Who Does What in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)?
To understand the major players in Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), first you must understand the six layers of IIoT.
- The ‘thing’ or mechanical part – a motor, excavator or part of a building.
- Sensors and actuators with embedded software – make the thing into a ‘smart connected product’.
- Connectivity – enables ‘products’ to communicate with back-end systems. In large, complex systems this often includes ‘edge computers’ that act as collection points for the data and provide pre-processing before data is sent to the cloud.
- Product access and data routing – systems that control and manage who has access to what.
- Product-specific software applications – this layer makes appropriate connections and integration with other enterprise applications.
- Enterprise applications – for example, ERP, PLM and MRO (maintenance, repair and operation) systems.
Established IoT Companies
The layers above cover a huge range of technology, and thus many different types of software providers are getting involved. The first group contains ‘established’ companies with familiar names:
- Industrial technology – Bosch, GE, Schneider and Siemens
- Microprocessor/microcontrollers – ARM, Intel and Nvidia
- IT providers – HPE, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle
- Cloud storage/computing providers – Amazon/AWS and Google
- Communications – AT&T, BT and NTT
- Enterprise software – IFS, Infor, SAP and Salesforce.
- CADCAM/PLM – Autodesk, Dassault and PTC/Thingworx
- BIM/AEC – Bentley, Intergraph (Hexagon) and Trimble.
These are all large, global companies, and most of them provide solutions that cover many of the six layers, although only a few, such as Amazon/AWS, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle offer global, cloud storage and computer capability.
In addition, in response to the frequently stated ‘enormous IoT opportunity,’ a large number of ‘new name’ start-ups are entering the market. For example, the following start-ups are each focused on one of the six IIoT ‘layers’:
- Sensor/embedded software startups – Ineda (system-on-chip (SoC) maker); Helium, Electric Imp and Samsara (IoT platform providers)
- Connectivity startups – Ingenu, Kepler Communications, SigFox
- Edge Computing startups – Foghorn Systems and Saguna Networks
- ‘IoT solution’ companies – Exosite and Zebra (IoT frameworks; system design and implementation).
In addition, there are new, specialist companies that focus on:
- Analytics – Augory Systems and Maana
- Security – Claroty and Bastille Networks
There are also vertically focused companies in sectors such as agriculture, aerospace, automotive, energy, healthcare and transportation. A good example is Zipline, which provides essential medical products in challenging terrains using drones.
Every industry sector will be able to benefit from IIoT so the groups of companies listed above will certainly expand to cover these sectors.
Also, most major consulting / systems integration companies such as Accenture, Deloitte, EY, Capgemini, KPMG and Wipro now include IIoT as an important part of ‘digital transformation’ – which means leveraging digital technology such as IoT to radically change the way a company works and does business. This moves them towards ‘Industry 4.0’ and is an essential part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
According to business consultant Joe Barkai, “the Internet of Things delivers transformative value in one or more of the following ways:
- Automate – Embedded control software and connectivity to automate operational and decision making tasks
- Accelerate – IoT as a means to shorten the latency of information. Remote access, augmented by data analytics and decision support systems improves the organization’s responsiveness and agility
- Enhance – Big data analytics, simulation software and enterprise tools to optimize all aspects of the product lifecycle by exploiting multidisciplinary enterprise data
- Engage – IoT-enabled products and decision-making processes are used to transform traditional business models and engage customers via fine-tuned user-centric service offerings.”
A good example of IIoT for digital transformation is GE’s collaboration with Exelon, a Fortune 100 energy company that uses Predix – GE’s cloud-based IoT platform/operating system – to run its renewable power plants. GE has worked with Exelon to develop Predix-based ‘apps.’
- The Energy Forecasting app uses weather forecasting data to generate more accurate financial modeling and better predict the next day’s grid supply and demand fluctuations.
- The Wind PowerUp Services app builds on GE’s earlier capabilities in making small hardware and software adjustments based on performance and reliability data, and now it has an iterative tuning process to monitor a site’s specific wind environment and lock in the appropriate settings. This can increase a wind farm’s annual energy production up to 10%.
- The Digital Plan of the Day app is a scheduling application that improves operations and maintenance efficiency for field service teams. The app combines a variety of disparate data sets, including SCADA information, diagnostic readings, weather conditions and even geolocation data, to organize and prioritize daily maintenance schedules across a site.
- The Diagnostics app uses operating data for advanced anomaly detection analysis and then incorporate that analysis into a detailed case management and recommendation system. The Prognostics app uses operating, maintenance and inspection data to project future operating conditions and predict turbine component reliability. By shifting from unplanned outages to predictive maintenance, the Diagnostics and Prognostics apps can help wind farm operators reduce maintenance costs by up to 10%.
Another example at a smaller scale (in a very different industry) is the global pest control company Anticimex, which has implemented the IoT Business Connector for IFS (the global enterprise software company) to collect IoT data from digital pest traps and use Microsoft Azure-based analytics to create predictive service cations.
According to IFS CTO, Dan Matthews: “The Anticimex project is a great example of how we at IFS help our customers develop an IoT solution that enables them to not only gather and analyze IoT data, but also automatically to take corrective actions based on that data in order to create a more service-oriented and cost-effective organization.”
As the Industrial IoT market develops, there will be some consolidation, particularly at the platform level where massive investment and global adoption is required. At the same time there will continue to be new entrants in niche applications and industries.
The end user’s first and last stop for making technology decisions.