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Industrial IoT riding M2M advantage to next stage

At Internet of Things World, analyst Maribel Lopez says industrial IoT nonetheless needs better connectivity, business models.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Proponents of the much-hyped Internet of Things (IoT) are entering the practical phase of figuring out exactly how to turn ideas into reality. Nowhere was that more evident than at the Internet of Things World conference held here recently. Maribel Lopez, principal and founder of Lopez Research, based here, and columnist for Forbes.com, sat down with SearchManufacturingERP to give her take on vendors, standards and technologies. Lopez moderated the day-long industrial IoT track at the conference.

Maribel Lopez, principal and founder, Lopez ResearchMaribel Lopez

Where do you think the Internet of Things stands right now in the technology adoption cycle?

Maribel Lopez: The first thing I'd say is, it's not one market. Being here at this event really highlights the fact that there's a healthcare track, there's a smart cities track, there's a manufacturing track. So that question depends on which side of the organizations you're on.

I would say the industrial ones are much farther along because they already lived through the M2M [machine to machine] age. So if we said that there are five stages, they're probably in the second stage, and I think everybody else is in the first stage. Even though we've been in this a long time, I'm still talking to people a lot about connecting, which is stage one -- and connecting securely. That happens a lot in industrial still.

But then you have people that are very far advanced -- maybe it's 5% of the companies in the world that we're talking about -- and these are people that are fully connected, they have sensors, they're collecting data, they're doing things like predictive maintenance and uptime and they have more than one use case.

You might be progressive in one use case, but being progressive across your organization is still quite far away for most companies.

What are some of the things that need to happen? Let's start with the standards side.

I think there are two challenges. You could probably roll off a litany of standards, and standards take a long time. These are a minimum of three-year, probably five-year scenarios. They always start with one or two companies that have a vested interest, and some haggling amongst them. I'm not sure I'd wait for standards.

The longer answer is I think we end up with consortiums of people around industries, and people coming together in platforms. I've noticed that everybody is now pulling together their platform, and you have to decide: 'Am I in a Samsung camp, for example, and working with their solutions?' Or Siemens and SAP just announced the HANA Siemens cloud.

The next step that you will see is people creating very specific clouds or very specific consortiums that will center on specific -- not even just industries -- but use cases. So there will be things around farming .There will be things around aircraft. That's where I think people are going with it next.

Which vendors are furthest along and might have some market clout?

Rockwell has done a lot of work in the space, in terms of the concepts. Bosch has done some great work in Industrie 4.0. We're seeing some of the heavy manufacturers come out. GE has done a fabulous job of actually having a combination of hardware, software and services that you can put together. These are some of the leaders in the space -- people that are really thinking creatively.

We obviously have companies that are startups that are doing very interesting work, but the scope of what they're trying to do is smaller. If you're looking at the GEs and the Boschs and the SAPs and the Rockwells, they're all trying to take legacy industries with lots of complicated processes and figure out how you bridge that gap between what they have. The real challenge there -- which I learned in mobile as well -- is they're not getting rid of anything they have. So the question is do you just slap a sensor and some connectivity on that because it doesn't move? Do you get a new set of products? Even if you put sensors on it and connectivity, none of your systems were designed to take that sensor data.

It's not just a hardware problem or just a software problem, it's a business-model problem of trying to figure out how to reconstruct the processes. How do I get the guy in the plant with the tablet who's walking the line to have the right information and be comfortable with that information? It starts with just doing something they did easier, faster, and then eventually we have to layer on some additional functionality. The challenge is that a vendor might have this functionality, but no one's ready to deploy it yet, so are you going to buy it just to do the same thing? No, you're not.

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