Helping demystify Industrie 4.0 and IoT: an intro to the world of machine-to-machine talk

Plant Growth Dr. Aleksander Poniewierski, Partner, IT Advisory Leader Central and Southeast Europe, EY, writes about OT, IoT and other Industry 4.0 buzzwords that CIOs will be dealing with in the near future.

“The limits of my language,” said Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein “are the limits of my mind. All I know is what I have words for.”

As companies and governments come up with fancy names for existing technologies, people like you and me, whose jobs revolve around technology, are left in the middle of buzzword jungle. Industrie 4.0, OT, M2M, IoT – to name just a few – are creating a buzz that leaves many in awe and confusion.

The internet of things (IoT) is a network of dedicated physical objects, or things, that interact with their internal state or the external environment. Operational technology (OT) is a part of it, referring to specific IoT offerings that target the industrial customer base. The graphic below gives a good overview, even though it does not include Industrie 4.0, which is the world of automation and information exchange enabled by IoT and OT.

This blogpost, and those following over the next couple of weeks, will give you an introduction to the world of IoT and, in particular, the enterprise side of it.

An opportunity like never before

IoT can connect millions of devices, making the sharing of massive amounts of data possible. Software companies are developing platforms that make this easy and painless.

This network of devices also opens up different ways of using data to make life easier, to make production cheaper and to make existing processes more efficient.

For example, sensors on a product can give the manufacturer information about what features are being used and how. This information can then be used in new product design. It also gives companies a new way to stay connected with customers around the clock.

The dilemma of the smart fridge

But there are not only upsides attached to these developments. Privacy and security are often the first risks associated with IoT that come to mind, but there is also another serious risk, that of false identification. Especially in machine-to-machine (M2M) – versus machine-to-human: it’s up to a machine to decide whether another is out of order or is idle simply because it doesn’t have anything to communicate.

So would the computer in the supermarket suspect a communication failure if my smart fridge isn’t reordering milk? Or will it just assume I haven’t run out of milk yet? Solving this problem will be one of the biggest challenges.

There are other challenges too:

  • Reducing costs is high on companies’ agendas. Using cheap technology for critical infrastructure jeopardizes parameters such as accuracy and timeliness, but higher-quality sensors and chips are priced at a premium. Companies have to balance their need to reduce costs and their tolerance for errors.
  • The more complex IoT architectures and systems become, the more companies depend on their vendor. And, with many vendors having a wide array of offerings in the market, it gets ever more complicated to choose the right technology for a specific need. Getting the right independent advice is critical.
  • IoT technology is changing rapidly. By the time companies have finished implementing a new system, the technology they use can potentially be outdated, particularly if they rely on a single vendor’s advice. Again, an independent point of view can help to make the most of today’s new technology offerings, helping make new systems as future-proof as possible.

The CIO in an IoT world

In a world where companies compete to move toward IoT, the CIO can expect to be involved in:

  • Finding effective techniques to choose the right IoT system for the organisation, one that helps improve the bottom line and reduce cost, and is as future-proof as it can be
  • Working with business leaders to develop IoT road maps, screen different vendors and select the right technology
  • Managing costs while taking independent advice from vendor-agnostic parties
  • Helping make implementation of IoT minimally disruptive, but also designing it so it is adaptable to future requirements
  • Assessing the cybersecurity risks that IoT presents and protect the company’s network

In the next couple of weeks, we will dig deeper into the topic of M2M, giving you further food for thought from the perspectives of technology providers, scientists and technology experts.

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