Have you heard of the Internet of Things? Although I have heard of similar ideas, this is a new area I've begun to study. Cyber links between machines. Machines"talking" to other machines. For instance, the technology allows machines to self monitor and sends feedback signals to other machines or human interfaces enabling preventative maintenance. Essentially, as the technology grows and machines are designed to self respond, machines will be able to self heal and continue down the path toward artificial intelligence. Does this sound far fetched? Not really. In fact, in some industries the machines have already begun to process diagnostics and perform internal maintenance.
Consider aircraft maintenance. For several years, the data management system has monitored aircraft systems and reported when maintenance was required. Some are beginning to be more proactive and diagnose potential issues. Another example, although less technical, automobiles are informing drivers when the oil needs to be changed and tires need air. Some automotive models also sense when collisions might occur. The latest BMW X5 will parallel park itself and can essentially drive its self on interstate highways.
So, given where this is going, it's not hard to imagine a world where machines are designed to take care of themselves. The machines will "know" when they need maintenance. Suppose the machine "determines" that a bearing needs maintenance. The machine will automatically submit an order for a replacement part and begin to limit the loads it will accept until the maintenance is accomplished. Perhaps the bearing is worn beyond use, so the machine will take itself off line, sends a message to a "partner" machine so that the partner can pick up the increased load. The machine will be notified when the replacement part arrives and either call for another machine to perform the repair or call the service technician. The Internet of Things - the technology is already here.
At KTM Solutions, this is a new area where we hope to play. As we continue to build our machine automation business, we want to include the benefits of the Internet of Things. We welcome your thoughts and would love to have you join with us.