• By Renee Bassett
  • Executive Corner
Paying attention to IIoT solution providers

By Renee Bassett

When you hear the terms "Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)" and "industrial digitalization," what comes to mind? "We're hearing from customers that they're confused," says Alan Griffiths, principal analyst at Cambashi, a global market research and consulting firm based in Cambridge, U.K. "They're being bombarded with platforms and technologies at the bottom end, and from the top end they're being told to transform their businesses. There's a general perception that IIoT might be hype, while at the same time there's a tendency to go to a technical solution before they know what business drivers can make the Industrial Internet of Things a success."

From the supplier perspective, 2018 was "quite a signification year" for IIoT, says Griffiths, with lots of reorganization within supplier companies, and a lot of change. The standards are developing separately as well. "There is a clear distinction between IT/enterprise and OT/industrial providers," he says, "and we are observing the formation of new relationships and ecosystems. We expect further significant changes and consolidation in the next few years."

That is why analysis of IIoT solution providers can be so useful right now to engineers, operational strategists, and decision makers in companies large and small. The past couple years have seen many in process plants or manufacturing facilities assigned to their company's "transformation initiative" or "digitalization committee." Others are being told, "We need an IIoT pilot project. Find out what that is and get me one!" Some do not know where to start.

This summer, Cambashi announced new research results on "the IIoT and Connected Applications." The research focused on 18 top vendors of IIoT solutions and brings in background from 200 additional vendors. Called the Cambashi IIoT Software Observatory, this "global market-sizing project" estimates provider revenue to size the market and analyzes IIoT case studies published by suppliers to produce insights about what kind of IIoT applications are being implemented-an indicator of where success can be found in the future.

The results are illuminating, in part because they show that the IIoT is not just hype. Initial analysis of hundreds of case studies shows the most popular IIoT use cases to be asset management, performance monitoring, and predictive maintenance. All use cases can be grouped into nine areas of connected application: connected production, connected asset, connected supply chain, connected city, connected product, connected infrastructure, connected transportation, connected worker, and connected building.

"The asset management and performance monitoring use cases have the most published case studies," says Griffiths, "while the top 10 use cases all strongly feature in the connected production and connected asset market areas." Such a sort can be a boon to users wondering where to start transforming their businesses, or where to implement IIoT applications. It also points to who is available to help.

Griffiths says some of the major players in connected applications software include Microsoft, Siemens, ABB, Amazon Web Services, and IBM. Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon come at IIoT from an information technology (IT) perspective, while others like Siemens and ABB have an OT legacy.

The IIoT as a whole "is gradually coming of age as useful applications are developed and deployed by leading providers, supported by technology that is now advanced and robust," says Griffiths. "Some of the major IT applications, such as cloud computing and analytics are playing off of OT applications like industrial automation, PLCs, and semiconductor. It will be interesting to see how these two groups of providers-IT and OT-compete and/or work together to deliver solutions to industry."

Some of the major players are already working together-SAP with Honeywell, Oracle with Mitsubishi, IBM and Bosch-and this helps the IIoT and connected industry overall. Griffiths says his data also points to success using packaged software rather than build-it-yourself pilot projects and other initiatives. "Where IIoT got traction was when there was a solid product to download, rather than a toolkit you have to learn," he says.

Griffiths had another bit emerge from his research: "OT people don't like the terms 'IoT' and 'Internet'. Their focus is on 'robust' and 'proprietary,' while IT people talk about 'clouds' and 'transformation.'"

That won't come as a surprise to anyone reading InTech.

The Cambashi IIoT Software Observatory analyzes IIoT case studies published by suppliers to produce insights about the kinds of IIoT applications being implemented.

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About The Authors

Renee Bassett is chief editor for InTech magazine and Automation.com, and publications contributing editor for ISA. Bassett is an experienced writer, editor, and consultant for industrial automation, engineering, information technology, and infrastructure topics. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism and English from Indiana University, Bloomington, and is based in Nashville.