Job One: Updating Existing Infrastructure

Day 2 @Ford #FordGreen #tech event @ #NAIAS

The Industrial Internet of Things is a big thing. That’s an awkward sentence, but a very true statement. Big changes, however, come with a built-in challenge: They generally aim to replace or change a technology or procedure that is firmly established.

This certainly is true of the IIoT. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ David Mount writes at the company blog that the “existing capital stock” – industrial stuff that’s been deployed, in other words – in the U.S. is worth about $6.8 trillion.

That’s a lot of stuff to worry about. And it can’t be disregarded. The creation of a meaningful IIoT will be glacial if it only is comprised of new endpoints. The existing universe must be enfranchised. The hidden key to the success of the IIoT, then, is how to speed up matters by retrofitting the current industrial landscape.

It is vital. Chantal Polsonetti at ARC puts it this way:

Retrofits are key to the IIoT value proposition, since without appropriate connectivity, existing equipment would be excluded from the IIoT architecture. Failure to retrofit existing equipment with appropriate connectivity would result in underachieving point solutions residing next to crucial equipment that does not contribute to incremental production performance improvements and is not part of the IIoT architecture. Plus, performance improvement and machine uptime strategies would not be able to access or benefit from data locked inside unconnected devices.

In other words, a landscape that is part IIoT and part non-IIoT will be a disappointment. It won’t be easy. Tom Mariano, the Executive Vice President and General Manager of Foliage, writes at Manufacuring.net that Cisco pegs the percentage of Internet-connected physical objects to be a scant 0.6 percent. In the manufacturing world, however, there has been a 300 percent increasing during the past half-decade.

The two percentages do not constitute an apples-to-apples comparison, since there are many physical objects that are not candidates to be in the IIoT. There also are devices and end points that fairly can be put under the IIoT umbrella that strictly speaking are not industrial. The bottom line, though, is that the numbers hint at the size of the job ahead and the fact that at least some progress is being made.

Mount writes that “[r]etrofitting legacy equipment with sensors to drive key insights, rather than relying on expensive new equipment, is a big opportunity, especially for chip manufacturers like Intel and Qualcomm – and also for new entrants.”

The point is a very important one: People think of the IIoT as something new and sparkling. It is. It also is not. A lot of the heavy lifting will be done in connecting at least a portion of the almost unimaginable universe of infrastructure in the field today. It will be hard, and a lot of it won’t be glamorous. But it will generate a lot of money.

(Photo: Ford Motor Company)

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