Four Breakout Enterprise IoT Use Cases in 2021

According to a new study, IoT has made the top of the list of the most important technologies of 2021. Additionally, the market for commercial and industrial IoT is booming, with manufacturing taking the largest share of enterprise IoT implementations.

There’s no doubt that recent growth has been driven by a renewed focus on proven and robust return on investment. Maximizing the returns of an IoT solution involves analysis of the application, feasibility of the technical solution, and a detailed cost-benefit analysis. As such, forward-thinking businesses are looking at IoT as the catalyst for digitizing their operations. 

In the early years of IoT, many engagements failed because of a lack of experience, precise requirements, or maintenance commitment. Therefore, it’s imperative to establish early on what you hope to get out of your IoT solution and create a plan of attack around your business’ personal needs.

With that as a backdrop, there are four current breakout areas for enterprise IoT that are directly translating into revenue growth or cost savings for commercial and industrial organizations. Here’s a look at the areas where enterprises will see the biggest return on their investment in IoT in 2021. 

Predictive Analysis & Maintenance

One of the most effective use cases for Industrial IoT (IIoT) systems today is enabling performance of critical OEM equipment. Physical asset performance analysis, including condition monitoring and failure prediction, are the keys to enhanced outcomes. This use case directly addresses a common error in judgement within the industrial sector: if the asset is broken, then fix it, otherwise, check on it periodically.

Using IoT to predict failures before they occur — while understanding what is needed to prevent a repeat failure — is a far better approach. A single loss can often pay for the IoT system many times over. A study from Deloitte found that predictive maintenance will save companies $630B by 2025, with most of the cost savings coming from a reduction in unscheduled downtime. 

But while focusing on machine health and predictive maintenance have traditionally been the drivers of IoT implementation in manufacturing, this industry has the opportunity to gain more visibility into the intricate linear and nonlinear relationships between parts, machines, and assembly lines.

Furthermore, modern, flexible IoT systems complement legacy systems by identifying failure modes that were never designed to be monitored. IoT is designed to alert OEMs to failures buried within the equipment or inadvertently hidden by the customer or independent service representative. Predicting asset behavior requires knowledge of the equipment, the application, and the IoT technology.

Working closely with an experienced industrial IoT system designer, OEMs can accelerate deployment and gain competitive advantages sooner. Remote access to data about equipment in the field provides enormous value to OEMs who are often cut off from the end customer by third-party installers and service providers.

And while being able to view a pressure sensor value of 40 PSI remotely may be technically impressive by itself, a more valuable could be to send an urgent text message to a service manager. Automatically informing them that “the historical trends of similar equipment, and current sensor value of 40 PSI, indicates that their asset has a 95 percent chance of failure within the next 1,000 hours of operation, and an equipment inspection has prompted the appropriate service team member.”

Improving Efficiency

Improving the energy efficiency of physical assets is a common management objective that can be accomplished effectively today using IoT. The combination of rising costs of energy production, environmental concerns, and increased regulations expands the need for IoT.

In manufacturing especially, it’s critical to monitor and reduce energy consumption wherever possible. More broadly, OEM designed physical assets consume substantial energy across many applications. However, because they are often mechanical or thermal in nature, these assets are prone to degraded operation and failure over time. 

Using IoT to save energy involves measuring and normalizing ideal performance against environmental conditions. Production results can then be represented digitally as a function of energy consumed, carbon produced, and financial cost versus work performed. While primarily focused on energy savings, these efforts will deliver additional benefits for manufacturers, including higher production quality and extended asset life.

Increasing Safety

In the midst of the pandemic, addressing safety issues is another use case for enterprise IoT that has both bottom line business and life-saving impacts. In many industries, there exist environmental hazards for equipment, people, and surrounding communities. Measurement of high voltage, monitoring of refrigeration temperatures, volatile gas, and liquid handling, effluent release of chemicals, nuclear radiation, construction site safety, and unauthorized intrusions are only a few of the areas where IoT is increasingly deployed.

These solutions are widely distributed, ruggedized, scalable, and cost-effective. IoT solutions are always on, always connected, and remotely accessible. They provide broad, deep, and vigilant coverage of physical assets that are difficult or impossible to achieve through human monitoring alone. 

Furthermore, during the COVID-19 pandemic, enterprise IoT solutions have enabled industrial maintenance teams to stay safely remote. Rather than needing to send crews into buildings without an underlying need, real-time insight from sensors on how assembly lines and mission-critical assets such are performing has allowed them to utilize human staff in only the most dire scenarios. 

In most scenarios, the business case is often driven by the desire to lower or eliminate risk. Improved employee safety, mitigation of environmental impact, and compliance with regulatory changes are expected benefits. Furthermore, implementing an IoT solution may be possible to extend the life expectancy of a facility or critical asset through improved safety and operating conditions.

Indeed experts agree that without IoT, facility managers can end up in a position to defer maintenance, which can result in safety, health, and environmental implications. 

Optimizing Productivity

Improving overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) is yet another important consideration for enterprise companies and OEMs alike. By leveraging the power of cloud computing and IoT, it is possible to deliver exceptional returns. In fact, ITIF Research found that monitoring machine utilization with IoT can improve manufacturing productivity by 10 to 25 percent.

Industry 4.0, powered by IoT, broadly represents many emerging methods, all focused on improving productivity and reliability. Productivity use cases can deliver the highest returns on investment. While these applications are complex to implement, an experienced IoT designer can help OEMs prioritize and design practical starting solutions.

However, the practicality of these solutions can only be determined by the wants and needs of the businesses that implement them. As such, engaging with IoT for the sake of keeping up with digitization is a big mistake. 

The reasons for the massive growth in IoT applications, mainly industrial IoT applications, are pretty clear and compelling. But like all sectors, industrial is under pandemic induced budget constraints. That’s why in 2021, only ROI driven implementations that create real business value will be considered.