2021 IIoT Trends

2020 was a year full of challenges, and the manufacturing industry was no exception. In the face of difficulty, however, manufacturers also rose to the opportunity to help. They found ways to maintain and increase capacity; work safely; and fulfill the needs not only of critical areas such as medical devices, but also in manufacturing the everyday products that continued to provide a resemblance of normalcy.

In many ways, the ability to meet these challenges was driven by technology, with capabilities such as automation and remote monitoring and operation leading the way and enabling manufacturers to ramp up operations and keep workers safe and healthy.

Technological advances will continue to power IIoT trends in 2021, with areas including safety, reliability and flexibility set to be key concerns throughout this year and beyond.

Read on for a look at some of the top Industrial Internet of Things trends anticipated for the coming months.

Potential Industrial IoT Trends for 2021

1. Remote Monitoring and Operation 

Sensors are behind so many of the advances of Industry 4.0, and they are a key driver in this area. One of the primary benefits of process- and performance-monitoring sensors is that the data and insights that they provide can be accessed from anywhere, at any time. This enables around-the-clock monitoring and decision-making based on real-time data, no matter where personnel are located.

As technology continues to evolve, remote monitoring and analytic solutions such as Reliability 360™ will be supplemented by the ability to control equipment from anywhere, as well.

2. Sensor Advances and Innovations

With the vast strides being made in communications technology, including the long-awaited widespread availability of 5G networking, facilities will be able to install more sensors to collect more data and have even more information upon which to act.

One of the most exciting innovations in sensor technology and usage is the ability to gain more context about data points through multiple sensors, painting a fuller picture of operations and allowing for greater insight into unexpected events — and the ability to prevent them.

3. Data-Driven Predictive Technologies 

Unexpected downtime is, as always, one of the biggest wastes of resources for a manufacturer, cutting into the bottom line, threatening deadlines, and adversely affecting equipment life span and output quality.

With advanced sensors and communications developments that bring monitoring closer to real time than ever before, predictive technology is poised to make a major breakthrough in 2021. Predictive maintenance is the primary manifestation of these advances, enabling manufacturers to identify potential problems early, schedule downtime when convenient, ensure that parts and personnel are prepared, and keep operations running as planned.

4. Digital Twins 

Remote access is a common thread through 2021 trends in IIoT, for convenience and productivity as much as for health and safety (which we will discuss in greater depth below). One of the biggest advances in remote manufacturing operations is digital twin technology, which is a digital representation of a physical component or machine in a factory.

Through sensors and connectivity, the digital twin is constantly updated to reflect the actual condition, status and performance of the physical piece. Technology such as AI enables simulations that can aid in planning and forecasting — all without the need to be on the factory floor, or even on-site.

5. Health and Safety

Worker health and safety took on a new meaning in 2020, with the need to keep employees distanced whenever possible, and the ongoing concern over the health of those working in the same area.

The principles underlying monitoring technologies used for machines can also apply in this area, with the ability to monitor employee locations on the facility floor, track close contacts, and even quickly and easily take and record employee temperatures. Innovative ways of using IIoT technology to keep workers healthy provides benefits for employees as well as the facility.

6. Flexibility and Agility

Supply chain disruptions were one of the main outcomes of the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, creating additional pressure on manufacturers scrambling to keep their operations up and running.

The data analysis and communication enabled by IIoT advances provides unprecedented flexibility in areas such as supply chain, enabling manufacturers to be agile in supplier selection, ordering and procurement strategy, and inventory management. The lessons of 2020 will likely mean that these areas remain of great importance in 2021.

These trends reflect the ongoing rise of sensor technology and communication, while taking into account the newfound need for remote monitoring and access, as well as a new facet of worker health and safety concerns.

As a leader in industrial maintenance for over three decades, ATS is ready to help you navigate the 2021 landscape, so you are equipped to take advantage of these IIoT trends now and in the future. From sensors and remote monitoring/analytics, to turnkey comprehensive maintenance, we have the breadth and depth to be your one technology source for improved uptime and productivity.  Contact ATS for more information.