When industries expand and new technologies emerge, there are a variety of companies that want to boost adoption through as-a-service offerings. In recent years, it’s become standard to see technology as a service — from software to infrastructure and simulation.
With the emergence of big data, analytics and predictive maintenance, some industries may wonder if they might start to see (Industrial) Internet of Things as a service — where setting up a digital infrastructure is as easy as installing new equipment or a software upgrade.
This idea is gaining traction, especially within the automotive industry, where manufacturers want to make sure the technology they use is cutting edge and helps them optimize the fabrication and maintenance process. According to a 2017 survey by Bsqaure, 86% of respondents said they have IIoT technologies in place, with an additional 12% planning to install IIoT within the next 12 months.
Furthermore, the emergence and development of digital twins is serving as a catalyst for connectivity as carmakers realize the benefits of being able to leverage real-time, sensor-collected data into designs and manufacturing processes.
One leading example is Toyota, whose initiatives are bringing data visualization into the production process. For car parts maker SF Friedrichshafen, the organization is using IIoT technology to have remote video support for floor employees — boosting overall efficiency.
With increased interest, companies are emerging to provide support for IoT. Though, with all of the components that go into the digital enterprise, being able to connect all possible endpoints may seem daunting, so companies go with service providers. By working with a partner, organizations can ease sensor integration, develop key performance indicators, and establish their own digital ecosystem.
For large organizations, these service providers can handle the day-to-day maintenance of the technology as well as implementation specifics. However, these providers face a large task: streamlining integration. Bsquare’s research concluded that the majority of respondents — 78% — are still in the first stage of IIoT adoption, which is simply transmitting data to the cloud. Only 28% have effectively automated simple-step actions — such as ticketing requests — across the enterprise.
Because there are so many capabilities and options for the IoT currently on the market, service partners generally focus on one component of a connected ecosystem — such as sensors or software — as their specialty. While this is beneficial for technology development, providing one part of the infrastructure can detract from IoT’s business case.
Aside from these niche offerings, there are other hurdles, especially in larger industry. For automotive manufacturers, there is a large legacy component to their plants, and also specific security requirements that don’t always work well with cloud-based workflows.
These considerations can make it different for service providers to make a business case for the IoT, especially when making these upgrades still comes at a cost. Though as IoT technology adoption increases, overall integration will become much more streamlined and the as-a-service model will let manufacturers use one maintenance contract for everything from installation to long-term maintenance.
Furthermore, manufacturers such as Ford and BMW aren’t letting potential hurdles detract from digitalization — both companies recognize that connected cars are becoming standard for consumers — requiring production processes to emulate these high-tech cars. For Ford, this means shifting strategy and investing within R&D.
Current offerings for IoT — and IIoT — as a service are available from providers such as Microsoft and Archetype. However, at this point, offerings are more focused around the software to support an ecosystem and collect data. In order for this software to be useful to manufacturers, it needs to provide effective insight and hardware compatibility.
Overall, the idea of IoT as a service seems sensible — companies need help implementing digital infrastructure, so service providers are stepping in to oversee integration and management.
IoT technology is still maturing. Even with its advancements in sensors and software, automotive manufacturers and consortiums are still working towards more connectivity standards, tighter security, and easier adoption methods. This can make it difficult for manufacturers to see a long-term business use case for IoT, even if it currently has a variety of benefits — from real-time maintenance analytics to centralized data collection.
In order for companies to effectively offer IoT as a service, there needs to be some industry standardization and streamlining, so companies can adopt a scalable plug-and-play model instead of trying to navigate disconnected hardware and software options. With these upgrades — and the increased adoption of the digital enterprise — industry can easily dive into IoT integrations and have an effective, digitally connected enterprise of the future.