The analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices – by anyone’s estimation, that’s a lot of connections – and some even figure this number to be significantly higher, at over 100 billion.
“What a conversation that will be!”
The IoT is a giant network of connected “things” which, in practice, also includes people. On that basis, IoT relationships should be defined as: –
The new rule for the future is going to be, “Anything that can be connected, will be connected.” But why on earth would you want so many connected devices talking to each other? Is this the beginning of the era of Intelligent Automation?
There are already many examples for what this might look like: the risks and the potential value to major Industrial manufacturers and their customers. IIoT is already being applied to manufacturing networks around the world and many large organisations are using IIoT as a banner to march behind while simultaneously building the future into their business strategy.
The implications are obvious in that IIoT can help us manage data and processes, create systems, sustain quality, manage feedback, reduce waste and improve efficiency for things such as energy, consumables, materials, maintenance and service, as well as the optimisation of supply chain management. In turn, this will help global business analyse, understand and improve the way we work and manage.
The reality is that IIoT allows virtually endless opportunities and connections to take place, many of which we haven’t even thought of or fully understand the impact of today.
It’s not hard to see how and why IIoT is such a hot topic; it certainly opens the door to a lot of opportunities but, equally, to many challenges. Security is obviously the headline issue. With billions of devices being connected together, what can people do to make sure that their information stays secure?
And what about brand perception?
Many businesses are wrestling with the huge cultural shift that occurs when embracing IIoT. Are we manufacturers of industrial products or digital transformation specialists? Do our products have the capability and credibility to be considered IIoT ready? And will our hard-earned reputation and shareholder value make that transition?
Connection begets connection.
In 1999, almost 20 years ago, when just 4% of the world’s population was online, Kevin Ashton coined the term Internet of Things, Neil Gershenfeld of MIT Media Lab wrote the book “When Things Start to Think,” and Neil Gross wrote in BusinessWeek: “In the next century, planet Earth will don an electronic skin. It will use the internet as a scaffold to support and transmit its sensations. This skin is already being stitched together. It consists of millions of embedded electronic measuring devices: thermostats, pressure gauges, pollution detectors, cameras, microphones, glucose sensors, EKGs, electroencephalographs. These will probe and monitor cities and endangered species, the atmosphere, our ships, highways and fleets of trucks, our conversations, our bodies – even our dreams.”
He was right. Today, almost 50% of the world’s population is connected online and an estimated 8.4 billion connected things are in use worldwide. That’s still a fair way to go to hit the 2020 Gartner prediction.
Yet many businesses are using IIoT as their future business strategy. Global mega businesses such as Honeywell, Vertiv and Schneider Electrics are pushing hard for IIoT to be the norm rather than the exception. Peter Herweck of Schneider Electric recently commented at ACHEMA, “We are working with customers to have sample applications earlier. It’s easy to paint a vision of what things will look like in a few years. The question is, what are the steps that bring us there, and can we commercialize some of the steps in between?”
“It’s only a matter of time until we are able to simulate a potential change for the virtual plant before we do it in the operating plant. We’ll see it in the foreseeable future.”
So here we are, in the middle of 2018, and we’ve made a huge amount of progress. But we need to understand what’s so important about what our technology does, and keep advocating for it. It’s not just about “bar codes on steroids” or a way to speed up toll roads, and we must never allow our vision to shrink to that scale.
Lets not forget that the Internet changed the world. The Internet of Things has the potential to do the same thing. Maybe even more so.
We’d better be ready to talk about it….