The Benefits of Harnessing Live Data

The data is pouring in.  The flow started as a mere trickle of hand-written records on clipboards in the early days of mechanical and pneumatic automation.  It grew to a steady stream with the introduction of PLCs (programmable logic controllers) and SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems pooling data automatically.  Now, with the advent of IoT and digital transformation live data is gushing through industrial systems in a mighty torrent.

As with the flow of water, this flow of live data has power. Harnessing it can mean more efficient operations, savings in labor and material costs, and overall improvements in quality.  What’s needed is software to facilitate the collection, analysis, and distribution of the results in real time.

This is what a recent survey of 500 mid-level manufacturing professionals suggests.  The Plutoshift report, The Challenge of Turning Data Into Action, says over three quarters of their respondents agreed that “in order to take immediate action based on collected data, they need software solutions that analyze data in real-time.”

Problem: Manual data entry

Summing up the report’s findings: despite well-known benefits of digital transformation, the adoption rate has been low.  Only 12% of those surveyed have configured their systems to respond automatically to incoming data.  The common feeling is that data inputs are not reliable enough for automated response.  About half of the respondents are still using manual data entry.  This in itself can introduce errors, and perhaps worse, the data almost immediately goes stale until the next manual entry is made.  The more stale the data gets, the more likely it will be incorrect.  And an automated response to stale data could be catastrophic.

For example, a machine may only be checked by an operator once per day on a plant floor walk-through.  If it develops an irregular vibration, it could be hours before it is noticed.  An automated system using manual data input might keep it running, possibly damaging the equipment.  On the other hand, an inexpensive IoT sensor on the machine could send notification as soon as a problem is detected, and trigger an alarm or automatic speed adjustment until an operator could take remedial action.

Once the data is streaming in, there are many companies out there like Plutoshift that can help manage it.  Skkynet’s focus is the data stream itself—to ensure it is secure, reliable, and up to date—to the millisecond.  This will allow those who use the data to take full advantage of automated response mechanisms, to actively participate in digital transformation. Like the human nervous system relaying data from the outside world, effective digital transformation depends on harnessing live data.  After all, you can only know as much about your world, or your system, as the data tells you.

Data Sharing Needed for Sustainable Energy

Sustainable energy can be profitable. That, in a nutshell, is the finding of a GreenBiz Research survey presented in the 2019 Corporate Energy & Sustainability Progress Report from Schneider Electric. And an important key to those profits is sharing data.

“Companies agree that sharing data is important, with those that share the most seeing significant benefit,” the report said. This importance of data sharing stands out in the context of the overall report findings, which are broken up into 5 main topics:

  • Funding: Executives that demonstrate ROI (return on investment) and provide strong leadership can overcome perceived obstacles, such as insufficient capital.
  • Data: The challenge is to ensure the quality of collected data, and to share it effectively.
  • Goals: Setting public targets or goals for energy conservation and sustainability drives motivation and success.
  • Energy: Strategic sourcing optimizes usage, yielding significant cost savings in a volatile energy landscape.
  • Technology: Energy efficiency and renewables, based on data-driven technologies, are a leading source of ROI.

Ultimately, for a sustainable energy project to succeed, it must provide a solid return on investment. This report affirms the experience of our customers in wind and solar that the better the quality of their data, and the more they are able to share it, the higher their ROI.

For example, a wind farm doesn’t operate in isolation. In addition to the electrical power it sends to the grid, each wind turbine also sends data for its rotor speed, operating state, power output, and more out to control engineers and automated systems to optimize performance. This data can also be integrated with other data arriving in real time. Weather and climate conditions can be introduced, along with real-time market pricing, to generate live, real-time cost/benefit analyses.

Seeking ways to share data

Sharing data like this takes both cooperation and technology. The various players involved have to agree on what to share and how. Reviewing last year’s survey, the report noted that “respondents indicated that 80% of their companies had energy and sustainability data collection projects underway.” And this year “the research finds that more companies are now seeking the most efficient ways to share the data that has been collected.”

We are pleased to see this growing level of awareness of the need for data sharing. At the same time, we actively encourage executives, managers and engineers who are looking for more efficiency in their data sharing practices to consider our approach. It could be just what they need to boost the ROI of their sustainable energy projects.

Cisco Study Shows Most IoT Projects Unsuccessful

One of the big take-aways from the annual Internet of Things World Forum (IoTWF) held in London last week were the results of a new Cisco study that only about 1/3 of the IoT projects were considered completely successful, technically.  Financially the success rate was even worse—just 15%—according to the business executives surveyed.  The study was conducted among over 1,300 executives in medium and large size companies in the manufacturing, energy, health care, transportation, and similar sectors. The findings suggest several reasons for low IoT project completion rates, and more important, point to specific remedies.

Unexpected Difficulties

As we have seen in the past, one of the primary reasons for project failure or lackluster results for IoT projects has been that those initiating the project were not aware at the outset how difficult implementation would be.  This is illustrated in the Cisco study results, where cost overruns and the need to extend timelines to completion were common.  Many respondents noted that they lacked the necessary internal IoT expertise.  As a result, over half of the IoT initiatives didn’t make it past the Proof of Concept phase, and of those that did, many ended up with poor IoT integration and/or low quality of data.

Need for Partnerships

These results underlined, according to the majority of survey respondents, the need for IoT partnerships.  At every stage of the project, from planning and design, through implementation and deployment, and during the management and maintenance phases, those organizations that engaged with IoT partners were more successful.  This applied to general areas of technical consulting and support, as well as specific aspects such as data analytics.

Commenting on this kind of relationship, the final report stated: “Our study found that the most successful organizations engage the IoT partner ecosystem at every stage, implying that strong partnerships throughout the process can smooth out the learning curve.”

Learning from Failure

The good news in all of this is that companies are willing and able to learn from mistakes.  Most survey respondents are optimistic for the future of the IoT, and they see its potential.  Over sixty percent believe that they “have barely begun to scratch the surface of what IoT technologies can do for their businesses.”

Among the participants who have completed projects, most said that they are using data from the IoT to improve their business.  Two out of three of them have seen the greatest benefits in improved customer satisfaction, more efficient operations, and better quality of products and/or services.  The most unexpected benefit was improved profitability for the company.

These results corroborate our experience.  The companies that we partner with report a much higher success rate than most of those participating in the Cisco study.  We agree with the finding that “strong partnerships throughout the process can smooth out the learning curve,” and we take seriously the challenge of removing the difficulties that may crop up when embarking on an IoT project.

Industrial Analytics: Extracting Value from IoT Data

“Analytics is to data what refining is to oil: The process that turns the resource into a valuable product,” says the opening paragraph of a new survey report, Industrial Analytics Report 2016/17, initiated and governed by the Digital Analytics Association e.V. Germany (DAAG). The report provides a good overview of how executives in Europe and around the world, representing leading manufacturers, system integrators, automation tool vendors, and other institutions, view the value of IIoT analytics, and how this new application space will continue to expand.

The rapid growth of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is already precipitating a deluge of data, and manufacturers are anticipating much more to come. As they experience this mounting wave, they also recognize the need to extract value from it. Thus, a majority of respondents to the survey said that industrial analytics will become crucially important over the next five years. That value will be due, they believe, to increased revenue from the data sources that the IIoT will tap. The way they see it, analysis of IIoT data will open opportunities for predictive and prescriptive maintenance, better analysis of customers and markets, and a better understanding of how products are actually used in the field.

Most responses indicated that to take full advantage of the data stream, the quality of these analytics will need to gain in sophistication. For example, the majority foresee exchanging spreadsheets for Business Intelligence and advanced analytical tools. These real-time analytical tools are expected to help them evolve from a current ability to merely describe problems towards the capacity to predict the problems, and even prescribe solutions.


Of course, there are challenges to be met. All of this will come at a cost, replied those surveyed, with the largest expenses expected to be for the software and applications needed to gain access to the data and aggregate it. Another challenge is a skills and technology gap in the area of the IIoT infrastructure. In general, a full 78% of the participants rated “interoperability between different system components” as challenging or very challenging. About 60% said the same for “data accuracy,” and about 50% rated “integration with enterprise systems” at that same level of difficulty.

These survey results validate Skkynet’s approach to the IIoT. We believe that companies should not have to get drawn into infrastructure development to reap the benefits of sophisticated analysis of live and historical IIoT data. We provide interoperability through secure, real-time data exchange between remote devices, shop-floor equipment, multiple facilities, and main-office IT departments. Companies accessing our SkkyHub™ service can gain the full value of the IIoT with no development costs or capital expenditure.

Any company looking into IIoT-based industrial analytics should dream big, sharpen their analytical skills, and choose good tools. When they are ready to connect to their data sources, integrate them, and put the results into their analytical systems, they should come to us.

Survey: Valuable Lessons from IoT Early Adopters

A recent survey by Machina Research (Lessons Learned from Early Adopters of the IoT: A Global Study of Connected Businesses) suggests that the IoT is moving quickly from novelty to necessity. Nearly two thousand management-level employees in companies earning $15 million and up per year in the USA, UK, Japan, Australia, and Brazil representing all major sectors of industry took part.  About 20% of the respondents have started some kind of IoT initiative, and close to 30% expect to do so in the next 6 months to 2 years.

Focusing on the innovators and early adopters of the IoT, the survey gleaned some useful information which may be helpful for those who have not yet implemented a strategy—and in many cases, those who have.  It seems that the majority of early adopters of the IoT took a do-it-yourself approach, and most of them found the IoT more complicated to implement than they expected. Future adopters say they will not repeat that mistake.

“When asked about primary concerns around IoT, adopters have some insight that non-adopters just don’t yet have,” states the report. “Adopters point to ‘complexity of the IoT solution’ as the largest concern around IoT, a concern that non-adopters have yet to consider fully.” Among those who have taken IoT initiatives, over half of them mentioned concerns about complexity, compared to only a quarter of those who have not yet taken the first step.

Other top concerns included security, ease of integration with existing systems, and the expense of implementation. These commonly-held concerns are undoubtedly part of the reason for the reluctance of others to undertake IoT projects on their own.  The majority of them responded that they are planning to work with an IoT-capable partner.

“Based on past experience of our adopters, companies who haven’t yet adopted IoT initiatives should not go it alone,” the report recommends. “Instead they should focus on finding partners whose core competency is connecting products securely.”

The report suggests that an ideal partner should not only have a technology platform, but should be able to simplify the complexity of the IoT.  They ensure that security is not an ad-hoc afterthought, but instead is inherent to the design of the system itself.  The partner should be able to easily integrate the IoT solution with existing and legacy systems, and offer significant cost savings and ROI.

Have you taken the IIoT Survey?

The ARC Advisory Group is offering a survey on the Industrial Internet of Things, to “get a solid read on how ready organizations are for seizing the many opportunities” that are becoming available through the IIoT.  Has your company taken the survey yet?  You can access it here:

ARC states that this brief, 10 to 15 minute IIoT survey “is open to suppliers of industrial technology and equipment, machinery manufacturers and industrial companies, such as manufacturers and oil and gas operators.”

Skkynet encourages anyone working in any of these areas to take the IIoT survey, and thus increase the general understanding of the interest in the IIoT. Each participant will receive a free summary of the key findings from the ARC Advisory Group.