IoB attended the IoT Solutions World Congress in not-so-sunny Barcelona, Spain this week. Here, we breakdown what we learnt from the IIoT show.
NB-IoT just getting going
Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) is set to grow to become a $180 million market by 2022, and so it was not a great surprise that both Huawei and Vodafone were talking up their global trials at the show.
Huawei’s senior marketing manager, Ulrich Graf, told me that because NB-IoT runs on licensed spectrum – and supports existing GSM infrastructure/standards – it will excel over low-power wide area (LPWA) technologies operating on unlicensed spectrum, especially in areas like smart parking.
Security is a big problem – and not just for consumer IoT
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the DDoS attack on the Dyn DNS, which was caused in part by 100,000 IoT devices, Industrial IoT security loomed large over the show.
Mark Cotteleer, director at the center for integrated research for Deloitte Services, noted how attacks could go unnoticed and thus not repaired in the industrial sector (perhaps like the Stuxnet worm which hit Iranian nuclear equipment), while it was notable that Microsoft’s head of Azure, Sam George, focused on security as part of the new Azure IoT offerings.
To compound miseries, it turned out that researchers have found an exploitable flaw in one of Schneider Electric’s industrial controllers. IoT security remains a problem with no obvious solutions, and not just for consumer products hitting retail stores.
Steve Hanna, senior principal at Infineon Technologies, encapsulated this perfectly, suggesting hackers see more value in the B2B sphere: “Most attackers don’t want to see you at home, but to use IoT assets to make attacks like last week’s,” he said, referencing the attack which took down Twitter, Netflix and Spotify.
OT and IT worlds collide – issues to resolve
In the industrial internet (IIoT) world, there is a big discrepancy between the physical and digital. This was also tackled at MWC this year, where ABB detailed how regular software updates can be tricky on big ships where maintenance is much more sporadic. This represents the convergence of OT and Information Technology, an uneasy marriage.
“Both domains have traditionally deployed technologies specific to their own use-cases with little need for seamless integration between the underlying infrastructures,” said PrismTech, announcing Vortek Connect. “This is certainly no longer the case and the IIoT is blurring the boundaries between systems.”
Speaking to me, Greg Conary, head of strategy for Schneider Electric’s industry business, described how the firm has tried to conquer part of this imbalance between generations (older engineers knowing systems, youngers knowing technology) through the use Augmented Reality on smartphones, educating newer staff on the basics of SCADA and distributed control system (DCS), for example.
How fast is IoT adoption rising, really?
IoT Solutions World Congress is, by name, a ‘vendor-fest’ and so it was hard to truly tell the state of the IoT or IIoT end-user market. There were some case studies and mentions of vendors working with customers in energy, manufacturing and aviation.
Tech Mahindra’s Karthikeyan Natajaran suggested the majority of its clients are doing something with IoT, for customer facing, supply chain and efficiency, which seems surprisingly high, not least given the numerous challenges to adoption.
Consumerization impacting business models – and IIoT products
It was illuminating to note the fascination with consumer businesses at what is largely a B2B, industrial-focused show.
GE Europe Mark Hutchinson spoke about lunches – no, not your ham sandwich – but rather the possibility of industrial players being replaced by consumer giants.
“Are you paranoid about who in the digital word is going to eat your lunch? Because if you are not, you should be,” he said. “Who is going to own the digital space between you and your customer if you are not to become disintermediated?”
“You are in the best position to understand the digital space because you are good at what you do. There is no reason why you should leave that to a Google or an Amazon.”
Conary added to this sentiment, explaining the importance of building intuitive, digital platforms for customers to use. “In the industrial space, if you’re not digital, you will become a commodity”.
Identifying the right decision maker remains a challenge
“Who’s the right [decision maker] is definitely a challenge,” says Sukamal Banerjee, global head of engineering services at HCL Technologies.
In addition, he says that the project can be confusing when other lines of business get involved. For instance, should the conversation come to opening the private cloud, the CIO may get involved. Furthermore, in certain industries, it can be driven by different people – the example Banajree gave me was of healthcare adoption being driven by heads of medical devices.
Partnerships and market consolidation
There was a lot of talk here about the need for partnerships and yet – at the same time – there was also talk on the need for market consolidation. We’re not too sure what to read into this, although maybe the smart companies that partner will survive and the others will not.
Tech Mahindra’s Natarajan predicted “cannibalization” among customers and “consolidation” among IoT outfits, views largely agreed on by Setrag Khoshafian, evangelist at Pega Systems, and Sukamal Banerjee at HCL.
There was agreement that the 200+ platform providers will be whittled down, with the stronger ones sustained by partnerships (think Bosch and its IoT Cloud, with the integration with SAP’s HANA).
Testbeds are the future
It was interesting to hear Richard Solely, executive director of the Industrial Internet Consortium, talk about the success of IIoT testbeds. He genuinely thought there would only be a handful, but now there are 27. Here is he talking at our Internet of Manufacturing event, earlier this year.
10 alone were showcased at IoTS World Congress, including:
- A smart airline baggage management solution (developed by GE, Oracle, Infosys and M2MI) to reduce baggage losses and damage at the airport
- Telefonica working with Fiware to make real-time measurements of water quality in fountains
- The Lisbon municipality of Odiveles, along with Fisonic and Fiware, presented continuous real-time noise monitoring detection system to identify the noisiest locations and times of day.
- Geotab and Telefonica brought their real-time fleet management solution to the user, enabling users to create alerts and notification review driver routes and more
Understanding the data is a cross-industry challenge
“There is excitement of IoT and analytics, and the idea we’re going to pull in all that data, and make a better decision. But, ultimately, we have to understand and act on that data in the real world,” said Deloitte’s Cotteleer.
IoT isn’t about the big wins, but the small
There is an inherent fascination with IoT and big figures (usually pumped out by researchers), but often the benefit of IoT technologies are in the small details.
I’ll give you some examples; GE explained to me recently it was able to save wind farms millions through making them 4 percent more efficient, and – in another world entirely – Martin Whitmarsh of Land Rover BAR was detailing how his America Cup team will be using fibre optic sensors and wearables on sailors to track every minute detail in the hope of success.
We’ll have the full interview with Whitmarsh shortly so stay tuned for that.
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