IoT and cloud computing: AWS and Volkswagen have a grand plan to connect up factories

Industrial Internet of Things and cloud project will link up 30,000 sites and 1,500 suppliers.

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The world's biggest carmaker Volkswagen has said it will use cloud computing and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies from Amazon Web Services (AWS) to connect and manage its manufacturing plants and supply chain. 

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The two companies said they have signed a multi-year deal to build what they are calling the 'Volkswagen Industrial Cloud', which will manage the automotive giant's manufacturing and logistics. The aims of the project are to increase plant efficiency and uptime, improve production flexibility, and increase vehicle quality. 

The system will aggregate real-time data from all of Volkswagen's 122 manufacturing plants to manage the overall effectiveness of assembly equipment, as well as track parts and vehicles. Over time the system will connect more than 30,000 facilities and 1,500 suppliers and partners in Volkswagen's global supply chain, the companies said. 

AWS said that Volkswagen will use a number of its IoT services to find, collect, and organise data, and run sophisticated analytics on data from the plant floor with the aim of optimising production and improving process efficiencies. It will also build a company-wide data lake built on Amazon S3 to analyse the data, so that the car giant can improve forecasting, and streamline operations by identifying gaps in production and waste. 

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Volkswagen will also use Amazon SageMaker, its service which allows data scientists to build, train, and deploy machine-learning models quickly, to optimise the operation of machinery and equipment in all of its plants. Volkswagen plans to use AWS Outposts – the on-premise version of AWS services – for latency-sensitive applications. 

Industrial IoT projects like this are one of the largest elements of IoT spending. Analyst IDC said manufacturing and transport sectors are among the biggest spenders on IoT (Volkswagen straddles both, of course). Manufacturers hope that by adding sensors to their production lines and further into their supply chains they can spot problems or opportunities for efficiency in real time.

This IoT project is not the only cloud initiative that Volkswagen has embarked on recently. In September last year, it also signed a deal with Microsoft to make Azure the platform for its automotive cloud and connected car services project. 

From 2020 onwards, Volkswagen plans to produce more than five million new vehicles per year, which it said will be fully connected. "In the future, Volkswagen's fleet of cars will become mobile 'internet of things' hubs linked by Microsoft Azure," Volkswagen said at the time