IIoT: An Essential Industry 4.0 Building Block

The Industrial Industry of Things is a game-changing technology for digital transformation — as long as companies are aware of the challenges.

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Industry 4.0 is underway, as evidenced by the adoption of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Although the manufacturing sector is a trendsetter in this space, other industries are digging in — such that the global market is forecasted to reach $123 billion by 2021.

IIoT is a lynchpin technology in this next industrial revolution that can propel digital transformation efforts. It is driving the optimization of operations, innovation and development of new products, and improved responsiveness to customers.

That said, like any technology, it’s not without its challenges.

 IIoT Defined

“Industrial IoT is best thought of as digitally connected systems that not only perform local ‘sense and respond’ actions with edge processing, but also offer data connections back to the wider enterprise. These systems incorporate people, machinery, computing hardware, software and the physical environment around them. Cross-process data is collected, analyzed and integrated, creating and extending business processes.” — 451 Research

IIoT has the potential to drive an enormous volume of data that can grow revenue and drive cost savings across multiple industries. For example, farmers using drones can capture real-time crop information to increase yield while minimizing waste. And city governments can use IIoT to put the traditional streetlight to better use, not only to conserve energy but also to monitor traffic and provide charging for electric vehicles.

These multiple possibilities give IIoT an essential role in Industry 4.0. That said, enterprises should fully understand the challenges—and plan accordingly.

Challenges Ahead

As early adopters of IoT, manufacturers have laid some of the groundwork for this next iteration by identifying and overcoming initial challenges. The primary obstacle they have faced: connectivity.

IIoT devices require consistent data streaming, which can place heavy demands on the network in terms of bandwidth and reliability. High-performing, secure, scalable connectivity is crucial. For example, manufacturers must consider ubiquitous mobility with low latency at the factory level. Some sectors — including transportation and utilities/energy — will require IIoT-enabling communications technologies like 5G and low-power wide-area network (LP-WAN).

Simply put: Traditional Wi-Fi and Ethernet just won’t cut it. A business-critical, intelligent network is the necessary link for IIoT to work.

Another stumbling block: misalignment between OT and IT. According to 451 Research’s Voice of the Enterprise survey, only 34% of OT respondents said they cooperate closely with IT on IoT projects. There is even evidence of direct and active conflict between the roles. This can be a significant problem right out of the gate, leading to project delays, budget overruns, and loss of the promised efficiencies.

Communication and clear strategy are the keys to overcoming this organizational and cultural barrier. In many cases, the CIO must take the lead to ensure collaboration: “As more companies work toward IT/OT alignment, the CIO and the IT organization will be at the forefront of fostering relationships and changing the culture of the organization,” said Kristian Steenstrup, distinguished analyst and Gartner Fellow. 

Next Steps

To take full advantage of IIoT benefits, companies will require a high-performing, business-critical industrial network plus a well-defined organizational strategy that accounts for cultural changes.

Enterprises should work closely with trusted vendors to prepare for Industry 4.0. That means placing a sharp focus on the network’s ability to connect everything, anywhere — putting compute where it is needed, and applying insights to make the most efficient use of resources and assets.

Find out more here.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.