The Internet of Things (IoT) is an emerging field that has a vast number of applications in a broad range of disciplines.  One field that is being immensely benefited by the emergence of this innovative technology is automation and control.  The expanding range of IoT technologies has been very effectively leveraged to solve problems, increase efficiency and improve operations in this field.  But why is IoT so well suited for automation and control?

When IoT is introduced to automation and control, several almost miraculous things happen.  Automation mechanisms, sensors and actuators become Internet enabled devices, having their own unique communications addresses.  Via these addresses, they can be operated remotely, either from a system on site or even over the Internet and they can be used to acquire vast amounts of useful and valuable data.  Multiple devices within a system can be controlled collectively and can adjust themselves based on input and information that they acquire from each other.  Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence software (EMI) can collect this and other data from many sources for reporting, analysis and visual synopses.

IoT uses open communications standards – the same standards that have allowed the Internet to flourish over the past decade.  This is why automation and control IoTcan be self-configuring, self-organising, self-healing, scalable to large sizes andhas low energy consumption, all for a comparably low cost.  Current proprietary and closed automation and control standards don’t have the flexibility or the longevity of those used within the framework of IoT.  These standards include IP addressing, MAC addressing and the IEEE 802.11 and 802.15 series wireless standards, more widely known as Wi-Fi and ZigBee.  These standards will become as commonplace for automation and control as YY cable and Common Industrial Protocol (CIP) have become for industrial automation applications.

Traditional automation and control applications have reached saturation.  They can no longer provide for the rapidly evolving needs of the industry.  The big new opportunities for success and unprecedented growth are within the domain of IoT.  Although the technology has potential, there are still many critical challenges that need to be resolved.  It is still maturing, however, it will soon reach a critical point.  It is estimated that a massive 50 billion devices will be IoT connected by 2020.  It’s really not that far away.  An appreciable portion of those devices will be within the realm of automation and control.  For those businesses whose bread and butter is within this realm, learning about and investing in IoT will be of utmost importance.