Smart, connected devices make plenty of headlines in the consumer world, but the IoT is also transforming heavy industry – and, in the process, fostering a thriving start-up scene.
According to research firm CB Insights, as companies in asset-heavy industries such as manufacturing, logistics, mining, oil and utilities turn to connected technology to streamline operations, funding is pouring into new companies that can help these customers to use machines and specialised sensors at every stage of production.
Just last year, start-ups working in the industrial IoT (IIoT) space attracted more than $2.2 billion in investment, according to CB Insights.
To highlight its diversity, CB Insights has created a so-called ‘stack’ of the IIoT start-up landscape, with companies categorised based on their specialisms in areas such as hardware, cyber security and analytics. This research has identified more than 125 start-ups in the IIoT space alone.
A slice of the pie
The influx of investment demonstrates that many different companies want to grab a slice of the global IIoT pie, which could be worth trillions in the years to come.
“So far, the IIoT wave has been led by the old guard of industrial tech companies such as GE, IBM, and Cisco, who envision the IIoT as a core component of their future businesses,” says CB Insights.
But while these big firms certainly form a crucial part of the expanding IIoT market, that’s not to say they’re the only players.
Start-ups developing sensors, networking infrastructure and cloud platforms are also growing in importance. That said, many of them could get snapped up by larger players over the next few years – if their smart ideas prove to be compelling to customers.
Applied sensor networks is just one pioneering area in IIoT, and here, CB Insights sees a number of start-ups leading the way.
Veniam and Vnomics are companies developing pioneering sensor networks for connected fleets, for example, while companies such as GroundMetrics (locating wells), Tachyus (extracting) and Aptomar (spill safety) are using IoT to transform the oil & gas sectors.
Agriculture is also reaping the rewards of connected solutions. Blue River Technology and Farmbots are bringing robotics to farming, while Farmers Edge and Terravion are using analytics to improve production.
There are some great strides being made, too, in areas such as electricity and gas & water, thanks to start-ups like Trilliant, Tendril and BluePillar. They’re developing smart-meter products for large enterprises.
Finally, the factory floor is undergoing dramatic change. Eigen Innovations, for example, uses video and sensor data on factory floors to ensure process and quality control. Fetch Robotics is improving the way that warehouses are run and Alien Technologies does RFID tagging for the supply chain.
Transforming big industry
Dmitri Tcherevik, chief technology officer of software company Progress, said that IoT sensors, algorithms and other technologies have the potential to transform big industry in many ways.
“IIot will be defined by the miniaturization of the computing elements, better power efficiency, better connectivity, growing sophistication of system architectures and machine learning algorithms,” he said.
“The explosion in the volume of data collected by the IoT sensors will require a significant portion of this data to be processed closer to the source. This will stimulate development of novel machine learning algorithms, such as federated, automated, and collaborative learning.”
“To take full advantage of the sensing, cognitive, and actuating capabilities of the billions of IoT devices, business analysts and application developers will need a new set of skills, too.”