Thomas Svensson, senior vice president ThingWorx EMEA, discusses David Cameron’s recent commitment to fund research into the Internet of Things and the implications of this movement for manufacturers.
TM: Is government investment in the Internet of Things focussing on the right areas Where is the Internet of Things likely to make the biggest impact in industry and society?
We believe the biggest impact will first be felt within manufacturing. As the Internet of Things [IoT] era begins to take shape, the manufacturing industry is being faced with yet another set of challenges to remain competitive in a smart, connected world.
Experts tell us that the IoT is gauged to potentially create US$6.2trillion in new economic value by 2015, and it is clear that those not prepared and supported to engage will ultimately be put out of business.
Mr Cameron’s vision for the UK is spot on, but now we have to see what concrete steps he and his ministers take to begin forming reality from the vision. Combining efforts with Germany to boost both countries’ fast-expanding IT industries certainly makes sense.
TM: What does the Internet of Things mean for manufacturing business models?
Beyond being able to offer more proactive monitoring and services, entirely new business models are beginning to take shape. Responsibility for maintaining products is shifting from the customer back to the manufacturer. Manufacturers are developing business models where the customer no longer buys or even leases the asset from the manufacturer. The customer pays for the uptime and use of the product while the manufacturer still holds and maintains the asset.
TM: Many are sceptical about the IoT as another ‘next big thing’ in machine-to-machine technology which has been promised as a ‘revolution’ in manufacturing tech for years now. What’s different today?
Item-level RFID tags and smart ocean containers to revolutionise supply chain management were part of the Internet of Things one decade ago. You’re right, these never really happened, or not to the scale envisioned. It is also well known that the first generation of IoT failed, as companies didn’t know what to do with the vast amounts of data they were collecting. One decade on, things are different. The technologies behind IoT are smaller, cheaper and more powerful than ever before – and getting more so every day. Unlike a decade ago, we’re all walking around with wireless computing devices in our pockets, making us another smart ‘thing’ on the network.
TM: Technology vendor PTC recently acquired ThingWorx to bring Internet of Things capability to its tech portfolio, in particular its Service Lifecycle Management solution. How exactly will this acquisition differentiate your SLM offering and help manufacturers deliver advanced service solutions?
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The idea is to transform service from being reactive to proactive by monitoring and predicting events via connected devices and sensors. In addition to smart asset management, there is also an opportunity in avoiding one necessary step in a traditional service workflow, whereby a field technician wastes a trip by having to diagnose the problem first and then having to make a second trip with the necessary parts for the fix. The ability to diagnose and fix the problem in one visit will be far more economical for both the vendor and the customer.