Turning IoT headwinds into tailwinds
Today, the industrial internet covers multiple verticals from manufacturing (whose products are placed into every vertical) to retail (which is normally considered to be merely point-of-sale, but can be connected to global supply chains, changing the business requirements significantly). It is deep in that multiple layers—from control of actuators through connectivity via gateways to big data and artificial intelligence (AI) to the business application—are needed.
Several years ago, analysts were predicting massive growth in the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) market. As soon as one analyst firm published a report predicting 30 billion devices connected by 2025; another would predict 40 billion devices by 2030. Expectations were high. Riding the hype was essential. The market was viral.
Where is Industrial IoT?
In 2015, McKinsey & Company published a comprehensive report examining different vertical markets. It, too, predicted great things. But the market has not grown as much as expected. Why? One reason is technological evolution. “Industrial IoT” is no longer fresh-faced and youthful. IIoT is now an adult. IIoT needs AI, digital twin, trustworthiness, machine learning (ML), connected supply chains and more. The problem is projects and programs have become stuck in purgatory and are struggling to move forward.
There are other reasons than just the inability to scale projects. In 2021, McKinsey and Company followed up the 2015 report with another that discussed why the market had not grown as much as had been expected. They identified “tailwinds” such as performance of connectivity and technology, and “headwinds” such as installation, which applies more in consumer markets than in industrial ones.
Of those they identified, three stand out for industrial verticals: Trustworthiness, interoperability and talent. (Trustworthiness is the combination of cybersecurity, privacy and confidentiality, in their terms).
How can we turn these headwinds into tailwinds? One approach is to apply a trick used by birds, cycling teams and trucking convoys. They have one of their number take the lead and the rest follow along in the slipstream. Over the last eight years, the IIC has taken the lead and published a good deal of material, from the Industrial Internet Security Framework, in 2015, to Endpoint Security Best Practices in 2018, and the Trustworthiness Framework published in 2021. All this information provides a map of the topic area and turns a headwind into a tailwind.
Digging through all this material is itself a tailwind, however. The latest version of the Security Framework is 173 pages long. The Endpoint Security Best Practices is 12 pages and the Trustworthiness Framework another 59. That’s 244 pages. Suddenly, what looked like a tailwind looks like a lot of work when all you want to know is how to secure your communications.
Digital transformation enablers
Frameworks such as the Security Framework and the Trustworthiness Framework are maps; it would be helpful have directions, focused specifically on a particular technology, best practice or approach. And this is where digital transformation enablers come in.
Digital transformation enablers are specific digital technologies, best practices, or approaches that enable digital transformation. The effect of a given enabler extends beyond the resolution of technical problems into discovering challenges, providing new perspectives on current problems, and uncovering previously unconsidered use cases. The disruption expands beyond the boundary of technology and into the business realm, transforming how companies think, operate, and act.
Industrial digital transformation (IDX) is a business endeavor focused on applying digital transformation enablers in industry. It implies strategic realignment of the organization to improve business models, industrial models, and processes and ultimately to create new ones. An example of an industrial digital transformation enabler is ML.
An industrial digital transformation enabler playbook describes a DXE, how to use it, provides examples of its use in real-world applications, describes issues that have to be considered, the concerns that have to be dealt with, and how. A playbook offers examples and insights into ways this enabler has been successfully deployed in industrial IoT environments to transform businesses and their operations. It provides guidance to help organizations uncover transformative solutions to deal with customer problems, enabling the creation of value-added services that drive new revenue streams.
A playbook is aimed at a wide range of stakeholders, such as the CXOs who are mainly concerned about digital transformation and how a technology enables it, and the system architects, engineers and operators who implement and operate it. It helps a stakeholder understand how this DXE can transform a core process and ultimately a business, ranging from strategies to policies. DX efforts are driven by business initiatives often motivated by pain points, such as difficulties in uploading software to automobiles or the high costs associated with unscheduled maintenance.
Seven steps in creating a digital transformation enabler
A DXE playbook comprises a set of directions that complement the maps that frameworks provide. A framework describes the preparatory work needed before the DX journey can start, the type of sponsorship needed to support the initiative, and the stakeholders and leadership involved in the execution of the initiative. A specific playbook looks at the role of the DEXE in enabling the sought-after transformation and accelerating it. Some DXEs apply to a specific set of application verticals, although many can be employed universally. Examples are included for a deeper understanding.
These steps are typically executed in the following order:
- The reader understands the DXE playbook.
- That knowledge enables tasks that support the DX journey.
- This journey enables the organization to achieve a transformative outcome.
- The organization is now equipped to fulfill new goals.
- Gap analysis shows how the organization can be improved and drives the creation of new requirements.
- New requirements may call for deploying a new technology that has not yet been considered.
- The reader obtains another DXE playbook focused on this new technology and restarts the process.
With a DXE playbook, we have the tools to be able to understand the DXE, how to apply it, and transform our businesses. They turn headwinds into tailwinds.
This originally appeared on the Industry IoT Consortium’s website in two sections (part 1 and part 2). Industry IoT Consortium is a CFE Media and Technology content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, web content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, [email protected].
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