Is 2018 the Year IoT Gets Down to Business?

Much of the hype around the Internet of Things (IoT) is about household gadgets like the smart toothbrush that was shown off at this month's CES gathering in Las Vegas. But IoT applications are increasingly being deployed from factory floors to hospital wards.

Among its predictions for 2018, Forrester lists "IoT Moves From Experimentation To Business Scale."

Distinguishing household or consumer IoT such as smart appliances from business and industrial IoT applications has resulted in several attempts at coining new terminology. One attempt in the abbreviation happy software industry is IIoT, which while it looks like it might be a typo stands for the Industrial Internet of Things. General Electric Corp., which is a major advocate of IIoT says it has coined the term "Industrial Internet" to distinguish its business applications from consumer products.

The distinction is defined in a GE paper titled "What is the Industrial Internet of Things?"

"For example, the Industrial Internet envisions machines that tell operators how to optimize productivity or detect a failure before it occurs, potentially saving companies billions of dollars a year, while the Internet of Things includes connected refrigerators that can purchase more milk and eggs online before they run out," the GE paper explains.

GE sees the Industrial Internet transforming the factory floor: "Whether it's enabling predictive analytics to detect corrosion inside a refinery pipe, or providing real-time production data to uncover additional capacity in a plant, or driving visibility and control over your industrial control systems environment to prevent cyber attacks, the IIoT -- and the software solutions powered by it -- are driving powerful business outcomes."

Despite GE's advocacy of Industrial Internet rather than the clunky IIoT, a Google search indicates IoT is still the name major vendors are putting on their software platforms and developer tools:

Besides the vendor products, some resources for architects and developers are available on the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) Web site, which is part of the Object Management Group (OMG). IIC has a large membership role including founding members GE, IBM and SAP. Microsoft and Oracle are also on the membership list. Industries listed include:

  • Energy
  • Healthcare
  • Manufacturing
  • Mining
  • Retail
  • Smart Cities
  • Transportation

An Industrial Internet in Action section on the IIC site includes case studies:

  • Communications
  • Energy
  • Healthcare
  • Manufacturing
  • Security
  • Transportation & Logistics

For software architects and developers, Dr. Richard Soley, executive director, IIC points to initial test bed results published this past fall.

"IIC testbeds provide a feedback loop from concept to reality and back to innovation," he said in an Oct. 31 press release announcing the results. "They help uncover the technologies, techniques and opportunities that are essential to solving important problems that benefit business and society. This is the reason member companies agree to sponsor and own their testbeds but will also share progress reports."

"Why We Build Testbeds: First Results" is a 10-page page pdf report covering the initial tests for factory and order processing IoT applications such as The Smart Factory Web Testbed.

"The Smart Factory Web (SFW) Testbed aims to network a web of smart factories to improve order fulfillment by aligning capacity across production sites with flexible adaptation of production capabilities and sharing of resources, assets and inventory," the IIC report explains.

Last year, IIC also published an update of its Industrial Internet Reference Architecture v 1.8. "First published in 2015 and best known as the IIRA, this standards-based architectural template and methodology enables Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) system architects to design their own systems based on a common framework and concepts."

IIC has plans for additional resources for software architects and developers. "Much more will be coming this year," Soley told ADTmag.

Because of the diversity of businesses and industries that can benefit from IoT applications, it is unlikely to be a one-size-fits-all tool market. Software architects and developers will need to do the nitty gritty work needed to build the applications that connect the dots to make the concept work.

In a November 2016 report on IoT software platforms, Forrester noted that "the diverse array of IoT use cases requires software integration and APIs to support mainstream business processes and applications. IoT platforms enable developers to easily create code, business rules, and data management capabilities integrated with specific IoT connectivity, security, and manageability capabilities."

All this will require tools for developing, scripting, linking and managing APIs, so the IoT and API management tools interface with enterprise applications, Forrester explained.