When you think of the Internet of Things (IoT), smart devices such as wearables, home assistants, and smart thermostats come to mind. You probably don’t think of a device that monitors soil conditions in a vineyard.
While the consumer market for IoT, the Internet of Things, gets much attention, the industrial sector of IoT, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), is growing just as fast with diverse applications for businesses. IIoT refers to the connection of machines and sensors in industries such as manufacturing, energy, oil, transportation and agriculture, and the market for IIoT is expected to reach $500 billion by 2020.
These industries often involve critical infrastructure whose operations are vital to society. So while an IoT device such as a smartwatch can relay data that is helpful to you, an IIoT product for an energy grid relays data that is crucial to a city or region’s power supply.
IIoT solutions help improve connectivity, efficiency, scalability, cost savings, and data speed for industrial organizations. These applications can lead to better predictive maintenance, improved safety, as well as better operational efficiencies.
How Edge Computing Empowers the IIoT
Most businesses have migrated their operations to the Cloud over the past several years; 95 percent of enterprise businesses use some form of cloud computing. While the Cloud provides benefits such as flexibility and cost savings, in the age of IoT, this can be insufficient for enterprises.
Computers are collecting more data than ever. Billions of IoT devices aggregate 400 zettabytes of data and send it to cloud servers where the data is processed and analyzed. In an industrial environment, the influx of data creates three key problems:
- There is a ton of data to analyze, and much of it is irrelevant to operations. This creates backhaul traffic to the central repository, and businesses end up paying for storage they don’t need.
- The time it takes to send data to cloud servers is crucial in some industrial applications. The difference between seconds vs. milliseconds can be vital.
- Sending data to the cloud and retrieving that data, such as downloading video, can be costly.
That’s where edge computing comes in. Edge computing moves data analysis and services away from a centralized server and enables analysis to occur at the source of data collection. So instead of an IIoT application collecting information and sending it across trafficked routes to a data center or cloud server, it filters out viable data and analyzes it on the spot in real-time.
Being able to analyze data at the edge is critical because it improves the speed of analysis and decision-making. In industrial environments, milliseconds count.
For example, in a manufacturing environment, sensors collect massive amounts of data on machine operations. Instead of sending the data to a server for processing, edge computing can analyze the data, pinpoint any issues immediately and avoid a potential catastrophe.
This technology has helped Flowserve, a company that makes industrial pumps, valves and seals. Through a combination of sensors and machine learning, the company is able to pinpoint the root cause of problems and provide preventative maintenance and avoid plant floor shutdowns.
Taking the Cloud to the Edge
While edge computing offers advantages over cloud computing, this doesn’t mean the Cloud will be obsolete. Having a centralized location for data storage and analysis still has its benefits.
The key advantages of edge computing are processing critical information and time-sensitive data. Not all information is time-sensitive, but it still may be important to an organization. This information can still be sent to the Cloud for processing.
Self-powered edge computing expands the reach of both edge and cloud computing to places that were unreachable before.
For example, an oil rig in the ocean may collect massive amounts of data, and much of it isn’t time-sensitive. Edge computing can compile that data and send it to the Cloud in the form of daily reports to be stored on a central network.
The data in the Cloud that doesn’t require immediate attention can be used for machine-learning purposes to improve ongoing operations and strategies.
Another way the two work together is protecting sensitive data. There may be some data too sensitive to send to the Cloud, so it can remain on the edge computing device. Edge computing can also improve bandwidth. If you’re dealing with a location where you can’t stream data, you can process it at the edge instead of the Cloud.
Self-powered Edge Computing Opens IIoT to the Outdoors
The fundamental components of every IIoT solution are power, computing and communications. However, when companies want to implement IIoT applications outdoors, access to these components can be a challenge if not readily available.
Smart sensors that make up Industrial IoT solutions need power and data connectivity to communicate information, but some areas don’t have the physical infrastructure to supply those needs. For example, if a smart device is set up in an area without a power supply, it will require trenching, which can be expensive and time-consuming as it requires permits and construction to implement.
It can also be impractical, such as in an agriculture environment. If a vineyard wants to use smart sensors to monitor climate, soil conditions and water quality, it doesn’t make sense to trench in the vineyard to establish a power connection for the sensors.
V5 Systems Solves Challenges with Outdoor IIoT Applications
V5 Systems solves these traditional challenges associated with outdoor IIoT applications with a technology platform for smart outdoor environments.
The innovative technology platform has many benefits for outdoor industrial environments, meeting essential needs such as:
- Power: Provides perpetual power through a combination of proprietary, bullet-resistant V5 solar panels, battery, and power management system
- Communication: Provides wireless communication through outdoor Wi-Fi, cellular or radio frequency
- Computing: Uses Edge Computing with up to 1TB of onboard storage
V5 Systems’ technology features a modular design with an open, but controlled, architecture that serves as platform for third-party software and hardware integration. V5 Systems adds their own security-based sensors to their platform for turnkey, self-powered security solutions – such as video surveillance, license plate reading and gunshot detection sensors.
Companies can integrate their own sensors with the platform for various purposes, such as monitoring climate, water conditions, machine performance, or myriad other uses.
The IIoT is growing and transforming industrial operations, and it has the potential to increase productivity by 10 to 25 percent. This expansion has opened the outdoors to smart Industrial IoT solutions. With these new tools that improve productivity, analysis, and the speed of decision-making, edge computing can tangibly transform your business.
 Driving Unconventional Growth Through the Industrial Internet of Things. Accenture. https://www.accenture.com/t20150523T023633Z__w__/us-en/_acnmedia/Accenture/Conversion-Assets/DotCom/Documents/Global/PDF/Dualpub_11/Accenture-Driving-Unconventional-Growth-through-IIoT.pdfla=en
 2017 State of the Cloud Report. Right Scale. https://www.rightscale.com/lp/2017-state-of-the-cloud-report
 Internet of Things to Generate 400 Zettabytes of Data by 2018. https://www.v3.co.uk/v3-uk/news/2379626/internet-of-things-to-generate-400-zettabytes-of-data-by-2018
 How Industrial IoT is Transforming the Plant Floor. Tech Target. http://searcherp.techtarget.com/feature/How-industrial-IoT-is-transforming-the-plant-floor
 Unlocking the Potential of the Internet of Things. McKinsey. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/digital-mckinsey/our-insights/the-internet-of-things-the-value-of-digitizing-the-physical-world