I am excited about the state of industrial transformation and industry 4.0!

We have come quite a ways over the past few years — not just in technology but, crucially, in how we approach and leverage it in an industrial context.

When I first talked to manufacturers of heavy machinery about preventive maintenance around six years back, there was a lot of pushback. In particular, manufacturers were concerned that their customers would not want to have a “connected machine” on their shop floors, not so much for security concerns but for the ability to convey a detailed view of how a machine was used. There was a concern that, for example, the usage patterns of CNC machines in automotive and aerospace might be giving away secrets of the trade and production.

A few years back, I met with the newly appointed CIO of a global manufacturing company’s China operations — he conveyed that his predecessor was barred from entering their manufacturing plant, essentially being banned from the shop floor. This extreme divide between operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) didn’t seem to bode well for digital transformation in manufacturing.

Fast-forward to today: Walking the floors at the ITAP Singapore event, the first thought that struck me was “How far we have come!” Preventive maintenance was everywhere, from software companies such as SAP and engineering heavyweights such as Siemens and ABB to consulting services companies such as Accenture. In fact, the solutions presented and the way they were presented were following a similar pattern: You couldn’t outright say whether you were at an engineering company’s booth or a software company’s or a consulting firm’s! That says a lot about how the approach has changed and how fast the IT/OT barrier is eroding.

And new business models are emerging, too: For example, ABB presented its “reliability-as-a-service” offering, part of its Digital Powertrain solutions, which allows customers to subscribe to the provisioning of, say, a motor or water pump by paying a monthly fee, with a guaranteed uptime enabled by predictive maintenance — the IaaS cloud story, now for industrial equipment.

Hitachi Vantara talked about its source-edge-to-cloud-insights framework, which bridges IT and OT, edge and cloud, monitoring, and prediction, and Accenture pushed the envelope of what you would consider internet of things (IoT) by leveraging a virtual product rendering engine to build training and support virtual models of machinery for engineers and service personnel. Oh, and it’s by the same team that did the “Game of Thrones” CGI!

We Live In Exciting Times For IoT And Industrial Transformation

What makes the IoT space so interesting for me is the fact that players come from very different backgrounds: engineering companies, software providers, cloud hyperscalers, device makers, consultancy and service providers. All are now in the industrial transformation game, and in my view, no player — or team — has yet emerged to dominate the market in end-to-end IoT solutions.

I am delighted to spend a large amount of my research in this area over the following months, starting with a market overview of consultancies and service providers for IoT solutions in the Asia Pacific (AP) region. Stay tuned for the publishing of a Now Tech on IoT consultancies and service providers in AP for Q4 of 2019.