It is now understood that no industrial setup is complete without effective deployment and management of IoT. The sixty four-thousand-dollar question is how much can an existing industrial system; here we refer to a legacy industrial setup; be tweaked to accommodate IoT?
The above is true especially in the cases of Indian SMBs/SMEs for whom it becomes natural to co-ordinate with IoT engineers and service providers to resort to optimal tweaking of their legacy systems for effective deployment.
In a bid to find out more about IoT implementation and deployment over an Indian legacy industrial scheme, Rahul R of Electronics For You spoke to Bhaskar Rao, Founder and CEO at Bangalore-based Technosphere Labs (an IoT Solutions and Engineering Company), and Shaun Mitra who is the Chief Business Officer at Technosphere.
Q. Directly going to IoT deployment over a legacy industrial system, are such systems even relevant today when the entire digital fraternity is quickly moving towards all things hi-tech?
Bhaskar: In India, as far as my industrial experience goes, industries do not usually look at chucking away their current systems including mechanical machines. So, as far as I have observed, industry owners consider their current (probably not so updated; but certainly, not obsolete) units for IoT deployment; rather than floating a whole new investment level to buy solutions which often, are only minor upgrades.
Also, there are significant opportunities for IoT solution providers to effectively deploy IoT solutions in an industrial setup. In fact, we have implemented IoT for a food processing firm which is not large scale.
We tapped the currently available resources/legacy systems within this company and created an IoT-solution specific to their needs. Our solutions are functioning there, even today.
Specific solutions here refer to smart sensors and IoT gateways; over legacy systems to capture specific data.
Q. Going by your statement above, how do you then deal with the ‘end of lifecycle (EOL)’ which every system must endure?
Bhaskar: The Life of a machine is dependent upon many considerations. Some are :
- Meeting the growing production volume requirements
- Meeting the changing quality requirements
- Change in product requirements, which make the existing machine sometimes not suitable
- Wear-and-tear of key parts, which will result in major cost for repeated repair
As and when the Industry Owner makes a decision on the EOL, new machines should be identified which will enable IoT and improve the visibility inside the shop floor.
However, if your legacy machines would last for at least the next 3+ years, then go straight ahead and invest on fitting IoT devices to the existing machine. Do not hesitate.
Q. In case I deploy an IoT solution for my legacy industrial system; what could some of the challenges that I am likely to encounter at the deployment level itself?
Bhaskar: One major issue, that IoT engineers/solution providers are likely to face is identifying the right sensor and positioning and placement of sensors. Even when this is done, communication is likely to become an issue.
Technosphere’s IoT Solution Hub, WhizBlox can fit very well in this scenario – multiple sensor interfaces and Wireless Technologies are supported. This will help in identifying the right solution for a specific Solution. No need to build everything from the start; with modular WhizBlox, we can rapidly implement functional IoT at site.
Q. What would be your one-line recommendation to early SME entrants with respect to IoT implementation over legacy systems and protocols?
Shaun: Get your IoT service provider/engineer to give you effective failure predictions, via customised solutions. This approach holds good for engineers as well, during deployment over industrial systems.
Bhaskar : Ensure that the available sensors and communication in legacy systems are utilized to acquire key data and utilize IoT for additional sensors and connectivity.