The Industrial Internet of Things Transition Accelerates

A number of factors appear to be converging around an unstoppable momentum for the Industrial Internet of Things—and it will impact companies of all sizes.

I was encouraged by a nice dose of reality on the Internet of Things (IoT) concept put forth in an article published in The Industrial Ethernet Book (http://awgo.to/524). In that article, Michael Barkway of The Technology Partnership pointed out what he sees as the key issues surrounding development of the IoT.

In a private conversation with Barkway, he shared his perspective on how our expectations of IoT need to align with the real world. He believes that many commentators are confusing the freedoms we expect from the Internet with the costs and responsibilities arising from the IoT. Benefits are being “somewhat overestimated” in many cases, he says, pointing out that some estimates of market values for IoT he’s seen “exceed the GDP of the whole of Europe, which seems unlikely.”

He does, however, see more OEMs taking ownership of data coming from their installed systems and using software-as-a-service to provide a better understanding of their products in the field. This will allow for improved quality and productivity from the OEM and, of course, benefit the end user.

Despite the advantages of IoT, Barkway accepts that security remains a major issue and acknowledges that some major companies—automotive manufacturers, in particular—will not be willing to share their data with outside suppliers as some OEMs are doing.

Barkway notes that he is certain human intervention in data analytics processes will never go away and that data science is becoming a critical discipline for IoT. This is a major issue for the future of IoT—as there’s a shortage of good people, and data scientists are increasingly needed to recognize patterns and trends in Big Data streams, he says. Consultancies like The Technology Partnership are benefitting from this, but many firms will have to “grow their own” data scientists because of the inherent need for a deep understanding of business operations.

A recent development of interest that further supports the growing interest of businesses in IoT was the decision by Pivotal to place its distribution services within a new organization called the Open Data Foundation. Some big names are also involved in this project, but what caught my eye is that Pivotal just attracted Benjamin Black as an employee. Black helped conceive Amazon Web Services and also worked on Office 365 with Microsoft. With that kind of talent moving toward the IoT universe, I suspect we may see more of this type of organization in the future.

Several other classic technology transition markers have also been popping up around the IoT. For example, new companies are being set up to support IoT and large investments are going into existing service suppliers around the IoT concept. Further, more and more companies are re-envisioning their branding with completely fresh websites being launched around the IoT. Though this has been happening for a while, I’m seeing serious companies—and not just the bandwagon jumpers—take steps to reposition themselves around the IoT. I particularly like how some companies are discussing the way IT (information technologies) and OT (operational technologies) are collapsing together. I applaud these initiatives and hope that anyone using the IoT simply for marketing reasons does not spoil the market.

I am expecting to see an increase in these kinds of realignments at Hannover Fair in April. The German Industry 4.0 initiative is growing in stature by the month, and I expect the 2015 event should be something of a watershed. Hilscher will be there, of course—as networking specialists, we are at the forefront of collecting data and passing it between networks. Without those fundamental capabilities, the industrial IoT would not be possible.

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