How AIoT is reshaping the process industries

Nov. 17, 2023
The benefits, use cases and future predictions of transformation for this powerful new tool.

The integration of cutting-edge technologies has ushered in a new era of industrial efficiency and innovation. Among these transformative technologies, Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT) is emerging as a game-changer for process industries. AIoT combines the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to create a synergy that goes beyond mere automation. This article delves into the concept of AIoT, its role in process industries, its benefits, use cases and future predictions of transformation.

Understanding AIoT

AIoT represents the convergence of AI and IoT technologies to enhance data analytics, automation and decision-making processes. It goes beyond traditional automation by infusing intelligent algorithms and machine learning into connected devices, thereby enabling them to learn from data and adapt autonomously. The term 'AIoT' may sound futuristic, but its applications are already making a significant impact on process industries.

The AIoT framework starts with IoT, where a vast array of sensors and devices collect data from physical assets and send it to a central platform. This data forms the foundation for AI algorithms to analyze, predict and optimize operations. In essence, AIoT transforms data into actionable insights, making it a critical enabler for process industries.

The role of AIoT in process industries

In process industries, where efficiency, safety and quality are paramount, AIoT plays a pivotal role in optimizing operations. The integration of AI with IoT sensors and devices has the potential to revolutionize the way these industries function. Here are some of the key roles that AIoT plays in this context:

  1. Predictive Maintenance: AIoT enables predictive maintenance by monitoring equipment in real-time. Through continuous data analysis, AIoT systems can predict when machinery is likely to fail and schedule maintenance proactively. This prevents unplanned downtime and minimizes costly repairs.
  2. Quality Control: The combination of AI and IoT sensors can monitor production processes with exceptional precision. Any anomalies or deviations from the desired quality standards can be detected and addressed immediately, ensuring consistent product quality.
  3. Energy Efficiency: AIoT systems can optimize energy usage by adjusting equipment and processes based on real-time data. This not only reduces energy costs but also contributes to sustainability goals.
  4. Supply Chain Optimization: By integrating AIoT into the supply chain, process industries can gain better visibility into inventory, demand and logistics. This leads to more efficient distribution and reduced operational costs.
  5. Safety Enhancements: AIoT can enhance safety in process industries by monitoring environmental conditions and alerting operators to potential hazards. It can also automate emergency response protocols in case of accidents.

Benefits of AIoT in process industries

The adoption of AIoT in process industries offers a multitude of benefits. Here are some of the key advantages:

  1. Increased Efficiency: AIoT optimizes operations, leading to increased productivity and reduced waste.
  2. Cost Reduction: Predictive maintenance and energy efficiency improvements result in cost savings.
  3. Enhanced Safety: AIoT can detect and mitigate safety risks, making the workplace safer for employees.
  4. Better Decision-Making: The insights generated by AIoT systems empower decision-makers with data-driven information.
  5. Quality Improvement: Continuous monitoring ensures consistent product quality.

Use cases of AIoT in process industries

To better understand the real-world applications of AIoT in process industries, let’s examine a few case studies that showcase the transformative potential of the technology:

Case Study 1: Power Plant Optimization - In this case, a power generation plant harnessed the power of AI to compare two identical air supply units and identify the root cause of a loss of energy production, excessive energy consumption and reliability issues on one of the units. The AI models detected a pressure loss in the boiler and pressure entry to the gas heater, pinpointing the need for a seal repair. This enhancement in heat retention not only optimized production but also significantly reduced fuel consumption.

Case Study 2: Boiler Feed Pump Downtime Mitigation - Another power generation plant used existing IoT sensors and AI to monitor the health of its pumps and predict potential failures. The AI models identified a deviation trend in bearing temperatures and pump flowrate. Leveraging this information, the maintenance team ensured that a backup pump was readily available. When the predicted pump failure occurred, downtime was successfully mitigated, ensuring uninterrupted operations.

Case Study 3: Oil Platform Safety - An offshore oil and gas platform faced a growing moisture level issue, which, if left unchecked, could necessitate a complete plant shutdown due to the risk of a gas leak. To address this challenge, the team trained an AI model that provided a leading indicator of the problem, which was linked to a gas well in a separate process. With confidence in the model's results, the team promptly shut in the gas well. As a result, the moisture levels rapidly returned to safe levels. This case exemplifies how AIoT can play a pivotal role in enhancing safety and environmental outcomes in process industries.

These case studies illustrate the transformative potential of AIoT in process industries. The technology not only optimizes operational efficiency but also addresses critical concerns related to safety and product quality.

The future of AIoT in process industries

The future of AIoT in process industries is promising, with IOT Analytics forecasting that nearly half of all IIoT applications (industrial internet of things applications) by 2027 will have an AI element. Here are some key aspects to consider:

  1. Increased Adoption: As the benefits of AIoT become more apparent, a wider range of industries within the process sector, from manufacturing to energy, are expected to adopt AIoT technologies.
  2. Integration with 5G: The rollout of 5G networks will enable faster and more reliable data transmission, enhancing the capabilities of AIoT systems. This will enable real-time decision-making and more extensive use of remote monitoring and control.
  3. AI Advancements: Ongoing advancements in AI algorithms will make AIoT systems even more capable of handling complex tasks and predicting outcomes with greater accuracy.
  4. Greater Emphasis on Sustainability: The environmental impact of industrial processes will drive the adoption of AIoT for sustainability efforts. Reduced energy consumption and waste will be a priority for process industries.
  5. Customization and Scalability: AIoT solutions will become more customizable and scalable, allowing companies to tailor them to their specific needs and gradually expand their implementation.

In summary, AIoT is set to be a driving force in the transformation of process industries. Its integration of artificial intelligence with the Internet of Things not only streamlines operations but also enhances safety, quality, and sustainability.

As industries continue to embrace AIoT, the path from automation to transformation becomes more apparent. In the coming years, it is likely that AIoT will become an integral part of the industrial landscape, reshaping processes and redefining what is possible in terms of operational efficiency and sustainability.

In conclusion, AIoT is more than just a buzzword; it's a catalyst for change in process industries, with tangible benefits and a bright future. As solutions continue to evolve and adapt, the process industries that embrace this transformation will be better equipped to thrive in an ever-changing global landscape.

Trevor Bloch is the founder and chief technology and products officer of VROC. With a background rooted in traditional consulting control system engineering, Trevor has leveraged his extensive industry expertise to establish VROC as a powerhouse in the field of industrial information technology.

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