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The learning curve: From the Internet to Big Data to IoT

January 30, 2018

The technological developments born within the boundaries of the IT industry, and conversations that follow outside these boundaries create trends that are greater than the sum of their individual parts. Challenges are becoming less unique to manufacturers of particular products, and opportunities more ubiquitous to a wide range of service providers and manufacturers alike. In other words, technologies, industries and societies will become increasingly related to, and contingent on, one another in 2017.

Mikko Marsio, Vice President of Digital Business and IoT at Empower group, says that what has unfolded over the past two decades and led companies to where they are today can be understood as both an evolution from a technological perspective, as well as a revolution from an industry and business perspective. From the speculative nature of the IT bubble, to the profoundness of the Internet of Things, Marsio explains how consolidating technology with business is now more imperative than ever before.

“I remember a prediction that was made before I attended an MIT Executive Education course on the Internet in 2000. It envisioned the Internet becoming like electricity, meaning something that we don’t even acknowledge when using,” Marsio reminisces. “If you look at what was laid out in 2000 in conjunction with the IT bubble – for example that the best years for the pulp and paper industry were then and there – no one could actually have predicted how many paper mills would be shut down over the following 15 years.

In order for these mills to stay relevant, they must adapt what they are producing. Companies in general need to understand how both digitalization and end-users are causing their businesses to change. Over the past few years, increasingly many have come to recognize this,” he continues.

An affordable evolution

Despite the predictions regarding the impact of the Internet made at the beginning of the millennium, it would have been impossible for companies to imagine the extent of its integration into businesses. Many companies, and even industries, are now at a point where they are faced with a similar integration problem to solve concerning IIoT. For Marsio, integrating the Internet was the first hurdle for businesses to overcome, Big Data and analytics the second, and IoT the third.

“Big Data is the result of an evolution and I’m not sure that IIoT and IoT can, or indeed should, be separated as distinct developments. I say this because what essentially facilitates Big Data are the digital interfaces created for customer connectivity to machines.”

Machine connectivity and digital interfaces. Sounds very IoT doesn’t it? Marsio recalls an early example of this kind of machine connectivity from his time at Hewlett-Packard, when IoT or IIoT terminology had yet to see the light of day.

“In 2006, when I was working for HP, we were working on how to connect all our office equipment, especially multifunctional machines, to the Internet. This made the remote storage and analyses of data possible, and it also allowed the company to deliver a new kind of value for customers. Since 2006, Big Data has evolved to partly define what IoT is today, as we are now able to gain insights from thousands of data points, analyze these insights in real-time and ultimately use them to drive services. Moreover, in 2017 this can all be done affordably.”

From the short to the long-term

The short-term benefits of such insights can already be seen. However, long-term outlooks still require work. According to Marsio, companies must begin to address how they will develop the execution capacity necessary to scale up tangible opportunities not only now, but also in the future.

“In the manufacturing side, we will see less errors and faults in the short-term, which means companies will improve their overall equipment efficiency. Moreover, companies will not only gain insight into processes from, say the control room of a pulp and paper mill, but they will be able to do so remotely. In the long-term what will be more challenging, for example for players in the pulp and paper industry, will be addressing the ‘paper’ part of their businesses.” This is to say that as end-users’ needs change, the customer-value of paper will need to as well.

According to Marsio, short-term objectives and long-term perspectives can be maintained and executed in parallel. This necessitates a systematic management approach to IIoT opportunities and inherently entails considering the future.

“Within the last few years, there has been a change in how companies approach future developments. This means that companies are now anticipating more of a journey with regard to IIoT, as opposed to a project to be tackled, executed and moved on from. Therefore, future trends, developments and opportunities will be considered as a continuous flow of things.”

Short-term objectives and long-term perspectives can be maintained and executed in parallel. This necessitates a systematic management approach to IIoT opportunities and inherently entails considering the future.

Not just thinking, but acting ahead

How do companies and organizations evaluate what they could, should and must do now, and what are the potential consequences of those actions, Marsio asks. Part and parcel of a journey mentality is evaluating the future, which can be challenging especially in industries that have been set in their ways for many years, or even decades. When envisaging what a company will be in 20 years, and who and what it will serve, Marsio encourages leaders to think beyond their businesses and consider societies at large.

“Take Tesla. If in the future, we will all indeed have electric self-driving cars, why buy one at all? The same car that drives you could be used by others when you don’t need it. What would happen to companies offering parking spaces in city centers? Or the driving experience itself? German automotive manufacturers typically market the driving experience as the number one thing to consider, but if there is no driver, what’s the relevance of the experience?”

Regardless of leaders thinking ahead, the questions posed above require action in order to gain answers, and that’s what is currently so compelling about IIoT and IoT. The more ordinary and accessible products like Tesla’s become, the more products will be transformed into services, and thus, the more answers companies will have. However, waiting for that to happen, as opposed to making it happen and becoming accustomed to what IIoT allows for, will result in an opportunity lost. As with electricity and the Internet, Marsio holds that companies should aim for such a profound awareness of IoT that it becomes intuitive to corporate mindsets.

“Ultimately, it is essential for companies to consider how they can get to a point where they no longer acknowledge the fact that they are using IoT or IIoT,” he concludes.

 

Mikko Marsio works as Vice President of Digital Business and IoT at Empower Group

Image: chombosan / Shutterstock.com