Editor's Note: Kiva Allgood is head of IoT for Ericsson, responsible for scaling the company’s offerings and building strategic partnerships for connectivity across industries. Click here to view her LiveWorx presentation, “Unleashing the Power of Industrial IoT and Cellular Connectivity.”
Recently, I had the pleasure of participating in PTC’s LiveWorx conference as it went virtual, adding further credence to its reputation as the definitive event for digital transformation. I joined PTC’s Chief Technology Officer Steve Dertien for a presentation on how to unleash the power of industrial IoT (IIoT) and cellular connectivity.
A lot has changed in business over the past few months. With a massive remote migration the foremost priority, many business initiatives were put on the back burner. IIoT wasn’t one of them. The realm has remained a key strategic objective; in fact, considering how it can close distances and extend what industrial enterprises are able to monitor, control and accomplish, it’s more important than ever.
Ericsson and PTC formed a partnership specifically to help industrial enterprises accelerate digital transformation. Ericsson unlocks the full value of global cellular IoT connectivity and provides on-premise solutions. PTC offers an industrial IoT platform, ready to configure and deploy, with flexible connectivity and capabilities to build IoT solutions without manual coding.
This can enable enterprises to speed up cellular IoT deployments, realize the advantages of Industry 4.0 and better compete. Further, they can create a foundation for 5G, introducing such future benefits as network slicing, edge computing and high reliability, low-latency communications.
It all sounds great, I know, but if you’re like most folks, you probably have a few basic questions on your mind. Here’s are a few of the ones that I typically receive and appreciate the most.
You’re connected already, via wire or Wi-Fi, so why is cellular necessary? You need reliable, global and dedicated connectivity that’s flexible to deploy. If you think about a product and its lifecycle, it may be manufactured in one location, land in another, then ultimately move again. If you can gather secure insight from it – regardless of where it was manufactured, bought or sold – you can improve operational efficiency, product capabilities, identify new business opportunities and much more.
What cellular can do especially well is effectively capture all that value by combining global connectivity with a private network. Then, through software like PTC’s, you can glean an array of information that’ll leave you wondering how else you can use the technology, regardless of whether the data is on or off the manufacturing floor. For instance, by applying virtual or augmented reality (VR/AR), you can find product defects before they leave the factory or end up in other products.
That alone can eliminate waste, save money from production to shipping, protect your reputation and much more.
According to analysts at ABI Research, we’ll see 4.3 billion wireless connections in smart factories by 2030, leading to a $1 trillion smart manufacturing market. For those that embrace Industry 4.0, private cellular has the potential to improve gross margins by 5-13% for factory and warehouse operations. What’s more, manufacturers can expect a 10x return on their investment.
You just need to be able to reliably turn actionable intelligence throughout the product’s lifecycle and across your global enterprise both securely and reliably – and that’s what cellular delivers.
People don’t often ask for cellular or a dedicated private network specifically. They come to us with questions about things like how they can improve production cycle times or reduce costs by a certain percentage. That’s exactly where you should begin, too.
I come from the manufacturing space where for years I lived quality control, throughput and output. When someone would introduce a new idea, we’d vet it with a powerful but simple question: How will this make or save us money? If it couldn’t do either, we weren’t interested.
Look at your products and processes the same way when it comes to venturing into IIoT and digital transformation. Find the pain points. Identify defects, bottlenecks and possible improvements. Seek out how to further connect your business and the opportunities that could present. Data is indeed the new oil; it’s the intelligence that’ll help you understand where you need to go and what you need to do to move forward or create a new business.
To get off on the right foot, be sure to engage the right partners. Realize this is a very complex area; no single provider can offer a solution that’ll address every need in one. You need partners with an ecosystem of their own best-of-breed partners; that’s why we work with companies like PTC. We have expertise in specific areas, focus on what we do best and work closely together to ensure we approach IIoT right.
We are building on an established foundation we created together. Both organizations have invested a lot of time, money, R&D cycles and processes in developing our individual and collective offerings. That said, not only will we be working together into the future, customers are assured they’ll remain on the forefront of innovation.
That future proofing is what you need to look for as well. You need wireless connectivity for applications involving asset tracking, predictive maintenance, digital twins, human-robot workflow integration and more. While Industry 4.0 is a priority, you want to lay a foundation for fast adoption of 5G, too.
There are other considerations to keep in mind down the road, such as your workforce. Employees may not want to be “machines” themselves, but they will want to be a robotics engineer or use AR or VR for artificial intelligence analysis. The future of work is changing, too, and IIoT offers a way to keep employees engaged.