Industrial Internet of Things could boost plant efficiency

Stu Johnson: "The cloud is the enabler not only for connecting plants … but connecting the shop floor with the top floor." Photo credit: Greg Horvath

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- If futurists and technology experts are correct, the Internet of Things is set to revolutionize the average person's home.

By connecting everything from lights to one’s refrigerator and air conditioning to a cloud, a home might automatically use energy more efficiently while providing the homeowner and utility companies access to new data that they can use to make adjustments as they'd like.

The same could soon become standard in the auto industry.

The Industrial Internet of Things, as Stu Johnson, director of product marketing for manufacturing software company Plex Systems, called it Monday at the Management Briefing Seminars, can enable automakers and suppliers to operate their plant floors more efficiently by mining data on their machines.

By connecting machines to a cloud, an automaker or supplier can connect its plants around the world, allowing executives and managers access to more data than ever -- data that can be used to manage plants and adjust to problems and risks with a high level of precision, sometimes autonomously.

“The cloud is the enabler not only for connecting plants … but connecting the shop floor with the top floor,” Johnson said.

He said less than 1 percent of all available data on the shop floor is used by companies. Johnson said the rest of that data can become accessible to companies through the Internet of Things.

“This is, indeed, the next industrial revolution,” Johnson said.

While noting that increased interconnectedness brings with it significant cybersecurity risk, Paul Boris, head of manufacturing industries at GE Digital, said much of the Internet of Things technology is already available for companies to use to optimize their processes.

He said, for example, that its Greenville, S.C., plant utilizes LED lights that can pinpoint the location of an operator using an iPad within 10 centimeters.

"There’s a lot of things that are already out there that are just waiting to be tapped,” Boris said.

You can reach John Irwin at -- Follow John on Twitter: @JohnDIrwin

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