What does the industrial internet need – apart from technology?

19.3.2015 -

The industrial internet will revolutionize the entire industrial sector, from production to operating models, as it will allow us to track and manage production processes and equipment more efficiently than ever before. The industrial internet utilizes advances in digitalization and in a nutshell, harnesses the combination of intelligent devices, processes, and people for industrial applications.

We can compare the breakthrough of the industrial internet to the revolution brought about by steam-driven machines. When society then began to use fossil fuels as a source of power, production efficiency increased tenfold. With the advent of the industrial internet, data has become the new fuel that will dramatically streamline production processes and will allow for new business models and services.

Three core enablers of the industrial internet

1. Massive advances in sensor technology

Sensors have shrunk considerably in size and increased in efficiency, while prices have fallen. They can be deployed in an increasing number of locations, allowing for more versatile use.

2. The global web

Growing numbers of devices and machines are connected to the global web. Recent estimates suggest that by the year 2020 there will be more than 50 billion devices online globally. When devices join humans on the internet we are talking about the Internet of Things (IoT).

3. Falling technology costs

The technology website TechPolicyDaily jokingly suggested recently that back in 1991 it would have cost millions of US dollars to manufacture an iPhone. Current production costs for the same device run at around 150 – 200 US dollars. No one would have been able to afford an iPhone built at 1991 prices, let alone the technological solutions required for the industrial internet.

Where does Finland stand?

According to a study last summer by the research firm Marketvision, some 70% of Finnish organizations have been largely passive about networked devices, as well as the closely related concept of the industrial internet. These figures suggest that we are in danger of falling behind.

But why should we lag behind, given that we have the required technology available at a reasonable price?

We have the technology but we need more imagination

“Imagination is more important than knowledge”Albert Einstein

During a visit to Finland Gartner analyst Nick Jones commented that many companies had not yet thought about how the industrial internet would change their operations. He said that these companies lack imagination, rather than technology. I fully agree. We need more imagination to understand how to use technological possibilities to gain a competitive advantage.

We also need creativity to help us execute original ideas. The combination of imagination and creativity gives birth to innovation – an original idea put into practice.

One good example is Enevo, a company that has developed smart waste collection containers. The company’s wireless sensors use ultrasound to measure the trashcans’ real time fill levels. This information is wirelessly transmitted to a back-end system, which then calculates an optimal waste collection schedule and transport route. The system ensures that trashcans don’t overflow and that garbage collection trucks don’t turn up to service half-empty containers.

Add a bit of courage to the mix

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It’s the courage to continue that counts.”Winston Churchill

But are imagination and technology enough for success? I’d add a third variable to the equation – courage.

A company must have the courage to venture out of its comfort zone and try new things. We also need the courage to fail and to try again. We need it to challenge the current models and to dare to do things differently.

Failure is part of life and can even be considered an inevitability. What matters is that we get back on our feet, learn from our mistakes and try again, but better.

Partner networks as a means of support

Companies need peers at their sides and these peers need the courage to network even more broadly and intensely.

Last fall saw the establishment of the Finnish Industrial Internet Forum. 150 companies have already joined it. The community does important work to bring customers and other players together. It has created an excellent framework within which to build a cooperative network to promote the broader use of the industrial internet.

Taking advantage of the possibilities offered by the industrial internet is no longer only about technology. We need trailblazers who will use their imagination and courage to reap the benefits of digitalization – so we do not end up falling behind in this global race.

Marko Antila

Marko Antila

The significance of integration will become increasingly critical as digitalization continues. I lead Descom’s Integration business unit and my goal is to create better conditions for companies to benefit from the business opportunities provided by digitalization and the industrial internet. In my free time I like to get on my road bike and reflect as the world speeds by.

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