In preparation for the summer grilling season, my wife bought me a Bluetooth-connected digital thermometer, possibly in hopes of getting properly cooked steaks. It’s a simple device – connect it to my phone or tablet, insert it into a hunk of raw meat, program in the target internal temperature, wait for the alarms.

 

With expensive New York strip steaks, continuous monitoring resulted in perfectly medium-rare meat with a nice outside sear. However, the thermometer really shines when dealing with tough, cheap cuts that take hours to break down – low and slow as the Texas pit masters say.

Any great outdoor chef will tell you that opening the lid on a grill or smoker too often ruins the meat. The thermometer gives me the confidence to keep the lid closed because I know nothing is overcooking. Instead of peeking every hour for a visual inspection and temperature check with an analog thermometer, I get a continuous flow of data. The app gives suggested temperatures for doneness levels, tells me when the meat’s about ready, and lets me know when it has rested enough to make it safe to cut.

So obviously, cooking makes me think about IMTS – The International Manufacturing Technology Show. Every Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Industry 4.0 press release I read gets me thinking about backyard cooking. The principles are the same – replace occasional checks with real-time data.

Before I had the wireless thermometer, I had to plan outdoor cooking based on published cook times – every pound of meat means this many minutes on the grill at that temperature. While helpful, those guides can’t take all the variables that go into a good brisket into account – ambient temperature, humidity, heat fluctuations from a bad burner, and dozens of others.

Industrial best practices are much the same. Though useful for shopfloor process planning, what works for a company in Switzerland may not work in Ohio. Even following identical task lists, shops can produce different results based on variables that best practices don’t measure.

A constant flow of objective, hard data allows companies to use estimates as planning tools but run operations on a more thorough vision of reality. Instead of replacing inserts after a set number of uses – a figure set by historical usage data – use a monitoring system to measure cutting performance and a camera to inspect edge sharpness. Instead of disassembling spindles to check for wear, add a Bluetooth vibration monitor and measure changes to spot potential problems.

The IIoT, Industry 4.0, my backyard Internet of Meat – the goal of these technologies is to eliminate uncertainty and replace guesswork with intelligence. If my recent top sirloin roast is any measure of the technology’s potential, quality and productivity will improve measurably in the coming years.