Industry 4.0 benefits are primarily driven by a data-driven strategy, the theory being the more data you have, the better decisions can be made that positively affect your business. Data, in the traditional industrial sense, is driven mainly by automatic sensors that read “stuff” and is made available to a control system driven by PLC’s and People. However, up until recently, we have focused our efforts around the process we are trying to manage and not necessarily around other factors that might give us additional relevant data that may offer those incremental or significant improvements so necessary to drive efficiency in an ever more competitive world.

An example might be; is the Operator spending the required time or taking the right breaks to ensure the highest quality monitoring of our industrial system? So monitoring humans is becoming very critical. I have yet to find a single customer that manages this.

If we work on that premise, then the new IoT world offers us tremendous opportunities to bring this new data into our environment. In order to make decent choices, we need to understand many factors that influence a decision, these include-

Technology              – Does it fit into your technical and IT standards?

Fit for purpose          – Does it fit to meet your technical requirements?

Environmental          – Is the power required, do you have power on-site, battery-powered for how long?

Cost and Contractual  – Is there a complicated contract involved, what is TCO?

The IoT Landscape

The IoT landscape is complex and forever changing as competitive forces jockey for position to become the network and chipset manufacturer of choice for the over 50 billion devices that are predicted to come into our lives over the next 10 years. This article is not about which one is better than the other, each has advantages and disadvantages, and this article is here to guide you in making your sensor choice which ultimately will influence your network choice. An Industrial IoT solution will, in all likelihood, be made up of a combination of choices for both sensors and networks. In the end it doesn’t matter, it’s about getting to the solution that drives efficiencies and makes our human lives more comfortable and better.

The landscape is complex, but it forces one to ask the basic questions, and if you follow the basic questions, making decisions becomes easier.

Question 1 – What is the actual distance to the point of measurement?

The following diagram shows the distance supported and technologies within each zone. A general rule though is how critical is the measurement to the decision making. Is it just data to add to the data you already have, that can be used to better improve quality and cost? If it is critical, we are pretty much bound to the continuously powered, hard-wired sensor that is integrated into the PLC/DCS (comms could be wireless – usually some sort of WiFi standard so 8.02) where data is transmitted “instantaneously” for critical control decisions made in the control systems.