Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute

Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute 2019

A few weeks ago I attended the annual Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute summit in Atlanta Georgia. One of the most interesting presentations was by Alain Luchez, the Managing Director of the Center for the Development and Application of Internet-of-Things Technologies (CDAIT) at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Mr. Luchez had a number of interesting observations about the Internet of Things that I will describe here with my comments (italics).

  1. Many IoT projects are mired in “Pilot Purgatory,” meaning that they are never rolled out as production applications. There is so much hype around IoT that many of these projects never undergo the rigorous technical and financial analysis that we do for other kinds of projects. I believe that some of these are failures continue to be in “purgatory” because they were ill-conceived to begin with and would be embarrassing failures if they were canceled.
  2. The “S” in IoT is for Security (the point being that there is no ‘S’ in IoT). One analyst in Europe reported that 79% of IoT systems in Europe have been hit by a cybersecurity attack. Even though every additional IoT device exponentially increases your risk of a cybersecurity event, manufacturers seem to think that the data provided by IoT is so important that they are willing to risk cybersecurity attacks.
  3. Privacy decreases as IoT applications increase. Not very true of manufacturing applications, but the attitude toward privacy seems to be like the attitude toward security. People are willing to lose privacy to get the convenience offered by IoT applications.
  4. Edge computing, artificial intelligence, and Blockchain applications are growing quickly. Certainly, edge computing and AI are growing in importance in manufacturing applications, but I haven’t seen much in the way of Blockchain in manufacturing beyond supply chain applications.
  5. 5G is built for IoT applications. Not sure that this is true in manufacturing applications. The distance limitations and inability to penetrate obstructions make 5G problematic for the factory floor. I still believe that IO-Link, EtherNet/IP and PROFINET IO will continue to dominate data collection in the short term. Other wireless applications are more appropriate for the factory floor than 5G.
  6. Several bills in Congress are pending that may shape IoT and IIoT in the future. This was the first I had heard of this and don’t know anything about them.
  7. There is no universal definition of IoT – it means something different to everyone, and because there is no universal definition, there are no standards for quality, safety, privacy, durability and security. Well said. I couldn’t agree more.
  8. The problem with IIoT is not a technology issue. It is fundamentally a people problem: product management, company culture and organization leadership. I agree with a lot of this. There is a problem of management not understanding the difficulty of IoT at scale and that a data driven organization propelled by IIoT data is vastly different than the kinds of organizations we have today.
  9. Most IIoT projects are still cost containment driven. There is not a lot of farsighted thinking about how to use IIoT technology to move the company forward. This is directly related to the previous issue regarding organizational leadership.
  10. A majority (>80%) of heavy industry suppliers want to use IoT technology to change their business model from one of selling equipment to leasing equipment. Various terms are being tried, such as number of operating hours, utilization rates and machine efficiency. I understand why these suppliers desire this, but I’m not sure that their customers are aligned with this. I am not an accounting expert, but I think that there are various ways to do the math, and some of them indicate that leasing a machine is better and others that buying a machine is better. I think that both business models will be used in the future.

The Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute offers this IIoT workshop every November. The next one is November 11, 2020. It is well worth attending. Visit the GTMI webpage for more information.