The Industrial IoT is growing larger every day, with many more people being familiar with the so-called “fourth industrial revolution” now than ever before. Despite the growing prevalence of the IIoT in the everyday lives of most people, however, many everyday people and more than a few competent corporate professionals are still uncertain about the future of industry. Even fewer have a grasp of how certain global leaders are leveraging the IIoT for their own gain.
Here’s how major companies, nation states, and other global leaders are harnessing the power of the Industrial IoT to reshape the future of the global economy.
Revolution isn’t on its way – it’s already here
The most important thing to understand about the fourth industrial revolution is that it’s already well underway, with businesses and governments around the world having long-ago recognized the imperative of adapting communicative technology and advanced sensors to traditional machinery and other manufacturing and industrial equipment. One of the reasons that the revolution is already here is that a number of early starters have proven the efficacy of the IIoT, demonstrating that one must evolve or die out in the 21st century marketplace.
According to a report from Deloitte, for instance, the U.S. government has already become intimately involved in the regulating of the IoT, though much more work remains to be done. Furthermore, while the U.S. government and a few other major states have been hugely influential in shaping the IIoT thus far, certain commercial giants stand out as being the primary drivers of the IoT’s ceaseless growth in recent years. IBM has been at the forefront of the IIoT, for instance, as its enterprise asset management page can attest to. It and other companies long-ago realized that sensory technology must be embedded everywhere in order to collect huge sums of data, which is the real lifeblood of the modern economy.
Leveraging the industrial IoT for commercial and political gains doesn’t begin and end with sensory technology used in electric cryotherapy machines, however. Affording communicative abilities to once-inert machines, for instance, has transformed the modern factory into a bustling hub of constant messaging. Factory managers are regularly communicating with their floor managers and rank-and-file workers with the help of communicative software and hardware embedded directly into machinery.
Keep an eye on China
Chinese telecoms have harnessed the power of the IIoT to accelerate manufacturing processes across the board, thoroughly detailed in a recent GSMA report. This is mostly because Chinese companies can manager their industrial infrastructure to a far greater extent with the power of the IIoT on their side than they previously could. Entire supply chains are being re-constructed overnight to be more cost-efficient than ever before, and China isn’t likely to abandon its lead when it comes to the fourth industrial revolution anytime soon.
The role of the Chinese government can’t be dismissed when it comes to that country’s success pertaining to the industrial IoT. Chinese authorities aren’t afraid to fiercely push for modernization, even at the expense of worker wellbeing or short-term profit margins, a strategy that others elsewhere will likely struggle to replicate, especially in the West. That doesn’t mean that Western companies aren’t also leveraging the IIoT to produce new and better gains, however, as a number of notable examples are worthy of study.
Amazon has reshaped warehouses
There’s perhaps no finer example of a Western company that’s gone to great lengths to harness the power of the IIoT for commercial gain than Amazon, which has reshaped modern notions of what a warehouse is. By introducing huge numbers of robots into their warehouses, Amazon executives have radically lessened the costs of doing business, which is essential for a company of its nature. Furthermore, automating technologies which enable fewer employees to accomplish more work than jam-packed factories once did is demanding that workers have new, tech-centered skillsets if they want to succeed in the marketplace.
Understanding how Amazon prepares itself for massive holiday rushes and other surges in the delivery process can’t be achieved without an appreciation of the fourth industrial revolution. The put it simply, the company could never have attained its impressive status if it wasn’t for the help of clever robots, intricate software, pervasive sensors, and other common facets of the IIoT. Moving away from retail into the world of heavy equipment, Caterpillar stands as another ideal example of how the industrial IoT is changing the modern nature of business.
Caterpillar recently partnered up with AT&T in a mammoth deal that will feature the two working hand in hand to pioneer the future of the IIoT. The heavy equipment company will be relying on AT&T’s technological wizardry to competently manage its massive fleet of expensive vehicles, many of which are slowly but surely becoming more and more automated. The construction sector will always require good human employees, but its future will doubtlessly be more digital and robot-populated in no small part because of the IIoT’s continued advance.
Real-time data collection will help Caterpillar improve workplace safety while finishing more products in less time than ever before, but it won’t be alone in harnessing the IIoT going forward. As other companies attempt to catch up, however, they’ll have to deal with difficult role-based access control issues and other IoT-related crises that must be navigated before profitability can be achieved.
Automation will soon be everywhere
If there’s one takeaway from the ceaseless rate of the IIoT’s growth, it’s that automation will soon be everywhere. Companies of all shapes and sizes can benefit from this fourth industrial revolution, too, so while major commercial giants like Amazon and Caterpillar reap the benefits right now, smaller fish will also enjoy their time in the sun sooner rather than later. When everyday businesses start to seriously lessen the costs associated with doing business by tapping into the IIoT, consumers will enjoy wider access to more products that are nevertheless cheaper and more plentiful than ever before.
Global leaders will need to wisely steward the growing IIoT for this to happen, however, which means collaboration and coordination must be championed rather than competition. When it comes to data and the fourth industrial revolution, competition really means siloing yourself off from others in order to protect your data. If global leaders and commercial giants have taught us anything thus far, however, it’s that partnerships, data-sharing agreements, and industry-wide coordination will determine the future of industry as we recognize it today.