On Tuesday April 26 of the Hannover Fair, Dell and Intel gathered thought leaders from about ten partners into a “Think Tank.” We met in a conference room in the middle of the FairGrounds and discussed the Internet of Things for a solid two hours. It was my privilege to moderate the session.
Present IoT situation is robust
Was IoT relevant to each company or organization represented? As each person introduced himself and his company, it was clear that every company was deep into understanding what IoT meant for their business and for their customers. Or, as I stated, “I guess we can’t generate any debate on whether IoT is relevant, so we can move on to considering why anyone cares about IoT in manufacturing business.”
You can tell by some of the pictures that even though most of us were wearing conservative dark jackets each was passionate about the impact of IoT in our business. As we discussed the business drivers, we began with how connectivity enables this entire area. New database technologies were discussed.
The consensus of opinions focused on how IoT is a disruptive element in today’s manufacturing climate. Several noted that we can now build new models of doing business. The people in the room were each in their own domain working on models that disrupt what they’ve been doing and pointing toward new benefits for customers.
Organizational IT Challenges remain
But all is not sanguine in IoT land. Customers are confused about what the Internet of Things is. There are so many names and it comes in so many flavors that customers are beyond trying to figure it out on their own. Members of the panel agreed that it is incumbent upon them and their companies to be able to articulate the Internet of Things clearly and coherently to the market.
The problem of bringing the IT group and the OT group together into some form of meaningful collaboration, and even respect, has been discussed for probably 20 years. Yet, this predominantly European group identified IT/OT convergence and the need for collaboration as a key challenge facing IoT implementation. This group of technology suppliers and integrators acknowledged that in many of their customer’s sites, their meetings often are the first that bring the two groups together in the same room discussing a common problem. More of the same is needed.
Customers and suppliers face the challenge of identifying opportunities where IoT will be a benefit to operations and business. This will require collaboration among many partners and groups.
The challenge “elephant in the room” was security. The topic was brought up gingerly, and no solutions were proposed other than security measures already in place. In other words, we probably need to continue to work on this topic.
Not unlike implementing other manufacturing IT projects, panelists noted the need for customers to rationalize their operations and understand architectures before beginning a comprehensive IoT strategy.
IoT in the future
What about the future of IoT and manufacturing? Some threw out ideas such as wearables and augmented reality (AR). I’ve been enchanted with the Silicon Valley use of bots—from Siri and Cortana to notifications. Panelists jumped all over the idea of bots. This technology is seen as the hot thing for the near-term future.
Dr. Valentijn De Leeuw, Vice President and analyst at the ARC Advisory Group, brought up an initiative in the European Union—Alliance for Internet of Things Innovation.
“The Alliance for Internet of Things Innovation (AIOTI) was initiated by the European Commission in order to develop and support the dialogue and interaction among the Internet of Things (IoT) various players in Europe. The overall goal of the AlOTI is the creation of a dynamic European IoT ecosystem to unleash the potentials of the IoT. This ecosystem is going to build on the work of the IoT Research Cluster (IERC) and spill over innovation across industries and business sectors of IoT transforming ideas into solutions and business models. The Alliance will also assist the European Commission in the preparation of future IoT research as well as innovation and standardisation policies.”
The US government, by the way, under the Obama administration has begun a few organizations working on digital manufacturing and smart manufacturing. I haven’t seen an equivalent of this one. Please point one to me if you know it.
Dell / Partner Ecosystem
Dell holds these think tanks in a number of areas to foster networking and collaboration among its various partners. I’m sure some companies do something similar behind closed doors. Dell records theirs for public consumption, also.
From the Dell point of view one of the main take aways identified was the need to collaborate across a partner ecosystem of vendors and service providers to address customers’ appetite for more efficient and higher quality solutions. Customer centricity and customization of solutions was another point that received general agreement. The group also identified data utilization, edge analytics, standardization and workforce changes as opportunities for collaboration within the full ecosystem of IoT solutions partners.
The future is already here. As this market continues to evolve, staying on top of collaboration opportunities for advancements in IIoT, smart manufacturing and industry 4.0 and collaboration is key. The group agreed that better analytics will provide greater visibility to new revenue streams.
One last comment of mine regarding edge analytics. There was often an unstated assumption about the value Dell brings to the table with its IoT solutions. Not only is the IoT Gateway an adaptation of its PC technology, but Dell also brings such extras as embedded analytics and applications not to mention bringing to larger partners its global service and support network.
Participants include representatives from: · Azeti · Dell · Intel · Knapp · Kepware Microsoft · MPDV Mikrolab · OSIsoft · Relayr · SAP · The Manufacturing Connection, Gary Mintchell (MODERATOR)
Several of the participants recorded interviews. I’ve linked to several here.
Here are summaries:
Ole Borgbjerg, Kepware, “IT and OT have different roles and agendas, get inside that and talk to both, we are getting more IT experience, we are company working on factory floor, but need to take benefit of devices on the edge. It will take some time to take off. curious but holding back but will take off.”
Oliver Niedung, Microsoft, “We operate in all areas of the integration, hybrid solutions, devices/software, cloud subsystems. Dell is a valued partner.”
Joseph Brunner, Relayr, “There exists a skills gap. We need to make abusiness case (save money or make money). We need hardware providers to unleash data, middleware company like us to mix and send up to business. It’s an infrastructure sale, and a strategic decision changing the way companies do business.”
Tim Kaufman, SAP, “Importance is in getting end-to-end data. There are configuration issues, we need more plug-and-play. Potential exists in the horizontal supply chain including track and trace.”
Dirk Sommerfeld, Azeti, “Need to bring many different companies together for project. We found out that many companies are working on IoT from many different directions.”