Analysts and other industry experts are saying the industrial IoT (IIoT) has crossed the chasm, and savvy manufacturers are investing aggressively in technologies that will create a smarter, more connected plant floor to achieve greater operational visibility and enhance quality. Experts also predict that by 2022, 64% of manufacturers expect to have fully connected RFID, wearables, automated systems and other emerging technologies to monitor the physical processes in their plants and make decentralized decisions. DevPro Journal recently spoke with Bradley Weber, product manager, automation products, Datalogic USA, Inc. Innovations Team to get his take on how ISVs can capitalize on the IoT trend.
What will likely be the hardest changes many ISVs will have to make to capitalize on the IIoT/IoT trends?
Bradley Weber: Security is the number one challenge – ISVs need to ensure data remains secure at all times. Legacy infrastructures are another challenge that must be addressed to make room for the billions of devices coming online in the next few years. According to the NBASE-T Alliance, for example, there are more than 70 billion meters of Cat5 and 6 cabling that’s been installed since 1999. That’s 10 meters for every person on earth. And, when you consider how disruptive it would be for companies to stop operations, rip out their legacy cabling and replace it with fiber at $100+ per drop, it’s just not feasible. In some cases, wireless technologies that support the IEEE-approved standard, 802.3bz, can be used in conjunction with legacy wired infrastructures to achieve throughput up to 5x greater than what was previously possible.
With so many different devices coming online, getting them all to communicate with one another is another challenge ISVs will face. When one device is updated to a new version, does this require all other devices to be upgraded?
A final point to keep in mind is what to do with all the data that’s generated by the IoT devices? There are expenses involved with storing and maintaining the data. Plus, once it’s been analyzed, ISVs must consider how some data should be archived or deleted after a particular time.
Where should ISVs be focusing their attention to best capitalize on this trend?
Bradley Weber: Data analysis. There is a lot of value for those that can take data and consolidate it in ways that are easy to consume by people. Machine learning is another big topic that’s related to data analysis and using IoT data to optimize manufacturing processes.
Interoperability is another area ISVs should focus their attention. There is value if people don’t have to worry about how to integrate the devices — it just happens.
Besides manufacturing, which other verticals represent a considerable opportunity for ISVs and software developers?
Bradley Weber: Transportation and logistics. Smarter devices such as robots, automated guided vehicles (AGVs), and drones will make material handling and transportation tasks more automated and efficient.
Healthcare is another hot vertical, especially with wearable devices. Think about the benefits of making the data of the wearable device available to a doctor or an EMT in an emergency? Hospital monitoring and home monitoring are other areas where ISVs can add value with IoT solutions.
Do you think most ISVs are better off focusing on one specific vertical when it comes to IoT opportunities?
Bradley Weber: Yes, absolutely! Focusing on one area at a time allows you to gain an understanding of the why and to create a solution that does precisely what customers need. Instead of being good at a lot of things, it’s better to get great at a few things. Once you’ve become great in one area, then expand to other areas.
Are there any specific areas of IoT you’d recommend that ISVs should avoid? Why? Explain.
Bradley Weber: If I had to pick one, it would be privacy concerns. Try to develop solutions that won’t infringe on people’s privacy. With all the data that’s so easily accessible (and hard to secure), it’s troubling to think about all the problems that can happen if it gets into the wrong hands.