How Sensors and the IoT Are Improving Manufacturing

Imagine being the chief technology Officer (CTO) of a major manufacturer with operations around the world. At any time during the workday, you can log on to your computer and monitor quality control in any of the company’s plants. You can immediately act on any data that indicates something needs to be addressed.

Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Rock West Solutions, a company that specializes in developing advanced sensor technology, says that the capabilities to pull off remote quality control are already here. The technology exists, it just needs to be deployed the right way. For that, companies rely on highly advanced sensors and what we know as the internet of things (IoT)

New kinds of quality control sensors and the IoT are gradually being combined to improve manufacturing around the world. Unfortunately, even the best sensors in the world are only as good as the networks they are connected to. Thus, modern solutions tend to favor the IoT rather than local networks.

Basic Principles of the IoT

If you are not sure exactly what the IoT is, it is defined as the entire collection of devices that utilize some sort of interconnectivity via the internet. Your car’s built-in GPS device is an IoT device. So is your smartphone, your wireless home security system, the smart speaker sitting on your kitchen counter, and so forth.

All these devices rely on a stable internet connection to send and receive data. Your smart speaker sends information over the internet via your ISP. It utilizes that same connection to return data to you. Your GPS device does the same thing. What all these devices have in common is the internet.

Now, to understand just how important the IoT is to remote quality control, consider the difference between the internet and a local computer network. Let’s say you disconnected the cable from your combination modem/router. The router is still powered, so you still have access to all the active devices on your network. Unfortunately, you cannot use any of those devices to go online – because you no longer have an internet connection.

Technology developers prefer to rely on the internet rather than local networks because it offers so many more possibilities. Those possibilities include remote quality control.

Advanced Manufacturing Sensors

This brings us to the topic of advanced manufacturing sensors. A sensor is nothing more than an electronic device programmed to gather a specific kind of information and relay it to a computer system capable of making use of that information. A good example is a sensor that leverages infrared light to determine whether a small piece on a manufacturing line meets specifications for size.

All that sensor does is measure pieces as they go by. Data is sent to a computer system capable of ‘recognizing’ pieces that are not up to spec. The computer will then send a signal to remove the non-compliant pieces from the line.

That particular action does not require the IoT. A local network can handle things just fine. But feeding that information to corporate headquarters is a different matter. That is where the internet comes in. By connecting manufacturing sensors to corporate computer systems via the internet, a company’s CTO can have a direct hand in quality control at any time and from anywhere.

Both sensor technology and the IoT are improving quality control in the manufacturing environment. Most exciting is the fact that we are only in the earliest stages of utilizing both. Who knows what the technologies will be capable of 10 years from now?

Giovana Silva Barbosa

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