Internet of Things (IoT) is a technology trend that has grown significantly in 2016. You’ve may have already heard about it. IoT has already made inroads in the consumer markets and really found a niche in fitness devices and home use. Some of you reading this may already own some IoT devices and not even know it. In this article I want to go over what IoT is and what benefits it has in business. I will also touch on what challenges IoT devices have to overcome to be adopted in a business environment.
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
IoT is a network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings, or any other item you can think of that are embedded with electronics. These devices have sensors, specialized software, and have network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data. This concept revolves around increased machine to machine communication. IoT is built on cloud computing, mobile devices, and networks of data-gathering sensors with instantaneous connections. Some IoT items you may already be familiar with are could be Smart Home consumer devices such as Nest learning Thermostat, The Air Quality Egg, or the Amazon Echo. Another consumer trend is wearables. These are consumer products such as the Apple Watch, FitBit, and various Android Wear devices. The benefits of IoT for consumers is starting to become prevalent, but what role does IoT play in enterprise.
Relating to Enterprise
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) exist within the concept of IoT. The IIoT transforms manufacturing by enabling the acquisition and availability of greater amounts of data, at far greater speeds, and more efficiently. A number of innovative companies have started to implement the IIoT by leveraging intelligent connected devices in their factories. Imagine an ecosystem where sensors, computers, and networks interact with their environments to generate data to improve processes. These ecosystems connect machines to computers to people managing complex processes. Mangers are able to stay attuned to smallest details of an assembly-line and how they affect large-scale logistics of sourcing and supply chains, distribution and market demand. Applications of IIoT can be found in Agriculture, Industrial Automation, energy management, and much more. The IIoT improves connectivity, efficiency, scalability, time savings, and cost savings for industrial organizations. Companies are benefitting from the IIoT through cost savings due to predictive maintenance, improved safety, and other operational efficiencies. ATI Specialty Materials, a world leader in the production of special alloys and steels for the aerospace, oil & gas, and medical industries, uses the ThingWorx IoT platform from PTC—which provides a real-time layer that connects with their manufacturing, quality, maintenance, and ERP systems and allows them to rapidly create role based decision support “dashboards” and interactive applications. John Deere has fitted its tractors sold globally with sensors. This helps the company update the farmer if a moving part of the tractor or the harvester is likely to fail, around one month before the event. IIoT has the potential to revolutionize industry, but it does face challenges in becoming widely adopted.
Some of the biggest challenges in implementing IIoT are standardization and security. As technology writer Margaret Rouse observes, “A major concern surrounding the Industrial IoT is interoperability between devices and machines that use different protocols and have different architectures.” Now because of the lack in standards we can see security protocols and practices not being updates or vetted. Companies need to know that their data is secure. The increase of sensors and other smart devices has resulted in a parallel explosion in security vulnerabilities. Other problems facing IIoT is the upfront investment and legacy installed infrastructure. Retrofitting existing robots with sensors and data-transmission capabilities is a complex process that requires upfront investment. Some companies may wait until the financial benefits of the IIoT are more quantifiable.
The IIoT is commonly considered to be one of the primary trends affecting industrial businesses today and in the future. Morgan Stanley estimates that the IIoT comprises a $42 billion market, with potential to grow 15% to 18% compounded annual growth through 2020. By that time the market would have expanded to $90 billion to $110 billion. Industries are pushing to modernize systems and equipment to meet new regulations, to keep up with increasing market speed and volatility, and to deal with disruptive technologies. Businesses that have embraced the IIoT have seen significant improvements to safety, efficiency, and profitability, and it is expected that this trend will continue as IIoT technologies are more widely adopted. It can unite the managers and systems on the plant floor with those at the enterprise level. IIoT can also allow enterprises to get the most value from their system without being constrained by technological and economic limitations. Having a technology partner is very important when looking to implement new technology solutions into their business.