Internet of Things and Its Opportunity for Enterprises

Enterprises are going digital and increasingly adopting the Industrial Internet of Things, this, in turn, gives enterprises unprecedented access to data and enables them to get smart, more efficient, and agile. The Internet of Things is helping enterprises grow their top line and reduce their bottom-line. In this podcast, ‘IoT and Its Opportunities for Enterprises’, we learn that the Internet of Things is not just one technology but an amalgamation of a host of technologies that are still evolving and are expected to move towards rapid customizations.

In this episode of Infosys Podcast, anchor Alex speaks with Dr Ravikumar, Head of the Advanced Engineering Group, on how not just the Internet of Things (IoT) but the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has evolved, the potential they hold for enterprises and consumers, and how they are likely to continue integrating, both into manufacturing and our daily life.


Podcast transcript

Alex: Hello folks, welcome to Infosys Podcast! This is Alex speaking, your host. Today, we have with us, Dr. Ravi Kumar G. V. V. as our guest. He is Associate Vice President and Head of the Advanced Engineering Group at Infosys. So I’d like to say Hello to Dr Ravi. But before I do so, I’d like to inform the audience of his incredible accolades. He brings together more than 24 years of research and industrial experience and Industry 4.0. Authored more than 45 technical papers and filed two patents. He has worked on various prestigious engineering design and development projects and also in the development of solutions which we’ll talk about in depth in a short while from now. He has obtained both a Ph.D. and MTech from IIT Delhi and a BE Honors from BITS Pilani, India. So after such a track record, I’d like to welcome you to the show, Dr Ravi. Let’s begin…..

The Internet of Things or IoT in short, has changed the technology landscape over the last few years, but how did it actually emerge and evolve to create the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0, as we know it today?

Dr Ravi: Thanks Alex. Nice talking to you. Let me step back a bit before we talk about Industry 4.0, let us start with the First Industrial Revolution. Around 250 years ago, the steam engine replaced human-intensive labor operations on the manufacturing shop floor. We call this the First Industrial Revolution. Then electricity came into the picture and most of those machines and the manufacturing shop floor was electrified and the assembly line was conceptualized. We call that the Second Industrial Revolution. Then the Third Industrial Revolution is all about industrial automation and computer penetration into the manufacturing shop floor to automate processes. Now we're into the Fourth Industrial Revolution that is what we're calling Industry 4.0. Here is a world of cyber-physical systems, where information systems converge with operation technology systems. This essentially means that the machines on the shop floor are getting connected to the top floor that is the highest layer where you get lots of business inferences. So this kind of tight integration, when it happens, allows for deriving a lot of benefits. If you look at the kind of benefits that organizations are having today, it is essentially that they are able to create new business, new avenues, in terms of improving their top line by creating next-generation products and services, and also able to improve their bottom-line by improving efficiencies across the manufacturing shop floor. So that's an immense benefit to the manufacturing industry or the manufacturing enterprise as a whole.

Alex: These are almost like subtexts of industrial revolutions. You mentioned electricity and automation. Given the period between the First Industrial Revolution and the next, has the pace quickened now?

Dr Ravi: Yes, if you look at the First Industrial Revolution, it happened around 250 years ago, now the Fourth Industrial Revolution has been happening since the last 4-5 years. So, you can see the gap is getting reduced and innovations are happening at a much faster pace compared to earlier.

Alex: Personally, my curiosity lies with everyone else's as well, it's like, how we see the future. I'm sure you have a vision for the future yourself. But clearly, today we can see the potential of IoT, we see that it is immense because the possibilities are endless. Well, especially making the world a smarter place for one. What kind of impact do you think we can expect to see in our lifetime?

Dr Ravi: If you look at IoT as a whole, most of the impact that is happening today you are able to see with your naked eyes. One simple example is Google Maps itself. If you want to move from one place to the other place, it’s very easy now, you can switch to Google Maps and then go all around. The engine behind those Google Maps is essentially IoT. Then the other one is, I mean, in our daily lives, we use so many machines, washing machines, air conditioners, and also, there are many other devices that we use today. All these devices have become smarter and smarter. They are able to send their own data to the cloud, and that data is being analyzed or used by equipment manufacturers to assess the condition of that particular device and be able to send the technician before you even call the technician. IoT has an immense benefit to healthcare and more specifically, monitoring people post- operation, when they're at home. All this data can be sent by IoT devices to the hospital where doctors can diagnose and take necessary action.

Alex: Is there room for new inventions? Because the way I see technology of today is, we're fine -tuning the inventions that we have already. That's where I see IoT. So really, the innovation comes with the invention of mind and how do you translate that into technology today, I think. Technology really is at the forefront, isn't it?

Dr Ravi: Let me tell you a story that happened around 4-5 years ago and was in the newspaper. A set of washing machines that had been sold in the Northern part of India were failing often compared to the machines that have been sold to the Southern part of India, as well as the Eastern part of India. And the washing machine supplier did not know why this was happening. They set up a high-level committee to understand what was happening. Why these machines were failing. Then, the technical and marketing team went and found a peculiar situation, where these washing machines were being used by big families and small restaurants to make lassi or buttermilk, rather than for washing clothes. If the washing machine was IoT enabled, it would have continuously sent data about their usage and the manufacturer would have been able to analyse this data, why the loads are coming high, what is happening, and you'll be able to keep track. There are two things that you can observe here. One is there is a need from people, for larger lassi making machines much bigger than what it is now. The second thing is, data could have been used to improve the design of that particular machine so that it could have been made much more reliable. So this essentially translates to a couple of things. One, you can create new products, which can be released to the market, and new services. Data collected can give users lots of information and insights to create next-generation services.

Alex: Moving on to this remarkable invention of a lassi-making washing machine, what other kinds of benefits does the Internet of Things offer to large and small scale businesses?

Dr Ravi: There are multiple efficiencies that you can look at. The first one is the supply chain, part of it. You can improve the supply chain efficiency through IoT. You can track and trace all the raw materials, components, substances that are coming to the manufacturing shop floor. In the manufacturing shop floor, there are 4 dimensions of efficiency that we have. One is the operations efficiency to improve the operations, what kind of things need to be done and things like that, you have a better visibility of the data that is coming to you, more real-time than ever before. Because of that, you will be able to plug the gaps much faster and much better. The second one is on maintenance efficiency because all these machines are equipped with sensors and they send out lots of data. When you analyse the data, you can predict when that particular machine is going to fail because you know that with that information you can take all kinds of corrective actions so that downtime of that particular machine is less and improve its availability. So that you will not have any kind of productivity loss on the manufacturing shop floor.

Third important thing is information efficiency, you will be able to bring information from the device to the shop floor much faster and much better. That's another important thing because information is key for the entire manufacturing operations. The fourth one is energy efficiency. You can reduce energy consumption by measuring it, analyzing it, improving it, and also reducing wastage in the manufacturing shop floor. Help in the sustainability initiative of tomorrow's enterprise. At the end, once the products go out of the manufacturing shop floor, you can track them, how they're being used, or perceived by the end customer. So these are the six dimensions of efficiency that we have been working with and all these efficiency dimensions are being taken to the next level through IoT or Industry 4.0.

Alex: Well, you've described the benefits of IoT. But obviously when enterprises are adopting IoT for the first time, what kind of challenges do they face or rather what kind of challenges do you think future enterprises would have to deal with?

Dr Ravi: If you look at a typical manufacturing organization, you'll have all kinds of plants. In the sense, plants which are more than 100 years old, and plants which have just been recently commissioned and installed. So when a plant is more than 100 years old, you'll have all kinds of legacy equipment, and legacy control systems on the manufacturing shop floor. First thing is to deal with this legacy environment, we call it brownfield. You need to make those legacy machines, IoT- enabled. Then you have the newer machines which are IoT-enabled even when they are installed itself. You need to handle them separately. In a complex organization like a manufacturing shop floor where you need to deal with all kinds of nuances about the new equipment and old equipment, you'll have issues related to data transmission, basically data interoperability, data security, data standards, and other things. So, you need to make sure that all that legacy equipment is IoT enabled. Then after that, it's all about capturing that particular data and using that particular data to improve the processes. So one way is, you can't shut down operations. Without shutting down operations, you need to do all this. That means you need to provide a parallel path for capturing additional data that you require and use that data effectively to improve overall operations.

Alex: Do you also in tandem, say that because enterprises have archaic systems, you then construct from scratch a new system while they decommission one, you then develop a new system for them? Does that also happen?

Dr Ravi: Enterprises need to do both things but you can't decommission a system which is very costly. So what you need to do is to make sure that without decommissioning it, you should figure out ways and means through which you can make the machinery IoT enabled. So one simple example is, put some external sensors on top of that machine, put a gateway kind of component. This gateway will collect data from those sensors, and then send that data to the cloud directly. Without any disruptions, you are able to capture the data that you need. This is one way of doing it. The other one is, as you rightly said, there are certain machines which you may have to decommission, not because of the IoT but because of the inefficiency of that particular machine itself, probably one needs to look at that holistically.

Alex: How does Infosys help its customers realize the potential of IoT?

Dr Ravi: At Infosys, we have a very strong focus. In fact, we started this IoT journey around five years ago. Then, we felt that we needed to build necessary competency around IoT and we also needed to work with some of the leading global organizations to understand the nature of the business. That's where we partnered with the University of Aachen in Germany to understand what the industry was doing as a whole on Industry 4.0. Coming back to the projects that we are working on for various clients, there are two broad things that we're doing. One is, Industry 4.0 consulting - defining the roadmap for the organization, what they should do, how they should do, and helping them implement the strategy of Industry 4.0. The second one is, helping organizations develop IoT platforms. We help them in developing their own platforms, which are customer focused platforms. So with both the things in mind, both the Industry 4.0 platform development as well as the consulting and roadmap definition, we are able to help our customers immensely across industry segments whether it is in manufacturing, healthcare, pharma, or food and beverages.

Alex: I'll just ask you one brief question as I'm listening to you. So, are you consultants or hands -on engineers or both?

Dr Ravi: We do both because we need to do consultancy to tell the customer what they need to do. And also, implement what we suggest to help the customers realize the benefits that they are supposed to. So we are consultants/engineers, that's the big difference that Infosys is offering today. We offer more like an end-to-end service to our customers.

Alex: Is it a growing sector?

Dr Ravi: It is one of the fastest growing service lines in engineering. In fact, now it has become a separate service line.

Alex: This leads me to the final question. While you are so close to Industry 4.0, that's reshaping our lives in ways that I think people don't actually imagine. It's kind of creeping up on them, only in hindsight do they see a difference in their lives. Do you ever think about what will cause the next industrial revolution, the way IoT did?

Dr Ravi: The way I see it, Industry 4.0 is not one single technology that has given all the benefits. IoT is a collection of many important technologies. Apart from IoT, there is artificial intelligence and machine learning, virtual reality and augmented reality, robotics and autonomous technologies besides additive manufacturing. All these technologies have come together to create the Fourth Industrial Revolution. If you look at the next industrial revolution, it is going to include some more advanced technological innovations and a lot of this is going to be by way of nanotechnologies, and nano sensors. Then quantum computing is another paradigm that is changing lot of things. Probably lot of these advanced and also communication technologies, networking technologies beyond 5G, are going to come together to deliver the next industrial revolution. And it is difficult to imagine tomorrow, but we are definitely heading towards a much more intelligent world where machines will behave like human beings, and humans and machines will work hand in hand to create the next generation of products and services.

Alex: We've had a very interesting discussion. Thank you, Dr Ravi Kumar.

Dr Ravi: Thanks a lot, it's a pleasure discussing with you.

Alex: And thank you all for listening. If you'd like more information, please visit we look forward to you tuning in the next time. Thank you.