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What is the Hyperconnected Era & “The Internet Of Things” and What does it Have to Do with Manufacturing & Logistics?

internet of things

Editor's Note: This is our second post in a collaborative blog post series about mobility in manufacturing & logistics along with Catavolt, who helps manufacturing organizations drive operational excellence with mobile apps. We encourage our audience to visit The Catavolt Blog for more relevant posts about mobility in manufacturing for best practices, tips, and great industry insights.

Hyperconnectivity is the increasing digital interconnection of people – and things – anytime and anywhere. By 2020 there will be 50 billion networked devices. This level of connectivity will have profound social, political and economic consequences, and increasingly form part of our everyday lives, from the cars we drive and medicines we take, to the jobs we do and the governance systems we live in, to even the business technology systems we use. This growing movement of such hyperconnectivity is known as the Hyperconnected Era or often referred to now as "The Internet of Things."

In this two part series around the Hyperconnected Era and "The Internet of Things" we will first explain what is the Hyperconnected Era and "The Internet of Things." Tomorrow we will then go on to envision a not so distant future and what it could mean for manufacturers who are using business process enablement tools and systems through technology such as warehouse management systems (WMS), enterprise resource planning technology (ERP), track and trace technology, load optimization, GPS, RFID, Labor Management Systems, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) sytems, and of course, a system very near and dear to our hearts here at Cerasis, the transportation mangement system.

In our post entitled, "How 5 Emerging Technologies Will Change the Services of 3rd Party Logistics Providers" we briefly spoke about how The Internet of Things will affect logistics stating that it will increase visibility:

Visibility is one of the biggest problems for goods in transit. The application of the Internet of Things (IoT) along with cloud-based GPS will make it possible to keep track of individual items and their conditions. IoT makes use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips that “talk” to each other. Chips attached to individual items will transmit data such as identification, location, temperature, pressure, and humidity.

The implication of this capability will be immense. Goods will no longer be lost or misplaced in transit since each product will transmit its location. With immediate notification comes direct action and the avoidance of damaged goods when the chip signals oncoming adverse weather conditions, such as high temperature or humidity. Not only that, they will also be able to transmit traffic conditions and drive-specific data, such as average speed and driving patterns back to the central office. As supply chain and transportation visibility is a hot topic for Logistics Managers and Directors, 3rd party logistics providers, who adopt this type of technology, are surely to reap the rewards of highly satisfied customers.

This post got us and many others thinking about the more entrenched possibility of the Internet of Things and the rise of the "Hyperconnected Era" and it's impact on transportation and logistics.

What is the Hyperconnected Era or "The Internet of Things?"

But first, let's back up a bit. We never want to take for granted that although this subject is one of the hottest trends looking to transform the world the way the internet did that everyone understands what is the Hyperconnected Era of "The Internet of Things."

The hyperconnected world is today’s reality. No longer are we in a world where consumers and employees “go online” to work, play, or purchase; we are now in a world where everyone and everything simply is online, whether at home, at school, at the office, or on-the-go. This new era brings with it an acceleration of innovation and disruption. It’s a world filled with opportunity for those willing to embrace it and able to tame it. All around us, across every industry, companies are discovering new audiences, creating new revenue streams, building new ecosystems, and inventing new business models – all online, all at an unprecedented pace. The Internet has evolved from being a “nice-to-have” – an additional channel for growth – to becoming the channel for growth and innovation.

What does it mean to be hyperconnected? Today, commercial wireless signals already cover more of the world’s population than the electrical grid, and the number of connected devices around the globe is expected to hit anywhere from 50 billion to a staggering one trillion in the next five years. The sheer enormity of digital information that now connects us is mind-blowing. Cisco estimated that by this year, the amount of data crossing the Internet every 5 minutes will be equivalent to the total size of all movies ever made, and that annual Internet traffic will reach a zettabyte – roughly 200 times the total size of all words ever spoken by humans.

For businesses, the hyperconnected world brings hyper-accelerated innovation. The Web itself has evolved from simple, static brochure-ware sites to highly interactive, personalized, rich applications driven by real-time data and social feedback. Mobile applications extend the evolution even further. As we use a growing collection of devices to stay connected – from laptop to tablet to phone to TV, we are changing the way we work, play, and communicate.

How did we get to the Buzzword, "The Internet of Things" or "IoT"?

The concept of a network of smart devices was discussed as early as 1982, with a modified Coke machine at Carnegie Mellon University becoming the first internet connected appliance, able to report its inventory and whether newly loaded drinks were cold.  Mark Weiser's seminal 1991 paper on ubiquitous computing, "The Computer of the 21st Century", as well as academic venues such as UbiComp and PerCom produced the contemporary vision of "The Internet of Things" or often shortened to IoT.

In 1994 Reza Raji described the concept in IEEE Spectrum as "[moving] small packets of data to a large set of nodes, so as to integrate and automate everything from home appliances to entire factories". However, only in 1999 did the field start gathering momentum. Bill Joy envisioned Device to Device (D2D) communication as part of his "Six Webs" framework, presented at the World Economic Forum at Davos in 1999.

Kevin Ashton supposedly coined the phrase "Internet of Things" while working for Procter & Gamble in 1999. He later co-founded the Auto-ID Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Ashton talked in depth about IoT to the RFIDJournal.com in 2009"

"Today computers - and, therefore, the internet - are almost wholly dependent on human beings for information. Nearly all of the roughly 50 petabytes of data available on the internet were first captured and created by human beings - by typing, pressing a record button, taking a digital picture or scanning a bar code," Ashton explained

"Conventional diagrams of the internet include servers and routers and so on, but they leave out the most numerous and important routers of all: people. The problem is, people have limited time, attention and accuracy - all of which means they are not very good at capturing data about things in the real world."

Ashton added that IoT had grown a lot since 2009, but he claimed it has still has much further to go. He's looking beyond your car notifying you of a bogged-down toll road. In fact, he said IoT had the potential to change the world, just like the internet did (or "even more so").

What is an Example of Internet of Things?

IBM's Smarter Planet team created a 5-minute video that wholly explains Internet of Things and provides a brilliant example. Watch the video for more details, or you can just read Pocket-lint's paraphrased summary below.

According to Gartner, Inc., there will be nearly 26 billion devices on the Internet of Things by 2020. ABI Research estimates that more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the Internet of Things by 2020. As per a recent survey and study done by Pew Research Internet Project, a large majority of the technology experts and engaged Internet users who responded—83 percent—agreed with the notion that the Internet/Cloud of Things, embedded and wearable computing (and the corresponding dynamic systems) will have widespread and beneficial effects by 2025. It is, as such, clear that the IoT will consist of a very large number of devices being connected to the Internet.

Integration with the Internet implies that devices will utilize an IP address as a unique identifier. However, due to the limited address space of IPv4 (which allows for 4.3 billion unique addresses), objects in the IoT will have to use IPv6 to accommodate the extremely large address space required. Objects in the IoT will not only be devices with sensory capabilities, but also provide actuation capabilities (e.g., bulbs or locks controlled over the Internet). To a large extent, the future of the Internet of Things will not be possible without the support of IPv6; and consequently the global adoption of IPv6 in the coming years will be critical for the successful development of the IoT in the future.

What is "The Internet of Things" Impact on Manufacturing & Logistics?

Network control and management of manufacturing equipment, asset and situation management, or manufacturing process control bring the IoT within the realm on industrial applications and smart manufacturing as well. The IoT intelligent systems enable rapid manufacturing of new products, dynamic response to product demands, and real-time optimization of manufacturing production and supply chain networks, by networking machinery, sensors and control systems together.

Digital control systems to automate process controls, operator tools and service information systems to optimize plant safety and security are within the purview of the IoT. But it also extends itself to asset management via predictive maintenance, statistical evaluation, and measurements to maximize reliability. Smart industrial management systems can also be integrated with the Smart Grid, thereby enabling real-time energy optimization. Measurements, automated controls, plant optimization, health and safety management, and other functions are provided by a large number of networked sensors.

Logistics companies were among the first to adopt mobile devices as a means to manage and monitor their processes. Initially the hand-held devices that delivery drivers used delivered benefits primarily by simplifying and automating existing paper-based processes.

With the emergence of lower cost, always connected, location aware devices, the current generation of mobile technology and the growing Internet of Things allows logistics companies to move beyond simply making existing processes better, by making it possible to dynamically track both vehicles and the packages they carry.

The Internet-of-Things can include connected intelligence in different elements of logistics infrastructure:

  • Vehicles—This is perhaps the epicenter of IoT in logistics, with modern trucks, planes, locomotives, and ships bristling with sensors, embedded processors, and wireless connectivity.
  • Sites—Vehicles and containers pass through or dwell in many sites on their journey, including ports, yards, consolidation/deconsolidation centers, warehouses, and distribution centers. A tremendous amount of intelligence and sensing capability can be embedded in the equipment and structures of the sites, including:
    • Mobile equipment—e.g. forklifts, yard tractors, container handlers, mobile cranes, and so forth;
    • Stationary or semi-stationary equipment—e.g. gantry cranes, conveyor belts, carousels, automated storage and retrieval systems;
    • Site structures and ingress/egress points—e.g. sensors in dock doors, yard entry/exit gates, light poles, embedded in floors or under pavement, attached to ceilings and other structures.
  • Roads/Lanes—Intelligence is starting to be built into roadways, railways, runways, canals/locks, and other transportation conduits. Because they cover so much more territory, the intelligence built into these is typically sparser than IoT in the vehicles and sites.

There are several benefits of the future use of IoT in logistics and transportation, which we will paint a picture of in tomorrow's post. The hyperconnected world and the "Internet of Things" presents  tremendous opportunities for businesses to lead through innovation and evolution. To do so, companies  need to understand the changing  business dynamics driven by the new online paradigm. What are you looking forward to most from the uprising of the hyperconnected era and "The Internet of Things?" Let us know in the comments section below!

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Adam Robinson
Adam Robinson oversees the overall marketing strategy for Cerasis including website development, social media and content marketing, trade show marketing, email campaigns, and webinar marketing. Mr. Robinson works with the business development department to create messaging that attracts the right decision makers, gaining inbound leads and increasing brand awareness all while shortening sales cycles, the time it takes to gain sales appointments and set proper sales and execution expectations.
Adam Robinson
Adam Robinson

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