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The learning curve: From the Internet to Big Data to IoT

The technological developments born within the boundaries of the IT industry, and conversations that follow outside these boundaries create trends that are greater than the sum of their individual parts. Challenges are becoming less unique to manufacturers of particular products, and opportunities more ubiquitous to a wide range of service providers and manufacturers alike. In other words, technologies, industries and societies will become increasingly related to, and contingent on, one another in 2017.

Mikko Marsio, Vice President of Digital Business and IoT at Empower group, says that what has unfolded over the past two decades and led companies to where they are today can be understood as both an evolution from a technological perspective, as well as a revolution from an industry and business perspective. From the speculative nature of the IT bubble, to the profoundness of the Internet of Things, Marsio explains how consolidating technology with business is now more imperative than ever before.

“I remember a prediction that was made before I attended an MIT Executive Education course on the Internet in 2000. It envisioned the Internet becoming like electricity, meaning something that we don’t even acknowledge when using,” Marsio reminisces. “If you look at what was laid out in 2000 in conjunction with the IT bubble – for example that the best years for the pulp and paper industry were then and there – no one could actually have predicted how many paper mills would be shut down over the following 15 years.

In order for these mills to stay relevant, they must adapt what they are producing. Companies in general need to understand how both digitalization and end-users are causing their businesses to change. Over the past few years, increasingly many have come to recognize this,” he continues.

An affordable evolution

Despite the predictions regarding the impact of the Internet made at the beginning of the millennium, it would have been impossible for companies to imagine the extent of its integration into businesses. Many companies, and even industries, are now at a point where they are faced with a similar integration problem to solve concerning IIoT. For Marsio, integrating the Internet was the first hurdle for businesses to overcome, Big Data and analytics the second, and IoT the third.

“Big Data is the result of an evolution and I’m not sure that IIoT and IoT can, or indeed should, be separated as distinct developments. I say this because what essentially facilitates Big Data are the digital interfaces created for customer connectivity to machines.”

Machine connectivity and digital interfaces. Sounds very IoT doesn’t it? Marsio recalls an early example of this kind of machine connectivity from his time at Hewlett-Packard, when IoT or IIoT terminology had yet to see the light of day.

“In 2006, when I was working for HP, we were working on how to connect all our office equipment, especially multifunctional machines, to the Internet. This made the remote storage and analyses of data possible, and it also allowed the company to deliver a new kind of value for customers. Since 2006, Big Data has evolved to partly define what IoT is today, as we are now able to gain insights from thousands of data points, analyze these insights in real-time and ultimately use them to drive services. Moreover, in 2017 this can all be done affordably.”

From the short to the long-term

The short-term benefits of such insights can already be seen. However, long-term outlooks still require work. According to Marsio, companies must begin to address how they will develop the execution capacity necessary to scale up tangible opportunities not only now, but also in the future.

“In the manufacturing side, we will see less errors and faults in the short-term, which means companies will improve their overall equipment efficiency. Moreover, companies will not only gain insight into processes from, say the control room of a pulp and paper mill, but they will be able to do so remotely. In the long-term what will be more challenging, for example for players in the pulp and paper industry, will be addressing the ‘paper’ part of their businesses.” This is to say that as end-users’ needs change, the customer-value of paper will need to as well.

According to Marsio, short-term objectives and long-term perspectives can be maintained and executed in parallel. This necessitates a systematic management approach to IIoT opportunities and inherently entails considering the future.

“Within the last few years, there has been a change in how companies approach future developments. This means that companies are now anticipating more of a journey with regard to IIoT, as opposed to a project to be tackled, executed and moved on from. Therefore, future trends, developments and opportunities will be considered as a continuous flow of things.”

“Short-term objectives and long-term perspectives can be maintained and executed in parallel. This necessitates a systematic management approach to IIoT opportunities and inherently entails considering the future.”

Not just thinking, but acting ahead

How do companies and organizations evaluate what they could, should and must do now, and what are the potential consequences of those actions, Marsio asks. Part and parcel of a journey mentality is evaluating the future, which can be challenging especially in industries that have been set in their ways for many years, or even decades. When envisaging what a company will be in 20 years, and who and what it will serve, Marsio encourages leaders to think beyond their businesses and consider societies at large.

“Take Tesla. If in the future, we will all indeed have electric self-driving cars, why buy one at all? The same car that drives you could be used by others when you don’t need it. What would happen to companies offering parking spaces in city centers? Or the driving experience itself? German automotive manufacturers typically market the driving experience as the number one thing to consider, but if there is no driver, what’s the relevance of the experience?”

Regardless of leaders thinking ahead, the questions posed above require action in order to gain answers, and that’s what is currently so compelling about IIoT and IoT. The more ordinary and accessible products like Tesla’s become, the more products will be transformed into services, and thus, the more answers companies will have. However, waiting for that to happen, as opposed to making it happen and becoming accustomed to what IIoT allows for, will result in an opportunity lost. As with electricity and the Internet, Marsio holds that companies should aim for such a profound awareness of IoT that it becomes intuitive to corporate mindsets.

“Ultimately, it is essential for companies to consider how they can get to a point where they no longer acknowledge the fact that they are using IoT or IIoT,” he concludes.

 

Mikko Marsio works as Vice President of Digital Business and IoT at Empower Group

Image credit: chombosan / Shutterstock.com

Interview w/ Mikko Marsio

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The Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality revolution in manufacturing

According to Leroy Spence, Head of Sales Development at EU Automation, “like any disruptive technology with roots in the consumer market, industry viewed VR with a certain level of scepticism to begin with.” That is to say, industrial manufacturers didn’t at first consider developments in VR as having value in terms of production. However, for example in the automotive industry, designers and engineers use immersion labs where Oculus Rift headsets support the virtual testing of designs on vehicles. In his article for automation.com, Spence notes how one of the biggest indicators of the potential of AR and VR for industry has come from a shift in recruitment at major engineering companies.

Spence goes on to say that recently, firms have been very open about actively recruiting graduates with game design degrees. “Astute with VR, Android and mobile technology, this next generation of engineering recruits are helping make Industry 4.0 and Internet of Things (IoT) applications a reality.”

Read more about the potential of AR and VR for industry at:
http://www.automation.com/automation-news/article/the-augmented-reality-and-virtual-reality-revolution-in-manufacturing

Image credit: Yuganov Konstantin / Shutterstock.com

Via Automation.com

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Reinventing traditional industries

New realms and areas of innovation can be daunting for individuals and organizations alike. Navigating through the maze of prospects and opportunities, and then recognizing the viable ones to pounce and build on, makes the Industrial Internet of Things a jungle of locks for the shrewdest of locksmiths to take on. Anja Hoffmann, the Founder of Copenhagen based strategy and innovation consultancy company Sentio Lab, is convinced that industries are full of such locksmiths, however, she holds that too often those clutching the keys don’t have a clear mindset as to what locks they ought to open. For Hoffmann, companies across industries must first focus on themselves, before venturing to capitalize – and make sense of – the countless opportunities made possible by new data and technology.

“As increasingly many industries are becoming tech-driven, I always start by looking at the mindset of the company looking to shift their focus to technology, regardless of their industry,” says Hoffmann, who also works as an Innovation Mentor for High-Tech Companies at Scion DTU. “In general, I think we have a lack of mindset across industries when it comes to understanding both the opportunities, and challenges in developing business models using new technologies,” she continues.

Hoffmann’s call for a more measured approach is far from baseless. She has been working closely with a wide range of industries for several years, thus gaining a unique vantage point. For her, more “traditional” industries often struggle to reinvent their approaches internally, especially when it comes to customer relations. However, there are exceptions.

“The pulp and paper industry, which I’ve been working with for some years, is an interesting example of a sort of hybrid between tradition and innovation. When it comes to the production process they remain very traditional and even historical, but because many of their customers are creative and innovative, they have been forced to think about new ways for longer than for instance the steel industry.”

In the case of the pulp and paper industry, mindsets have thus been revised by partners and other actors within an ecosystem, something Hoffmann feels very strongly about. For her, ecosystems and value chains represent one and the same thing.

“Companies need to look into their ecosystem, meaning their partners and so on, and ask themselves: what kind of an ecosystem will match our business ambitions in the future? Ecosystems are so important not only in regards to discovering and integrating new technology, but innovation in general. If you consider some of the companies who have asked questions, and succeeded in answering them, they are companies which have recognized that they are more of a service company than a manufacturing company.”

“Companies need to look into their ecosystem, meaning their partners and so on, and ask themselves: what kind of an ecosystem will match our business ambitions in the future?”

Reconciling tradition and innovation

Finding a balance between the two is easier said than done. According to Hoffmann, there should nonetheless be no reason why more “traditional” companies and industries wouldn’t be able to successfully implement a tech-driven agenda, and thrive from what the Industrial Internet promises. She mentions German elevator manufacturer ThyssenKrupp as a great example of a manufacturing company looking beyond its own industry, and desiring to be part of something what would traditionally fall outside the operating parameters of an elevator manufacturer.

“Although ThyssenKrupp manufacture what is essentially a technical product, their latest Industrial Internet developments have not been oriented for a traditional elevator business, but instead more for a service business. Because they have built an intelligent ecosystem around their solutions, ThyssenKrupp are transforming not only elevators, but elevator services to be a part of a smart-city movement.”

Living in the present, preparing for the future

Considering the popularity of the phrase “we live in a constantly changing world,” and other variations of it, Hoffmann reminds us that while this certainly remains the case, it’s vital to focus on the here and now.

“If companies pursue interesting and innovative partnerships across corporate investors and start-ups, they can minimize how much they change at once. Sometimes we focus too much on the fact that we live in a fast-paced business world, which is of course true, but we also need to do remember to experiment in the present, especially with already existing businesses. In order to do this, companies must assess how they can change their own DNA by looking into their value chain or ecosystem.”

When it comes to introspection into ecosystems, the role of the Industrial Internet can’t be understated. One prevailing innovation concerning manufacturing companies has been the increasing integration of co-bots – or “collaborative robots” – into joint working environments with humans.

Not too long ago, robots being used in the automotive industry for example, were kept in cages. Since then, co-bots have emerged and are forcing manufactures to rethink the structure and processes of their value chains. According to Hoffmann, this brings the need to question the necessity and future value of certain skills within the entire Industrial Internet landscape.

“When it comes to co-bots, what will be a challenge in the near future not only for the manufacturing industry, but also for the retail industry, is the demand for new skills from workers. The Industrial Internet is affecting business models as well as society, without forgetting the potential drawback of information overload and issues of security.”

Thus, the impact of co-bots should be assessed from a workforce and societal perspective. Co-bot technology will undoubtedly assist in driving profits and quality via reduced margins of error and sustained performance capabilities, however, as Hoffmann notes, companies “will no longer need programmers with specific technical skills to work with these robots.”

Despite new workforce demands and implementation possibilities in terms of what the Industrial Internet offers –  and as long as leaders acknowledge the challenges and opportunities, without “just pushing a certain agenda forward,” – Hoffmann is certain that companies across industries will prosper from IIoT solutions on many fronts.

Anja Hoffmann is the Founder of Copenhagen-based strategy and innovation consultancy company Sentio Lab.

Image credit: chombosan / Shutterstock.com

Interview w/ Anja Hoffmann

1 Comments

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  • Dilip Gandhi 08.05.2017 05:41

    Inspiring article for traditional industry to be more proactive and integrate IIOT as a tool to modernise and transform themselves lest they be left out.

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Think beyond the cloud – How platform players can prepare for the next phase of the IoT

Many companies are already combining advanced automation, cloud computing and IoT services, among others, to transform their operations. In terms of the maturity of industrial ecosystems, however, Marianne Hannula, Head of Service Product Management and R&D at ABB, believes that there is still the need to establish business models that fully support the technology. She talks about what needs to be done to usher in the era of global supply chain ecosystems and how to take full advantage of its build up phase.

“I first came across machine-to-machine communication more than 15 years ago when I was working with mobile internet applications; a lot has happened since then,” shares Hannula. “All this technological advancement has built momentum for the evolution in industrial ecosystems. These now refer to ecosystems that manage and control the performance of multiple pieces of equipment that form the supply chain, not just order-type data transfers.”

The different players in the field have been somewhat focused on their own operations and that has, in certain cases, slowed the development of new ecosystems. According to Hannula, ecosystems that offer a win-win situation for both parties are needed. “In the case of IoT, this should mean win-win-win-win for multiple parties, not just two.”

Data ownership as a matter of agreement

Hannula sees positive signs in that the time has come when these groups – not just the few early adopters and startups – are beginning to be more open to collaboration and data sharing. “That openness is needed to enable global supply chain ecosystems to develop, where data from multiple sources are combined for the improved performance of the supply chain and for the benefit of end users.”

As data ownership is more complex in an IoT context, the topic has given rise to various opinions. Hannula sees it as a question of what has been agreed upon. “Basically all players should own their data. Sometimes access to this data might be the sellable item. The question arises when the data facilitates new knowledge as it is analyzed and/or combined with other data,” she continues. “Who then owns this knowledge? Who should be held accountable for the consequences when it is used and something adverse occurs? I view this as a matter of agreement, but the responsibility has to be clearly defined between the stakeholders.”

‘Don’t wait for tomorrow’

With regard to IT and OT convergence, Hannula advises companies to not wait for tomorrow. “Use your existing IT structures and find the connectivity means to combine the data available from multiple devices and systems to enable better business decisions now. With that you will learn and find out where the biggest benefits for your business are.”

In addition to the ability to perform predictive maintenance, Hannula believes that the other clear-cut benefits of the Industrial Internet involve the optimization of performance and quality as well as reliability.

“With real-time data turned into knowledge and insights, we are able to detect topics where the process productivity can be improved and become more efficient. Just saving a second or two in some repetitive process can translate to considerable additional revenues,” she explains. “If that happens in one part of the supply chain, the benefits that can be available at the supply chain level can be even greater. Another example could be automatically combining data from various sources and using that to fine-tune equipment performance. This could lead to savings and better quality.”

“When one talks of the IoT, you often only hear the word cloud. But you also have to consider how these clouds can start talking to each other. Then apart from these clouds, there are storms, sunshine and stars.”

Advice for platform players

Hannula believes that there will be a major build up phase for IoT ecosystems during the next five years. “More and more industrial companies will get involved, there will be more and more cloud solutions, and connections between different cloud platforms will become available. The technological knowledge collected over the years and currently stored in documents – or even only in the heads of experts – will turn into a more automated format, making it scalable and useful to business.”

To take full advantage of these changes, she says that companies should focus on three things. “First is that the future starts today. Start using what is available now and learn from it. The next thing to remember is that IoT is not a game of solitaire: Experiment and collaborate with other players. The third and last is don’t wait to be disrupted. Be open to the idea of adopting new business models and remember the human aspect of all this. Instead of considering something as a threat, embrace it as an opportunity and be curious from a technical perspective.”

Above all, Hannula recommends that platform players widen their general outlook. “When one talks of the IoT, you often only hear the word cloud. But you also have to consider how these clouds can start talking to each other. Then apart from these clouds, there are storms, sunshine and stars,” she concludes. “The cloud is a simplification of a technical aspect, but to gain the full benefit of IoT a broader view is needed.”

Marianne Hannula works as Head of Service Product Management and R&D (Portfolio Management, Development, IoT) at ABB.

Image credit: kerenby / Shutterstock.com

Interview w/ Marianne Hannula

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Integrating IT, OT and security: convergence to collaboration

“OT and IT are working towards the same goal, uptime,” writes Daniel McGinn of Schneider Electric.  “Whether that means the comfort of building occupants and business continuity or the specific needs of safety and security.” In part one of a two-part blog entry, McGinn highlights the integration of IT and OT, and what that means for security. Companies developing IoT solutions must consider the implications these new systems, applications or even platforms have in terms of security.

“Keeping buildings operational, IT running and security systems up, depends on the availability of the network and server platforms they are running on, and these systems are only as available as the power supporting them. Because these systems are increasingly connected and open, the departments themselves must come together as well,” notes McGinn. “This is where safety and security now begins for any structure that requires active monitoring and access control.”

Read more about the risks and management challenges of IT environments at: http://blog.schneider-electric.com/datacenter/power-and-cooling/2017/01/04/integrating-it-ot-security/

Image credit: Scanrail1 / Shutterstock.com

Via Schneider Electric Blog

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