Every year or so, a computing concept bubbles up and receives huge media interest, creating panic amongst baffled non-IT executives in blue-chip boardrooms. Like cloud computing and big data before it, the Internet of Things (IoT) is one such concept, and the almost cacophonous hype is in danger of drowning out the useful noise.
Yet the reality of IoT is somewhat different. While the marketing buzz focuses on how connected devices will lead to long-term, radical change in society, smart business leaders in certain key sectors are already working on practical realities. These executives in manufacturing and utilities firms are using the IoT to create a competitive advantage. Step forward, then, the Industrial Internet of Things.
Conservative estimates suggest global spending on the Industrial IoT hit $20bn in 2012, with investment expected to reach $500bn by 2020, according to Accenture. The consultant says predictions for the global value created by the Industrial IoT range as high as $15trn by 2030.
The key bonus for manufacturing and utilities firms right now is deep insight. The Industrial IoT allows firms to create a network of connected sensors that collect real-time information from various parts of the production process. This knowledge can be used to monitor, manage, and modify the way an organisation operates.
Analyst firm Gartner points to the real-time analytics and messaging protocols used in very high-speed financial algorithmic trading. Industrial IoT solutions generate data on up to 25,000 transactions per second, which creates huge advantages for certain trading firms.
Then consider employees at Marathon Oil refineries, who wear a wireless device that tracks harmful gas exposure during a shift. The information allows managers to monitor the location and safety of all staff members at work.
Finally, take a look at manufacturing giant GE, which is working on a huge range of Industrial IoT applications, such as Trip Optimizer, which takes a constant pulse of a locomotive's geographical location, speed, and fuel burn.
Such components come together to create a predicted 1 percent improvement in the producitivity of GE's machinery - which translates to serious savings by itself. Yet executives also recognise the potential exists for double digit rises in productivity that could be worth millions of dollars.
We are only at the start of the journey towards an industrialisation of information. But early examples demonstrate how leading edge businesses can use the Industrial IoT to create huge improvements in operational productivity.