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Will the outbreak of Covid-19 will speed up the IIoT adoption?

In the backdrop of the recent outbreak of coronavirus in China and subsequent spread to the entire world, the deployment of disinfection robots to serve the isolated patients of zoonotic coronavirus

In the backdrop of the recent outbreak of coronavirus in China and subsequent spread to the entire world, the deployment of disinfection robots to serve the isolated patients of zoonotic coronavirus and AI to diagnose potential patients has again proved that sensible deployment of IIoT and AI can be a boon for humanity. The world has seen the transformative power of the Internet of things (IoT) in consumer applications such as consumer wearables(wristband activity trackers), smart homes, and connected cars. Still, in a nascent stage, the Industrial Internet will not only enhance operational efficiency and safety of workers but also disrupt two-third of the world economy, including the extractive industry, hydrocarbon industry, manufacturing, agriculture, transportation and health care. But the million-dollar question is how to tackle technical, policy and, business challenges to adopt IIoT on a massive scale and how to handle disruptions arising out of the IoT adoption.

To seize the benefits of IIoT and overcome technical and non-technical challenges world needs visionary leadership, investment and following collaborative actions among key stakeholders.

Technical challenges

  • Lack of adequate digital (connectivity embedded sensors) infrastructure

  • Lack of foolproof Security and data privacy

  • The vulnerability of access and control points of the vast globally connected network has made cybersecurity meant for a limited node ineffective hence organizations needs massive investment in countermeasures to upscale security frameworks covering entire cyber-physical stack(from device-level authentication and application security to system-wide assurance, resiliency and incidence response models.)

  • Existing operational digital ecosystem work mainly in silos but shortly, it needs seamless interoperability. In that context lack of interoperability among existing systems exacerbates cost and complexity in retrofitting.

  • Risk of System breakdowns restricts many countries to adopt IIOT in many sectors where human life is at the stake such as power grid sector.

Non-technical barriers and risks

  • Lack of vision, leadership and understanding of the current state of technology among policymakers

  • Lack of uniform data governance policy across geographic boundaries

  • Losses of low skill jobs and shortage of digital talent (e.g., data scientists

  • Uncertain return on investments in new technologies due to insufficient business cases, or untested technologies

  • The merger of the digital marketplace and traditional markets will not only disrupt internal operations and overall business model but also create a new digital value chain and ecosystem. Due to the lack of proven business models (e.g. Outcome-based /revenue sharing or profit-sharing), many companies force to delay large upfront capital investments.

  • Role of Technology providers

  • Establish and promote common standards to address interoperability

  • Collaborate on technology test-beds for connected industry ecosystems and platforms from different organizations to support new use cases.

  • As IoT security threats are vastly different from IT security and vary across industry domains, develop a global security commons to make an inventory and best security practices to address operational safety and security.

  • Without compromising the integrity of the existing machinery technology providers need to focus on Brownfield innovation and retrofit the existing machinery with sensors, devices, upgraded hardware and software to make them more productive and efficient for new outcome-based opportunities

  • They need to raise awareness among public policy-makers regarding transformative opportunities, risks, and societal implications (such as data security, privacy, education and jobs) arising from IIoT.

  • To showcase the tangible benefits and transformative potential of the Industrial Internet, all stakeholders must collaborate to create large-scale lighthouse projects in(smart city healthcare, transportation, food safety and education domains) as Intel is working with San Jose city, California to test its Smart City platform to support the San Jose Green Vision initiative(to improve air quality).

  • Role of Technology adopters

  • Keeping in the mind the disruptive potential of IIOT technology, the technology adopters need to analyse their existing entire business value chain and evaluate the implications of the transition to an outcome-based economy. (selling products and service agreements to selling outcomes)

  • They need to reorient their overall business strategy and identify new ecosystem partners for IIoT deployment in transition phases.

  • Either they can build a new platform as MyJohnDeere has built or join an existing platform to boost capabilities and deliver complex outcomes within the desired time frame.

  • The adopters need to identify one or two relevant validated business cases (e.g. preventative maintenance) for a pilot project to create the necessary momentum to achieve cycle-time reductions, asset utilization, cost savings and business process improvements. But later on, based on the enabling environment and institutional support from vendors or governments, they can conduct riskier but low-cost pilots on innovative product/service hybrid or outcome-based services.

Role of Policymakers

1. Data policy

Public policy-makers across the world must follow the example of the European Commission and the United States to have uniform message standards and data liability policies to handle, segregate and streamline transborder(Industrial Internet and consumer Internet-based) data within a jurisdiction and across national boundaries.

2. Provide the appropriate industry regulatory frameworks

As China has modified its current regulations in healthcare to introduce robots to fight against coronavirus, other countries can also modify their current regulations in health care. Taking the cue from the utility of robots in the healthcare sector governments across the world should tweak regulations in industries, utilities, and workplaces to introduce robots in warehouses and factories. The government should carefully calibrate the transport and aviation policy to introduce autonomous cars and unmanned aerial vehicles.

3. Invest in digital infrastructure

The robust digital infrastructures(ubiquitous broadband connectivity and state-of-the-art embedded sensors) is the basic requirement for the deployment of IIoT applications. Emerging economies can exploit the leapfrogging potential of the Industrial Internet and avoid costly retrofitting by installing digital infrastructures from the outset into their new physical infrastructure.

4. Invest in long-term strategic R&D and transfer of technology from the lab to industry

By collaborating with other Industries and academia Governments should invest in long-term strategic R&D to solve technology-related problems such as security, interoperability and management of systemic risks. Apart from encouraging industry to develop applications in delivering large-scale societal benefits, the government should ensure technology transfer from labs to industry, as the US National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps has done.

5. Accelerate digital reskilling

Automation will not only replace repetitive or labour intensive low skill high-risk jobs but also create new types of jobs (data analytics) hence policymakers should provide enabling environments and incentives to employers and workers for upskilling. Keeping in the mind the need for talented jobs government should collaborate with academia to introduce new educational and reskilling programmes where elementary students can work alongside machines or experiment with Arduino boards or little Bits electronic prototyping kits. The recent pandemic of coronavirus has forced policymakers and technology developers across the world to work in a unison to tackle the IIoT related challenges in a war footing manner.