IoT = Internet of Things
Does the Internet of Things relate to us too? Definitely. According to experts, it will change all business, maybe in as short a period as a decade.
The business revolution, drastic changes in people’s everyday lives, the longed-for magical solution to heal the national economy – the phenomenon is described in many ways but the core is the same: soon all machinery and devices will be able to communicate with each other in data networks, the same way people do.
Depending on the point of view, this is called the Internet of Things (IoT), industrial Internet or the Internet of Everything.
Experts are urging companies in all fields to awake to the phenomenon. The American pioneer of IoT, General Electric, has estimated that the number of devices connected to the Internet will exceed 50 billion in five years’ time – this is nearly 10,000 times the population of Finland!
With all these devices collecting data and transferring it forward for processing, the sky is the limit for people with a nose for business.
Even operators outside the IT sector can’t afford to ignore this development. Such applications are edging their way into every sector, from consumer products to administrative and manufacturing processes.
“Large operators have long been investing in the industrial Internet, but small and medium-sized companies have been slower to jump on the bandwagon. This development started in the analogue age and took flight with digital advances and, over the last five years, the pace has increased immensely,” says Jukka Kuusinen, the Head of Sales of Industrial Internet at Tieto Oyj.
Some policy-makers have even claimed that IoT will save Finland. But what does it mean in practice?
The many steps of the smart chain
Kuusinen, who has occupied himself with this phenomenon for about fifteen years, explains that the Internet of Things and industry will open doors for operators of all sizes. Digital technology will give devices their own “identity” and IP address. This way they will be connected to information networks and will be able to function there independently.
Sensors imbedded in the devices will collect measurement data from their surroundings, such as information relating to speed, air quality, vibration, temperature, location or purchases. Data sets that are so large or complex that traditional data processing equipment cannot process them – also known as big data – will be transferred via the Internet to data warehouses from which they can be processed and analysed.
The two-way smart chain will require many kinds of technology: measuring instruments with sensors, routers, software and their platforms.
“In some industries, such as the energy sector, the industrial Internet has already come a long way. Their automatic meter reading is very sophisticated,” Kuusinen says.
In most sectors, these applications are very new. For example, in production plants and warehouses, IoT enables increased automation and remote surveillance.
“In procurement chains, machine communication makes the handling of goods, dispatching and distribution more effective. Optimising the chain will bring considerable savings,” Kuusinen says.
One well-known Finnish forerunner of the industrial Internet is Konecranes, whose hoists have been supplemented, for example, with an automated warehouse system and a global tele-maintenance network.
Efficiency and new values
Data measurements, collection and storage create the foundation for what is essential – i.e. processing raw data for practical application. With IoT, production and processes can be made more effective by dozens of percentage points, while at the same time it creates new business, invigorates old models and improves customer experiences.
In industry, the phenomenon can be seen especially in the movement from traditional manufacture towards service ranges.
IoT has provided consumers with entertainment electronic devices that communicate with each other, smart heating systems and meters that collect data on the processes of the human body and send it on to the cloud for analysis. The next advances may be restaurant tables that order food independently, or local services marketed on the basis of the consumer’s location or personal profile.
Business grown to trillions
General Electric has predicted that, over the next 20 years, IoT will boost the world economy by as much as 15 trillion US dollars, which is almost 14,000 billion euros. The research company Gartner has estimated that the IoT market in Finland will be worth 1.4 billion euros in just five years' time.
“In industrial Internet alone, companies’ possibilities for growth are huge. Add to that the consumer side and you’re unquestionably looking at trillions,” says Ville Ylläsjärvi, a founding member of Haltian Oy from Oulu.
Founded in 2012, Haltian has gone into the IoT business as a creator of wireless devices and programming platforms.
Jukka Kuusinen from Tieto, which has positioned itself as a contract manufacturer for the industrial Internet, describes the possibilities in the field as “astronomical.”
“There’s probably more to it than we can possibly guess. Large companies have more to lose if they don’t react in time. Smaller companies mostly have something to win because they can adopt the most modern technologies in one swoop,” Kuusinen believes.
Information security is worth more than gold
Of course, it will not all be bliss with IoT. When everything happens online, the risks also grow. Ylläsjärvi points out that in a networked society, the responsibility of users themselves increases and you have to be careful in choosing your partners.
“Reliability will become more and more important. This will open up huge business opportunities for information security companies,” he adds.
Kuusinen and Ylläsjärvi believe that IoT is still in its infancy in many sectors. According to Gartner’s report, half of Finnish organisations had no plan at all last summer for the utilisation of the possibilities afforded by IoT.
“Finnish corporate culture is often cautious, and decision-making is delayed while waiting for the right moment. At the same time, we also have some brave, innovative players and strong know-how within the field. In other words, there’s no shortage of opportunities,” Ylläsjärvi says.
A producer of customised, company-specific IoT solutions, Tieto wants to be one of the forces pushing the train along and getting it going by bringing together operators in the smart chain.
“Everything starts with service logic: do we need improvements for business, or do our customers need them? I recommend boldly trying new things and adopting an open-minded attitude. There are plenty of different solution components already available,” Kuusinen says encouragingly.
Occupational well-being in smart premises
Smart devices can also be utilised when refurbishing office premises. Well-being at work can be improved, for example, like this: Office chairs are fitted with pressure sensors that monitor the position of the backrest and how long the person has been sitting nonstop. The chair then advises the person to improve their posture or stretch their legs.
A piece of pipe sticking out from the ceiling measures the air quality of a meeting room and adjusts the ventilation when its carbon dioxide content rises.
The door sensor of an office or workspace recognises the user and adjusts the lighting and temperature and the height of the desk according to the user’s needs. Even a coffee machine can make a drink that is tailored exactly for the user’s specifications.
On the factory floor, a device perceives working positions that put a lot of burden on the body and warns about them before any ailments are formed.
An office building’s car park makes commuting easier by directing the driver automatically to a free space.
Source: Jukka Kuusinen, Head of Sales at Tieto Oyj