Unlocking value in the Industrial Internet of Things

Ahead of his keynote presentation at TM Forum Live! (in Nice in May), Vincent Champain, General Manager – Europe Foundry, GE Digital, takes a look at the Industrial IoT revolution.

While consumer IoT applications are well known, a silent revolution is underway in the industrial world. The impact of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will indeed be much more important for the global economy, making factories intelligent, allowing very accurate predictive maintenance operations or creating ‘digital twins’ of very complex industrial machines.

The McKinsey Global Institute forecasts the economic impact of IoT will be as high as $11 trillion by 2025, and a massive chunk of that is predicted to live in business and industrial applications. In other words, value added will be found in the Industrial Internet of Things world, addressing real needs in all sectors: healthcare, oil and gas, renewable energies, transportation…But today, only one percent of data from an oil rig with about 30 000 sensors is analyzed! Every industrial company will be a digital industrial company, from selling products to selling services and applications.

So why is this revolution happening now? First, software is becoming more and more powerful, while the cost of hardware is experiencing a sharp decrease. That is, today’s predictive algorithms and machine learning capabilities enable use cases that were not possible even five years ago. And let’s not forget the steadily falling cost of sensors, compute, storage and bandwidth that has made the deployment of these capabilities a financial reality.

The platform economy

The result is not only the ability to develop a high-resolution view of the future behavior of critical assets, but also the ability to develop a system view of an entire enterprise operation. This operational agility and predictability is giving industrial companies the option to pursue business model innovation by offering efficiency, productivity and virtually everything “as a service”.

Industries are entering the ‘platform economy’, radically changing business models to offer software foundations where applications can be created, easily used and modified. For that, and to unlock full value, some key challenges will need to be overcome:

  • Interoperability. Machines and equipment run on different systems, and that requires a platform able to integrate and analyze data coming from them. Millions of smart objects will then have to be programmed to synch on the same platform to communicate between each other in real time, flawlessly.
  • Enriching machine learning capabilities to keep creating and accelerating value outcomes from data. Collecting the data is a first step, selecting the right data and cleaning it is a second one, but the most important one is applying relevant mathematical and physical algorithms to transform data into insights.
  • Developing deep learning techniques to handle image and video processing as well as massive time series where we could have use cases in the field of healthcare and life science; infrastructure monitoring through drones; and energy, transport and distribution, for example. Machines produce terabytes of data — several terabytes are produced in just one flight between Paris and New York by a jet engine, making data science expertise a cornerstone of this IIoT revolution.
  • Developing digital twins at a different scale: From component-level to complex system level. This will be essential for creating new services in the field of maintenance and operations optimization. The digital twin will encompass both multi-physic and multi-scale simulation.
  • Cybersecurity: In an uncertain and changing world, data security is one of the main concerns of every stakeholder in the IIoT world. That’s why we believe platforms and processes dedicated specifically to industrial challenges are mandatory.

A rich ecosystem

Another trend is crucial to win in the Industrial Internet of Things world — building a rich ecosystem. No one will be able to win alone, making partnerships a core advantage to co-create and share value.

Many platforms, analytics or applications already exist in the digital industrial world. Thus, differentiation will come from the ability to build a rich and diverse ecosystem where firms, SMEs, start-ups or research centers would be able to contribute and co-create together.

For that, you need to have an open platform allowing contributions, and a lot of them. The more value diggers, the more chance to find the right fish in lakes of data. In the industrial world, thinking as an open environment while ensuring data security as well as clear IP rules are totally new and will thus need quick adaptation.

More and more, we will see big industrial companies building innovation centers near start-up hubs and universities to benefit from the best ideas, and consequently becoming more agile and flexible.

See the full agenda for TM Forum Live! and register.


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    General Manager – Europe Foundry, GE Digital

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