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In IoT – Forrester’s No. 1 trend for 2018 – faster, smarter action gives companies an ‘actual edge’

Recent improvements in the technology of action drove IoT to the top of Forrester’s list, specifically, “innovation in edge devices..."

Forrester recently ranked the Internet of Things the No. 1 tech trend, 2018-2020 – even ahead of No. 2, white hot blockchain. Why is IoT No. 1? “A growing number of firms are turning to connected devices to glean ever more data on customers or processes, gathering that data into a cloud platform, analyzing it, and taking action,” The Wall Street Journal explained on Oct. 20.

As The Journal said, the key steps in IoT are sensing and gathering data, analyzing it, and then acting – what we call “closing the loop.” Sensing and analyzing are crucial, but smarter, faster action is what truly delivers maximum IoT value.

Recent improvements in the technology of action drove IoT to the top of Forrester’s list, specifically, “innovation in edge devices….Firms in the vanguard of this trend will engage customers more quickly, squeeze new efficiencies out of processes, and [gain] an actual edge: competitive advantage,” Forrester wrote. (Gartner also ranked edge computing for IoT as a top tech trend at its Orlando IT Expo in October.)

Edge computing has spawned such new technology as gateway servers, edge micro-datacenters, and cloudlets, among others, to push the frontier of sense/analyze/act from centralized nodes outward to the actual source of the data. In other words, edge computing is bringing to IoT something that’s been common knowledge for millennia – the winning knowledge/insight/action isn’t back at HQ, it’s on the front lines.

You don’t need a Forrester or a Gartner to understand the critical difference between action directed from a centralized datacenter – with its neatly-painted walls and the reassuring hum of a fault tolerant HVAC system holding a steady 68 degrees – and actions executed with near-zero latency at the edge: a roaring mining pit, a deepwater oil drilling platform, a clamorous factory floor, an autonomous vehicle moving through busy city streets or tempestuous seas, a microgrid bringing vital clean energy to a village in sub-Saharan Africa. The edge, as they used to say, is where the rubber meets the road.

The end-to-end digital infrastructure for total transformation

Trendy chart-topper that it is, edge computing is just one element of the end-to-end digital infrastructure required for IoT’s total industrial transformation. As we’re building it with our partner ecosystem, this end-to-end transformational infrastructure is a unified, all-encompassing fabric of technology, expertise, scale, and orchestration focused obsessively on empowering our customers to execute what Forrester calls the “actual edge” of competitive advantage – faster, smarter action in their businesses.

Technical elements of the fabric include:

  • seamless, automated integration of OT and IT assets to deliver data-driven action insights
  • industry standard open solutions
  • enterprise-grade hybrid IT to simplify IoT integration, encompassing on-premise, private/public cloud, and intercloud at hyperscale in the most demanding environments
  • flexible deployment from the edge to centralized datacenters
  • rock-solid security
  • fluid datacenter automation
  • minimum latency
  • maximum agility and flexibility
  • unmatched AI and analytics capabilities
  • the world’s largest R&D operations, from basic science to cutting-edge innovations

Beyond technology leadership lies another realm that’s equally important: industry expertise and scale. In building the right infrastructure for total digital transformation, it’s crucial to know first-hand how the same products and systems work differently – over decades of mission-critical deployments – in steamy jungles, scorching dry deserts, and frozen steppes.

With our partners, we’ve built and are improving action-oriented IoT solutions from what we’ve learned from an installed base of $400 Billion in products, more than 70 million connected devices, 70,000 digital control systems, and 6,000 enterprise software solutions across multiple industries on a global basis.

Unmatched technology, expertise, scale, and partner ecosystem deliver the unsurpassed ability to close the loop with action via orchestration systems that unify entire plants, entire assembly lines, entire distributed supply chains while continuously adding functionality through updates, the way mobile phones and Teslas just keep getting smarter.

‘Total transformation’ is challenging, but worth it

As I recently noted, IoT is becoming “boring.” By which I mean IoT has quickly evolved from a mysterious concept to an increasingly well-understood business capability. IoT’s requisite “total digital transformation” can be disruptive, culturally challenging, and expensive. But the potential benefits themselves are transformational:

  • discover new business models and market opportunities
  • serve customers better with faster, smarter actions
  • drive customer satisfaction and loyalty
  • maximize ROI from assets that last longer
  • dramatically reduce downtime
  • increase agility and speed
  • improve productivity and output quality
  • deliver competitive advantage
  • protect workforces with improved workplace safety

All of which makes clear why Forrester and Gartner rank IoT among the most important technology trends. That said, we still face a long journey on the road to total digital transformation: Less than 40 percent of global industry is currently digitized, according to McKinsey. On that journey, ABB’s mission is to be the industrial IoT company that most powerfully equips customers to know more, do more, and do better through action – from the edge to the core of their businesses.

Our continuing No. 1 tech trend – and that of our partners – is to create a richer, empathetic, more sustainable future across a multitude of industries and geographies through the industrial Internet of Things. We envision…

  • Industrial systems that understand, sense, and reason
  • Transportation systems that are efficient, dynamic, and seamless
  • Energy systems that are resilient, distributed, renewable, and responsive
  • “Aware” green buildings that actively engage their occupants and anticipate their needs
  • Communities and society at large benefitting from renewable and sustainable solutions that run the world more efficiently and humanely without consuming the earth
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