Opportunity is Knocking; It’s Time To Open the Door
by Mike Fahrion
A couple of weeks ago I was in a meeting with the CEO of industrial automation equipment supplier when he declared that industrial IoT is only hype today, and that it won’t start to become a reality for another five years. He’s not the only person I’ve met who doesn’t seem to have been paying attention to reality. I’ve had conversations on the same subject with hundreds of other people, ranging from CTOs and analysts to guys with hard hats and trucks in the field. They all have their own take. Some are excited about industrial IoT, and some are dragging their feet. But they do seem to fall into one of three groups.
The “Show Me” Group
Members of this group work with critical processes and are always keeping an eye out for new technologies that will improve those processes. They may even be willing to be early adopters. But they are definitely not willing to be the first adopter, as they worry that there is too much riding on the outcome.
This group fully buys into the industrial IoT concept. They have the experience to recognize that industrial IoT’s promise of increased efficiency, predictability, and reduced downtime is very real, and that it will produce very real returns on investment. But this group is also risk averse.
Members of the “Show Me” group may be left behind by competitors who are more willing to embrace new technologies. Quite often these competitors have special teams assigned to evaluating and proving out new solutions. Some solutions will be disqualified as being mere science experiments, of course. But some will make it into production environments. When they do, it gives that competitor a head start. If you’re a member of the “Show Me” group, and you’re waiting for a competitor to adopt and prove a technology before you’ll even consider it, you may be placing yourself in a precarious position. The future may not be kind to you.
The “Nothing New” Group
Members of the “Nothing New” group are often traditional automation system integrators and SCADA engineers who have been putting together complex automation and remote monitoring systems for decades. Staples of their toolkits are PLCs and HMIs. These guys can engineer solutions for all kinds of problems, as long as the requirements are clearly defined up front. And months or years later, when the requirements change, they’ll be available to re-engineer to meet those new requirements. But that’s the dreaded “rip out and replace” cycle. It’s expensive, and it doesn’t anticipate future needs.
As skilled as the members of this group may be, they’re failing to grasp the important differences between traditional M2M and industrial IoT.
For example, machine builders may know that by connecting their machines and capturing data they can improve services. But if they’re still thinking in terms of traditional M2M solutions, they’re overlooking the power of industrial IoT technology. Have they thought about getting a leg up on the competition with a pay-per-use model? Are they adding more service revenue streams to their business model? Will they need to capture and analyze more data in the future? What happens when you can add external sensing capabilities, and integrate with multiple software platforms? These are systems that will have constantly evolving requirements. A properly designed IoT solution can not only scale and grow (or shrink) to meet the future “unknown unknowns”, it also eliminates the dreaded “rip and replace” problem? This ability to scale, grow and integrate future requirements is fundamental to industrial IoT solutions.
If you’re an adopter, you’re embracing the rapidly accelerating IoT technology curve and coming along for the ride. You’re in constant test and tune cycles, and you’re discovering all kinds of tools that enable nice returns on investment. You’re reducing waste, reducing downtime, and increasing efficiency. You’re pushing your management and they’re listening; the business cases are too compelling to ignore. But you’re not a fool. You’re proving out the “readiness” of the solutions before you take them mainstream.
At B+B SmartWorx, our “adopter” customers are putting our IoT tools to work in hundreds of applications. Examples already include heavy machine manufacturing, mining, foundries, water, building automation, energy and more. Many start slowly. They pick up a Wzzard Intelligent Sensing Platform design kit or a Spectre cellular gateway. They start gathering new kinds of data, or they explore new possibilities in remote device connectivity. They test, they experiment and they prove out real business cases.
Whichever group you fit in, you’ll find something interesting in B+B SmartWorx’ new IoT Guide for Modern M2M. This is hot off the press, and it will give you real insight into the evolving world of Industrial IoT. It discusses what’s already real, what’s already working and some of the things that are right around the corner.
And, no, industrial IoT isn’t something that is going to appear five years down the road. It’s already here.
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