Interesting Articles

Who Understands the IoT? According to New Research,
43% of Manufacturing Professionals Don’t

By Mike Roberts


December 8, 2014

According to Cisco, there will be 13.5 billion connected devices in manufacturing by 2022. And JP Morgan’s Global Equity Research team has already pegged manufacturing with having the greatest Internet of Things (IoT) market potential. Although it’s difficult to accurately gauge the impact these technologies will have, it’s clear that experts are projecting it to be massive.

But what do manufacturing leaders have to say about the IoT?

Several months ago, LNS Research launched some new IoT survey questions that dig a little deeper into this topic. The study asks manufacturing executives and other senior leaders how the IoT is impacting their business today, as well as about their expected IoT investments going forward. What’s interesting is that almost half—43%—of these industry professionals indicated they still “don’t understand” or “know about” the IoT.

Given the hype around the IoT, these numbers may seem a bit odd to some. But the emerging technologies have the potential to be broadly disruptive, making the potential applications appear daunting for many businesses, therefore this trend is likely to continue until after more proven and commonplace solutions surface in the coming years—and they will.

In this post, we’ll drill down into this new IoT research data and share insights into what you should do if you fall into the “don’t understand” category.

Attitudes toward IoT in Manufacturing

Although the number of respondents stating they “don’t understand” the IoT is substantial, almost 300 different individuals (and counting) have responded to these survey questions and this particular question offered seven options.

A combined 42% acknowledged having an interest in or understanding of the IoT. One in five reported being interested in but still investigating the impact. And 11% are rapidly pursuing IoT opportunities either internally, with customers, or in both regards. There seems to be somewhat of a split between executives who are learning about and experimenting with the IoT compared to those who don’t understand the technology.

Why Should You “Know About” the IoT

The IoT is expected to transform the way businesses operate. We’re already seeing use cases surface in manufacturing as well as in the consumer world, particularly with the servitization of products—in other words, enabling new service models whereby customer buy or rent a delivered result from a product instead of the product itself. And in the near future we’re expecting to see more use of intelligent sensors and devices in the shop floor environment, providing enormous amounts of new data streams that can be utilized up and down the value chain. Massively parallel and in memory big data analytics technologies, which are considered part of the IoT, are expected to provide insights into real-time performance, from which correlations can be drawn that were previously too resource-intensive to calculate.

The utility of the IoT may be as vast as your imagination, but here are a few potential connected device use cases for perspective:

  • Quality Intelligence: Adding new quality variables and more precise data into real-time production monitoring and statistical process control to anticipate process variations
  • Asset Management: Adding new variables for monitoring machine performance, predicting failures, and alerting workers
  • Health and Safety: Equipping staff with connected wearables that monitor key health and safety indicators like body temperature or exposure to hazardous elements 
  • Service: Gaining visibility into real-time product performance and diagnostics without having to rely on traditional on-site field service techniques
  • Sustainability: Closely monitoring the usage of utilities such as water, air, gas, or steam with wireless intelligent gauges that offer remote information access

The idea behind nearly all IoT applications is to gather new, more finite types of information and data and then transform it into usable, contextualized intelligence, awareness, and collaboration. Capturing all of this data will likely prove to be the easier part, while making the data work for you will be a bit more challenging. Algorithms and predictive analytics are key, along with intelligent workflow and communications that support situational awareness, and software vendors in numerous categories are working on providing these capabilities.

It’s only a matter of time before more widespread adoption takes place and real-time performance monitoring and value chain collaboration really gets taken to the next generation.

Preparing Yourself for the Revolution

As is the case with any new technology, there tends to be different phases in the adoption lifecycle. And, given the IoT’s relative nascence—not to mention the manufacturing sector’s traditionally slow-to-deploy mentality—these “don’t understand” numbers are not all that shocking. We expect to see them shift more toward having an understanding and using the technology in the coming years, especially with the parallel and aggressive consumerization of the technology happening.

Additionally, on the manufacturing side of things, a number of new organizations are helping expedite this shift. These include Industrial IP Advantage and the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), which involve large players like Cisco, Panduit, Rockwell Automation, AT&T, Cisco, GE, IBM, and Intel. These organizations are working on the development of security best practices, and new standards and semantic models to facilitate communication between intelligent devices and support intelligent systems.

The base of interest in the IoT seems to be strong, but the question is how do you bridge that gap from not knowing about the IoT to actually being a user? There are a few things you can do today:

  • Educate Yourself: Start reading case studies, research papers, and articles focused on the IoT. There are many theoretical resources available, but as the technology matures it’s important to look for resources that incorporate the use of IoT-generated data as a means for validation.
  • Start Experimenting: The IoT may seem like futuristic technology, but there are in fact many connected devices being used in the manufacturing sector already today. From connected thermostats to connected machines and more, there are opportunities to start experimenting.
  • Get Involved: As mentioned, there is still much work to be done in terms of things like standards and protocols for the IoT. Professionals are coming together in a variety of ways to accelerate the technology’s maturity and capability.
  • Consider Training: With the next generation of manufacturing technology already having a foot in the door, many leading companies are considering how they can take advantage of professional training to provide their workers with the competencies and skills needed to compete into the future.

Interested in learning more about the IoT? Read LNS Research’s new free report,The IoT Revolution and the Connected Value Chain.” 


Wearable Technologies Could Make Manufacturing Immersive Hyper-Experience

By Al Bredenberg 08/27/2014


Overall Equipment Effectiveness

Popular media portrays wearable technology as a consumer trend with applications in entertainment and health and fitness. Possibly the best-known wearable technology is Google Glass, the head-worn device that can “augment reality” by displaying location-based and contextual information and taking hands-free photos and videos. Google’s promotion of the smartglasses targets a consumer audience, highlighting the device’s ability for enhancing lifestyles.
However, innovators are adapting wearable technology to business environments, including manufacturing organizations. Wearable technology holds application promise in such areas as production, warehousing, logistics, maintenance, safety, and security.
The smartglasses form factor offers usability benefits, says Dan Cui, vice president for business development at Rochester, N.Y.-based Vuzix Corp., which manufactures a device called the M100 Smart Glasses that is marketed to enterprises. “One thing about tablets and cell phones, versus something that you wear, is that handhelds are an acquired technology trait for humans,” he told ThomasNet News in an interview. “Wearing a headset is more suited to human physiology, as opposed to something you have to pick up and hold in your hands.”
Vuzix’s device is being used for warehouse applications, and the company is getting ready to release an application for field service.
Wearable technology will increase in importance and improve in capability as the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to roll out in industrial environments, according to Dave Edstrom, chief technology officer at Burlington, Ont.-based Memex Automation. As machines become more intelligent and increasingly networked, more information about their operations and status will become available on the shop floor. The information cloud is creating an environment in which wearable technology can be of great utility.
That doesn’t mean it will be easy to pull off, Edstrom cautions, in speaking with ThomasNet News. “The ‘last-meter’ problem will become exponentially more important with wearables,” Edstrom said, referring to the challenge of capturing machine-generated data wirelessly and integrating it into the company network. “It will be expected that as someone walks around the plant, they can automatically gather data from any device that has a ‘digital heartbeat’ — provided they are authorized to,” he said. “It sounds easy, but the necessary steps to make that a reality are anything but easy.”
Implementing such a regime first requires the organization to structurally “know what is happening anytime, anywhere, on any device,” Edstrom said. “This means that the first step before wearables will be to make sure you are real-time-monitoring your plant. Only then does embracing wearables make sense.”
Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies (ITAMCO), a precision gear shop based in Plymouth, Ind., has developed a cloud-based app for Google Glass that allows a user to receive data from the manufacturing production environment over a network built on the MTConnect standard for machine communications.

Joel Neidig, technology manager at ITAMCO, told ThomasNet News that the company is using its Google Glass application in-house, refining the technology, and seeking partner companies that could benefit from the smartglasses in their own enterprises.
“We’re using it for monitoring machines that are in-cycle and for part-tracking,” Neidig said. The smart-glasses form factor “makes great sense especially in manufacturing,” he noted, since the plant floor is “where we all have to wear eye protection. Also, it’s nice to have something hands-free, because we’re always working with our hands.”
Neidig says the company is working on extending the app to materials handling, where he believes it could offer tremendous utility.
A video by ITAMCO demonstrates the capabilities and user experience of the company’s app. The video captures a walk-through of ITAMCO’s facility by Neidig while wearing Google Glass. The device displays environmental information for him, such as actual and target temperatures for the shop. Looking at a sprocket in the shop triggers a display of the corresponding part and operation numbers. Examining other parts, he is able to call up 3D models, manipulate the models using hand gestures, and view animated and exploded drawings.

When Neidig focuses on a machine, Google Glass delivers information about the machine’s status, utilization, and spindle speed via MTConnect. During the walk-through of the facility, Neidig is able to share photos and videos from the shop floor and communicate by videoconference with a colleague.
While smartglasses constitute the best-known form of wearable computing, other form factors, such as clothing, textiles, and arm bands, also promise benefits. Emerging technologies include skin patches and even smart tattoos, or e-skin.

Speaking with ThomasNet News, Hubert Selvanathan, principal at Waterstone Management Group, an advisory firm focused on serving the technology sector, highlighted the potential of these other form factors. “Wearables could be helpful in monitoring ambient conditions to ensure safety on the shop floor or other locations,” he said. “A safety jacket could be outfitted with sensor technology to protect workers under hazardous conditions.”
Wearables could also take the form of authentication devices that restrict access within a facility, he suggests.

U.S. Engineering Employment to Grow by Quarter-Million Jobs

William Ng | July 16th, 2014


Engineering Employment Outlook forecasts what the U.S. engineering labor market will look like by 2023 as well as takes a snapshot of employment conditions today, including top jobs and salaries. The demographics and skill sets of the engineering workforce will also continue to evolve. 

The United States will need nearly 250,000 more engineers over the next 10 years to work in high-growth sectors and industries such as oil and gas, aerospace, and renewable energy, with employers to make more than a third of new engineering jobs available in metropolitan areas such as Houston, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.
That translates to an 11 percent expansion rate in the U.S. engineering labor market from now through 2023, according to the latest Engineering Employment Outlook, which forecasts work conditions in the coming decade and also takes a snapshot of the current situation for engineers. The Troy, Mich.-based workforce solutions company says civil engineers will be in highest demand and 10 metropolitan areas will command around 35 percent of total engineering job growth over the next decade, including San Francisco, San Jose, Phoenix, Denver, Dallas, New York/New Jersey, and Boston.

Nearly 46,000 more civil engineering hires will be made through 2023, followed by mechanical engineering, with around 25,500 jobs. That growth reflects the two disciplines’ continued standing as the number one and two biggest engineering fields today, at 16 percent and 14 percent of the total U.S. engineering labor market, respectively. The “big four” fields of civil, mechanical, industrial, and electrical engineering account for 51 percent of the approximately 2 million engineers working across the nation today, which in turn represents about 1 percent of the country’s total labor force.

Demand for architectural and engineering managers will supplant electrical engineering from the big-four occupations in terms of job additions from now through 2023. The company also notes that biomedical engineering employment will experience a 56 percent growth rate, the fastest among all disciplines. Employers will also have a high need for environmental, petroleum, and nuclear engineers, while the manufacturing sector will only have modest growth for engineering employment.
Engineers will be expected to work expertly in biotechnology, industrial automation, and sustainability, as well as oil and gas exploration and production, which alone will fuel a 17 percent job market expansion for civil, mechanical, industrial, and electrical engineers in Houston. The city is predicted to add close to 15,000 new engineering jobs over the next 10 years.

New engineers will also be fiercely sought during the latter half of this decade to replenish what is now a highly mature engineering workforce across the country, in which more than half of all employed engineers are 45 or older. Lagging college enrollment into engineering, which is failing to keep pace with the number of retiring baby boomer engineers, will only exacerbate the need for engineers, boosting career prospects to even more lucrative heights than the $85,000 median annual salary engineers command today. Currently, petroleum engineers ($123,947), architectural/engineering managers ($123,115), and aerospace engineers ($103,459) garner the top salaries among all engineers.
For young engineers just embarking on their careers, they are starting off at a $53,400 median salary, while citing a 2013 National Association of Colleges and Employers salary survey that reported seven out of the 10 highest-paying bachelor’s degrees belonged to engineering majors. More than three out of every four respondents (77.6 percent) have plans to hire new engineering graduates, which trailed only business school graduates.

The engineering workforce continues to be dominated by men, women earn just 20 percent of all engineering degrees that are awarded in the country, but represent a mere 13 percent of the U.S. engineering workforce. Women are “exceptionally underrepresented” in mechanical engineering, especially, where females account for only 7 percent of the workforce in the field.

U.S. employers will have to look for more and more engineers who come from outside the United States, at the moment roughly one-third of all those who hold engineering degrees in the United States were born outside the country, while 54 percent of all engineering doctorates and 44 percent of master’s degrees are being earned by non-resident students. In electrical engineering, foreign nationals dominate full-time graduate students at 70 percent.

Aside from needing traditional technical skills, employers will be seeking more engineers who are creative and can innovate and apply new thinking, future engineering challenges will be more complex and global in nature. New technologies also will influence demand for engineers who have specialized skill sets in embedded software, advanced manufacturing, and energy technologies, among others, and who can solve problems in nontraditional ways that include crowdsourcing.

Soft skills, such as ability to verbally communicate with others, obtain and process information and analyze data, and organize work and make decisions, will also be big differentiators among engineering career candidates. Favored will be those engineers who understand how organizations “really tick,” express themselves clearly and professionally, show strong teamwork and project management, and are flexible to changing demands. The report notes, “When one person has all of those capabilities, he or she is no longer just another engineer, but [a] sought-after engineering talent.”


The 20 most innovative states in America

See how your state stacks up in terms of its proportion of technology workers, number of approved patents, R&D spending and other innovation indicators.
By Bloomberg Rankings


No. 15: North Carolina

North Carolina ranked as the 15th most innovative state, based on these factors:
STEM professionals as a percentage of state population: 1.75 percent
Science and tech degree holders as a percentage of state population: 6.62 percent
Utility patents granted as a percentage of U.S. total: 2.46 percent
State government R&D spending as a percentage of U.S. total: 2.11 percent
Gross state product per employed person: $92,120
Three-year change in productivity: 0.08 percent
Public tech companies as a percentage of all public companies based in the state: 18.93 percent