2014

The Industrial Internet of Things

8/11 1 E

Here is a question for coffee houses and other Main St. businesses, “How much did equipment maintenance issues cost you last year?” Think about lost productivity, lost sales, labor and parts, lost customer satisfaction, scheduling issues, and a host of other costs as a result of equipment down-time.

What would be the benefit to your company if you could reduce these costs significantly and deliver better customer service? Let’s think about your espresso machine. This is a highly engineered and sophisticated piece of machinery. One is in almost every coffeehouse in the world. If it stops working, the café might as well flip over the closed sign.

To reduce this possibility, the machine manufacturers have engaged a global network of service companies to rapidly repair their machines when they develop problems. But this solution is very expensive and inefficient.

Café owners want their machine fixed now, but are notoriously bad at communicating what the actual problem is. The service company has to rely on the initial diagnosis by the coffee shop when the real problem could be caused by something completely different. The service company needs to be prepared for any possibility.

Now, let’s think of a world where your machine is outfitted with a sensor array and a microprocessor that communicates wirelessly with a database and automation software residing on the cloud.

In this world, a microprocessor is continuously polling the health of the machine and sending updated status reports wirelessly through an access point to a massive presence in the cloud. Using parameters set by the manufacturer, the incoming data is compared with these acceptable ranges for operational compliance. If everything is within the acceptable range, the database simply files the new data and waits for the next report.

But, if a sensor detects some element that has gone out of compliance, say for example a pressure drop at the group head, the anomaly is immediately tagged and an alert is sent to the manufacturer and their designated servicing vendor. Before the shop owner knows that there is a developing problem, the service company is already on it.

Before the service person leaves his shop, he now has knowledge of what to expect at the coffee shop, what tools and parts he needs to bring, how soon he needs to get to the job, and how long he will actually be on site.

Imagine the effect that this proactive response will have on the coffee shop owner. What a surprise that the first person that comes through the door right after the shop opens is the service person. Being proactive with service calls is much less expensive than reactive to emergencies.

Credibility and proactive solutions mean happy customers and increased sales. Just like you want to cut costs and be more competitive in your business, your customers want that as well. A tool like this allows you to do that for your clients as well as your own business.

Imagine how much better you will sleep at night by being aware of approaching issues and having a system that gives you and your staff a pathway toward positive action.

Consider how many mission-critical elements there are in a typical coffeehouse. For example:

•    The espresso machine, the brewers, the ice maker, all that refrigeration and freezers, the water filtration system, security, POS systems, inventory control (using RFID), kitchen prep equipment…to name a few.

You can begin to see how the Internet of Things will ultimately have a huge impact on Cafes and vendors. But remember that this is only an example of Coffee shops. This same future is inevitable for most of the small businesses on Main Street. If the business has equipment that is mission-critical to the business’ success, it is on the list of industries that will be affected by the Internet of Things either by embracing the changes and growing their businesses or by ignoring the changes and eventually fading into obscurity.

As the cost of sensors and microprocessors continues to fall and the costs of maintaining in-house servers skyrocket the momentum of change can only accelerate. As the deluge of BIG data generated by these systems exponentially grows and Small Business owners and equipment vendors are drawn closer together in a mutually dependent relationship, those business that do not embrace and adapt will be increasingly sidelined.

We are not rambling about talking toasters here. We are talking about whether or not your business will be competitive five years from now.

As with all disrupting new technologies, either your company adopts or it must learn to adapt. Remember when a Blackberry was the smartest handheld device you could get? (Don’t even talk about the Palm!) That was five years ago, now what do you think? I bet RIM (Blackberry) wishes they had been paying more attention. In today’s rapidly advancing tech world, today’s billion-dollar supergiant is tomorrow’s liquidation auction.

This advance is truly paradigm changing. It is the next logical advance in the Internet’s potential, it increases a business’ bottom line profitability, it uses current and familiar technology, the entire data transmission infrastructure is in place, and it has a crystal clear value proposition. The Internet of Things is going to happen. The question is, are you going to lead, follow or get out of the way so your competitors can move in?

For more information on the impact of the Internet of Things on your business and world, please contact Miles at miles@cafecomm.com or visit www.cafecomm.com.

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