Security, silos, skills, and system integration clog the gears of the industrial internet

Study from GE and Accenture points to issues IT leaders need to tackle with always-on products and services.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer
The so-called "industrial internet" has the potential to add amazing intelligence to products and services in the coming years. Machines and engines out at customer sites can feed continuous streams of data back to manufacturers, enabling preventive maintenance and boosting quality. However, the same challenges that continue to vex enterprise IT -- security, silos, skills, and systems integration issues between organizations -- are now getting in the way of realizing this potential.

That's the gist of research released by GE and Accenture, which looked at industrial internet plans and approaches across manufacturing and healthcare organizations. Why these sectors? Because they are the most reliant on sensors and the big data these devices are generating.

Big data analytics is already a huge piece of the technology budgets for these organizations. Seventy-three percent are investing in these solutions, and in most cases, represents more than 20 percent of IT budgets.

What's really surprising is these investments by big data analytics are being driven by boards of directors. A majority, 53 percent, say the initiative came from on high, versus 37 percent citing CIOs as the impetus.

With top management pushing so hard, it's even more imperative to address the issues of security, silos, skills and systems integration. For starters, about half of those surveyed note they have talent gaps in several critical areas including analyzing data,interpreting results, and gathering and consolidating disparate data.

In addition, fewer than half of executives in these sectors (44 percent) feel they have enough end-to-end security in place to fully protect their emerging networked infrastructure.

More than one-third, 36 percent, cites the issue of "system barriers between departments that prevent collection and correlation of data for maximum impact." In addition, 29 percent of executives say they are having difficulties consolidating disparate data and being able to use the resulting data store.

The study's authors call for a tighter working relationship between IT and operations teams to overcome these challenges. Operations executives "would have clear visibility of operational processes, data stores and usage, while IT executives would have the line of sight to new technologies that would help mitigate the data integration issues," the report notes.This will become especially important as other parts of the enterprise, such as finance, seek access to data analytics.

The report also suggests mobile solutions as a way to better support industrial internet initiatives. "Traditional user interfaces and interaction paradigms that were created to be suitable for desk-based enterprise environments are not always appropriate for people working in places like locomotive yards, power plants and offshore drilling platforms," the report says. "This means there is a substantial unmet need to deliver information to industrial internet users in a manner that is aligned with how they work day today."

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