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.
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