From Flying Parts to Smart Pipelines, the Things of the Industrial IoT

In order for the industrial Internet of Things to take off, we need to ensure that billions of things are communicating, collaborating and sharing data efficiently and securely.
By Tim Butler
Feb 04, 2015

The wave of innovation driving the advancement of the Internet of Things is just beginning to crest. In fact, it's estimated that only 1 percent of the world's devices are currently connected. As the momentum continues to build, the way in which companies view corporate assets will undergo a paradigm shift. The ability to directly connect assets, both to each other and to the enterprise, will bring significant value to industrial and commercial applications, ushering in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

The IIoT offers opportunities for powerful new insights and intelligence, leading to increased productivity, improved safety and reliability, and better life-cycle management. In order to take full advantage of these opportunities, however, improvements in mobile computing, big data and increased processing power are required to collect, share and make sense of the vast amounts of new information that will become available from the billions of new passive tags and sensors attached to assets.

In this true digital era, the promise of the IIoT enables businesses to bring visibility to otherwise invisible objects, maximizing the efficiency of these assets, first and foremost. A truly innovative solution will enable additional business opportunities, applications and analytics at your fingertips.

First let's start with a few questions: What sort of assets can be connected in the IIoT? And what are the real applications for this capability? Aerospace is a pioneer in the IIOT. Specifically, the flyable parts program already adopted in the aerospace industry demonstrates how the use of an innovative RFID technology can create immediate value and savings. Flyable parts are serialized, replaceable and repairable airplane parts, such as life vests, seats and oxygen canisters. The Air Transport Association (ATA) mandates that these flyable parts be tagged with high-memory RFID technology, in order to ensure that a product's entire life-cycle history is directly on the part for safety throughout its long life, and for its timely replacement at the end of that life-cycle.

Beyond just storing part numbers, however, these high-memory RFID tags allow an entire lifetime of data to be available for analysis on each networked asset. Multiple read-and-write capability facilitates immediate answers to the basic questions: Where and when was the asset manufactured? What components are inside? What maintenance needs to be conducted? When does the part need to be replaced? The accumulated data on the asset means that it can now communicate its latest update back and forth with people and things, as well as synch with back-end enterprise systems.

By tagging parts with rugged, high-memory RFID tags, companies can store critical safety, supply chain and business information on the asset itself. The data stored on the asset is a dynamic living storybook that logs changes, fixes, certifications and repairs as they occur in the field. In other words, the tag becomes a resident database, providing novel opportunities for operational, business and process insights. That data collected inside the tag dynamically changes how and where critical business decisions are made, saving time and money.

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