IoT meets Industry – Part 1

18 November 2015

IoT meets Industry (Part 1)

No doubt you’ve heard of the IoT – it’s seems hard to miss these days. Now we also have Industrial IoT - in vogue for describing its applicability to the broader industrial sector.

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The IoT will make new data available in ways we couldn’t imagine before; it will spur new markets and connect existing markets that previously had little overlap, further driving the need for applications that can make sense of the available data to extract meaningful results. Automating this kind of information discovery and exploitation will be huge, IDC forecasts a $7.1 trillion market by 2020; McKinsey suggest a more ‘reserved’ $6.2 trillion impact by 2025. When you see numbers like this you realise that something rather dramatic is afoot.

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So Why Now?

For starters, a number of technical advances have been made that will enable and then drive the IoT movement. They are:

  1. Wireless communication, at least in the developed world, is plentiful and cheap. New developments in 5g and low power radio communication standards will only make this even clearer. Mobile operators, tired of giving away 1000s of free minutes and text messages, are seeking new business models to boost their balance sheets and leverage their infrastructure investment – IoT is the answer.
  2. Cheap, distributed and scalable processing means that even a teen enthusiast can command a vast array of processing power (more than many governments would have had access to ten years ago) for little more than the cost of a can of soda. Not just in the Cloud, but practical processing is finding its way to the edge device emerging as a Fog Computing architecture.
  3. Low cost, ‘good enough’ sensors and devices such as the Raspberry Pi are beginning to litter the market driving both an excited hobbyist community – rekindling memories of the PC era of the late 70s and early 80s – and serious high-tech businesses. Electronic devices are coming off production lines with internet-connected sensors installed as standard. Whether we ask for it or not, things are getting sensored up. And if you need sensors they are readily available for less than a few dollars and a quick search turns up great open source code examples making integration painless.

M2M is not IoT

It is true, some sectors have been exploiting this sort of capability for years – aerospace, mining and Oil & Gas spring to mind. M2M (Machine to machine) has been used to describe this early work but let’s make it clear – that’s not IoT. Despite many industry stalwarts promoting this earlier work as "IoT", they’re fundamentally misunderstanding the real drivers of IoT. It's not simply the technology and interconnections.

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The difference with the IoT is in the sheer scale and ambition. IoT is not just about connecting the devices, it’s about autonomy of menial activities and opening up and integrating datasets in new ways which will bring about much bigger changes. Silos will be broken down – or watch as your competitor’s leave you in their dust. Business models will change and news ones will emerge – think availability based contracting (or ‘power by the hour’ in the case of airliner engines).

From smart cities to intelligent manufacturing, it’s about organisational and personal change as much as it is about technology. That also means its impact will be felt far and wide. For instance, Smart City designers are wanting to use IoT to exploit city data to better inform citizens and provide a more transparent model of governance. “Yeah right”, I hear you say, “I’ll just be given more adverts for things I don’t need” but this is serious stuff, designed to make your everyday life easier.

But what about industry? Look out for next week’s Part 2 where I’ll be discussing IoT’s relevance to the industrial sector.

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