Tech Takes a Back Seat

Defining innovation with technology slows, as results-driven solutions take the industrial wheel

By Karen Langhauser, Chief Content Director

I was fortunate enough to be in Chicago for this year’s Smart Industry Industrial Internet of Things conference, hosted by my favorite media company (spoiler: it was a Putman Media event). Over the course of the three-day event, speaker after brilliant speaker eloquently addressed the enormous, untapped potential of the Internet of Things for industry.

In fact, famed entrepreneur Brad Keywell, co-founder of Uptake, Mediaocean and Groupon (to name a few), went as far as to say the 4th Industrial Revolution is “the last horizon of value creation in industry,” which is by no means a statement that should be taken lightly. The IIoT is no longer just an interesting, futuristic concept; it’s a reality to which business leaders must adapt or face extinction.

While it may not please the technology geeks to hear it, Mark Buckner, who leads the Power & Energy Systems group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, put it bluntly when he said, “People are hiring your company to solve problems — they don’t care about your technology.”

What Buckner, as well as numerous Smart Industry speakers were talking about, is an outcome-based business model. It’s a concept that pharma is becoming more and more familiar with, as payers tighten their purse strings and big players such as Amgen and Novartis are experimenting with pay-for-performance models tied to a treatment’s effectiveness rather than simply the volume of drugs sold. In much the same way, IIoT is about companies creating value not by selling technology, but by delivering solutions. “You’re not just selling a product, you’re solving a problem,” asserts Joe Sinfield, senior partner at Innosight consulting firm.

True to this point, the vendors that are succeeding in the IIoT field are not the ones dazzling the world with their new technology, but rather the ones which are effectively connecting and analyzing untapped data, and delivering measurable outcomes and insight.

The manufacturers that are embracing this next frontier of data are creating a new future for industry. As Sania Irwin, chief innovation officer for Cimphoni said, “You have to be willing to disrupt your own business to reach the next generation of data.”

And it will be worth it, because the potential impact of this insight on manufacturing is beyond substantial: improved operator safety, predictive diagnostics, reduced downtown, stronger environmental sustainability and, as pointed out by Matt Newton from Opto 22, an opportunity to automate and create IIoT connections that will bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States.

It would appear as though transforming the future is less about technology and more about effectively leveraging the data this technology births.

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