Building the factories, offices, homes and cities of the future with IoT

Rebecca Lambert
Rebecca Lambert
By Rebecca Lambert on 02 April 2015
Building the factories, offices, homes and cities of the future with IoT

Having been involved in a host of impressive internet of things (IoT) implementations – Microsoft’s 500-acre campus, Washington Athletic Club and King County to name but a few – ICONICS knows what it takes to help businesses connect their products and systems, and turn data into actionable business insight.

The company, which specialises in automation software, will be joining Microsoft at this year’s Hannover Messe to showcase how manufacturers can take advantage of IoT. As a key partner featured in the Microsoft booth (C48 in Digital Factory Hall 7), ICONICS will be involved in live demonstrations, explaining how companies are deploying IoT and cloud technology to enable significant operational efficiencies and boost productivity while keeping workers safe in a busy automated environment.

One of the highlights at the show will involve KUKA assembly robots. By using Microsoft Kinect and ICONICS automation software, the robot assembly speed is adjusted based on the proximity of the operator to the robot.

“Today, if someone makes physical contact with a robot then it automatically stops. The Fabrikam dishwasher manufacturing application, which integrates Kinect with our automation software, takes that a step further,” ICONICS president and CEO Russ Agrusa explains. “So, now, as someone gets closer to the robot, Kinect, through its sensors, is able to signal the robot to slow down. It’s a very exciting concept.”

And this is just the start. The manufacturer is using IoT and the Azure cloud platform to monitor all of its robots’ activities and carry out quality control for each of the parts they manufacture and assemble. Microsoft and ICONICS will be releasing a video at the event that illustrates the full scenario.

When asked why IoT is such a hot trend in the manufacturing industry today, Agrusa believes it’s because we’re now reaching a point where technological innovation is making it much easier and cheaper to connect ‘things’.

“IoT is a disruptive technology. As we move away from the client server/on-premise architectures and more towards cloud computing, we’re able to give users much more flexibility around how they want to deploy their applications,” he says. “IoT is a step towards making things more cloud-enabled and scalable, giving manufacturers the capabilities to seamlessly connect their plant-wide equipment and data.”

ICONICS is seeing a lot of activity in this space, and is engaged with Microsoft on a number of large-scale deployments – details of which will be revealed in the coming months. Already, though, through ICONICS Platform Cloud Services, the company is helping buildings run more efficiently and save more energy, enabling manufacturers to be more productive, better understand their customers’ needs and save significant costs.

“ICONICS Platform Cloud Services, on which our customers build their IoT implementations, is a scalable infrastructure that we’ve developed in collaboration with Microsoft using the Azure Service Bus,” says Agrusa. “This cloud-based solution scales as your needs grow. Customers can start small – with a deployment in a single building or plant, for example – and they’re only charged for what they use. That’s the beauty of IoT using the Azure cloud. As you scale, we just make more compute power and memory available, and you simply pay for what you need.”

Using the information gathered from internet-connected ‘things’, Agrusa says that for the first time we’re going to be able to answer a lot of questions that would have been impossible to ascertain before, such as how much energy did it take to make a car, or a can of soda.

Agrusa notes that IoT is also extending far beyond the business world. So accessible has this technology become that it’s now making its way into our homes too.

“In the factory, connected systems, machine learning and sensors have been fairly commonplace for a while,” he says. “What’s different now is that things are much more connectable and we’re able to securely integrate with the Azure cloud. So we’re starting to see thermostats, TVs, game consoles, security systems and appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines become IP-enabled and connected. IoT in the home is going to be a real game-changer. It’s going to transform our definition of convenience.”

This summer, ICONICS is hosting its Worldwide Customer Summit in Boston, Massachusetts. This year’s focus will be on the Azure cloud and IoT solutions. Attendees will network and learn from industry experts through showcase applications that leverage the latest technology innovations from ICONICS. For more information or to register, visit the ICONICS website.

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