The deployment of sensor networks for factory automation and process control is nothing new in industrial contexts. Nevertheless, these conventional networks are mostly hardwired and are implemented to serve time-sensitive, localized tasks only. Significant costs and complexity resulting from the lack of a scalable and versatile communications infrastructure have been major barriers to building an effective facility-wide environmental sensor network. Manually tracking ambient data kills time and productivity, not to mention the high likelihood of human input errors. In some cases, companies may refrain from acquiring this critical data altogether.
Managing environmental conditions has commonly been a reactive process. In indoor applications, this is often done by using heating, cooling and ventilation equipment. Nevertheless, HVAC operations are not always reliable and businesses lack an accurate picture of what the actual environment really looks like. If the equipment malfunctions, it can take a while until the problem is identified, leading to widespread and sometimes irreversible consequences. The challenge intensifies in outdoor contexts where little can be done to influence environmental factors.
IoT and its counterpart, Industrial IoT (IIoT), are rapidly changing the face of multiple industries by bringing in a new layer of operational transparency. A 2018 research by Inmarsat revealed that monitoring environmental changes is one of the primary drivers behind IoT deployments in sectors like mining, energy and agriculture. Businesses reported that having environmental data at their disposal would allow them to adopt leaner business models, improve staff safety and operate with less impact on environments. IoT enabled environmental monitoring solutions collect data across vast production sites and map it with existing business systems, enabling an efficient and centralized management approach. By integrating contextual information, companies can attain a holistic view of their production, identify bottlenecks and understand what is driving operational efficiency.
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