A Tale of Two IoT Initiatives: Industry 4.0 vs. the Rest of IoT

April 21, 2017
Machine Design heads back to Hannover Messe, birthplace of Industry 4.0, with hopes of determining just how much the Internet of Things has really accomplished.

Hannover Messe Fair will commence next week in Hannover, Germany, and looks to continue its pursuit of Industry 4.0. Industry 4.0 is their version of the Internet of Things (IoT). In the U.S., it is more commonly referred to as Industrial IoT (IIoT) or in China, it is known as Manufacturing 2025.

The Hannover Messe event will host over 6,500 exhibitors from 70 different countries, present more than 500 Industry 4.0 practical applications, and entertain 5.6 million business contacts all related to world of Industry 4.0. If you only consider Hannover’s perspective, the IoT is already a booming industry. However, when you start to ask companies how far along they are in their IoT efforts, the answers are less inspiring.

The highlighted trends at Hannover Messe Fair include Industry 4.0, Integrated Energy, Smart Materials, Predictive Maintenance, Cobots, Energy Efficiency, and the Digital Twin of real-world systems.

Speaking with Dr. Jochen Köckler, Deutsche Messe Managing Board member, Industry 4.0 is all about the opportunities it can bring to companies large and small. “Widespread uptake of digitalization in the manufacturing and energy industries will only happen if integrated technology providers make a strong case for the associated benefits… Industry 4.0 is not about replacing all manufacturing plants all at once; it is a gradual process. For example, companies can begin by fitting sophisticated sensors to existing plants to capture and evaluate data that will help them make improvements to their production processes or develop new business models.”

Recent research conducted by the BPI Network and the CMO Council, in partnership with the IoT Institute and Nerdery, points out that the adoption rate of IoT is slow coming. Their recent study “The Impact of Connectedness on Competitiveness, ” which surveyed several companies in the automation industry, found that while 90% say IoT is an important area of strategic focus, only 9% have begun widespread adoption. The survey states that 61% of companies feel that a major skills gap must be resolved for the future success of IoT. To continue moving forward, the survey concludes there needs to be an increase of new skills (51%), better data collection and analytics (41%), and a rethinking of the current business model (33%).

IoT is creating new business models—companies now offer a service, whether it is data monitoring or predictive maintenance, instead of just offering products. According to Jason Mathew, Senior Director of Global Connected Strategy for Whirlpool, “Building intelligent products in intelligent factories will drive efficiency and quality levels not previously realized.”

Interest is growing, as 19.4% of companies have a “strong commitment to implementation and pilot” programs. However, 53% still have a “no interest to interest in researching the possible benefits” approach with no clear course of action.

Based on the study from the BPI Network and the CMO Council in partnership with the IoT Institute and Nerdery, this chart represents the current attitude with respect to IoT efforts.

In preparation for my trip to Hannover Messe, you can see how well the European countries have embraced Industry 4.0. It will be interesting to find out what their thoughts are on how the U.S. is adopting IoT, and if they think the U.S. is even a major player in the game. If we had to go by the adoption-rate numbers right now, we still are not there yet.

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