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The Internet of Things (IoT) in Factories, Robotics and Equipment, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

IoT will enable many industries to meet goals that are vital in today’s evolving global economy.  This includes rapid changes in factories, and new revenue sources for manufacturers of equipment.
On the factory floor, automation is the driving trend today.  Factory managers want to get the highest level of error-free output with the lowest number of employees.  This means that robots completely take over some tasks, but work closely with human workers as “cobots” in others.  It also means highly efficient supply chains and parts inventories, as well as rapid movement through distribution to end customers.  All-in-all, this adds up to optimum lean production, which puts a well-thought-out factory in an excellent competitive position.
IoT will be a very significant enabler of efficient factories, and at least initially, it will be the manufacturing sector that is making the largest investments in the technology, followed by the transportation sector.  For example, ultrafast 5G wireless will mean that data can be sent to, and gathered from, sensors and robotic devices in a near instantaneous fashion.  Conditions within factory machinery and production lines can be monitored and improved on a 24/7 basis.  IoT sensors can gather vital data such as machinery temperature, vibration, output and input, and can monitor conditions within products, such as processed foods or paints, while they are in production. 

Internet Research Tip: The Industrial Internet Consortium
This industry group, focused on IoT, offers a wealth of news, trends and research on its website,

     Microsoft is working with manufacturers to install technology that enables them to measure such factors as moisture content in food products while they are on the processing line.  Microsoft sees the Industrial IoT as a massive future user of cloud services, and is reaching out to manufacturers, including Siemens, to establish relationships that will boost Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform for all types of connected machinery and equipment.  Microsoft offers what it calls “Azure IoT Solution Accelerators” online:  a set of templates that enable users to readily create customized IoT platforms within their own businesses or factories.  These templates enable firms to start connecting and monitoring devices with less cost and effort.
Likewise, chip industry leader Intel offers system design resources to enable all types of businesses to accelerate their use of IoT.  Of course, Intel is investing heavily in the design and manufacture of chips that support IoT activities.
Caterpillar is one of many massive global equipment and machinery manufacturers making huge bets on the potential of IoT.  The firm’s latest bulldozers, front-end loaders and other heavy equipment are connected to its cloud services.  This includes items like engine sensors and even oil-level sensors in oil caps that can alert operators when they need to add more lubricant.  The intent is not only to add value for end-customers, but also to boost sales of replacement parts and services.
A major challenge facing robotics is the ability to correctly select needed items and to manipulate an item’s position (such as turning it so that it can fit properly into a shipping box).  A San Francisco-based nonprofit called OpenAI ( is working on developing robots that can train themselves to complete various tasks.  It has a robot “hand” called Dactyl, that uses an array of lights, cameras and neural-network software to try out different actions in a simulated environment before attempting it for real.  The process is called reinforcement learning, and it allows the robot to randomly experiment.  Dactyl successfully taught itself to flip a toy building block in its mechanical fingers.
A new category of wearable robotics helps fulfillment center personnel reduce injuries.  Called exosuits, the devices are strapped onto workers and include sensors and algorithms to measure movement and loads lifted, in addition to skeleton-like attachments that support the wearer’s back and hips.  Verve Motion (, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, offers a battery-powered exosuit called SafeLift that promises to take 30% of strain off of people when they perform physically strenuous tasks.

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