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Q&A: Connecting Industrial Assets to the IoT

IoT Industrial Assets

This week the Blog Crew is sitting down with Grant Dunbar, a product manager in the construction and rail verticals at BSM to dive into how companies within the industrial assets sector are leveraging the IoT (Internet of Things) to connect their assets.

BC: Thanks for chatting with us today, Grant.

GD: Absolutely, thanks for making time for me! I jump at any chance talk about telematics and the IoT; I’m admittedly obsessed with this topic.

BC: Aren’t telematics and the IoT the same thing?

GD: They’re related, but not the same. Telematics describes vehicular technologies and the sending, receiving, and storing of information via a cellular network link to the internet. It often includes location-based information and services enabled by GPS. The IoT on the other hand expands on that scope to include all things beyond vehicles.

BC: Like smart home devices?

GD: Exactly, only in an industrial setting the IoT connects construction vehicles, rail cars, and fleets using an internet-connected device that communicates location, power and fuel status, and usage metrics to one source.

BC: Got it. Last week a post on the BSM site dove into the connected job site. That’s all IoT, right?

GD: Yep! When you network data together through the IoT you have a 360 view of all your industrial assets, their data, and even remote-control options. Think fuel levels, remote on-off capabilities on construction sites, GPS data on rail cars, and so on.

BC: Is it essential to have GPS enabled on your devices and vehicles before implementing an IoT solution?

GD: It’s not essential but it’s certainly very common. Location is often a key data point when it comes to vehicles and movable industrial assets.

What’s essential to IoT solutions is that your asset can communicate to the portal I mentioned earlier, so it absolutely must have an internet-connected device within it. Whether a delivery van, rail car, or a hand-held power tool, if it’s connected to a network you can generate value out of its data. But as both examples show, location is often a valuable data point to transmit.

BC: Where else is the IoT being applied to industrial assets today?

GD: Traditional fleet vehicles were early adopters of telematics due to the value of location data for route optimization. The IoT has blown that scope wide open, allowing us to include all types of industrial asset deployments, from a traditional taxi fleet to industrial assets such as hy-rail vehicles, heavy equipment, light stands, generators, and boom lifts on a job site.

The other immense value of the IoT is the breadth of information that is now being collected. Asset utilization can now be measured as well as asset health. Measurements like how long an asset was on, how it’s being treated as well as its current fuel level, temperature, and fault code status provides specific actionable insights. This means efficient asset deployment, reduced cost of operations for our customers, and improved safety for their employees.

BC: What if a company has different types of vehicles or assets in their fleets?

GD: If there’s cellular or Wi-Fi connection, it can be connected to our portal largely through plug-and-play installations, but we’re no stranger to more complex or custom installs—in fact it’s something we specialize in.

Many devices exist in a variety of sizes and are powered by a fixed power connection, battery, or solar and they are all eligible. Fleets with mixed assets usually have several device types, and with BSM technology they all communicate to the same portal to provide a unified window.

 BC: How do customers know which data to collect?

GD: The right data is different for every company because it’s the data that solves a unique business issue within a specific industry, but usually focus on things like reducing costs or unlocking new revenue streams. BSM works with our customers to create custom connections to assets so they can solve what matters most to them.

 BC: What can customers do to get their fleets connected to the IoT?

GD: Start now. The speed at which we’re innovating means playing catch-up down the road becomes more difficult. If you get your fleet connected to the IoT now, then you’re updating at the pace of innovation, not completely overhauling your fleet technology later on.

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How is Lat-Lon Connecting You to the IOT?

As interest grows in advancing technology for transportation, the latest developments show significant incentives, and many articles stress quick adaptation. Over the past few years, content pieces have featured a few common themes: robotics (and artificial intelligence), virtual reality, and the Internet of Things (IoT). These technology developments have been influencing how different organizations operate and how they create products and services, individually and as a collective.  It is the IoT that has had some of the most practical applications and benefits.

The Internet of Things: An Introduction

Defined by Gartner, the IoT is a “network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal state or external environment.” [1] This simplified explanation addresses a complex, interconnected system by identifying the two key characteristics of an IoT system: a sensor and a method for communicating the sensor’s data. Basically, the IoT is composed of devices that gather information and the systems that make use of that data.

As a result of its many applications, the IoT takes a variety of forms – and has already been integrated into professional and personal functions. For some types of connected devices, the sensors simply collect data and analyze it through a software solution, such as my smartwatch sending pedometer data to an app. I then choose how to use that data, to increase my steps, or accept my activity for the day. For other systems, the analyzed data is incorporated into a system that automatically takes action, such as purchasing a needed product or scheduling a maintenance appointment.

The Internet of Things and Industry

The IoT is transforming business processes and efficiency in a wide range of fields. From smart agriculture using farming drones [2] to location- and behavior-based targeting in advertising [3], Internet-connected devices are making permanent changes in how these groups operate. Solutions provided by IoT devices and software are being used to create improvements in more industrial fields, such as manufacturing, construction and transportation.

In one case, a global manufacturer of trucks used the IoT to add a brand new, related revenue stream to their business. They have outfitted sensors to their vehicles that will transmit over 10,000 points of data for each truck every day — all focused on predicting the vehicle’s maintenance needs. Going beyond alerts to needed checks and replacements, this integrated system will also auto-schedule repair appointments and order any parts that the vehicle will need [4]. By employing the IoT, the truck manufacturer was able to add to their profits while providing more services to their clients, saving them money and time in the repair process.

On the production end, Internet-connected devices and analysis systems are being used to make improvements in manufacturing quality and efficiency. Harley-Davidson’s manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania uses the IoT to track both equipment and processes. With more detailed, data-backed insights into each step of their manufacturing system, the plant has seen huge benefits: productivity has increased by 2.4 percent and net margin received a 19 percent boost [5]. The advantages for decision-making and process efficiency can be translated to nearly any industry.

And service industries are not immune to the benefits of IoT for route optimization, better customer scheduling, and optimal inventory on hand for maximum utilization time on calls.

The Internet of Things and Lat-Lon

The benefits of the IoT, reaching far beyond what is mentioned above, is significant particularly when it comes to improving current processes and products. Internet-connected sensors and devices provide greater visibility into every system with more precise data that has real-time relevance. From tracking inventory to making processes more efficient, this information can help industrial businesses adopt leaner operations and make better decisions.

With the flexibility of Lat-Lon’s customizable solutions, the industrial IoT is attainable to all sizes of business and offers significant ROI catered to the particular enterprise.  The industrial Internet of Things can also be used to improve safety, reduce downtime for maintenance, and control costs.

At Lat-Lon, we embrace the technology that makes IoT fit your needs and help drive the industry forward. We want to pass on those advantages to each of our customers, allowing them to improve operations, make better informed decisions, and increase their bottom-line. Our solutions are designed to connect any industrial asset to the Internet, bringing that data together under one convenient platform. Specifically, our fleet and asset management solutions connect various sensors to turn their data points into reliable information that will improve fleet visibility. We also use IoT technology to offer tracking and monitoring devices as well as storage tank systems. Contact us today to learn more about how a partnership with Lat-Lon and BSM Technologies brings the advantages of the IoT to your firm.

 

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