Before working for Machine Design, I had worked primarily with U.S.-based engineering firms. I would say that my trip to Hannover Messe 2016 was my first encounter with the engineering world of another country. Besides dealing with different units and trying to do conversions in my head (1 kilometer equals 0.62 miles just in case you were wondering), the approach of engineering is different. Certain things that perhaps we do not do enough are standard procedures in Germany and vice versa. Yet the most promising thing I saw is how these two worlds are becoming one cohesive engineering world.
In my previous job, shipping in parts from across the seas was a hassle. The main problem was collaboration. There were times we could not get on the same page. There were several reasons why the two countries did not play well. Sometimes it was things like customs and shipping, things out of our control. The other problems were methodologies, different international standards, and design procedures. This is where I see the world of the Internet of Things coming into play. It goes by many names depending on whom you talk to: Industry 4.0, Smart Manufacturing, Industrial IoT, or Manufacturing 2025. But regardless of the name, the fact that IoT depends on interconnectivity forces companies and countries to work together, to create joint standards, and to create one unified IoT world.
The visit by President Obama, along with the selection of the United States as the Partner Country, indicates that worlds are merging. Many people I interviewed had similar answers when I asked them what is the difference between IoT in the U.S. versus in the European Union. For the E.U., it was the support and involvement of government in developing IoT. The German government is actively involved in creating and establishing Industry 4.0 as the leader of IoT. It benefits them because it makes them the center of the IoT world, and you cannot really argue with that as the size and scope of Hannover Messe proves. The opinion from E.U. companies on the U.S. and IoT is that the companies involved are making the push for it to grow. While the U.S. is supporting IoT, made evident by the President’s visit, it is not a unified effort. The companies in the States are creating what they believe IoT to be. While this may allow for certain aspects to grow faster, either via trial and error or by large investments into the technology, growth comes independent of others, creating different methodologies on how to enact IoT.
This is where collaboration becomes essential. The Internet of Things does not just mean interconnected devices, but also interconnected networks, job sites, and people. We will be able to monitor and affect job sites across the world. Organizations like Industrial Internet Consortium and conferences like Hannover Messe are important because they create universal standards and provide educational opportunities that will be necessary for companies as they build their IoT systems, to ensure we are all on the same playing field of connectivity.