There was a time when people saw the acronym IoT on a page and figured it must be some sort of odd typo. Today, most people recognize IoT (the internet of things), as the latest technological enabler bringing fresh new value-added features to equipment manufacturers, control engineers and OEMs.
For many OEMs however, the thought of incorporating IoT into their new appliance designs is daunting. There are so many moving parts ( local connectivity hardware and software, smartphone apps, connection to the internet, cloud provider, cloud software on cloud servers etc.) that it can be intimidating to take that first step into what seems like the deep end of a pool.
Here at Elan however, we’ve created ElanConnect™, an easy way for OEMs to get started with a scalable system for you to test the waters on a small scale, in the shallow end, before making that full commitment to IoT connectivity. Since developing ElanConnect™, we’ve seen a marked increase in the number of customers looking at “connectivity” for their appliances. In many cases, these customers took baby steps into the world of connectivity and IoT by employing the technology in one of the three following applications. Perhaps one of them would help bring your equipment into the world of IoT?
1. Field Test Units.
Before a new appliance goes into production, engineering field testing provides invaluable feedback on the unit’s performance and the customer’s satisfaction with the product. These tests are generally done with a small sample of units, usually 25-50. Traditionally, the information an OEM receives from the users of these units is infrequent and vague. This is a perfect application for IoT technology, enabling real time remote data feedback. However, finding a supplier to offer a solution for a small ‘field test’ sample is difficult…until now! At Elan, we have developed a small, packaged solution specifically intended for the 25-50 pc field trial, with all the features of a full- scale IoT implementation. This enables the OEM with a wealth of information to dramatically expedite the field test phase of development, and increases their comfort level with IoT. Then, they can proceed with a full-scale tuned deployment of IoT on their new equipment with confidence and an optimized system implementation.
2. OEM Equipment Commissioning.
Another useful application of IoT during commissioning of new equipment is to ensure that it is 100 percent operational at installation and to log a dated record of performance parameters. By connecting the equipment to an application on a smartphone (via Bluetooth), OEMs can run a self-test of their newly installed equipment using IoT. The resulting test data stands against any customer warranty claims that the piece of equipment “never worked right since day one”! The self-test can also can help offset any inconsistency with field technicians, giving both the customer and the OEM a consistent experience (and test result) with the product.
3. Install an NIC.
NIC (network interface card) is a small electronic module that easily interfaces to electronic machine controls through a serial communications port. The NIC provides WiFi and Bluetooth communications to collect data and talk to the cloud or smartphone. The NIC technology is tremendously versatile and supports Elan controls or other manufacturer equipment. When you install an NIC at production, you are future-proofed to support emerging cloud IoT applications or local smartphone apps intended to simplify end users or service personnel experience.
If you’ve thought of implementing IoT in your equipment but aren’t sure exactly where to start, please give us a call. For more detail on ElanConnect™, please see our website at http://elanindustries.com/connectivity/ Also watch for an in-depth article on Connectivity from Elan’s IoT champion and Director of Engineering, Jim Dodis, in an upcoming issue of Appliance Design Magazine. To discuss your next project, call Elan at 630.679.2000.