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IoT and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

IoT, everyone’s favourite acronym is certainly creating waves. The idea of your fridge emailing a cold store warehouse to let it know that you are running low on butter sounds like something straight out of a Sci-fi movie, granted a pretty boring Sci-fi…because well, where’s the drama in that?

But I digress. IoT is coming, the 4th Industrial Revolution is coming. Who you gonna call? Well, us hopefully.

 

A little bit of how, why, what…

From the research that Seedlab South Africa is doing of late we are seeing two things. Firstly, lots of conjecture but hand in hand with this lots of fundamentally solid reasons why the 4th Industrial Revolution is a foregone conclusion.

From the dawn of civilisation humans have had one goal in mind, namely create tools that allow us to work smarter instead of harder. It all started with the invention of the wheel. The 4th Industrial Revolution and in particular IoT is simply the next iteration of this fundamental drive of human nature.

Having said that, it is worth noting that this is probably the most complex iteration to date. IoT, to be the best version of itself will require maximum connectedness and complete system integration. This degree of connectedness is going to need a sophisticated system that can handle ridiculous amounts of data, carry out intelligent analytics and ultimately create results and outputs that add value to human life.

It is also worth noting that IoT is not a solution, it is a tool. A tool that we can apply in a myriad of ways. Keep in mind that you first need to learn to drive a car before it can take you somewhere. The same applies to not just IoT but to all the emerging technology we are seeing in this digital age.

  

Why IoT? A trip down memory lane…

As a training engineer I was assigned vac work at a Platinum Refinery outside of Springs. I was tasked with investigating a problem they were having with their Ruthenium distillation column. Don’t worry about the terminology. It was simply a machine that wasn’t working the way it should. This under-performance was leading to significant losses in time and creating throughput capacity restrictions while partially liberated waste had to be reprocessed. It was a logistical nightmare.

I watched and analysed for 3 weeks. Wearing all sort of personal protection equipment, taking great care when I was handling dangerous acids, I extracted samples for analysis. For each day I was on the site I was able to collect maybe 3 data points. And that only for the day shift. 

Imagine if I’d had an online system extracting samples every 5 minutes or even on a schedule based on how long the extraction had proceeded. How much more nuanced insight may I have gained? How much more optimisation could have been achieved on the recovery of the valuable platinum group metal? What would this have done to the company’s bottom-line?

Online systems, that work autonomously, carrying out continuous analysis to provide on-going feedback would allow the entire process to be reactive, predictive and much sleeker. This is just one of the things IoT can offer us.

  

How do we start?

We are seeing many companies trying to kick-off their 4th Industrial Revolution campaigns. Many times doing so to tackle deep rooted pain points that they were unable to deal with before IoT, Big Data, Blockchain, Ai had been conceived. The changes we are seeing are not complete turn-around of business models but rather simple solutions using our new tool set to get a job done.

According to the World Economic Forum, the implementation of Industry 4.0 will occur in 4 distinct phases. The first two comprise changes that result in increased efficiency and to some degree new products and services. These are the low hanging fruit of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Projects that can be achieved in 2 to 3 years.

Phases 3 and 4 are long term, roughly 3 to 10 years. These phases require fundamental mind-set shift. A move towards outcomes based and pull economies. These are more complicated but by laying good foundations in Phase 1 and 2 we will be able to manoeuvre more seamlessly as the 4th industrial revolution gains more and more traction.

Right now, we need to

    1. get to grips with how to harness the power of emerging technology,

    2. understand practical methods of implementation by considering our peers both locally and globally

    3. and determine if there is potential to strengthen our business.

 

That’s quite a to-do-list. Here’s our number 073 268 8855

 

Illustrations by S L Anderson