Connectivity , digitization and the Internet of Things – these ideas and concepts have been haunting through media and economy for years. Sometimes with more, sometimes with less attention. However, lately something has changed and networking and the Internet of Things have slowly but surely become real.

A brief look back

The idea “Internet of Things” was introduced back in 1999. Nevertheless, it should take almost 15 years for the first things to actually populate the Internet. We are not talking about conventional PCs or smart devices, where Internet access is virtually a matter of course. No, we are talking about things that, not so long ago, would have been completely inconceivable if they had connected to the Internet: cars, the heating control in the basement or even complete industrial facilities. If you think about the financial potential of industrial networking and automation, it is surprising that the development has taken so long. What are the reasons for this?

Many companies were skeptical and therefore reserved. Especially in the industrial environment, innovations of technical nature are time-consuming and cost-intensive. Many entrepreneurs have said that digitization and IoT is just another new hype and no one really needs it. How wonderful the world would be if everyone thought so. We would continue to live in caves and hunger and predators would be the only worry.

But no, not really. Developments were made and after the first lighthouse projects in the field of digitization, more and more companies realized that this is the new big thing. Various projects have been set up and entrepreneurs understood that the Internet of Things is a complex field of activity. Nevertheless, the added value was appreciated. Although data has been collected in many manufacturing plants already for a long time, but their evaluation was often simply too time-consuming to generate real added values. Back then, we were still miles away from real-time.

Potential of the IIoT

The IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) is defined as the interconnection of things and the automation of processes in the industrial context. The study “The Internet of Things: Mapping the value beyond the hype” by McKinsey Institute considers the greatest potential of the Internet of Things for industrial digitization in factories. This is not surprising, as if you look at manufacturing companies, many processes and working methods seem a bit dusty. Despite all of it, this is the reality in many companies and not only in small and medium-sized enterprises.

According to McKinsey, the most important success potentials are more efficient working methods and the avoidance of injury risks. In 2016 there were a total of 876,579 notifiable occupational accidents*. Not only from a human point of view is it desirable to reduce this number. Economically speaking, accidents at work also cause damage that can be particularly serious for smaller companies.

Why now?

Admittedly, the Internet itself has been successful for quite a while – why is right now the time for the IoT or IIoT? The main reason for this is economic efficiency. Storage media, RFID technologies and last but not least batteries are becoming smaller and cheaper. Hardly no one would have imagined a few years ago that the world would need an Internet-capable food processor and then et voila the Thermomix ® appeared on the market and guides today’s housewife step by step through their recipes.

It may have started as a crazy idea whose usefulness nobody could really grasp. Probably the first things were only connected to the Internet because it was possible – like so many inventions that have changed our world.

In 1990, a toaster was developed that could be switched on and off via the Internet. It was a conference gag only but the actual beginning of the Internet of Things. Last year, in 2016, there were already 6.4 billion networked objects, so the innovators are satisfied and have already achieved considerable successes. Now the Internet of Things is beginning to spread, as more and more people and companies recognize the benefits and find ways to use the potentials in their own companies.

What does the IoT means for companies?

Let’s stick to the example of the factory. The vision of self-organizing production with batch size 1 can become reality through IoT. Today, there are already many configurators on the Internet – almost everything from cars to kitchen equipment can be configured online. We will probably be able to order our new car online in the future and the entire administration can be automated. The automotive industry is a good example anyway. The production lines are already very synchronized and automated. Other industries will be able to exploit this potential even more profitably in the future, supported by digital applications.

In addition, more and more young people are pushing into traditional companies and adding their digital enthusiasm; they simply don’t want to work with complicated methods – a reason why companies with modern technologies usually don’t have any problems with young talents.

However, many companies are not yet clear what it means to use IoT applications. The use of mobile devices, but also system networking and automation require investments in technology and software development. Wearing smart glasses only is far away from being enough. The entire infrastructure must be set up for a new way of thinking by dealing with the Internet, therefore individual applications are necessary.

IoT platforms as solution?

IoT platforms are the ideal solution for companies to go their own way into the IIoT. Various solutions are already available on the market and, as is common in the digital world, things are changing all the time. A detailed analysis of the existing processes and goals is essential for deciding which platform they have to use.

If somebody ask for the biggest challenge in the IoT the answer is application development. More and more apps need to be made available and managed in less time for a growing number of devices.

Low-code platforms offer the possibility to create apps via configuration. This dramatically reduces the implementation time. In the future, it will be those platforms that will influence our digital future.

Do you want to know how such a platform works?

* DGUV – Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung