Industrial IoT: An Opportunity for Fast-Moving Innovators; a Threat to Slow-Moving Dinosaurs

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) presents a unique opportunity to speed up the slow-moving technology adoption lifecycle that is inherent to the industrial sector for operational technologies (OT).  This is a sector that – for all the right reasons related to safety, security, and continuity – is relatively slow to adopt new technologies.

This slow technology adoption has resulted in an oligopoly among the big seven automation systems vendors, leading to stagnation in innovation in the sector. Most automation companies today are focused primarily on protecting the shores of their legacy installed base, rather than swimming the rough waters of innovation.

As Peter Reynolds of ARC puts it, IIoT is set to “reshape” OT architecture by disrupting the equilibrium within the automation market and presenting an opportunity for fast-moving, agile innovation companies to bring unprecedented value to the manufacturing sector. Refineries, for example, generate terabytes of information monthly from tens of thousands of sensors in real time. They are prime candidates to take advantage of the wealth of hidden insights that reside within such high resolution big data.

But there are barriers to entry into the OT market. The proprietary OT systems at a plant make up an integrated, interdependent, highly complex digital organism. Extracting data from these disparate proprietary automation systems, which are responsible for driving safe production, is a painful endeavor for newcomers. In my 30 plus years in this industry, I have never seen a site where all the OT systems – e.g., field instruments, DCS, PLCs, Historians, MES applications – were supplied by a single automation vendor. Each of these systems requires a unique protocol to access the configuration and process data.  And with hundreds of unique systems out there, innovators face notable challenges.

What innovative technologies should we expect from IIoT? The single most valuable promise of IIoT for manufacturers is actionable insights. We are on the verge of a new productivity revolution that is as transformative as the industrial and the digital revolutions. IIoT is going to shake up the supply side of the automation market and, over time, threaten the business model of the automation dinosaurs and create opportunities for the more agile new comers.

Is your automation strategy evolving with the IIoT, or is it a slow-moving dinosaur?

About the guest blogger: Eddie Habibi, Founder and CEO of PAS

As the Founder and CEO at PAS, Eddie drives strategic planning and new business initiatives to enhance plant safety and profitability in the power and processing industries. Eddie is a pioneer in the fields of situational awareness, ICS cybersecurity, and other operator-centric technologies. Eddie holds a BS in Computer Engineering from the University of Houston and an MBA from the University of St. Thomas.  Prior to establishing PAS, Eddie held various positions at Schlumberger and Honeywell International. Follow Eddie on Twitter @EddieHabibi, LinkedIn, or the ICS Matters blog.