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April 10, 2018

The Monetization Opportunity In Edge Computing Data

Tim Butler

(By BeeBright/Shutterstock)

With increasing innovation and adoption of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology, it seems that some companies are hesitant to begin implementing the technology.  Upfront costs often appear prohibitive while benefits remain unclear or untested, so it is all the more important for companies to begin to recognize how the technology can stimulate business growth and boost competitive advantage. In order to lessen the barriers to widespread adoption, IT managers need a deeper understanding of the positive financial impact this technology will have in the long term.

A recent GE Digital study, the Industrial Evolution Index, reveals the current state of industrial IIoT technology implementation. While organizations understand that IIoT can be used to streamline processes and grow business, the technology is not yet widely used to positively influence financial outcomes.

Such a revolution of thought must begin with dispelling the myth that IIoT technology merely produces large quantities of data. Instead, there should be a greater emphasis upon the possibilities this data can unlock. The reality is, edge assets are capable of data processing just like a regular computer. When objects have edge computing capabilities directly atop, there is an outstanding opportunity to monetize the data that is produced.

More Planes in the Air

Edge asset data that is stored at the source can significantly increase the overall efficiency of maintenance and overhaul processes in many industries. Especially in aerospace, as personnel interact with IIoT enabled assets, the ability to read and update data in real-time provides incredibly valuable benefits. To begin with, there is an immediate impact on labor costs for these airlines when maintenance technicians have immediate access to maintenance records, test results or compliance statuses —  versus having to search paper records or access separately located databases.

(Austin Deppe/Shutterstock)

When edge data is instantly available, there’s also a reduction in the time planes spend on the tarmac undergoing maintenance and safety checks. Grounds crews can digitally check maintenance statuses, leading to faster turnaround times and increased profitability of each aircraft. Furthermore, digitally equipped objects avoid risk of early replacement or jettison because of missing or incomplete maintenance history. Since the history can never be separated from the object, records can’t be misplaced. Eliminating both the unnecessary cost of new parts and the time required to replace the parts constitutes a significant financial incentive for airlines to implement IIoT technology.

Value in Reliable Monitoring

Attaching computing power to assets in industries that require authentication or close tracking is one of the more clearly monetizable solutions this technology provides. For chemical, manufacturing and pharmaceutical industries in particular, the entire supply chain must be monitored and documented for safety and security.

The competitive advantage implicit in IIoT-based tracking of assets in these industries is incomparable to any other tracking method. Such “digitized” assets would allow detailed tracking and handling information to be produced and stored on top of the asset, providing final recipients with a fully up-to-date digital record of the product’s history.

(Sisacorn/Shutterstock)

In the pharmaceutical industry, this is an especially important application that can be used to fight the rising prevalence of counterfeit medicine. Meanwhile, with the ability to digitally track each medication’s path from production to distribution — and every step in between — companies can also limit the risk of contamination leading to costly recalls and heavy penalties. Furthermore, if a recall does become necessary, the digital history will allow the damaged batch to be quickly identified and isolated, eliminating the necessity for a product wide recall. Eliminated risk and unparalleled accuracy are tangible monetary benefits that edge asset data can provide.

A Faster On-Boarding Process

Finally, there is a unifying issue across multiple industries that edge asset data stands to address: an increasing skills gap between new employees and current staff. Although the issue is most prominent in manufacturing, the effects are felt everywhere. While the skills gap continues to grow, edge asset data can mitigate or even eliminate the effects.

Data gleaned by edge computing allows objects, machines, or products to hold interactive information – written or video operating instructions, step-by-step task direction, etc. – to guide new employees through the operating process and instruct them to complete new and unfamiliar tasks that would otherwise need close oversight and training time.

Experienced employees would also be able to leverage their intimate knowledge of these processes and embed advice or notes onto the assets they work with. That way, the information is easily accessible to all employees across the organization and doesn’t require that current employees take time out of their workday to explain the “tricks of the trade.” These digitized assets will not replace expert workers, but will aid them in more efficient and effective training.

The ability to store, process and monetize data at the source will be prove to be a key differentiating factor in many industries, but widespread adoption of IIoT technology cannot be achieved until the tangible financial benefits are universally understood.

About the Author: Timothy Butler is the founder and chief executive officer of Tego, whose technology turns products, components and systems into smart assets. He has a 20-plus year track record taking quantifiable risks to grow market share and achieve profit-generating status for emerging technologies. He holds an MBA from the Wharton School and a master’s degree in international political economy from Northwestern University. Tego is Tim’s third technology company; prior to this he was CEO and founder of SiteScape. Tim’s dog, Finley, comes to work with him almost every day.

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