Trends and innovations in Industrial IoT

Cambashi, an international industry analyst company based in Cambridge, has just completed a research project into the industrial application of the Internet of Things to establish the market’s structure and direction.

In the sixth and final article on this subject, Alan Griffiths explores some of the trends and innovations that are emerging and the challenges they will help overcome.

Industrial IoT - IIoT - Siemens’ ‘Mindsphere’ IoT operating system can use digital twins to help optimise product development, production management and in-service performance – image courtesy of Siemens.
Siemens’ ‘Mindsphere’ IoT operating system can use digital twins to help optimise product development, production management and in-service performance – image courtesy of Siemens.

Previous articles described the elements of the Internet of Things (IoT), the main providers, the revenue flows, the business case and how IoT is transforming industries. Here we present some of the key trends and innovations in Industrial IoT (IIoT).

Standard solutions will replace special projects

Most early IoT implementations were special projects rather than standard solutions, so a system integrator or service provider was required to scope, design and manage the implementation.

As Industrial IoT becomes pervasive, people in industry will expect their business systems to ‘just work’. That is, their existing enterprise systems should be IoT-enabled, just as they now expect them to be internet-enabled and data-enabled.

Companies will expect to access the IoT from within their existing systems, or IoT technology will be used to create enterprise systems that deliver business value. There will still be a market for IoT platforms and components, but they will be less visible to users.

This article first appeared in the November issue of The Manufacturer magazine. To subscribe, please click here.

A large number of providers – more than 350 by our count – have developed Industrial IoT platforms, or components from which applications can be built, often relying on an ecosystem of partners to deliver the complete solution. In most cases, partners provide the IoT devices, cloud storage and computing, edge computing, enterprise applications and the overall project management or systems integration.

Mark Benson, chief technology officer of Exosite, says, “In the short term, we see trends moving towards more analytics offerings and related integrated services, more focus on device-to-cloud security offerings, and continued merger and acquisition consolidation.

“In the long term, we anticipate integrated augmented-reality services; the commoditisation of the cost of basic device management in order to lure more sales in analytics and business-process automation, and that IIoT PaaS (platform as a service) will become part of the standard enterprise it portfolio – similar to CRM and ERP.”

Many IoT providers are creating industry solutions that deliver much of the functionality out-of-the-box. For example, Oracle offers a range of IoT Apps (www.bit.ly/2ygk4rt) that includes asset monitoring, production monitoring, fleet monitoring and connected worker.

In 2016, Softbank’s PS Solutions subsidiary created Setouchi Karen using Oracle’s IoT Cloud services. This allows visitors to rent Honda EV-neo scooters to drive around the island of Teshima, in Japan’s Inland Sea. The scooters are completely electric, rechargeable, and connected to the IoT.

Dr Norio Yamaguchi, fellow at PS Solutions, says: “This year, Teshima became not only an exciting destination for contemporary art, but also the test case for technological innovation that could transform the way people consume energy and travel”.

Other manufacturing companies will create their own solutions. Companies with extensive IT capability that regard the implementation of IoT as vital to the business, may decide to keep control of the design and implementation of an IoT solution, and even offer it as an extension to their existing product range. A good example of this is Rachio’s Smart Sprinkler Controller. (See box) 

The IoT as a catalyst for digital transformation

Automation Robotics Robots Data Industrial Internet IoT IIoT - Stock Image
The IoT can help transform a business so that it is completely computerised, highly-automated and even autonomous in some areas.

The IoT can help transform a business so that it is completely computerised, highly-automated and even autonomous in some areas.

Examples have been given in previous articles, such as CNH Industrial, which is making smart connected products an integral part of its portfolio of customer offerings, including performance monitoring of customers as well as integration with core enterprise business systems, such as ERP and CRM.

At the Hannover tradeshow in April 2017, Siemens’ Mindsphere IoT operating system was central to a range of partner presentations using digital twins to help optimise product development, production management and in-service performance.

So, for example, the concept of new ways to operate and understand the performance of connected devices is supported by data analytics so that new workflows can be supported.

Siemens also recognises the opportunity for local transformation – for example, cloud support for SCADA in automation systems, or integration of local edge servers to meet more demanding latency needs.

IBM differentiates its cloud support for IoT with its cognitive computing capability. The IBM Watson IoT platform integrates natural language processing, machine learning, and image and text analytics, so you need look no further if you want your IoT project to include say, voice control of your products in service.

Alongside its Thingworx offer for IoT software, PTC offers augmented reality technology, aimed at extending the nature of interaction with connected devices. An operator’s smartphone or tablet can add information to a video feed of the product, or see sensor readings, the results of analysis and overlays of engineering details.

Collaboration and consolidation

Because the IoT is such a huge opportunity, many providers – from large industrials to small start-ups – are entering the market, and inevitably there will be consolidation. One sign is the recognition of what is core strength and where it makes sense to work with others, for example:

  • GE and SAP are leveraging technologies and expertise. Building on their respective strengths, the companies plan to focus their initial efforts on opportunities to strengthen the integration between GE’s Predix operating system and SAP HANA cloud platform. Additionally, the companies intend to collaborate in the area of asset management, including SAP Asset Intelligence Network, and to explore and design use cases to enable the ‘Things to Outcomes’ vision for customers in the oil and gas industry.
  • GE also works with IBM and Microsoft for cloud hosting and computing, and with PTC Thingworxon other projects.
  • Siemens partners with companies such as Capgemini, which will work with the Siemens Building Technologies Division to use the Siemens Mindsphere platform to implement cloud-based asset management and analytics technology. Siemens has also announced a partnership with FPT, a technology, outsourcing and IT services group headquartered in Vietnam, to drive digital transformation for businesses in Asia Pacific and Europe.
  • In May 2017, Google launched IoT Core, a capability broadly in the same category as Microsoft’s Azure IoT Suite. This will help companies set up connected devices more easily and securely, and then aggregate and analyse the data they generate. Hardware partners supporting this effort include chipmakers ARM, Intel, and Marvel. Customers can also work with third-parties like Helium, Losant and Tellmeplus to build their applications.
  • Autodesk is collaborating with Electric Imp on the IoT Discovery Toolkit that enables IoT connections to their equipment.

Some consolidation has already taken place – for example BitStew was acquired by GE, and Solair was acquired by Microsoft – and more consolidation is likely in the coming years.

Machines and equipment will be delivered IoT ready

Enterprise systems will increasingly be able to automatically discover, link to and manage IoT devices. For example, German company Kaeser, mentioned in an earlier article, provides an air compressor (the Sigma Air Manager 4.0) which comes IoT-ready to provide predictive maintenance scheduling. 

Security will be a fundamental requirement

Just 31% of manufacturers – fewer than a third – regard cybersecurity as a high priority.
There have been several scare stories in the press about IoT systems being hacked or compromised.

There have been several scare stories in the press about IoT systems being hacked or compromised – for example, the Mirai botnet attack, where everyday items were hacked to force websites such as Amazon, Netflix, Twitter, Spotify, Airbnb and PayPal offline.

This exploited the weak security of internet-connected devices like DVRs and cameras, and via botnets implanted on the devices, used them to attack sites causing a denial of service failure.

Soon, all companies successfully offering Industrial IoT products and services will provide sound security features – such as the AWS IoT security capabilities used by Rachio and the Azure IoT platform provided to Rolls-Royce by Microsoft – mentioned in October’s article.

Security needs to be designed-in at every level, and microprocessor manufacturers such as ARM and Intel are building security into their solutions too. In the supply network, blockchain solutions will be used to provide security as well as traceability, as exemplified by Walmart and other supermarkets – also mentioned in October’s article.

Pricing and consumption models will be simplified

Companies who obtain IoT solutions through their enterprise system providers will have a pricing and consumption model that builds on those they are already familiar with. Companies that are building IoT solutions will also find things simpler.

This month, Oracle announced a cloud pricing programme that includes ‘bring your own licence to PaaS’, which allows customers to bring their on-premise licences to Oracle PaaS, including the database, middleware and analytics.

Also, ‘universal credits’ offer one contract that provides unlimited access to all current and future Oracle PaaS and IaaS (infrastructure as a service) services, including Oracle Cloud and Oracle Cloud at Customer. Customers can switch the PaaS or IaaS services they are using without having to notify Oracle.

Google’s IoT Core helps companies deal with all the data and validation requirements from millions of devices by removing a level of complexity – it packages the infrastructure and services to manage the data using services like Google Cloud Dataflow, Google BigQuery, and Google Cloud Machine Learning Engine.

In summary, the IIoT is now providing real value to a wide range of companies in most industries. It will become easier to get started with IoT solutions, and there will be different ways to do this, depending on your internal IT capability.

But exactly who the main players will be in five or 10 years remains to be seen – although most of the large providers mentioned in the second article will certainly be among them.

Smart watering from Rachio

Rachio’s ‘Smart Sprinkler Controller’ enables users to precisely control when and how land is watered via a PC or app-enabled smartphone – image courtesy of Rachio.
Rachio’s ‘Smart Sprinkler Controller’ enables users to precisely control when and how land is watered via a PC or app-enabled smartphone – image courtesy of Rachio.

Rachio is a software provider in Colorado, US. Their Smart Sprinkler Controller is a Wi-Fi-based irrigation controller that allows consumers to optimise irrigation schedules by consulting local weather forecasts and adjusting watering time and volume to account for specific irrigation setups, plants and soil types.

The controller allows users to conserve water while not under-watering lawns and landscapes.

Rachio uses the AWS IoT cloud platform to manage the interaction of its connected devices with cloud applications and other devices. Initially they built their own device management service, but according to Franz Garsombke, chief technology officer and cofounder of Rachio; “We still didn’t have the high availability and scalability we needed”.

Now, each day, millions of Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller messages are processed over MQTT to AWS IoT and then routed to Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS), a scalable, fully managed message-queuing service. Rachio developed and launched its Smart Sprinkler Controller without building a large IT team.

“For companies wanting to get into the Industrial IoT space, tools like AWS IoT enable a faster time to market and eliminate the need to spend months and months and hundreds of thousands of dollars building a solution yourself,” says Garsombke.

Security is an important factor with commercial IoT deployments. Rachio was also able to use AWS IoT to easily build security into its product. Garsombke says, “AWS IoT offers leading-edge security capabilities. Messages are encrypted, and the broker adds another level of security.

“In general, the policy-based security is a huge advantage of AWS. If one of our devices goes rogue, we don’t have to reissue certificates. We can just shut off the policy to that device. It’s very simple and effective.”