In part 2 of our discussion with David Stephenson, owner of Stephenson Strategies and a leading Internet of Things strategist, we talk about the lay of the land in the IoT, as well as some opportunities and misconceptions around the IIoT in particular. Don’t miss part 1, where we covered IoT attitudinal shifts and the power of access to real-time networked data.
Wendy Toth: What do you see as the overall lay of the land in the Internet of Things?
David Stephenson: I recently came across the Moor Insights & Strategy report on Segmenting the Internet of Things. I agree in general with the four quadrants they have in there [Monitoring, Attainment, Operational, and Life]. I also think there’s some really interesting potential for a connection between the four segments of that grid.
TOTH: What’s an example of that kind of connection?
STEPHENSON: One really neat example is in building automation. An indoor lighting system networked to carbon monoxide sensors can be programmed so that if the carbon monoxide sensors detect a dangerous level of the gas, the lights will blink red constantly until everyone leaves the building. This is a relatively simple example that can literally save lives.
Another example is in the railroad industry, which I love because railroads are so symbolic of 19th century industry. But now you have railroad companies putting sensors every few miles along the track bed. One of the problems with trains is that when the bearings on a rail car lose lubrication, the bearings heat up and can actually start a fire and lead to derailments and incredible costs.
These sensors in the track can detect excess heat in the bearings. By detecting early signs of overheating, they can take that particular car off and service it at the next scheduled stop instead of waiting to find out when the train derails.
Then, if you take that example to the next step, you can imagine the application of what’s called ‘smart dust’: sensors incredibly cheap, and powered by ambient energy sources, so they can be strewn all over the place. As the price of sensors comes down, railroad companies plan to put sensors on every single wheel of every single rail car, so they get data about rail car health immediately, without that gap of a few miles between sensors.
TOTH: What do you think are some of the biggest opportunities in the Industrial IoT?
STEPHENSON: There’s this idea of being able to see everything that has happened in a way that you couldn’t before and to optimize the precision of industrial operations. Particularly with M2M [machine-to-machine] processes, where there’s no human interaction, a change in one part of the production process will automatically trigger adjustments farther along. I think this is going to lead to unprecedented precision and economy in the manufacturing process.
TOTH: What are some of the biggest misconceptions about the IIoT?
STEPHENSON: Yes, sensors are going to continue to go down in price. And yes, a lot of the things you’re working on will become even more precise over time. But people should not be deluded by the idea that they should just wait until all of this is really optimized to get into the IIoT.
The technology is sufficiently advanced now, particularly when it comes to manufacturing. You really should launch initiatives now to optimize your current processes. That will give you the experience of dealing with the IoT, dealing with this explosion of data, dealing with the benefits of predictive analytics. Then you can build on that base to make fundamental changes in the future.
But my big message is: Don’t wait! Don’t wait for everything to be fully in place, because you can enjoy so many benefits right now.
IIoT Talks is a conversation between industry luminaries and Echelon Corporation about the opportunities of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) market. Echelon's Chief Marketing Officer, Wendy Toth, will share highlights of these conversations via the company blog. If you are interested in participating, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.