The IIoT is propelling the transition to Industry 4.0, and businesses shouldn't risk being left behind

The IIoT is propelling the transition to Industry 4.0, and businesses shouldn’t risk being left behind

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The fourth industrial revolution, better known as Industry 4.0, is happening – and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and edge computing are at the epicenter of this transition. IIOT adoption has steadily increased globally, in part accelerated by the pandemic; manufacturers have realized the importance of digital transformation in the face of supply chain issues and labor shortages.

Harnessing machine learning (ML), AI, and big data, the potential of IIoT to empower global manufacturing, support remote operations, and optimize manufacturing and analytics is well understood. In fact, the global IIoT market size was $263.52 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23.1% between 2022 and 2030.

How are the two linked and why must companies act now or risk being left behind? Organizations of all kinds are beginning to understand the real value generated by IIOT: extending capabilities and providing critical competitive advantage.

From accelerated innovation and improved efficiency to increased availability and lower operating costs, IIOT technology is revolutionizing industries such as manufacturing, aerospace, retail and healthcare. Implementing the right IoT technology can increase production, reduce waste, and improve safety. It has been found to improve business growth rate by 25%.


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The status quo

We are in the early stages of a radical industrial transformation. Like any revolution, Industry 4.0 will have its winners and losers. Adopting IIoT has become a necessity for manufacturers, but it needs to be done right. Those without a clear IIoT strategy will be left behind.

Today, increasingly powerful hardware, coupled with recent advances in AI and ML capabilities, has accelerated adoption and use cases. These are diverse and drive business value: from IoT sensors monitoring an asset’s conditions (temperature and vibration) to alerting owners of potential issues to real-time data collection.

Edge computing is the foundation and enabler of IIOT applications, providing use cases with more stringent latency, bandwidth, and security requirements.

Challenges Hindering Progress

Today, the IIoT space remains quite fragmented, and for it to reach its full potential for Industry 4.0, many challenges need to be addressed.

Scalability is one of the biggest challenges facing IIOT adoption. MIT Technology Review reports that 95% of companies struggle to use IIoT solutions at scale and/or use them to generate competitive advantage. The complexity of the IIoT and the scale of operations make operational simplicity a fundamental necessity if the IIoT is to deliver results reliably and resiliently.

Foremost among the challenges are deep technical and organizational issues. As McKinsey notes, security is a priority – as computers under management grow into the hundreds of thousands in geographically diverse locations, the threat landscape increases and new attack vectors emerge alongside the technical challenges of maintenance and fixes.

The amount of data generated by IIoT devices makes them, and the architecture underlying their operation, attractive targets for cybercriminals. Their use in critical infrastructures makes the consequences of a breakdown significant.

High upfront capital costs and the complexity of managing IIoT devices also present barriers. Even with lightweight versions of Kubernetes making deployment and scalability easier, lack of know-how and tight budgets are barriers to entry for many companies that would see the benefits of IIoT.

How advances in edge computing are addressing these challenges

Edge technologies are already solving these problems and paving the way for significant acceleration. Driven by savings in computing power, better bandwidth, and the ability to provide faster access to automation data, the potential of IIOT is growing every day. At this point, the edge is the reliable and cost-effective way to ensure the quality, freshness, accuracy, and speed of data delivery in many applications that would traditionally have taken place at the core.

Organizations tackling IIoT value propositions are gaining momentum. Some companies have their customers as investors, which indicates that the IIoT generates business value for industrial and manufacturing companies. It’s also becoming more mainstream and topical, as evidenced by the Linux Foundation’s recent ONE Summit event, which focused on Industry 4.0 and the edge.

Together, the edge and the IIoT can be thought of as the connective tissue and gateway between the physical world and the computing world. The first step is to consolidate workloads into a single management system; then the workload can be split and containerized as needed. This enables an organization to adopt key underlying platform technologies and development practices that become fundamental for feature enhancements, cost-effective operations, and large-scale deployment. This prepares them for the AI ​​workloads that are inevitable in closing the control loop that IIoT devices provide access to.

By laying the foundation for edge computing, Industry 4.0 use cases have a clear track for implementation and improvements. The edge computing foundation will give Industry 4.0 the ability to compute at the edge, ensure workloads are containerized, applications are microservices-based, and the operating system and Kubernetes are hardware agnostic and centrally managed. This can ensure that new devices are deployed with minimal on-premises expertise when and as needed.

The IIoT space is a key battleground for businesses and industries pursuing their digital transformation. The next 12 months will be crucial for those looking to optimize their operations, improve their supply chain and gain a competitive advantage. Businesses must seize the opportunity offered by the latest cutting-edge advancements and renew the transition to Industry 4.0 or be left behind.

Keith Basil is the CEO of SUSE.


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