Reflections on IIoT Platforms at Hannover Messe 2017

To get a true sense of the impact of Hannover Messe 2017, let’s revisit the 2016 event. Last year, there was plenty of publicity and hype for Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). However, a peek behind the scenes revealed little substance and certainly no sellable products. Nevertheless, we certainly gathered a few interesting memories from the event.


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These include:

  • A plethora of prototype smart connected devices that allow unconnected equipment to connect directly to an IIoT network.
  • Asset Performance Management (APM) was the easiest IIoT application to implement although one could argue that APM products in 2016 used IIoT lightly, mostly some analytics to improve Predictive Maintenance.
  • GE Digital was the one company that stood out as promoting their IIoT platform in its own right.

How Far Have We Come in One Year?

This year the hype was undoubtedly more subdued, and the range of IIoT offerings has changed substantively; both in usefulness and in being (almost) ready for industrial use. I think we can sum the current state up by saying that IIoT platforms are ready for applications, but not yet as infrastructure. The infrastructure-sell will come soon, but perhaps not in 2017 unless vendors can combine with real value (beyond APM that, as we saw last year, does not really need IIoT anyway), such as manufacturing and quality apps.

Hannover_2017_AIt all boils down to what is an IIoT platform. Ultimately, it is the place where we bring operational information and outside data together to improve the manufacturing process and the lives of our customers when we consider the “normal” Internet of Things (IoT). If you are selling the platform with inferior or incomplete applications, you cannot achieve these aims. However, focusing on the platform before the applications is a sound long-term strategy as platform wars are surely just around the corner, the major controls and operations software companies need to be ready for competitive times.

State of Play

In this blog, we don’t have enough space to provide detailed comment on all the major IIoT vendors on the market, but rather to reflect on some of the strategies being taken. LNS Research breaks the IIoT market into two main areas: platform providers and ecosystem players. The ecosystem players are those that provide applications, analytics tools, and other offerings that will run on one or more platforms. Due to the enormity of challenge getting around Hannover Messe, we skipped most ecosystem offerings and so will concentrate on the platforms in this post.

The large software vendors that provide normal IoT offerings were pushing their platforms more than in previous years. Amazon, Microsoft, Cisco, Dell, HPE, Intel, and IBM all had large stands promoting their global IoT and analytics offerings. For industrial customers, these will often be the basis on their Industrial IIoT platforms, as they have global reach, unlimited size, and costs far below any DIY manufacturer could achieve. Also, they are now starting to deliver functionality that could compete with some of their partners that use their platforms. Matt Littlefield looks at this in much more detail in his post here.

The IIoT platforms delivered for industrial use have specific requirements regarding hybrid on-premise and Cloud-based applications, connectivity to plant equipment, and specialist analytics and apps. These platforms will either run on the big SW Clouds, on the vendor’s Cloud, or in a private data center. For the first time at Hannover, there was a wide choice of platforms to see with some real applications. Of the big controls and industrial software companies, GE Digital with Predix, SAP with Leonardo, and Siemens with Mindsphere all had IIoT platforms that are available for purchase.

They all have slightly different approaches to the market:

• GE Digital has concentrated on the platform while building out apps both internally and with thousands of third party developers. They have used many of their own industrial plants to implement and test Predix. It promises to be a first-rate platform for many industrial companies, but right now the way forward for customers wanting to invest is difficult, especially in Manufacturing Operations. The old Proficy is still available while new Predix Brilliant Manufacturing apps are just beginning to come to market and functionality is still evolving. Time will improve this, but it is a classic example of how driving platform sales rather than application sales that require the platform is difficult.

• SAP has rebranded its IoT platform as Leonardo, of which IIoT is but one instantiation. SAP has ambitions across the IoT space and sees Leonardo as a potential aggregator of platforms, while also offering substantial plant connectivity and some plant-centric apps. SAP has one advantage in that its software footprint is much larger than its IIoT competitors. The ability to bring together manufacturing, supply chain, and financial information on top of a single platform will enable new ways of bringing information together to improve industrial performance.

• Siemens has focused heavily on PLM and its integration into manufacturing. Mindsphere provides a new IIoT platform to bring together Siemens’ control platforms, design, and manufacturing software. The strategy to date has been to address existing customers (a huge installed base) and provide the ability to integrate Siemens products into Mindsphere with little cost or effort. Applications from design to production are being made Mindsphere ready, and Siemens has made the same APIs that they use available to third party integrators.

There are other major automation players that are moving towards the same goal, including ABB and Honeywell. Matt also describes the strategy of Schneider and Rockwell Automation, both of whom are taking a slightly different approach, focusing on incremental improvements of existing technology in the context of deploying new technology architectures.

Making IIoT Work

As we have said, if the market is to take off in 2017, the vendors will need to drive sales of applications that run on the platform to bundle the platform sale and start to get platform volume.

A good example of this comes from one of Siemens’ partners, Bentley. Bentley makes 3D models of process plants used by plant builders, maintenance, and operations. They use Mindsphere to give access (configurable by users, not programmers) to lots of related information about a process plant. Being 3D modeling types, Bentley starts with that model and then animates it with COMOS 2d design information, P&ID, and live and historical performance data. They can even show the state of equipment directly on the 3D model when they zoom into details.

This brings the 3D design (often captured through laser and video mapping) to life and makes it a useful tool to inspect, repair, and run complex process plants. Mindsphere allows them to add sources easily. Basically, any connected data source can map to the 3D model. Could you imagine using data that is the output of analytics as well as live process data to move insights to a new level? This could be done without Mindsphere, but it is a perfect opportunity to bundle Mindsphere to make life easier and to allow an ever more sophisticated use of the other tools from Bentley, Siemens, and third parties that are integrated into Mindsphere.

Was 2017 a Great Vintage?

Hannover_2017_Andrew Hughes B-1.pngFrom a digital factory perspective, this was not a top vintage year for Hannover Messe. That is not necessarily a bad thing as it allows everyone to reset their expectations and to challenge the big players to show how clients can benefit from IIoT. One key requirement to kick start the IIoT industry, and for the operational software vendors to stake their claim, is the rapid delivery of a decent library of interoperable apps. Without them, it will be hard to get a critical mass. Clients need to push vendors to fill that industrial apps kiosk fast, and well.




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All entries in this Industrial Transformation blog represent the opinions of the authors based on their industry experience and their view of the information collected using the methods described in our Research Integrity. All product and company names are trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of their respective holders. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.

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