IIoT on the Plant Floor? There’s an App for That

IIoT on the Plant Floor? There’s an App for That

It’s just eight years since the famous TV commercial by a consumer tech giant offered a variety of scenarios and promised… “There’s an app for that.”

Since then the way we communicate has changed – especially in groups. Take this example of a family scenario – you probably do the same without even thinking about it.

Let's say one parent is cooking dinner while a teenage son does homework in his room and the other parent is collecting a teenage daughter after sports practice.

When the first parent realises the family is out of a vital ingredient, the first thought before stepping out of the kitchen to call the son upstairs, and before calling the other parent, is to post to the family chat app:

“Help! We’re out of garlic.”

With a selfie, stirring a pan of puttanesca (pasta) sauce.

The daughter in the car relays the problem to the other parent and responds within a few seconds:

“We can stop at the shop on the way home if it’s still open.”

Then from his room upstairs, but clearly following the unfolding disaster with a vested interest, the son messages:

“I’ve just checked online; the supermarket is open until 8 p.m. – you’ve got time – please save dinner!”

And he includes a link to the supermarket opening times, an offer on garlic, and a whole load of emojis (that no-one understands)!

And so, from one message, and without needing to leave the pan untended or shut down the cooking operation, the problem was solved. Using the open platform’s chat and image functions, the web’s immense data resource and by pulling in the whole family in real-time, dinner is saved.

Traditionally, troubleshooting in an industrial environment is much more cumbersome. Identifying the problem might not always be possible for the person who finds it. Getting the right person to identify it may take time. Getting the right tools or manuals; more time.

Getting in touch via email or phone with the right engineers; more time still. Put simply, traditional factories don’t always “save the puttanesca” in time because they are not as efficient in managing teams as a modern family.

In fact, there is no reason for this to be the case and one of the most exciting aspects of improved connectivity and use of consumer technology in the industrial environment is how lifestyle apps have influenced the development of industry apps which offer a similar level of mobility and flexibility.

Young people especially are digital natives – they simply expect life to be fully connected. For young people in the industrial environment, apps can offer a level of independence to address an issue but call in the skills of the rest of the team, using video, image and chat functions, as well as the instant access to information repositories to tackle issues in real-time.

Apps that enable them to identify and link the problem with the experience, manuals and skills to resolve it, wherever those solutions are located.

Using mobile apps in this way makes the rigid systems and processes associated with heavily regulated environments feel much lighter and more natural, and, since they work independently of the automation and control systems, they don’t require changes to the operating equipment, just how that equipment is operated.

It’s the IIoT, now, and in many ways, thanks to consumer technology adoption, we already know how it works. The best part is watching the creative ways that people are applying the technology to meet the challenges of their own environments.

Whatever your specific needs around frictionless mobility in the industrial space, there’s probably an app for it.

If you haven’t already seen it, take a look at our own FactoryTalk TeamOne app developed with our friends at Microsoft. With new functionality being added all the time, it’s rapidly changing how industrial sites are operated.

Just like many of the consumer apps that have changed the way we tackle everyday life, it’s free and available from the iTunes and Google Play app stores.

Michel Huy
Posted October 23, 2017 By Michel Huy, Director, Information Solutions, EMEA, Rockwell Automation
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