Today it seems that everyone is talking about Industrial Internet and especially Internet of Things. At Ixonos we have also been following the discussion avidly, while working with our customers and actually making it happen.
As with all technology hype, it is easy to get excited about the Industrial Internet. At least for an engineer like me. There are a lot of nice existing and emerging technologies being utilized here: Bluetooth LE and Zigbee sensors for data collection, Qt and HTML5 to display data. And of course everything is linked to the ever so popular Cloud. Even the business side, which is often difficult for us engineers, seems to be in order on a first glance – The Economist and other sources are talking about “$948 billion Industrial Internet Revenue” (http://digitalresearch.eiu.com/m2m/report/section/introduction), “$55 billion savings by making better use of Big Data” (http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/nov/14/big-data-government-public-sector-33bn-savings), etc.
However, on taking a closer look at the practical application of the Industrial Internet, the business benefit side often comes across as a bit vague. Talking about hundreds of billions of revenue on a general level sounds very convincing, but what does it mean to a company with total annual revenues around $10 billion? What can we do in practice to actually capture a part of the revenues and improved profits? And how can we prove this internally to get funding for new R&D and services? It is often difficult to justify any additional cost resulting from advanced intelligence or data collection without clear increase in customer value. Especially so in process industry or other mass production environments, where the price of the system is often a critical factor in making decisions.
It seems to me that even with phenomena that are generally accepted as positive, like the Industrial Internet, we still need to be humble and start taking it into use from the basics. We see that this is done best by talking with the end customers and end users of the industrial automation, or other, systems. (See the picture below.) As within other business domains we serve, we always want to start from the customer need and business case before moving on to selecting the best suited technologies for the job. We need to bring the “business case” to a practical enough level. “Increasing profits through improved usability of automation systems” does not sound specific enough. On the other hand, “Achieve 10% decrease in the time it takes a service person to walk from place to place by providing remote access to control panels”, is closer to the mark. Another great example is utilizing remote monitoring of fleets to minimize traveling onsite to solve problems.
Industrial Internet as such is not a solution to anything. It is “only” a collection of tools and technologies, that – when used correctly – can help companies grow and do profitable business. It is the “used correctly” part where SW companies with a strong experience from digitalization of services can help industrial companies to succeed. As a clear example of just such case, I refer to the work we did for one of our customers, Cargotec, in helping them to improve the stability of their embedded systems in harbour areas >>
At the moment we are working on quite a few exciting new applications of the Industrial Internet with some of the thought leaders in the area. We are, for example, helping companies to improve sensor data collection to cloud and visualizing the data with modern HTML5 Human Machine Interfaces. Stay tuned for updates on the results and benefits of those, as our work progresses.
Jukka Hornborg, Head of Offering Management
+358 40 592 9596, firstname.lastname@example.org