The Three Factors that Explain the Massive Industrial IoT Opportunity

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Ready, set, go!

No new product, new project or new solution can be successful without 3 factors: Readiness, Need, and Ability. And when we look at industrial IoT and the tremendous growth it is seeing and the even more tremendous growth that is predicted, you have to feel that all 3 factors are strong and coming together to create the perfect confluence of market dynamics.

I have been visiting customers for the last few months and you can almost skip the conversation about whether IoT is needed and why. Even last year, that was the hot topic, but now people want to speed right to the “How can we do this now (and successfully)” conversation.

But I want to slow down for a minute and savor the moment as it doesn’t happen too often. When Readiness, Need and Ability all align in time. Let’s look at each one for Industrial IoT:

Readiness – why are we ready now? I think it is two factors. One is the great big world of digital transformation. It is happening in every industry and in every facet of our lives. Things you couldn’t imagine would be connected a few years ago are now common place. Connected pet food dish, anyone? Everyone shops on Amazon and having Amazon be a little creepy is even OK these days. Cars are driving themselves. We are embracing the move to the digital world in life and that makes us mentally ready for it in business. The second is the prevalence of the Industrie 4.0 message in many/most/all conversations about transformation in an industrial context. Thanks to this, we all now know what it means to optimize manufacturing and other production environments using connected and data driven technology. There is nothing like a common rallying cry and a common roadmap to smooth the path forward.

Need –You can be ready for change but if the market does not need the change then there is no business to be made. But the industrial space seems to have unlimited need. Every infrastructure and production and manufacturing and energy and chemical and all the rest of the industrial verticals have a plethora of opportunities for optimization of performance and quality to maximize the bottom line of the company.  Every company has their use cases. Some are common like asset tracking (what I like to call “where’s my stuff”) and condition-based/predictive maintenance (find problems and fix them before they are big problems) but there are also a range of unique challenges that every company has as well that are specific to their technology or environment. Companies now realize that if they don’t start to collect new sources of data and begin the optimization process they will get behind their competition. And if they start now, maybe they can even be the leader. To add to the general need to be efficient, many industrial companies have two hard core factors looming – aging equipment and an aging workforce. Their aging equipment probably does not collect as much data as would be useful, is probably not connected to a network to centralize the data and as a result requires lots of non-optimal manual/walking-around processes. The equipment is being managed by an aging workforce – many of whom will retire in the next 10 years while that unconnected equipment is still in use. So now who will know when the weird noise happens if it will resolve itself or not? Remote monitoring and data-driven operational decision making become an absolute necessity. (There is a whole other set of needs around using connected products and data to create new services, but I will explore that one in another blog as it warrants its own longer set of observations)

Ability – now that the industry is ready and has needs, do we have the ability to be successful? While there are many challenges on this front (that’s a few more blogs!) the technology enablers are there to make industrial IoT in reach for everyone. There are simple and very affordable starter kits that anyone can use. There are sensors and gateways and connectivity of many flavors. Cloud storage is readily available and affordable so that companies have somewhere to put all this new data. There are specialty analytics and machine learning that enable companies to use the data that is collected by the IoT network to find problems and help guide decisions. Companies big and small are creating solutions for their customers. OEMs are building connectivity into their industrial automation product lines and providing the services to get their customers up and running on IoT. The ability is there.

So yes! We have all 3 in place indisputably (if you ask me). It’s energizing. It’s exciting. There is much money to be made by companies all along the value chain (this is why we do this, right?). So, let’s work together - get solutions out there, create new ones where we need them and generally have some fun helping companies uncover their new version of success.

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