The fourth wave of industrial revolution, or “Industry 4.0”, is well under way, offering companies unprecedented opportunities for revamping their entire value chain, and thus sustaining relevance. Auto makers can now design a car via crowd sourcing, and also manufacture the same in less than 24 hours using 3D printing. Care providers have started used wearable technology to proactively monitor patients’ key health parameters for better treatment outcomes. City administrators are harnessing real-time data on parking space to control traffic flow. Those in the agriculture business can embed sensors across their fields to ensure precision watering, thereby saving water and energy. Likewise, with connected assets, grocers can gain complete visibility into their supply chains.
This new emerging era of convergence, where the physical and digital worlds are joined at the hip, hinges on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). By combining the power of intelligent machines, data and analytics, IIoT can help create a truly connected world characterized by agile people, processes and tools. The implications for the enterprise world are manifold, ranging from improved, real-time decision making and enhanced workforce productivity to greater transparency and effective collaboration. Above all, IIoT promises to enable companies transform customer experience, and diversify revenue streams by fostering disruptive, services-based business models.
The IIoT roadmap
The number of connected devices is likely to rise from about 10 billion in 2015 to almost 34 billion by 2020. And, Cisco expects the value of the global IoT Solution and Services market to increase to about $14.4 trillion in six years’ time. The exploding growth of IIoT has major ramifications for a whole host of industries, spanning manufacturing, shipping and agriculture to mining, railroads and transportation.
Here are three tangible ways you can jump-start your IIoT journey, and reimagine your enterprise for Industry 4.0:
Build scalable architecture
To begin with, you need a scalable, Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) to orchestrate effective interplay between connected, sensors-enabled devices across your industrial infrastructure. An ideal IoT framework should comprise three tiers: edge devices and sensors, connectivity, and a platform layer. Each of these layers needs to be plugged in effectively across various enterprise functions, for smooth integration with legacy run-the-business systems.
The SOA must include a robust analytics platform into which large volumes of device and sensor data can be fed. You can then ensure real-time access to structured data for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), customer resource management (CRM) and other business applications through an integration and visualization layer. Finally, incorporate dashboards for empowering the senior management to take better informed strategic and operational decisions.
Ensure data integration
Smooth integration of Information Technology (IT) systems such as ERP, CRM and Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) with Operational Technology (OT) assets like industrial control systems is vital for maximum IIoT value creation. By combining locally relevant OT data with high-level IT data, you can get a complete picture of your connected ecosystem, and realize maximum business benefits.
Work toward creating a “single source of truth” by integrating disparate data across functional silos. This requires judiciously combining the OT department’s insights around operational processes and related data with IT executives’ knowledge of new technologies, for effective data integration and on-demand data availability.
Focus on data security
Data generated by machines, as a proportion of the total data, will rise from 11% currently to 40% by 2020, estimates IDC. The tight integration of connected devices and physical controls could endanger information networks as well as physical environments. The lack of robust security across the entire value chain could translate into unauthorized access, misuse of personal information, and attacks on systems, thus hurting your customers and brand value.
So, fortify your enterprise by institutionalizing robustness testing, and making security certifications and best practices mandatory for all your supply chain partners. Another important step is to adopt the security framework and rigorous security assessment methodology proposed by the Industrial Internet Consortium’s Security Working Group. Put a premium on asset safety, reliability, resilience, privacy and security, and harness advanced security technologies to drive endpoint protection, communication security, and data protection of IISs.
Gearing up for a connected ecosystem
The Industrial Internet will redefine every aspect of the enterprise landscape, from product design and manufacturing to supply chain management and customer service. Crafting a comprehensive IIoT strategy, in alignment with your business goals, will go a long way in helping you effectively compete in a rapidly evolving marketplace.
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