Are Smaller IIoT Applications The Next Wave for End Users?

Grant Gerke | June 13, 2016

Connected solutions are evolving quickly and OEMs are providing multiple solutions for end users.

grant gerkeBy Grant Gerke, Contributing Editor

In a recent Maintenance Technology podcast interview (bit.ly/iottmt003) with Ralph Rio of the ARC Advisory Group, Dedham, MA, we discussed Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) maturation and what to look for in terms of reliability and maintenance (R&M).

“The equipment manufacturers, who make fairly expensive machinery, have been the first to go down this route,” said Rio. “However, we’re starting to see this adoption (trend) occur on lesser and lesser expensive equipment, broadly speaking.” 

Rio is right. Power companies are extolling the benefits of predictive-maintenance servicing, such as valve or monitoring multiple-transformer monitoring. As reported in the MT April issue, Southern Company, Atlanta, moved to a third-party health-monitoring solution for 3,700 substations and unscheduled downtime ROI has been rather quick.

With IIoT applications driven by OEMs, how will end users develop their own strategies?

Many are considering smaller solutions. ARC’s Greg Conary states that, “30% of end users and OEMs are already active in using IIoT tools or investing in projects.”

A supplier of pneumatic-based machine solutions for the food and beverage industry, Aventics Corp., Lexington, KY, is developing smarter solutions for its manifold-valve technology to meet customer demands. “Most end users in the U.S. are focusing on reliability and the need for data acquisition, so that they can more predictably maintain their equipment,” said product manager Earl Campbell. “That’s one area of focus with our valves.”

Aventics is working to develop more data functionality to provide machine designers better condition-monitoring capabilities. According to the company’s white paper, New Developments in Pneumatic Valve Technology for Packaging Applications, “In the near future, it will be possible to monitor the actual position of the spool within each valve on a manifold.”

“By actually monitoring the spool position, the machine can track exactly how each valve performed during a motion cycle: where that valve started, whether it fully shifted or only partially shifted, and its final position. These data points help machine builders and end-user operators correct issues that may affect overall packaging quality and integrity,” the white paper states.

Campbell added that the company is working on whether the (valve) reliability data should communicate with the factory floor or maintenance. Is it going to be some kind of wireless communication or will techs plug into the manifold and download that data? 

Speaking of wireless, ABB, Cary, NC, has released a bolt-on condition-monitoring solution for low-voltage motors that uses wireless communication to provide operational data. This low-voltage motor sensor uses a built-in wireless interface that transmits real-time data through a control-system gateway or to a cloud-based secure network.

ABB debuted the product at the 2016 Hannover Fair in Germany, home of Industry 4.0, and plans to  release it to the U.S. market in late 2016. (Watch how the application works at bit.ly/iiotmt001)

Larger software-as-a-service solutions have made deep inroads through OEMs to end users, but it should be interesting to watch where these “bolt-on” IIoT solutions end up. Time will tell. MT

Grant Gerke is a business writer and content marketer in the manufacturing, power, and cleantech space. He has 15 years of experience covering the industrial and field-automation areas.




Grant Gerke

Grant Gerke

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