An Insider's View: Industrial IoT and LPWAN in Manufacturing

Industrial manufacturing is leading the way in IoT and digitalization, and will drive the most IoT spending by 2020. This week, we interviewed the team at Counsel Group Frankfurt (CGF) - an international expert in Industrial IoT (IIoT) implementation and IT counseling services, to get the inside scoop on the adoption of IIoT and how Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) can advance digitalization in manufacturing.

Our Interviewees:

1. Dirk Brusch – Managing Director
2. Tom Corbit – Business Development Manager
3. Harald Rupp – Technology Lead IoT and Security

Q1. What are your thoughts on the demand and adoption of IoT in manufacturing today?

The size of manufacturing environments can vary greatly, especially within the automotive industry where you have body, paint, and assembly shops. Although production control, equipment services and building management systems already exist, they are proprietary and expensive to replace.

The other challenge with these systems is that only a small portion of the generated data is actually used and most of the data isn’t accessible for analysis. While an IoT deployment may seem daunting, the end result will allow you to collect and analyze the critical data you need to improve business processes and reduce costs. Businesses are now utilizing IoT data for innumerable applications like predictive maintenance, monitoring of power consumption changes and for threshold trigger points in temperature, humidity, vibration and air particles.

Q2. What challenges are hindering the deployment of IIoT solutions?

The biggest challenge for companies is getting off to the right start. Many companies find it difficult to move beyond the IoT proof-of-concept stage because they cannot tie quantifiable metrics to a clear business value. Often times, organizations just don’t have mature IoT approaches. Due to excessive expectations and poor planning, many projects and POCs have not made it into production. CIOs looking to adopt IoT, should prepare their organizations by implementing and committing to a common enterprise IoT framework.

At CGF we’re guided by the principle Think Big - Start Small - Scale Fast.

Q3. What connectivity challenges are manufacturers facing? Why do existing solutions not suffice?

Power efficiency is a central theme for IoT connectivity solutions. Frequent battery replacement and disposal blow up Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) while breaking corporate green factors. High power consumption also requires the use of more expensive batteries.

Cellular networks (e.g. GSM, LTE etc.) and legacy non-cellular wireless technologies are not ideal to connect low power devices distributed over large geographical areas. In addition, the range of non-cellular technologies is limited to a few hundred meters at best. Therefore, devices cannot be arbitrarily deployed or moved anywhere, which is a key requirement for many IoT applications.

A major advantage of LPWAN is the long battery life. Often, we talk about 3 to 5 years. The problem is most traditional LPWAN solutions only focus on data transportation. They don’t have a broad portfolio of supporting hardware like sensors and actuators which could be used in the several usage domains. Existing solutions also suffer from security lapses such as missing key management capabilities. Node management, which supports configuration and firmware updates over-the-air, is currently not common.

Q4. From your perspective, what makes MIOTY™ the right solution?

MIOTY is a software solution, which gives customers the flexibility in system design and hardware selection like sensors and actuators. What’s more, MIOTY addresses challenging interference control and mitigation.

In the near future, LPWAN technologies will connect millions of devices transmitting data at unprecedented scales over limited and often shared radio resources. This leads to a complex resource allocation problem which is further complicated by other factors like duty cycle regulations. Many traditional LPWAN devices operating in the shared ISM bands experience unprecedented levels of both cross-technology interference and self-interference. Moreover, the device density may vary significantly across different geographical areas, creating a so-called hot-spot problem. Many LPWAN technologies also deliver incomplete messages at the back end.

On the other hand, MIOTY’s Telegram Splitting technology was designed from the beginning to circumvent these problems. It allows for secure and reliable data transmission.

MIOTY can also be implemented across systems whether equipment services or facility management. Until now, those systems have been operated separately using different proprietary technologies. By easily interfacing into those legacy systems, the MIOTY solution further helps bypass expensive forklift replacement. A MIOTY by BTI starter kit can be deployed as an introduction to realize possible benefits.

LPWAN in Maufacturing

Q5. Can you provide some examples for applications of MIOTY and LPWAN in manufacturing contexts?

Optimized Maintenance Model: Connected assets can call for a “request for maintenance” just when they need it. This optimizes asset performance and frees up time for service personnel.

Inventory Optimization for Parts: Optimizing parts purchasing, inventory and replacement is easier when IoT devices report what they need and when they need it.

Asset Management and Tracking: Connected assets allow for more precise inventory management, optimized logistics, quality control, and theft detection.

Condition Monitoring: All assets can be remotely monitored, to ensure performance and quality. If a problem occurs, an alarm is sent, and production can be adjusted accordingly. Monitoring the shop floor also supports a healthy working environment.

Augmented Reality: Connected assets coupled with digital representations, will provide the ability to remotely perform dangerous jobs and tasks or access hard-to-reach assets.

Product Development and R&D: Product development can now be based on real usage data, with offerings that adapt to end-user needs.

Excellence in Operation: Production becomes more flexible and responsive with unified systems of connected assets that collaborate in real-time, no matter where they are located.

Products-as-a-Service: Aftermarket services and digital add-ons for IoT devices allow manufacturers to create new business models and revenue streams.

Monetization and Brand Relationships: IoT devices create an easier path to consumer adoption and interaction. Customers can skip up-front investment and pay for services on a per-usage basis.

Improved Customer Support: Increased data from products and assets helps address the needs of customers and partners

Over-The-Air (OTA) Upgrades and Updates: Remote configuration and upgrading enables faster release of software improvements and allows a device to evolve and adapt over time.

Q6. How do you see future developments of LPWAN?

We foresee a future increase in LPWAN adoption. LPWAN overcomes the trade-offs encountered by traditional technologies in the IoT landscape, including short-range wireless networks (e.g. ZigBee, Bluetooth, Z-Wave), legacy wireless local area networks (WLANs), and cellular networks. As said before, low power consumption is a very exciting aspect, especially for remote sensor networks.

The use of free ISM Bands, in particular, instills creative license on how, what and when IoT solutions are designed. Adopters are not dependent on big telecoms or slow and inflexible network providers. They have the freedom to track, save, store and process the data. By giving customers the chance to design their own solutions, the flexibility of open, license-free LPWAN will give rise to new IoT applications and business opportunities.

Q7. What ROI do you predict your clients will see with MIOTY?

The real customer value will not come from applying new technologies like MIOTY to existing processes or structures. The value will arise when this new technology is integrated into a specific IIoT ecosystem. As with most recent trends in technology, IoT is composed of many different pieces working in concert to create business value.

IoT has the potential to offer business value that goes beyond operational cost savings. Providers in the IoT ecosystem have a large unexplored opportunity to develop compelling IoT solutions. The ability to collect and analyze disparate data, in real-time offers sustained value that will transform businesses across many verticals.

Q8. Why did CGF decide to work with BTI to jointly deliver MIOTY to its clients?

There are three main reasons why BTI and CGF are an excellent match:

First, we share common business values. A CGF's core value - "Listen to the voice of the customer" links both companies and is implemented in our business models. We are working together to make our customers better every day.

Second, both CGF and BTI have flexible organizational and team structures. We are fully prepared to align our structures with customer needs. Independent teams can be formed flexibly to meet customer requirements.

Finally, people are really the key to success. And so far, the people of both companies have had a lot of fun, which is a great motivation to seek success together.

Of course, MIOTY also plays a role. CGF is sure that this new technology will establish itself in the market and is highly motivated to become a part of the success story.

For these reasons, CGF and BTI are a perfect match and CGF's decision to enter into a partnership (which is currently more of a friendship) was only one result. With our comprehensive solutions approach, BTI and CGF are ready to transform IIoT technology into real business value.

About CGF

Founded in Germany in 1999, CGF is a global company with an office in South Carolina since 2012. Their approach to business is to establish a trusting counselor relationship by listening to their customers and jointly providing solutions. The American part – CGF-LLC - are providing services in the automotive manufacturing and office environment. They are extending their services as solution providers to tier suppliers across the upstate. CGF-LLC recently established an office on the CU-ICAR campus to work more closely with automotive education and development program providers.

Dirk Brusch – Managing Director – spearheads the establishment and development of CGF LLC – a subsidiary of CGF AG in South Carolina. He believes in the strength of partnerships and network synergies and has led the company based on the winning combination of German-American work ethic.

Tom Corbit – Business Development Manager – has worked in the IT sector for more than 30 years with 20 of those within automotive manufacturing. He has profound experience in deployments of voice and data networks, both wired and wireless, as well as data centers. He has contributed to successful establishment of business relations and business development at CGF-LLC.

Harald Rupp – Technology Lead IoT and Security – has worked with cross-industry, international security projects for more than 20 years. He focuses on strong encryption, authentication, and cryptographic integration into different IoT applications and protocols. At CGF, he is responsible for the IoT Showcase Lab in Germany, contributes to Open Source Projects, and works with industry leaders on IoT solutions across verticals

This week the CGF and BTI teams will be at IoT Tech Expo in Santa Clara, CA

Come and visit us at Booth #499.