Despite Industry 4.0 being far from a new concept, first being coined in 2011 at the Hanover Fair, the long lifespan of industrial machinery and the high perceived costs associated with purchasing smart technologies means manufacturers may still be reluctant to take advantage of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
A growing trend for many manufacturers looking to ‘smarten’ up their factory and integrate Industry 4.0 technology’s such as remote monitoring and predictive maintenance, is the introduction of plug and play devices. However, with growing concern about vendor lock-in, choosing hardware that is compatible with the existing products within a plant is essential to saving costs in addition to ensuring compatibility.
Plug and play
Plug and play devices are one way of maximising compatibility between new products and existing systems. A plug and play device or computer bus has a specification that allows for the discovery of a hardware component in a system without physical device configuration or user intervention.
A multitude of IoT functions are now available with plug and play IoT kits. One popular example is the use of sensors that allow for digital condition monitoring for any kind of machinery. A direct physical attachment means they are able to take measurements such as vibration and temperature to facilitate maintenance plans, without any compatibility complications.
Because many manufacturers and developers of industrial automation equipment are producing their own devices to fill this market, it can be difficult for engineers to choose the best solution for their plant and application. As industrial machinery often has a long lifespan, for example a motor control centre can be expected to last for twenty years with the correct maintenance, many plants will be faced with this dilemma each and every time they choose to purchase new equipment.