IIoT platforms are now finally entering the implementation stage for organizations ahead of the curve. This so called “era of convergence” will enable workforces to reach new levels of productivity and efficiency, thanks to real-time insights into data.
These advanced platforms will drive an industrial business revolution, providing enterprises with the agility, flexibility and tools to create application-centric capabilities, exclusive to industries, according to the recent Landscaping IIoT Platforms – Vendor Clusters & Growth Prospects report by analyst Frost & Sullivan.
This is all being made possible with developments in communication hardware, analytics tools, visualization, user interface (UI) development tools and cloud storage that are the central elements to IIoT, creating “a one-stop-solution for all factory needs”.
In the report Frost & Sullivan highlights four key trends emerging in the industrial IoT platform arena:
- Application programming interface (API) modules becoming central to industrial IoT strategies;
- Open cloud developer platforms, such as Predix DOJO, enabling collaboration between industry experts and developers, speeding up proof of concept modeling to customers;
- Low power satellite-based LPWAN technologies supplementing cellular-based network technologies such as LTE-M, NB-IOT for global asset tracking in industries such as oil and gas and transportation;
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cognitive functions looking to play a central role in the workplace as enterprises jostle to get ahead of the competition and step-up solution performance.
IIoT’s key benefits for industrial companies include proactive maintenance, which reduces downtime and maintenance costs, and prolongs the life of assets. It also provides for optimized efficiency through dynamically managed usage and delivers new revenue streams, born out of a connected ecosystem.
It is little surprise, therefore, that the IIoT ecosystem is accelerating so fast it is set to trigger many acquisitions and collaborations. “While major industrial participants with IT-OT [operational technology] expertise are leading the revolution, participants with single complementing competencies will join forces to protect market share and boost their customer value propositions,” explains Sharmila Annaswamy, senior analyst at Frost & Sullivan.
Making sense of the IoT platform space
The IoT platform space is currently crowded. According to IoT Analytics, there were over 450 IoT platform companies globally in 2017, a 25 percent increase on 2016. These platforms must prove themselves to be powerful enough to extract data from a large number of endpoints which can be in awkward locations with patchy connectivity to be useful. Only time will tell who makes the grade.
“If there are 100 IoT platforms, then there is no platform, just aspirants. The market, over time, decides who the winners are, and the providers consolidate around two or three leaders,” explains McKinsey in its Making Sense of IoT Platforms report.
IIoT platforms are not one-size-fits-all. Organizations should start by taking an in-depth look into their challenges and working out how an IoT platform may solve them. Look at the application environment and the common enterprise application interfaces. Take a deep dive into the application development environment. Does it match up to business needs? Can it conceptualize data and understand it quickly? Can applications can be ‘containerized’ if a platform switch happens? These and many other questions need to be answered before an organization commits to an IIoT platform.
“As this market consolidates, try to find a partner who is either large and will be in it for the long run or highly focused, distinctive, and successful in solving your most difficult problems,” advises McKinsey.
Data can transform industries
Big data and the insight it can provide has the power to revolutionize industries. Yet, according to the McKinsey Global Institute only a very small proportion of the IIoT data currently collected is ever used. New ways of thinking will need to emerge to change this scenario. The role of platforms is paramount here in developing IIoT as they provide an integrated suite of services for enterprises to tap into to gain data insight they need to move to the next level.
Developing and scaling a platform is no easy task and IIoT platforms are no exception. Which is exactly why industries will be searching out technology providers that can offer them an end-to-end solution that will enable them to get real understanding from their data and link it to competitive advantage.
Editor in Chief, International, at Orange Business Services. I'm in charge of our International website and the English language blogs at Orange Business Services. In my spare time I'm literally captain of my own ship, spending my time on the wonderful rivers and canals of England.