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By Han Boon Siew, Chief Information Officer - IT and Digitalization, Schaeffler Asia Pacific
1. The Myriad Advantages of IoT in Business
IoT refers to the Internet of Things. This is where we focus: Things. Schaeffler systems and components are found in machines exactly where the most important data are generated. Traditionally, hardware or mechanical products were just items on their own and performed own functions. With the internet coming into play, we see a range of opportunities to diversify the business, especially into services. The past few years have witnessed the tremendous growth of connected things via wire or wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, RFID, 5G, etc., as well as highly intelligent devices such as smartphones and IoT sensors. The connectivity and functionality expanded by the wired and wireless technologies and devices have had a strong impact not in our life but also in industry. With massive deployment of IoT devices and build in connectivity, millions of data are collected for further analysis. This gives the chance to allow the business to offer new services through data utilization, creating insights for both business and their customers to improve their offerings. Schaeffler has put significant investment into research and development in recent years and has incorporated sensors, actuators, and control units with embedded software into these products. With this, it is now possible for these parts to collect and process valuable data on the condition of a machine and then convert this data into added-value services.
IoT supports interconnectivity and intelligent devices. With this new Information and Communication Technology (ICT), all businesses will become digitalized while service level rise. All these achievements are inseparable from data storage, transmission, and computing.
2. Challenges Plaguing IoT Today
IoT supports the digital transformation of modern business. Millions of IoT devices are connected, collecting data for further analysis. There are many ways for these devices to communicate, each with varying pros and cons. When we have a large number of devices spread over a big area, wireless communication with long-range and low power consumption is required. For those critical applications requiring an immediate response, we also need some ultra-reliable low latency communication technologies as backbone support.
In huge countries, there remains a strong justification for infrastructure setup/outreach versus returns on investments (ROI).
Digital technologies are driving business changes, and the digital economy has bright prospects. However, the digitalization of enterprises is more than a technical thing. It is about the whole enterprise transformation.
Enterprises who turn a blind eye to digitalization and using IoT will lose competitive advantages in the long run.
Acceptance of digital services on the part of customers and employees depends not only on the quality of data provided but also on user-friendly operator interfaces
Deployment of IoT, as well as digital transformation, should go beyond the IT department. It needs to be launched and promoted by enterprises’ top decision-makers, making it a development consensus. Besides, IoT and digital transformation need to penetrate the entire organization across all functions.
3. Technological Trends Influencing IoT Today
In my opinion, one of the technological trends is edge computing. Traditional IoT technologies may not be able to support real-time adaption and process management due to the latency incurred in the data transmission. However, edge computing could meet the latency requirement in which automated computing is performed on data at the edge device. Edge computing may also address the potential machine-AMR-cobot network congestions to schedule data fetching more flexibly.
Another one will be 5G.With 5G technology serving as the backbone for IoT devices that spans various usage scenarios, the peak data rate, and connectivity density can reach 20Gb/s and 10^6 devices/km^2respectively. These usage scenarios translate to various enhanced mobile broadband (eMMB), ultra reliable and low latency communications (URLLC) and massive machine type communications (mMTC) applications where the demand to fulfil both latencies of 1ms or less and area traffic capacity of 10Mb/s/m^2 in various deployment environments are challenging.
Although we have a very strong mechanical background, providing high precision products, such as bearings and commonly known to our customers as a hardware company, we have also extended our services to the digital areas of condition monitoring.
Acceptance of digital services on the part of customers and employees depends not only on the quality of data provided but also on user-friendly operator interfaces. Smartphones and tablet PCs are becoming more and more important in professional applications. Schaeffler is working on expanding its expertise in the optimal design of man-machine interaction.
A digital platform, which allows data transparency for users, such as dashboard for Digital Factory. Schaeffler has embarked on the journey of Digitalization of our factories and namely, our Korea and Vietnam Plants. At the first stage, machines are connected, and data is extracted for visualization and analysis, creating insights to our business for enhanced decision making.
On the other side, we have also used our digital platform to partner with our customers by providing IoT connectivity to their assets and assist them on data analysis. This enhances our customers’ knowledge of our products and alerting them on problems/issues, which may affect their overall equipment efficiency (OEE).
IoT platform access provides ubiquitous, interoperable, smart converged communications services necessary for smart factories. It supports a wide range of service applications such as digital warehouse, tracking hazardous chemicals, vibration, and common monitoring for key equipment, as well as environmental monitoring.
4. Do you have any suggestions for industry veterans or budding entrepreneurs from the IoT space?
- Spend the money! Make investments! It's not cheap to start the IoT journey because there is huge investment needed on initial infrastructure and recurring expenditures. On the other side, it also requires expert knowledge in Digital Platform development. Fortunately, there are many IoT players in the market. Remember; not only “Things” but the “People “should also be connected. We recommend all players collaborate, learn from one another and leverage on the existing technology and resources to build a better ecosystem.
- How far can IoT space go? How many returns can IoT yield? This heavily relies on a clear and appropriate strategy. Digital high performance could focus on leveraging IoT technologies to accelerate company-wide transformation and stay ahead of the competition in the market.