, with mobile sensors in the form of drones. These drones can be used to provide additional sensor coverage in critical areas or to help in active search and rescue operations.

Indeed, government agencies at the city, state, and even Federal level should be embracing the IoT as a tool for responding to disasters of all kinds.

And it’s easy to sell the value of IoT. For the general population, these tools can be used to send warnings and alerts directly to citizens’ phones, giving everyone timely about earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, wildfires, and more. During the recent fires in California, for example, the Camp Fire was moving at an almost unbelievable one football field every second, and many Californians found out about the fire’s spread via robocalls to land line phones. A smarter, faster, and more mobile solution can save lives.

There are other ways that the general population can benefit directly from deploying an IoT solution for disaster management. Thanks to geolocation, for example, when citizens access emergency services via their smartphone, intelligent systems can correlate their location with sensor data and provide the best escape routes and other critical information – helping them to avoid problem areas and reduce their dependence on news (which is likely already out of date) or emergency responders (who are spread too thin to help everyone). And even these incoming information requests can be tracked and analyzed for trends and assessments in real time during the emergency.

The good news is that these sorts of solutions are already finding their way out into the real world. Sections of the River Nare in Columbia, for example, already has a working network of sensors designed to monitor water levels and predict collapses in the river bank and subsequent flooding. And Girona, Spain is home to La Garrotxa, a county populated with dozens of volcanic cones. Here, the government has installed an early warning system to monitor telltale signs of volcanic activity.

Closer to home, a few cities in the US have already had the chance to use the data that comes from networks of sensors to assist with disaster recovery. The damage from 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, for example, was mitigated by data that kept residents informed about flood levels and shelter status. And various businesses – such as energy companies, telecommunications and insurance firms – directed their fleets of drones to assess damage to power lines, cell towers, and other critical infrastructure.

Find out how an IoT platform like Canopy can help your government agency turn its IoT ambitions into reality.

Learn More ››


Top 5 Use Cases for the IoT

Among the many IoT uses cases, many consider automated inventory management to be the killer app, in part because it is relevant across so many different business sectors.

Some technologies are inevitable, even if what we eventually take for granted looks a bit different than the way it was originally conceived. No one would seriously question the value of mobile tech today, but in its infancy – personal digital assistants in the 1990s – it bore little resemblance to modern smartphones and tablets and was, at the time, anything but a sure bet. The Internet of Things is another great example of a tech that’s unavoidably becoming an essential part of the business ecosystem. Forbes, for example, estimates that the IoT will be a $1.2 trillion – with a “t” – business by 2022, with companies of all sizes investing in a foundation of smart, connected devices and the data streams they provide.

Of course, it’s one thing to know you need to invest in the IoT; it’s another thing to know the smartest play for your business. Even if you know it’s a good idea to launch your IoT strategy with several different initiatives – it increases your chances for an early ROI and invests more people in the success of the program – you will need to choose the right use cases for your business. Here are five of the most compelling use cases in IoT today.

Inventory management. Software developers talk about “killer apps” – an application so transformative that it gives you a reason to invest in the platform that the app lives on. Spreadsheets were the first killer app and sold millions of early PCs. For the IoT, many might consider automated inventory management to be the killer app, in part because it is relevant across so many different business sectors. Imagine a network of sensors that can track not just the location of every product in your supply chain, but also its condition (is your refrigerated produce cool enough or your fragile glass goods unbroken?). You can know how many items are on the shelf (and where those shelves are within the store or warehouse, for that matter). You’ll be able to track where everything is in the supply chain and automate ordering, processing, and transport.

Predictive maintenance. Another compelling use case for IoT that has important applications in of a vast number of businesses is predictive maintenance. Any company that relies on hardware – manufacturing equipment, automated kiosks, transportation, and so on – knows that maintenance is a significant cost center; being able to smartly provide predictive and preventative maintenance can save enormous amounts of time and money. IoT has the ability to identify when equipment requires maintenance and allow you to deliver it just in time – not too soon, racking up unneeded costs and not too late, resulting in downtime.

Optimized production. If you are involved in manufacturing or production, you will no doubt want to invest in tech that lets your systems self-optimize. With the right IoT tools in place, your gear can automatically respond to all the other equipment in a workflow. You can reduce waste and streamline the time and resources if all of your equipment works together without human input.

Patient monitoring. In the healthcare industry, being able to track the health and status of patients is its own holy grail. Not only can the IoT keep track of vitals remotely, but with the right sensors it can ensure patients are taking the right medication at the right time, be notified about falls and other accidents, remotely and automatically track recovery and healing progress, and get instant alerts when there is a critical problem.

Fleet management. Finally, fleet management is a use case that in some ways combines elements of inventory management with optimized production. With the right vehicle tracking tools, you can track your fleet of vehicles – delivery trucks, passenger cars, or any other kind of vehicle – in real time. You can let automated systems make smart decisions about routing vehicles and leverage your data to more efficiently maintain and rep[air them as well. You can use the information for better routing and even find unexpected ways to make your fleet operate more efficiently – like developing routes that rely on only right turns.

Find out how an IoT platform like Canopy can help your business turn a use case from an idea into a reality.

Learn More ››


How To Maximize Your ROI From Data

Data visualization
The lion’s share of the IoT’s return on investment is due to the data it delivers from your network of connected devices

As you deploy some form of Internet of Things within your business – perhaps to better understand your customer, offer more specialized features and services, or explicitly to cut your competition off at the pass– you should be thinking about how to get the most out of the new technology. This much is true, though: the lion’s share of the IoT’s return on investment is due to the data it delivers from your network of connected devices.

Think about it: whether you’re building an IoT in the warehouse and delivery trucks to create a smart supply chain, in the retail space to better interpret customer buying habits, or within the products you sell to collect information about customer behavior, IoT’s value is in the data it generates. So you should plan now on ways to optimize how you use that data if you want to maximize your ROI.

Determine your objectives for the data

This falls into the same category as “know your destination before you start driving,” and is overlooked more often than you might expect. Do you know exactly what you want to get out of your IoT? What business goals will the data streaming out of your smart devices and connected sensors address? Make sure that you develop a plan and ensure that your tactical approach to deploying your IoT, collecting data, and analyzing the results contributes to it.

Make data from IoT more accessible

If your business has established Business Intelligence tools and processes, you might find the arrival of new IoT datasets jarring and challenging. It can take time to establish the right way to integrate all this data into your existing data warehouse and build views into this data into your tools.

And if that’s your entire approach, you’re probably using your IoT wrong. Many IoT users establish data lakes – data repositories where you can house your new and unfiltered IoT data for analysis and dissemination. The advantage of a data lake is that it doesn’t require you to structure your data in a way that fits in with all the legacy data you’re already collecting and warehousing. Instead, you can store the data however it arrives – structured or unstructured, in whatever data and file format it happens to arrive in. And your data experts can massage, interpret, and analyze that data quickly and efficiently without a lot of administrative and IT overhead. Will you eventually organize some or all of that data in your existing data warehouse? Of course. But don’t let the long term compromise your effectiveness in the short term.

Ensure you build a self-sufficient organization

Your IoT is delivering a wealth of data that you’ve likely never had access to before. And that means you need to make data available at all levels and across disciplines within the business who have never had access to such data before. Consider democratizing your business with self-serve analytics; your analytics team can offer tools, training, coaching, and insight to the entire organization, but make the data and analysis tools available at every level. Long gone are the days when a small group of analysts can deliver all the information everyone needs. The IoT offers the potential for far too many insights in niche categories--only people already well-versed in domain knowledge will even know the right questions to ask and get the most out of this data.

Find out how an IoT platform like Canopy can help your business realize a return on investment from its data.

Learn More ››


Man looking at futuristic screens

Why Your Business Needs IoT To Beat the Competition

Man looking at futuristic screens
Manufacturers using IoT saw a 28.5 percent average increase in revenues between 2013 and 2014, according to Business Insider.

It’s almost a cliché that your business needs every advantage it can leverage to outperform the competition. On the technology front, there are a handful of emerging and maturing products and services that can help you differentiate yourself from the rest of your industry and in fact outperform them. The ripest technological fruit ready to be picked? The Internet of Things, of course.

Because it’s not a single product or standard, IoT technology can be applied to virtually any industry and type of business. And the advantages it offers will help you surge ahead of your peers. According to a study done by Business Insider, for example, manufacturers using IoT saw a 28.5 percent average increase in revenues between 2013 and 2014. Here’s why.

Operations

Operating in a sea of smart, connected devices can enhance your business operations. Without the need for direct input or reporting from employees, you can track the status of projects, identify bottlenecks and route around failures. IoT, especially when combined with a bit of artificial intelligence, can be trained to make predictions about your business’s workflow. This is not unlike the way Uber collects data automatically from its fleet of cars to set rates, such as during surge pricing hours.

Automation

The IoT lets you do more with less – augmenting human beings with smart systems that work together seamlessly, performing repetitive and time-consuming tasks that humans need not perform. Look no further than retailers like Amazon (with their brick and mortar Amazon Go stores) that are starting to experiment with replacing checkout lines with systems that automatically charge customers’ digital wallets. Or, in a completely different industry, consider how farmers are using IoT devices to autonomously check soil composition and manage irrigation – tasks that used to be extremely labor intensive.

Inventory Management

As anyone who has ever been the victim of a catastrophic over-order can attest, inventory management is hard. And human errors aside, inventory management is nonetheless time consuming and resource intensive. IoT takes people out of the loop – or at least lets you rely less on people with wand scanners and clipboards – by letting smart devices sense inventory levels and manage your supply chain automatically, in the background, while you use your precious humans for smarter tasks.

Customer Insight

If customer satisfaction isn’t among your top three business goals, you’re almost certainly doing something wrong. But how do you know what your customers are thinking, and thereby how to improve their experience? Indirect methodologies – like customer surveys – are very last century. Instead, connected devices – like smartwatches, fitness bands, phones, home automation devices, and more are all part of the IoT, and they capture data directly from users. B y joining the IoT, you make it possible to get critical behavioral and preference data from your customers, which you can leverage to make your business more effective.

Better Marketing

Finally, while we’re on the subject of customer data, IoT can also improve your marketing in much the same way. The customer data you receive gives you insights into creating customized, personalized, and very targeted advertisements for precise demographics which you need to target. While your competitors are creating generic advertising campaigns, you know exactly who to talk to – and what kind of messaging will reach through the noise and appeal to them.

Find out how an IoT platform like Canopy can help your business stay competitive with better marketing, better operations and automation management.

Learn More ››