Industrial IP feeds video’s expansion into manufacturing
Q: How is video being used in the industrial world today?
A: The use of video on plant floors has exploded. In just the last five years, we’ve seen video applied in many more areas – or applied in new ways within these areas. Take security. Not too long ago, factories had what I like to call “A Clockwork Orange” security strategy – meaning they would sit this poor security guard down in front of a screen and make him watch security camera screens for eight hours straight. Some places still do it this way.
Q: What’s the alternative?
A: Give the guard a break and let video-analytic software do the majority of the monitoring. The software is able to recognize changes in the environment it’s watching. So if there’s a room that nobody should be in and somebody comes in, the software can recognize that and notify someone in the security office. Then they can take a closer look…no more blank staring for hours on end.
Q: How else is video being applied?
A: Actually, we’ve taken a lesson from the shopping industry here. They use video to count the number of customers entering their store and look at their age range, gender, where they’re going, what they’re buying and how long it takes them to do it. Retailers then analyze this information to make correlations and ultimately try to figure out how they can better sell their products.
Q: Sounds sort of “Big Brother-ish,” doesn’t it?
A: (Laughs) I guess it does. But in the industrial realm, it’s actually not scary at all – it’s efficient. Through video, factory managers can monitor their production lines in real time. They can see how fast the lines are moving, pinpoint spots where it may be lagging, and use this information to identify areas where more employees, better machines or further training is needed.
Q: So when you combine the security cameras with all of these “efficiency monitoring” cameras, how many cameras do most factories use?
A: That depends on the facility and the level of monitoring it requires, so it’s hard to give a number for that. But a larger operation could easily use more than 20.
Q: That must be a huge amount of data. How are these facilities able to handle it all?
A: Yes, it’s massive…absolutely massive. So for video-monitoring systems to work, you need a network that is robust enough to handle all of it. And since people at almost every level of the organization may need to access the data, it must be available throughout the facility – from the plant floor to the corner office. Open network stechnologies based ubiquitously on the Internet Protocol – such as EtherNet/IP for automation – can make this happen. You don’t need a separate network for each device or area. Everything is unified – from the CEO’s computer to the video camera in the storeroom. And through the cloud, storage is nearly limitless.
Q: What does this mean for the future of industry?
A: Well, look at the past five years. The number of devices connected to the network has increased exponentially. And the next five, 10, 15 years promise more of the same. We need a network that can evolve with the manufacturing process – that can handle all the devices that will be added in the coming years. With its openness, EtherNet/IP can easily doenables that. Video cameras and just about any other IP-enabled device from almost any vendor can be added to the network – simply plug and play. Proprietary networks just won’t be able to keep up.