Americanmachinist 4784 Ioti Article

Why IoT Is Different Than Past Technology Evolutions

Jan. 25, 2017
The wheels of evolution turn slowly, and that's part of the problem. There's no sense of urgency, says Dan Miklovic, principal analyst at LNS Research.

One of the challenges facing the IoT is the perception, particularly in manufacturing, that IoT is just an evolutionary step in the deployment of automation and IT in the factory. Many of today's manufacturers say "we've been doing IoT for years" because they have sensors in the plant that use Ethernet, or even WiFi, to connect to a PLC or DCS. This view of IoT or Industrial IoT (IIoT) which LNS focuses on, has the potential to become the Achilles Heel for many manufacturers. If a company believes that IIoT is just an evolutionary step, they likely also believe that they can just slowly evolve themselves. They do not have a sense of urgency nor are they likely to believe failure to act today represents any threat since evolution, at least in their mind, is a slow process.

Business has grown accustomed to the hype that surrounds IT. There were the dire predictions of global chaos in the late 90's due to the Y2K "bug" in software. In the next decade, it was the promise of e-business completely altering every industry, then it was WiFi, then smartphones, etc. So many assume IoT is just more hype. First off, we need to define what is meant by Industrial IoT. It is not just connecting sensors to a controller or other computer using networking protocols over Ethernet, WiFi or cellular networks. LNS sees an IIoT platform as having four critical elements:

  • Connectivity
  • Cloud enablement
  • Big Data & Analytics
  • Application Support

The combination of these elements is what sets IIoT apart from past evolutionary technological advances. The convergence of these elements is what is changing the way companies can and will have to do business going forward. At the recent IoT Emerge event in Chicago, numerous keynoters, session speakers and participants noted that this convergence is going to have as big an impact on manufacturing as PLC and DCS-driven automation did some 40+ years ago. In LNS' view, IIoT is poised to be the biggest shift in manufacturing since the end of the Great Depression.

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