Industrial internet – hype or revolution?


The word pairing industrial internet has proved a hot topic in the discussion on the economy, industry and technology. The Finnish mainstream media have provided coverage in several articles and interviews over the past six months, while there have been a number of seminars, workshops and other events. The flood of requests to act as a speaker has prompted a number of date clashes. Major companies declare the industrial internet to be one of their strategy pillars, or at least one of its essential bricks.

Is this all hype, or is there really something behind it – a third industrial revolution, perhaps? Before giving thought to this question we should decide what we mean by ‘industrial internet’. I would describe it like this:

Industrial internet refers to the application of sensor and communications technologies and advanced data analysis methods for the purpose of increasing productivity of industry and services and generating new business. The industrial internet concept is often linked to extending digitalised operations, such as equipping employees with mobile devices.

Although the industrial internet is clearly related to what we call the Internet of Things, it is not quite the same ‘thing’. While the Internet of Things sees from an internet-technology perspective, the industrial internet approaches from the angle of applications and benefits.

The industrial internet and full digitalisation of operations are momentous developments that will affect all aspects of business life and the public service sector over the next 15 years. The forthcoming change is comparable to previous industrial revolutions, which not only altered production methods but wrought fundamental changes in business life and society as a whole.

General Electric estimates that full-scale exploitation of industrial internet potential will bring an annual one percentage point increase in global production for the next 15–20 years. One percentage point might not sound much, but calculating one per cent growth over fifteen consecutive years as compounding growth we end up with a global increase of ten to fifteen trillion dollars in national product – that is to say, an increase in products and services to the tune of 10,000 or 15,000 billion dollars each and every year. If even a part of this can be realised, we will have gone some way beyond mere hype!

Where the industrial internet is concerned we here in Finland are definitely on the move. We already have some good ingredients: a strong, international and progressive engineering sector, and an ICT sector on the lookout for new horizons. All we need is some forward thinking in developing our technology and business models. This is another thing that VTT is taking seriously, investing 90 million euros over four years in various research, development and innovation projects targeting the development of competitiveness and competencies within the business world and society relating to the industrial internet. The work falls within the framework of the Pro IoT spearhead project; view our vision publication “Productivity Leap with Internet of Things”.

Heikki Ailisto

Leader of the Pro IoT spearhead programme, Research Professor

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