Posted By Simon Montford on Nov 11 2019
The Internet as we know it is transitioning from a centralised network that primarily connects humans (Web 2.0), to a decentralised network that primarily connects autonomous machines (Web 3.0). Tomorrow's Internet will not only be more machine-centric, but (hopefully) more decentralised, democratic, ethical, and efficient. The three primary ingredients that are making this a reality are IoT for machine connectivity, AI for machine automation, and DLT (blockchain) for distributed machine interaction.
This means that as humans we will need to adjust to a potential new reality; a world where connected entities made of silicon, rather than of carbon, will become a greater part of our everyday lives. Our cars will be self-driving, and mission-critical industrial assets like power stations, factories, and perhaps even aircraft will one day become fully autonomous. This is a notion that society has yet to fully comprehend, let alone embrace.
Many working in the automotive and technology sector predicted that smart city technology and driverless cars would be welcomed with open arms, and then rapidly adopted. They incorrectly assumed that saving lives and reducing carbon emissions would be enough to win over hearts and minds, but it turns out they were wrong. This is because they never expected that sociological and political factors would trump technological innovation and (arguably) common sense. The problem is that voters are a complex and often irrational bunch, so logic can't be relied upon to win consensus. For this reason, I predicted the adoption of machine automation within almost every consumer-facing vertical would take far longer than expected. In fact I think resistance will continue for many years to come.
This is one of the primary reasons why we at WEB3//IOT decided to shift away from consumer-facing verticals and focus our attention on heavy industry verticals.
Unbeknownst to most members of the general public, companies like Rio Tinto have been operating autonomous driverless trucks for quite a while. In fact, the mining conglomerate just ordered 20 Caterpillar 793F trucks for its forthcoming $2.6 billion intelligent mine project. Once fully realised, their mines will enable not only mining trucks, but also other heavy assets such as loaders, dozers, graders, water carts and diggers to interconnect and operate autonomously.
Much of the work done by heavy industrial machines takes place in remote locations far from the glow of small towns and bright lights of big cities. Replacing human workers with ruggedised robots and driverless trucks to extract resources does not involve taking on government regulators, workers' unions, or mainstream media. Mostly because replacing humans with machines makes perfect sense. Especially when it involves tasks that are hazardous, stressful, and repetitive. Particularly if work is being done in remote locations where there's already a shortage of human labour. This is why companies such as JCB, CAT, and Leibherr are facing far fewer challenges compared to the likes of Uber, Lyft, and Side Walk Labs, and why heavy industry is driving adoption of machine automation.
Earlier this month I attended IoT Solutions World Congress and came across a few innovative companies that are focusing on helping heavy industry digitise and automate their business operations.
First worth mentioning is ZYFRA, a startup that leverages Industrial Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence to help operators digitise and automate their business operations. On their impressive stand, they had a very intricate model that they used to demonstrated how autonomous heavy trucks, infrastructure (including automatic gates, traffic lights, data transmission systems, and control centres) could be used by their customers to gain operational efficiency and increase worker safety. Their solution is being implemented at coal mining sites operated by SUEK.
ZYFRA has also developed an AI tool for the Oil Gas industry designed to help optimise the operation of oil pumps and increase oil production by over 1.5%. They claim that a recent pilot generated an additional $1.7M/year for their test partner.
The next company attending the show was PRANA Systems; an Industrial IoT solution for diagnostics and predictive analytics of industrial equipment to improve equipment performance and cut operating costs.
Also worth a mention is Pathfindr', which enables businesses in sectors as diverse as manufacturing, aerospace, pharma, retail, agriculture and public services to take advantage of asset intelligence to boost efficiency and productivity.
Finally, IOTech (the IoT Edge Platform company) demonstrated Edge XRT; an exciting new IoT technology that the company launched at IOTSWC19. It is a new software platform for targeting time-critical and resource-constrained embedded Industrial IoT (IIoT) applications at the edge.
IOTech showcased Edge XRT by demonstrating an implementation of a Universal Well Controller (UWC) running on Intel hardware and based on EdgeX/XRT. It demonstrated how the platform can be used to support a range of time-critical oil and gas Edge IoT use cases.
Edge XRT is targeted at software defined real-time controllers used in process automation and industrial control applications across different vertical domains including, factory automation, oil and gas, utilities, smart energy and renewables where low latency and deterministic processing is a critical requirement. It also enables integration between the real-time Edge control systems and higher-level SCADA applications.
XRT will be a fully integrated and complementary licensed extension to EdgeX Foundry the leading Open Source Edge Platform, making EdgeX the only IoT Edge Platform capable of supporting the full spectrum of secure hard and soft real-time IoT edge computing needs.
ZYFRA is a Finland-based company with an R&D centre in Russia, which provides IoT and AI-based solutions for the industrial sector. The company's key fields of industry are machinery, metallurgy, mining, oil & gas and chemical enterprises. The company has operations in Finland, Russia, China, India, Singapore, Bulgaria, Romania and Peru.
PRANA has been installed on 22 combined circle generating units and combustion turbine units across Russia and in Kazakhstan. Equipment using their technology has a value that exceeds $4 billion. PRANA aims to detect faults 2-3 months in advance, and takes only one month to install and setup. PRANA is OEM-agnostic and is compatible with many types of equipment made by various manufacturers.
Pathfindr is an industrial IoT platform which provides businesses with a real-time view of their assets – including indoor and outdoor asset location (RTLS). Besides asset location, the technology can also identify process efficiencies by tracking parts through the supply chain and highlighting where time is wasted. The company works collaboratively to continuously improve its software and, with zero infrastructure required for its hardware installation, it is accessible to all.
IOTech builds and deploys open and secure software edge platforms for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) helping drive IoT innovation, global market adoption, velocity and scale. The company's products address the full spectrum of secure hard and soft real-time edge computing needs, dramatically reducing time to market and system integration costs for our partners who are the supply chains to multiple vertical IIoT market domains. We leverage an open source execution strategy to develop our growing global partner ecosystem, achieve pervasive adoption and develop channels for our complementary licensed software products.
About EdgeX Foundry
EdgeX Foundry is an open-source project hosted by the Linux Foundation that is building a common open platform for IoT edge computing. The interoperable platform enables an ecosystem of plug-and-play components that unifies the marketplace and accelerates the deployment of IoT solutions across a wide variety of industrial and enterprise use cases. EdgeX is vendor-neutral and uses the Apache 2.0 open source licensing model. As such, EdgeX is a key enabler of digital transformation for IoT use cases and businesses across vertical markets.
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