In a blog a couple months ago, I said I would not write about the Internet of Things (IoT) again until I had something real to talk about. The continuous buzz around the topic can make it confusing and risks it becoming nothing more than marketing rather than a real opportunity to transform industry and the world in general.
I really believe IoT will be a key enabler of smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0 initiatives, but we need to learn from experience and not only from intriguing futuristic visions. Having said that, I’m writing again about it because we’ve had our first experience and there are some lessons learned that make sense to share.
Just for clarity, we didn’t develop a huge global project with thousands of things communicating with each other and with a central entity. We developed a pilot project—probably better called a proof of concept—on just a few machines. In any case, it was enough to learn that there are many aspects that need to be considered carefully.
As system integrators, we have worked for 20 years on software solutions for manufacturing. We have a good knowledge of communication protocols, fieldbuses, integration of different systems, IT, software development, database management and web development. Maybe we’re not the smartest people in the world, but we’re certainly not the least experienced either.
And yet we discovered that we were a little naive in some areas that need to be managed correctly in order to provide a reliable IoT solution. Detailed below are some of those areas.