Can you hear the sound of a deflating balloon – the one usually reserved for comedic effort? Listen – you know that sound because it’s also the sound of the Industrial Internet of Things.
Years of inflated expectations are collapsing from the harsh realities of implementing and scaling this supposed game-changing technology.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is quickly becoming a shriveled balloon on the ground.
Perhaps we should end the article here – walk away and get back to work. We’re all busy anyway.
But what if we wanted to keep pushing because, somehow, we knew there must be some value to IIoT? Or perhaps we’ve heard war stories of an IoT sensor saving the day (although they’re rare).
Should we blow it up? I realize that could mean several things and elicit a few different responses. So, where should we go? Boom, bust, or believe?
Here’s what I have to offer if you decide to keep reading:
This article is the first in a series I’m calling The No-Nonsense Buyer’s Guide to IoT, where I dive into the solutions and facts associated with scaling IIoT and confront four key categories to improve your facility’s IIoT traction.
Category 1: Pricing
Category 2: Products
Category 3: Positioning
Category 4: Politics
But before we get to that, we need to set the scene to understand how the IIoT market became so frustrating and impractical.
In the mid-2010s, I ran an IIoT startup focused on the asset health of hydraulic fluids, pumps, filtration, and power units. We had sensors, dashboards, smart people, and a successful pilot program. But most of all, we had… confusion in the market – and a lot of it.
There was a vast spectrum of understanding growing as more jargon began entering the space. On one side, you had the folks who didn’t even know what IoT stood for, and on the other, you had those already dreaming of Industry 5.0. But, if we’re being honest, most of us found ourselves falling somewhere in the middle trying to successfully implement the foundations of Industry 3.0.
To add to the confusion, during that time, IIoT also began rubbing shoulders with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data, and the ideas just kept getting bigger and more complex – like aging fishing stories.
I remember feeling sad because I knew, with all this erupting noise, the realities of IIoT were never going to live up to expectations. Private equity and venture capital groups were making unsubstantiated claims and injecting too much money into the space, wrongfully convincing immature companies to adopt IIoT too quickly, leaving those on the factory floor frustrated, disappointed, and disgruntled time and time again.
As for the giant companies putting pressure on us to prematurely jump in head-first, they stayed grossly high-level and struggled to produce anything real; their only priority was getting you to pay a pretty penny for their services. They were experts in selling their C-Suite solutions to unprepared factory floors, making their jobs harder than they needed to be.
So, what happened with my IIoT startup?
We didn’t make it.
I may be partial, but I truly believe we had something special – we acknowledged the noisy market and fought to solve facility issues by producing real solutions. We had great momentum backed by successful proof of concepts straight from the field, and then COVID struck.
What’s a recipe for startup disaster? Take an already-confusing space and heap an overwhelming amount of corporate fear and confusion on top of it. Everything came to a screeching halt; most companies went into survival mode, leaving little room for experimentation and innovation. Understanding timing is everything, and being the realists that we were, we acknowledged it just wasn’t our time.
Before our sunset, we fought doggedly to fill in the gaps these giant companies had created. We worked directly with individuals just like you by helping to solve key issues, such as:
I am disappointed to say that years later, those same issues are still prevalent. Now, I find myself in the unique position of no longer being affiliated with a specific company, and I feel called to pick up the torch and help guide us by offering solutions that are helpful, valuable, and real.
I can now look at both vendors and customers and ask the hard-hitting questions about why they struggle to work together and fail to get any type of IIoT traction.
I want to consider a fresh approach to reconciling our issues with IIoT traction on the factory floor – one that calls to the carpet the responsibilities of both the vendor and customer, because y’all are struggling big time.
On one hand, it seems IIoT vendors are sticking to the old adage of selling hammers and convincing everyone their problems are nails. Conversely, the customer wants something good, fast, and cheap. Let’s unpack the specifics of the real challenges preventing each from gaining traction.
I’ve intentionally said the quiet part out loud – there are sales models out there that suggest the actual selling process should involve:
This isn’t done maliciously or intentionally but because we lack the information, time, or patience needed to have important and direct conversations. This leads to us overstating or understating budget and availability, wanting as much information as possible for free, and avoiding calls and emails when we don’t have answers.
This leads to both sides being frustrated, disappointed, and disgruntled. Again.
The four vendor and customer issues must be confronted to resuscitate the Industrial Internet of Things. The question is whether we have the desire and capacity to do so. I have personally seen companies prevent tens of millions of dollars in downtime events because of IoT – I know it’s possible, it’s just hard.
As this story continues beyond this article, I will reach out to both vendors and customers to have the hard conversations, learn more about the specifics, and share them with you through my living IoT Buyer’s Guide that you will have direct access to via Reliable Plant.
During this process, I will:
Through this process, I hope to provide the missing piece to this puzzle with authentic value for both you and your vendors.
If you have any questions or would like me to call you specifically, reach out to me at jeremydruryIoT@gmail.com.