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  • The Industrial Internet Of Things

Reaping the benefits of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

Trillions of dollars are at stake as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) rolls out over the next decade. On the one hand, the IIoT is about sensors and networks and data but it also is very much about money. It is estimated that IIoT could add a jaw-dropping $14.2tr to global domestic product by 2030. That is huge.

The IIoT is also about measuring just about everything worth measuring in a company. That's the path to managing processes – and people – more effectively.

According to a recent estimate by the World Bank, the gross world product stood at $75.62tr so the IIoT could bring significant profits and prosperity to many. But it won't happen without effort and it won't happen equally at all companies or in all nations.

Understand this, too: precisely because the IIoT is disruptive, it threatens a lot of stakeholders and that in itself raises impediments to swift adoption.

On many levels, there have been multiple improvements that have eased the way for the IIoT's deployment, said Paul Daugherty, chief technology officer at global management consulting company Accenture. Daugherty explained that sensors are smarter and cheaper; Networks are nearly everywhere, meaning the data collected by sensors can be efficiently transmitted; Cloud computing architecture has made cheap data storage possible; and data science keeps getting better, which means the important findings in the data can be accessed faster and more reliably. That, said Daugherty, set the stage for today’s the IIoT revolution.

Leading companies already are hip-deep into the IIoT and are beginning to enjoy the benefits. Yet the vast preponderance of companies are doing little, and that needs to change. Stern words of advice from multiple experts are: get an adoption plan in place and start moving forward on the IIoT now. This race will not be won by the laggards.

Stern words of advice ...
from multiple experts are: get an adoption plan in place and start moving forward on the IIoT now. This race will not be won by the laggards.

Research from Accenture underlines the lack of readiness of most companies. In a survey of some 1,400 C-suite decision-makers, 73% confessed their companies had not made any concrete progress with the IIoT. Only 7% told Accenture they had developed a strategic plan that was funded. That means 93% do not have a plan, or if they do, they have not put money into it, thus no progress has been made.

For companies that want to stay competitive, they need to embrace the IIoT sooner rather than later.

Taking initiative

The hard part is deciding where to start.

Many experts suggest targeting an area where data is readily accessed and potential benefits are self-evident.

For instance, some experts point to refrigeration cases in supermarkets as a case in point. Supermarkets operate in an exceptionally low-margin business and they are reluctant to spend money. But “smart” refrigeration cases can predict operational failures – thus saving food that otherwise might spoil – and also effectively schedule maintenance. Many supermarkets quickly see substantial savings.

Other experts pointed to smart lighting as an area where many companies are seeing quick payoffs. That’s because these systems can diagnose their own failings, even self-repair. Smart lights also can turn on, and off as appropriate, thereby saving energy and money.

Yet another area where the IIoT can bring quick and large benefits is temperature-sensitive shipping, said many experts. A case in point is pharmaceuticals – some drugs are rendered ineffective when exposed to very high or low temperatures – and thus some pharmaceutical companies are using temperature collection tags to reassure wholesale buyers.

In just about every industry, said the IIoT experts, there are places to get started where implementation costs are low and payoffs come quickly.

Mapping IIoT

But then there is another complication. Geography matters. According to Accenture's surveys, only a handful of countries – the United States, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the Nordic nations – are leading the way. They have the technology and business infrastructure that speeds adoption of the IIoT.

A few countries – Russia, Brazil, India, Spain and Italy – won’t be able to maximize the IIoT rewards without also investing in infrastructure to make it come together.

The good news is that for the majority of countries, the IIoT playing field is comparatively level, which means it comes down to individual companies and their leaders to chart their own destinies.