You’re a technology provider and wish to expand your presence in the Internet of Things (IoT) space? Build partnerships. I’ve written about several over the past year. There will be more. This is the age of partnership. Right now companies have figured out that they cannot be all things to all people.
Here is an interesting one. Opto 22 is not a large company, but because of that it is always pushing the envelope of OT and IT applications. On the other hand, we have IBM, a huge company, and its vaunted Watson super computer technology. A little like peanut butter and chocolate, looks like a winning combination.
Industrial automation manufacturer and Internet of Things application toolset provider Opto 22 announced it has been accepted into the IBM® Watson IoT™ Partner Ecosystem. This partnership provides developers with a full stack toolset for building applications that connect real-world signals and data from industrial “things” to the digital world of information technology, mobile, and cloud computing.
Tapping A $6 Trillion Opportunity
A Business Insider report forecasts there will be $4.8 trillion in aggregate IoT investment between 2016 and 2021. Billions of sensors, machines, and devices already exist in industrial infrastructure but are currently unable to connect to the Internet of things and cloud-based applications, like the IBM Watson IoT Platform.
This legacy equipment holds valuable untapped data that is needed to improve business processes and decisions in almost every enterprise and every industry. The partnership between IBM and Opto 22 enables developers to rapidly design, prototype, and deploy applications to connect existing industrial assets to the IBM Watson IoT platform and share their data, capabilities, and resources with other connected systems and assets, to build the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
Building IIoT applications has historically been complex, requiring multiple layers of expensive middleware and significant developer manpower. IIoT applications built from the ground up can take months or even years, and require expertise in both the operations technology (OT) domain, where industrial assets live, and the information technology (IT) domain, where digital and cloud computing assets exist. These long development cycles increase cost, slow time to market, and increase risk of IIoT project failure for customers. Together these problems delay and reduce the return on investment for implementing IIoT applications.
Streamlining and Simplifying IIoT Application Development
Through this partnership, developers and systems integrators have a concise toolset for connecting the OT and IT domains. Combining open technologies like RESTful APIs and Node-RED with powerful and proven computing platforms like the IBM Watson IoT platform decreases development time, eliminates the need for expensive middleware, reduces risk for customers, and gets solutions to market faster.
According to Evans Data Corporation, 79% of Internet of Things app developers spend at least 25% of their time on developing analytics tools. The Watson IoT Platform reduces the need to focus on developing analytics systems and provides everything needed to harness the full potential of the Internet of Things. Rather than reinventing the wheel, developers can tap into the already built toolset provided by the IBM Watson IoT Platform.
Developers can connect, set up, and manage edge processing devices like programmable automation controllers from Opto 22 and apply real-time analytics, cognitive services, and blockchain technology to the data generated by these devices. Cognitive APIs deliver natural-language processing, machine-learning capabilities, text analytics, and image analytics to help developers realize the potential of the cognitive era with the IBM Watson IoT Platform.
“The industrial automation and control industry is in transition right now,” says Benson Hougland, Vice President of Marketing and Product Strategy. “A product development strategy based on proprietary and closed technologies is outdated. The future of industrial automation and process control lies in the rising API and data economies made possible through open standards-based technologies. Our objective in partnering with IBM is to enable IIoT developers to build their applications faster using well-known and proven Internet tools and technology like Node-RED, RESTful APIs, and the IBM Watson IoT Platform.”
Getting Started With Opto 22 and IBM Watson IoT
Opto 22 has provided a recipe for developers to get started in connecting industrial systems to the Watson IoT Platform, as well as a video walking developers through the steps. Developers can access a trial version of the Watson IoT Platform on the IBM website.
I just attended an amazing conference, Industry of Things World USA, in San Diego. Internet of Things was discussed from many angles. The nonstop pace is the reason for no posts for two days. The 400 attendees, about 10% women, gathered from 28 countries and 234 companies. 21 companies sponsored the event, and I was one of the media sponsors. The high profile speakers, ranging from an Undersecretary of the Dept. of Commerce to Harvard Business School professor and author Michael Porter.
Check out the Twitter feed at #IoTClan.
The conference was organized from Berlin, Germany. So, how did they attract such an outstanding attendee list without running ads in major media sites–even major considered from the industry point of view. I heard about the conference from an email. Several people I talked with also heard about it from an email. The organizers, in fact, sent 1.5 million emails in the course of bringing the conference together.
They told me that it was emails and networking. A few people I talked with had been contacted by colleagues in Germany where the organizers have a track record.
Here are a few notes:
Willie May, Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology (NIST) called the IoT a new paradigm, “It’s going to be big.” NIST is working with industry and academia on standards and testbeds.
Jeff Jaffe, president of W3C–the worldwide web consortium, discovered the importance of metadata and interoperability of data among apps. RESTful interfaces lie on the standards roadmap. Everyone seems to want to rename the IoT in their own way. For Jaffe, it is the Web of Things. “The Web is fueling a transition from costly monolithic software to an open market of apps. Check out the diagram showing his idea that Web technologies can enable vertical & horizontal integration. These go vertically field level to business level (low to high levels of abstraction) and horizontally as integration along supply chain to integration along the value chain.
SAP, EVP for IoT Tanja Rueckert, said, “What will really be impacted by IoT are the business processes, disruptive business models, efficiency models.”
Tom Burke, president of the OPC Foundation, discussed the value of data in his presentation to a packed room during a breakout. That showed the amount of interest in the manufacturing side of things
Lead of PwC IoT practice, Kumar Krishnamurthy, in one of the better presentations I heard “IoT from Strategy to Execution”, calld for the right focus–creating value rather than technology. He noted, “Evolution of products, integrate digital with operations, reevaluate go-to-market, manage shifts in revenue model.” Continuing a conference theme, he proclaimed, “Digital transformation is not about technology…but about creating value using an enhanced set of asset base. Technology enabled devices do not make the machines smarter…rather they enable businesses to evolve their model to serve differently. Success is not all about data and analytics…but leveraging the information with judgement and expertise.”
Michael Porter predicted that IoT (or smart products) will expand industry boundaries as well as change organizational structure.
Finally, in a presentation “IoT, Fact or Fiction, Timothy Chou, a lecturer at Stanford and author, suggested that young students learn machine learning-static and dynamic-for the future. “Lots of sensors generate too much data. We must learn to deal with it–with machine learning a key.
He said, “Asset management was developed when things were very dumb. Now I can put a full computer in almost everything. Why not have the machine issue the work order? It is time to rethink middleware.”
Everyone is in a rush to get an opinion or observation published about the Internet of Things. Evidently it gets lots of page views. Recently other analysts have been publishing thought pieces on IoT in Industry. It appears they have reached the same conclusion that I first broached a couple of years ago. The IoT is not a “thing.” To make any sense of it and use it for any strategy, it must be thought of as an ecosystem encompassing a variety of technologies.
Here is an article that appeared in the Sloan MIT Management Review. Since I am a subscriber, I don’t know if you can see the article at this link.
The writer is Sam Ransbotham is an associate professor of information systems at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College and the MIT Sloan Management Review Guest Editor for the Data and Analytics Big Idea Initiative. He suggests, “The Internet of Things will bring huge changes to the way markets and businesses work — and it could get messy.”
Here is a bromide that I’ve read a thousand times, “Most businesses aren’t ready for the changes to the marketplace that the Internet of Things will bring. But the time to prepare for them is now.”
Actually most business adapt. Some are visionary and will develop new products, processes, and services–and make a lot of money. Others will adapt and survive. Still others will wonder what happened and die. That is the way of business for at least 5,000 years.
Use Case for Internet of Things
“Yes, the potential insights from IoT are enticing. For example, it’s fun to think about the potential personal and even societal benefits from self-driving cars, such as fewer accidents, no problems with parking, more productivity while traveling, car sharing, greater infrastructure efficiency, etc. But perhaps a more profound implication is the data that they can collect. These cars will also be widely distributed “things,” gathering performance data that can help manufacturers diagnose problems, operational data that can help mechanics prevent failures, driver data that can help insurers understand risk, road data that can help cities improve infrastructure, etc. These kinds of insights, we’re ready for.”
But there are a lot more changes coming with the IoT transformation than many people may recognize.
Ransbothem looks into information technology as a model for what will happen in IoT. “About a decade ago, advances in information technology converged to fuel a boom in corporate use of analytics. First, widespread implementation of information systems captured unprecedented amount of data in ways that could be used in isolation or combined. Second, tools and technologies allowed the inexpensive storage and processing. Third, savvy analytical innovators creatively combined these to show everyone else what could be done.”
We have seen all this play out in industrial systems. There remains more to be done, here, though.
He proceeds to look at Internet of Things. “First, the cost and physical size of sensor technology have dropped such that they can be incorporated into most items. Second, widespread communications infrastructure is in place to allow these distributed components to coordinate. Third, once again, savvy innovators are showing the rest of us the possibilities from the data they collect.”
Manufacturing and production are not only poised to exploit these technologies and strategies, they have already been implementing to one degree or another. But his point is valid. IoT needs the ecosystem of sensing devices, networking, communication technology, databases, analytics, and visualization.
Ransbothem identifies four areas of change. Of these, I direct your attention to the last–process changes. I think everything feeds into process changes–not just the processes to make things, but also the information technology, supply chain, and human processes that must not only adapt but thrive with the new information awareness.
- Market Power: IoT should provide a greater amount and a greater value of data, but are companies ready to align their interests in obtaining value from this data with the multiple other companies and end users who create, own, and service the products that originate the data? In the driverless car example, it is easy to see how multiple stakeholders could make use of the data from cars; the same is true for other devices. But it may not be clear who owns what data and how it can be used.
- Complexity: Few organizations are prepared to be hardware and software development companies. But that’s what the Internet of Things will enable. As products are built with embedded sensors, the component mix increases in complexity. As a result, manufacturing systems and supply chains will become more elaborate. Software embedded in products will need to be updateable when the inevitable shortcomings are found.
- Security: If we believe data is valuable, then we need to be ready for people to want to take it from us — why would data be any different than any other precious item? The IoT context intensifies the need for security requirements; for example, sensors or software that allow physical control of the product make attacks easier.
- Process Changes: Many business processes continue to be “pull” oriented. Information is gathered, then analyzed, then decisions are made. This works when change is slow. But with the IoT transition, data will stream in constantly, defying routine reporting and normal working hours. Flooding data from IoT devices will give opportunities for quick reaction, but only if organizations can develop the capacity needed to take advantage of it. Few mainstream large companies are ready for this, much less small- to medium-sized companies that lack the resources of their larger corporate brethren.
The Internet of Things is bringing and will continue to bring advances in how we do business. How well will executives, managers, and engineers execute on this vision? That is key.