In engineering today, many cloud-enabled tools are available to help increase productivity and simplify interacting with co-workers wherever they may be located. Take the typical tasks of taking meeting notes, sharing report documents or spreadsheets, managing software and product development, supporting customers and managing their contacts. In all these application spaces, the traditional concept of purchasing and owning software licenses has been shattered by the advent of online SaaS solutions that allow any company to leverage enterprise quality tools without the burden of paying high license fees up front. Traditional engineering tools are supplemented and increasingly replaced by subscription-based online services that allow companies to quickly respond to changes in customer demand and scale up when needed.
Surprisingly, laboratory and field measurements in many industries still lack any kind of Internet connectivity. Data acquisition is still being performed locally. The acquired data is then transferred to servers to be analyzed on local computers. Even distributed and scattered data sources often lack a coherent data acquisition and management strategy. Internet of Things and M2M (machine to machine communication) platforms often focus on a low total number of data points and slow update rates. However, it is worthwhile to discuss online management for any kind of measured data for the following reasons:
#5 Get ready for the Internet of Things
While the “Internet of Things” is yet be clearly defined, its idea of interconnecting devices and consequently making them smarter will be an ongoing trend that no device of machine manufacturer should miss out on. Start by uploading your devices’ data to the “Internet of Measurements”. Many applications and analysis possibilities will follow. Connect your machines to the Internet now and leave yourself all options open for future improvements and services.
#4 Get to know your customers better and how they use your products
Adding monitoring capabilities to your devices or machines will allow you to collect valuable feedback from your existing customers. Have your own devices collect (anonymized) user data will help engineering and product marketing focus on essential developments and product improvements. Instead of just relying on market research, let your products tell you how they are being used in real life. (see also field tests)
#3 Increase equipment longevity
For expensive technical equipment, continuous monitoring is an essential piece of a successful maintenance strategy. Machine condition monitoring will help supervise wear and tear. Predictive maintenance and machine health monitoring are key differentiators for any equipment provider these days, as these approaches help keeping machines healthier for a longer time, responding more quickly and efficiently to events and preventing failures earlier, improving the overall machine uptime.
#2 Lower operational cost of machines
Not only can monitoring increase a product’s lifespan, it can also lower its cost of operation. Being able to collect status data from a fleet of machines or devices allows to better schedule maintenance and servicing, optimizing service routes and preventing unnecessary costs associated with dispatching of service professionals. Furthermore, preventing catastrophic failures and maximizing system uptime will both lower costs to your customers and strengthen their trust into your devices and platforms.
#1 Create customer benefits and new sources of revenue by offering “connected services”
On top of providing high quality products to your customers, connecting your devices to the Internet of Things will open up entire new business areas for you and for them, as well. “Connected Services” such as connected assistance and remote maintenance can be great differentiators for your product. These services can also be re-sold and integrated into existing business models of machine manufacturers. Use the same set of data to provide reporting dashboards for business KPIs to your customers and maintenance dashboards to your service crew. If you rent out your machines and devices, use the cloud data acquisition to allow billing by work-hours or per any unit of produced goods. Pass on the benefits of a subscription-based business model to your customers.
To summarize, there are many good reasons to connect your device, machines and measurement equipment to the “Internet of Measurements” now. There is no reason to wait. Bring your machines online now! Leveraging existing off-the-shelf hardware and software platforms (for instance NI LabVIEW) will add value to machines immediately but also leave the opportunity to add more functionality in the future.