Why It’s Hard to Make Your IIoT Solution Happen
If you’re like me, you might feel as if the industrial internet of things (IIoT) should be more of a thing by now. That’s not to say it isn’t panning out. IIoT applications are on the rise, and recent estimates anticipate as much as $14 trillion in additions “to global domestic product by 2030” thanks to IIoT technologies.
On the flip side, it’s also clear that many companies still use manual, pen-and-paper means to handle inventory, shipping, worker safety, and other industrial processes. So. Why don’t they adopt even simple IIoT solutions instead? Although this isn’t easy to answer, I’ve gathered together the most common reasons I’ve heard from would-be technology adopters in automotive, aerospace, and other manufacturing sectors, as well as energy, warehousing, and logistics. The top problems I’ve encountered have to do with:
- Suspicion of New Technologies
- Budgets and Delays
- Lack of Corporate Buy-In
- Issues with Technology Integration
Familiarity with these problems won’t make them disappear, but with some work (and luck) you can prepare your business for similar concerns. If you can anticipate problems like these–both in your sales and product development processes–you might just be able to make your IIoT solution a reality a little sooner.
Suspicion of New Technologies
This might sound like a problem of the past, but there’s still lots of smoke, plenty of mirrors, and no shortage of snake oil in our technology landscape. This can naturally breed suspicion in potential end-users. It’s often hard to persuade them that your IIoT solution does in fact work.
Part of this problem is that too many vendors have peddled technologies that don’t work as advertised. Quite a few end-customers only find this out after making a large investment, when they start rolling the technology out in an operational environment. This kind of experience is a sour pill in anyone’s mouth and makes it especially hard to build trust in newer technologies as they arise.
This problem is often surmountable with the right kinds of demonstrations and system validations, but it does take time and effort. It also means that some especially wary companies might not try IIoT solutions for quite some time, if ever. It’s hard to blame them if they’ve been burned by bad tech before.
Budgets and Delays
Sometimes end-customers just say “no” to the idea of IIoT. Other times they say “not now.” On the one hand, it could just be that the initial cost is too steep. Sticker price is a top concern for IoT leaders this year, after all. But some companies also wait to make big-money decisions only once or twice per year, so if you miss your window–even if your end-customer loves what you’re offering–you might have to wait several months.
It’s often feasible to start small and build up over time. This lets customers prove the technology on their own turf, at their own pace, and on a smaller budget. It also tends to leave quite a few projects stuck in early stages, though.
There’s another problem, too. Every technology has early-adopters, but it’s not always easy to find them. Most companies are fairly slow to adopt new tech, waiting for others to lead the way. Think of it like a computer upgrade: There’ll be a better processor or a slicker video card on the market next year, so I can put off the upgrades for now, can’t I?
It’s easy to find the same mindset happening with IIoT, because there certainly will be newer technologies next year. End-customers typically need a clear, immediate sense of the ROI to overcome this hurdle, so if your IIoT solution can’t deliver, it might just get shelved.
Lack of Corporate Buy-In
This is another reason IIoT projects often get delayed, if they ever get started. It’s probably no surprise that corporate executives often need to delegate technology investigations to others. It’s not necessarily that executives lack the technical acumen to make the decision. They might simply lack the time. Hence the long delays for evaluation, or the frequent pauses mid-project.
Corporate buy-in for IIoT projects often comes down to internal politics. After all, the top decision-makers have to accommodate their on-the-floor workers, their IT professionals, their innovation teams, security personnel, and everyone else with something to gain or something at stake in an IIoT solution. It’s often easier to get everyone to agree to do nothing than to undertake something new.
Just to make it even trickier, IIoT solutions often involve more than just two big parties. There could be a hardware or sensor provider, a software partner, a software integrator, another software partner or two, or any other configuration of players to make the best new solution work. This is getting simpler as solutions providers talk more about IoT standards, but it’s not a problem that’s likely to go away overnight, and the complexity of many end-solutions makes it tough to get buy-in from everyone with a vote.
Issues with Technology Implementation
Integration and execution is an even bigger concern among IoT leaders than costs are, and for good reason. Plenty of end-users just aren’t sure how to make this happen. This is a smart reason to be cautious with IIoT; it takes clever, well-reasoned integration to get the most value from new technologies, and entire IIoT projects can go to waste if executed poorly.
There will be plenty more obstacles to overcome, including challenges with data and analytics, security concerns, or even reservations about the shapes and colors of the sensors being used. But if you can offer an IIoT solution, chances are good that you can move past these issues as well.
This article was written by Stephen Taylor, the Director of Communications of WISER Systems, Inc., a leading ultra-wideband (UWB) provider of precise localization. When he’s not at work, he likes to jam on his violin, write creatively, or wander through the forest. Someday he’ll try all three things at once.