In today’s increasingly digital work environment, manufacturers are investing considerably in various machines and devices to supplement operator workflows on the shop floor.

This rise in the connected factory has been facilitated by the increasing development of the industrial internet of things (IIoT). These internet-enabled machines, devices, and sensors transfer data between themselves and other associated systems, connecting the entire shop floor.

As industrial IoT has matured in recent years, businesses are producing more data than ever. As a result, the need for data to travel quickly, efficiently, and securely to related systems and data centers has grown significantly.

Industrial IoT gateways help facilitate this timely data transfer, bringing the processing power closer to the data source – the machines on the shop floor.

Gateways and related devices allow manufacturers to make more sense of collected data. More importantly, data analysis occurs faster, providing decision-makers with insights quickly and enabling them to implement solutions.

In this post, we’ll explore industrial IoT gateways and their importance in connecting the machines and devices powering the shop floor.

What is an Industrial IoT gateway?

An industrial IoT gateway is a device installed on the shop floor to connect and collect data from various industrial machines and IoT devices.

Once collected, the IoT gateway then forwards this data to the cloud or data centers for processing, remote monitoring and control, as well as more in-depth analysis.

IoT gateways vs. edge devices

While manufacturers have long relied on IoT gateways to connect and transfer data to processing centers or the cloud, the rise of edge computing has presented new opportunities for businesses looking to process data more quickly and efficiently.

First, there are many IoT gateways that enable computing at the edge, but most traditional IoT gateways do not.

One of the challenges with traditional IoT gateways is the sheer volume of data being produced by devices requires more complex, expensive connections to data storage and processing centers. With edge devices, data can be stored locally and transferred to the cloud or on-premise processing centers via less expensive connections, including over the internet.

Additionally, the nature of the work being performed by IoT devices has evolved to create a need for more immediate transfer of data between devices.

With traditional IoT gateways, there is often some latency in the data transfer between machines, devices, or sensors and the cloud or data centers. With edge devices, on the other hand, the data can be stored and processed at the edge, eliminating latency due to long-distance data transfer and processing.

While similar in function, the upsides of edge computing includes faster response time for applications that require it, and a reduced need for long-haul connections to processing and storage centers.

The importance of IIoT gateways

Industrial IoT device gateways are vital to the smooth operation of modern manufacturing operations. They are important in the following ways:

Inter-device connectivity and data collection: Manufacturers utilize gateways to bridge their legacy systems and shop floor machines and equipment. As a result, manufacturers can collect data from their advanced machines as well as legacy systems.

This allows manufacturers to monitor machine metrics across different technological generations. In addition, IIoT gateways unite machines with different protocols, fostering interoperability for efficient communication.

Furthermore, these devices reduce the latency over networks by processing raw data. This improves speed, reliability, and flexibility during data collection and transfer.

Real-time data processing for decision-making: Edge-connected IoT gateways process and analyze data at the source in real-time. As such, the gateways eliminate the need to transfer data over long distances to a data center for processing and analysis. This enables real-time analysis, fostering timely decision-making.

Production monitoring: Because IoT gateways collect and process data in real-time, manufacturers obtain timely comprehensive visibility into production processes. As a result, supervisors and managers can keep an eye on production runs, obtaining accurate snapshots of the production process at any time and stage.

Machine condition monitoring and predictive maintenance: Manufacturers use industrial IoT gateways and IoT-enabled sensors to keep track of individual machine performance. These devices monitor machine health parameters, providing real-time insight into performance.

This data can then be passed to a digital system that can process and automatically analyze the data, providing maintenance teams with information indicating potential machine failure. This allows the team to execute predictive maintenance, significantly reducing downtime on the shop floor.

Benefits of edge-connected IoT gateways

Modern manufacturers utilize IIoT gateways to optimize various parts of the production process. Installing these gateways provide several benefits for manufacturers looking to leverage the power of the industrial Internet of Things. Some of these benefits include:

Faster device communication speeds: As discussed, many modern IoT gateways are able to store and process data at the edge. As a result, they eliminate latency and can respond to actions taking place on the shop floor in real-time.

Quick device addition and configuration: Many manufacturers might find device addition and configuration challenging. However, modern industrial IoT gateways have plug-and-play capabilities, utilizing no-code applications to add and configure various shop floor machines and sensors.

Robust security: IIoT device gateways are equipped with powerful industrial firewalls, separating manufacturing machinery from the internet. This shields production assets from bad actors, ensuring data integrity.

Reduced operation costs: IIoT gateways reduce operation costs in various ways. For instance, the devices enable real-time monitoring of machines and sensors, identifying potential downtime and enabling workers to respond and address issues quickly. As such, continuous production ensures timely order fulfillment and delivery.

Furthermore, manufacturing businesses spend less on network bandwidth. After all, gateways process raw data, compressing it to take up less bandwidth as discussed earlier.

An overview of Tulip’s Edge IO

As we’ve discussed, the ability to collect and process production data at the edge can be incredibly powerful for manufacturers looking to monitor their machines, devices, and sensors.

Tulip offers two edge devices that enable manufacturers to connect and configure their equipment with our no-code operations platform. With our Edge MC and Edge IO, manufacturers can collect data from analog and custom machines with sensors or cameras, as well as networked machines with native support for OPC UA as well as a variety of popular protocols through Node-RED.

Additionally, our edge devices are cost-effective, easy to set up, and can be used for a variety of use cases. This supports continuous improvement, scalability and yields unprecedented time to value.

If you’re interested in learning how Tulip can help you draw insights from the machines, sensors, and devices across your operations, reach out to a member of our team today!

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