The Internet of Things (IoT). Ah, what visions it conjurs. Sensors everywhere. Everything connected.Managers and engineers have the ability to know more about the status of their plants and factories than ever before. They could diagnose, collect data for future development and predictive maintenance, and have a window into all operations.

We have talked about this for years. The reality draws nearer every day. But still, we don’t seem to be seeing adoption and benefits.

My old friend Mark Davidson who is now an analyst with LNS Research, has just posted to his blog a piece called, “What’s Needed to Accelerate IoT in Manufacturing?”

In it he presents some background and discusses some hurdles that remain.

“Small startups, mid-sized companies and major players like ABB, Accenture, AT&T, Bosch, Cisco, Ericsson, GE, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, PTC, Rockwell Automation, SAP, and Siemens are all investing big and staking claim to manufacturing IoT as a key area of future growth. New alliances have been formed over the past year or so – including the Industrial IP Advantage (Cisco, Panduit, and Rockwell Automation) and the Industrial Internet Consortium (AT&T, Cisco, GE, IBM and Intel).”

The hurdles:

“We concur with the three key hurdles that are briefly stated in the recent GreenBiz blog article, which is a 101 primer on the IoT, and in the first post of this LNS Research blog series I’d like to expand on Hurdle #1 a bit further.

Hurdle #1: The standards to ensure interoperability are relatively immature when compared to other Internet, enterprise, and manufacturing software systems.

Hurdle #2: Properly addressing new security issues associated with the IoT.

Hurdle #3: Increased costs to add intelligent devices and equipment and the ROI of manufacturing IoT applications.

With today’s systems and applications, we are used to fieldbus standards with interoperable device information profiles, information standards for application to application use – like OPC/OPC UA, and higher level manufacturing information integration models like OAGIS, MIMOSA, ISA 88 and ISA 95. Even with these broadly deployed, there are vendor-specific solutions that fill the remaining integration and interoperability gaps.”

Yes, standards are that double-edged sword. Industries need agreed-upon standards for everyone to build on and accelerate customer adoption. Yet, sometimes developers try to pay lipservice to standards while trying to lock in customers to their proprietary solution. Still, widespread adoption often depends upon neutral standards—unless one company, like a Facebook, can achieve dominance in a market segment and lock all the competitors out. I don’t know if that will happen in manufacturing.

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