We’re Giving Industry 4.0 Access to the Machine Data It Needs to Grow

Angira Agrawal
Chief Operating Officer
March 9, 2021

IoT, or the Internet of Things, is now just about everywhere in our lives — connecting homes, automating driving, monitoring health, guiding surgeries. And for good reason: The more we know, the smarter our decisions are. 

As we’ve seen over the past decade, that idea applies to industry as it does to individuals. Moving beyond people to focus on machines, Industry 4.0 has the end goal of digitizing machines. This means using IoT to empower machines to become smarter, enabling precise monitoring and real-time communications to ensure better scheduling, planning and, ultimately, decision making. 

Until now, that hasn’t been possible for traditionally analog industries where day-to-day operations have no mobile coverage, like large-scale agriculture, deep-sea fishing, long-haul trucking, and railway shipping. And with so much essential data offline, Industry 4.0 isn’t likely to be complete, or even particularly advantageous. 

Enter Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) for Machine Connectivity

At Skylo, we’re working to change this by applying the application of recent innovations in NB-IoT to these traditionally analog industries. Using satellites to deliver constant and dependable connectivity in areas poorly served by mobile networks, Skylo is bringing our disruptive platform to new areas like rural farmers and fishermen. From farming to fishing to manufacturing to logistics, new solutions are emerging to allow planners to standardize processes on a larger scale than ever before, while enabling constant communications among many disparate parts, even if they’re scattered across the globe.

As these innovations become more and more accessible, new pathways to economic growth are opening in emerging markets — particularly in remote areas where the global digital infrastructure has been slow to develop. Regions formerly shrouded in obscurity to both markets and regulators are opening to the global economy, lifting communities and opening new revenue streams for governments. 

Yes, Industry 4.0 is primarily about smart manufacturing. But in new and emerging markets, smart manufacturing isn’t restricted to factories in the traditional sense. It also applies to commercial fisheries, industrial crop management, fleet operations and other services industries. These are all vital areas not just in terms of bolstering a region’s economic potential, but also for ensuring food security and social stability. 

Most of the day-to-day operations of these industries happens in areas with little to no mobile coverage, and the use of satellite-based NB IoT represents a legitimate paradigm shift. Here are six reasons why this is such a big deal at this particular point in time — a quick look at the most important factors driving this development, and what to look for in the years to come. 

Answering new ‘what ifs.’ Innovation has always been an attempt to realize “what ifs,” and Skylo lets us answer those questions at a granular scale: What if farmers could better know their soil? What if fishermen could better predict their catch, or long-haul truckers optimize routes based on real-time data in the most remote regions? Some tantalizing “what ifs” are, for the first time, within the realm of possibility.

Opening up new horizons. This constant connectivity also provides a new level of visibility into essential processes. Imagine what fleet operators can do with real-time alerts on trip milestones, route deviations, potential fuel pilferage, and other formerly unpredictable events — even in areas where there’s zero mobile coverage. From monitoring forest fire early warning signs to transporting vaccines across a continent, entire industries have the potential to be transformed almost overnight. 

Achieving cost effectiveness. Before now, the main barrier to utilizing satellite-based connectivity has been its cost. That, too has changed. Where it was once difficult to imagine deep sea fishermen and rural farmers affording the kind of technology we’re talking about here, today an entire operation can be connected with NB IoT for just a few dollars a month. 

Improving strategic understanding. Industry 4.0 requires not just better data gathering, but also an understanding of just what data to collect, and when, and the best way to make use of it. It also involves making sure the right info gets to the right person at the right time — and knowing how to set up a system to ensure that it happens. Here, the lessons we’ve already learned about IoT come into play. Combined with expertise that’s specific to regions and technology, experts can use these resources to create strategies that really work

Making it work. For sprawling networks, putting all this together would be a logistical nightmare. Today, organizations exist solely for this task, offering not just the satellite connectivity but also the components and apps to make it all work. The global infrastructure and regional expertise are also available to make these solutions adaptable to any situation in the world, from Indian Ocean fisheries to Yukon long haulers. 

Aligning political buy-in. Many of the most promising applications of satellite-based NB IoT are taking place in emerging markets — areas that haven’t always embraced development, or at least not without enormous restrictions from local authorities. Today, though, more leaders are willing to embrace innovations that not only lift the fortunes of citizens, but also yield taxable revenue on a scale they hadn’t before thought possible. Still, this will be an area that bears watching in the years to come. 

Of course, even beyond political unpredictability, the entire global economy is subject to swings. Yet if anything, this breakthrough for Industry 4.0 will better prepare us to weather these storms. By improving the efficiency of some of the world’s most important industries, NB IoT can help add stability and prosperity where it’s needed most. 

I’ll have more to say about each of these breakthroughs — and how business leaders can leverage them to their advantage — in the months to come. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about how to put these solutions to work for your organization, my team is standing by to help. Please email us at info@skylo.tech for more information.