The Industrial Internet of Things, or commonly just the Industrial Internet, has become more mainstream among manufacturing enterprises. Yet, it appears as if we have only scratched the surface.
Just last month, the world’s largest industrial event Hannover Messe 2018 took place in Germany, which got us thinking why the Industrial Internet has become such an intriguing thing and, of course, where Finland stands in the new ball game.
1. Almost unlimited number of new use cases
What is interesting is that our understanding of the Industrial Internet evolves all the time. According to Reijo Smolander, who works as a programme director at Business Finland’s Industrial Internet programme, this is mainly because the potential use cases have only started unfolding. Smolander – along with a group of Finnish tech companies – was present at Hannover Messe, browsing the latest solutions and observing what the future holds for the Industrial Internet.
“The number of underlying use cases and things that can be connected to the Internet is almost limitless,” Smolander says. “This was also apparent at our Finland pavilion, where we had companies ranging from Aavi Technologies and Planray with their smart industrial indoor air quality and trace heating solutions to ColloidTek with its online liquid analyser.”
Yes, you read that correctly. It is possible to even bring the Internet to liquids.
2. It is actually simple
In direct relation to the first point, the new use cases are not always complicated – quite the contrary. For reference, you do not need to major in information technology to understand why Finnish companies Haltian, Lindström and Wirepas have teamed up to launch a so-called smart washroom. Sensors and related applications can help service providers like Lindström to take better care of washrooms, which ultimately leads to higher customer satisfaction.
As Juuso Marno, business unit director at Lindström, underlines in the case video, “studies show that the cleanliness of washrooms affects the whole image of a shopping centre”.
New technology can easily sound complicated or distant. Most of the time, however, it is actually simple.
3. It is not only about efficiency
Probably the most common misconception about the Industrial Internet is that it focuses only on technical efficiency. While it is true that implementing IoT solutions can – and most likely will – increase the efficiency of a given industrial process, that is only the beginning. What follows are new business models and services.
British engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce is a widely known example. The company used to focus mainly on manufacturing aircraft engines, until it discovered the IoT. As of now, instead of selling whole engines it sells flight time.
4. One needs innovative SMEs
The wide scope of the Industrial Internet guarantees that innovative SMEs have a large role in the game. No matter how exciting a flexible all-encompassing IoT solution sounds, there is no such thing. Rather, taking advantage of the Industrial Internet requires a combination of solutions that can be compiled based on the use case.
“The Industrial Internet value chain is complex,” says Tiina Nurmi, a programme manager at Business Finland’s Industrial Internet programme. “This is where Finnish SMEs come into play. They form a comprehensive network, supplementing each other with interoperable solutions. So, they can provide the needed flexibility, as each of them covers specific parts of the long value chain.”
5. Finland is good at it
According to Smolander, Finland has deep roots in communications and mobile technology as well as a long industrial history, supporting its prominence in the Industrial Internet, which in essence is a combination of the aforementioned.
“The emergence of the ecosystem and the network of companies is definitely among Finland’s strengths,” he says. “Naturally, it has taken some time to evolve. 20 years have gone by since forest machinery provider Ponsse started to utilise the IoT in its daily activities.”
“Since then, our Industrial Internet expertise has been cooking up,” Smolander says with a grin. “Nowadays, I am proud to say that we are pretty good in it.”