October 07, 2016      

Editor’s note: With his Robotics Business Review research report coming to our lists this month, our European editor, Andrew Williams, on station in Cardiff, Wales, offers up a bit of a preview to: The Industrial Internet of Things: Putting It All Together.

Andrew’s research report will accompany our webcast of the same title, airing December 13, 2016. Please join us.

Godzilla: The Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

“McKinsey Global Institute suggested that the hype surrounding the IoT [$6.2 trillion] may even understate its true potential, and projects a potential economic impact, including consumer surplus, as high as $11.1 trillion by 2025.” -The Internet of Things: Mapping the Value Beyond the Hype

Convergence of the IT and industrial worlds

Taken as a whole, there is no doubt that the IoT market looks set to expand substantially over the next few years. A 2015 report by global management consulting firm McKinsey highlighted IoT as one of twelve key ‘disruptive technologies’ and concluded that, as soon as 2025, the sector could boast an overall economic impact in the region of $6.2 trillion – and could potentially drive productivity and reduce operating costs across a number of industries, including health care, mining and manufacturing.

In the 2015 report, The Internet of Things: Mapping the Value Beyond the Hype, the McKinsey Global Institute suggested that the current hype surrounding the IoT may even understate its true potential, and projects a potential economic impact, including consumer surplus, as high as $11.1 trillion per year in 2025.

Meanwhile, industrial behemoth GE, already a key player in the burgeoning IIoT space, believes that the insights into operations unlocked by the industrial internet could significantly improve industrial productivity. This potential is particularly salient given that the company estimates that an improvement in productivity of just 1 percent across its global manufacturing base equates to a cool $500 million in annual savings – with a similar improvement in productivity across all industries potentially translating into a $10 trillion to $15 trillion addition in worldwide GDP over the next 15 years.

Key enabling technologies

Most IIoT systems will rely on a wide range of enabling technologies, including cloud platforms, smart devices, big data analytics and advanced automation. One of the most vital elements of any robot or machine-based IIoT system is likely to be mobile sensor technology, which imbues robots with the capacity to physically react to analyzed data.


By enabling users to monitor robots and machines on the factory floor, or even across plants and the wider supply chain, smart mobile sensors can also help organizations to optimize the use of their physical assets – for instance by allowing companies to ramp up the performance, and extend the functional working lives, of robots.

Cloud technologies are also likely to continue to act as central co-ordinating components of many successful IIoT applications. By acting as repositories of data collected from IIoT enabled robotic devices, machinery and equipment, cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure will become an increasingly useful organising and analytical tool for industrial workers charged with overseeing and controlling factory-based systems.

If, as is predicted, the wave of data collected from IIoT systems grows into a tsunami, adequate storage technologies will also become critical requirements. Speaking at this year’s annual Open Compute Project Summit in California, Urz Holze, senior vice president for technical infrastructure at Google, argued that large improvements in storage are likely to become increasingly important.

Potential opportunities and benefits

By fusing together the worldwide scope of the internet with ever improving capacities to control and manipulate the material world of machines, robots and production facilities, the IIoT brings with it an unprecedented range of potential opportunities and benefits.

Of the many and varied potential opportunities offered by the IIoT, perhaps one of the most prominent is the potential for the creation and storage of a valuable array of machine, operational and environmental data. Many mobile sensors and IIoT enabled devices are now capable of facilitating the capture, retrieval and processing of increasingly large sets of data from a broad range of sources such as IT data centers and plant-focused operational technology (OT) systems.

By using cutting edge analytical technology, this data can then be used to provide important insight into the nature of onsite operations – and feed into ongoing optimization efforts.

A 2015 report, Industrial Internet of Things: Unleashing the Potential of Connected Products and Services, by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Accenture, also concludes that the chief disruption of the IIoT will come via ‘new value creation made possible by massive volumes of data from connected products, and the increased ability to make automated decisions and take actions in real time.’

According to the reports’ authors, the business opportunities presented by this upsurge in data capture will fall into one of four main areas:

  1. Greatly improved operational efficiency, including reduced downtime and better asset utilization via predictive maintenance and remote management;
  2. Emergence of an outcome economy driven by software-enhanced services, novel hardware developments and ‘increased visibility’ into the patterns of behavior of products, processes, customers and partners;
  3. New connected ecosystems that will coalesce around innovative software platforms that confuse existing industry boundaries; and
  4. Collaboration between humans and machines, which the report team predict will result in ‘unprecedented levels of productivity and more engaging work experiences.’

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is growing and evolving toward a future that even the most technologically literate can as yet see only dimly.

That said, despite the obvious uncertainty, the robotics sector is particularly well placed at the confluence of a variety of technological streams – including AI, cloud technologies, machine vision and big data – to enjoy a fair proportion of the likely rewards.

Andrew Williams
European Editor
Robotics Business Review
Cardiff, Wales