Digital Transformation Initiatives are Driving IoT adoption

Siddharth Sharma

“At least 60% of IoT value creation is expected to be in the B2B space even though the early adopters and growth is currently seen in the B2C segment today.”

Siddharth Sharma, Global Head- IoT Business, Hitachi Vantara

Siddharth heads the IoT, Asset After market, Embedded systems and Industrial Operations globally at Hitachi Vantara. With over two decades of experience in helping customers achieve business objectives via technology adoption. Here he shares insights about the state of the IoT market, trends, learnings and adoption challenges. 

Tell us more about Hitachi IoT Software and Solutions 

Hitachi is a group which has created wealth through participation in the virtuous cycle of conceptualizing, designing, installing, managing, securing and modernizing of complex mission critical assets. Any organization which creates wealth through assets needs Industrial Internet of things to manage the after-market of install base.

Hitachi has been a pioneer at developing cutting edge operational technologies and equipment for over 110 years since its inception. Be it nuclear reactors, power grids, transmission and distribution networks, high speed trains or even air conditioners. This combined with over 60 years of IT experience, research and innovation, IoT solutions are very much core to its business. The IoT portfolio at Hitachi Vantara reflects this heritage and focuses on delivering Lumada IoT products and solutions for our customers. Our IoT software and solutions include solutions for intelligence at the edge, industrial dataOps, smart space, asset management, asset performance management, field service management and IoT compass.

What is driving the market for IoT enablement?

A confluence of factors is driving the market for IoT today. First, the change in customer expectations and their demands. Customers demand new and innovative services with instant gratification as the competitive benchmark. Secondly, the digital prowess in terms of computing power, data storage & network connectivity has opened the floodgates for innovative solutions and new business models such as productization.

Increased automation, robotics to improve productivity and quality of products / services are also leading to greater adoption of IoT coupled. Usage of drones and image-based inspections is changing the way maintenance activities are carried out. Asset performance models and digital twins are driving deployment of IoT and sensors. At Hitachi Vantara we help organizations to improve the availability and reduce the downtime using our products.

How are customers benefitting from IT-OT integration?

As per McKinsey research, the potential economic value that IoT could unlock is large and growing with an estimated $5.5 to $12.6 trillion in economic value by 2030.

In the industrial sector customers achieving operational excellence towards sustainability initiatives. For example, increased adoption of battery storage due to distributed energy resources, renewables and smart grid is changing the way the energy trading and IPPs are doing business. This is possible due to IT-OT integration.

What opportunity does it present for a storage company like yours?

Hitachi Vantara is the merger of Hitachi Data Systems, Hitachi Pentaho, Hitachi Lumada Software business, Hitachi Rein Cloud and Hitachi Consulting. The storage business was a sub-set of Hitachi Data Systems only.

Hitachi Vantara has fundamentally shifted from having data support our business to data drive our business. The ability to support our customers at any stage of their modernization journey is what makes it a compelling proposition for customers. Be it at the infrastructure layer, platform layer or the applications layer, we have solutions and services that enable the digital shift for our customers.

It is in this context that we see a very large opportunity for us especially around IoT where solutions that tackle large volumes of data and requires massive storage and compute power running AI/ML models are critical. Hitachi being a leader in industrial automation, software and storage, we offer end-to-end solutions across the spectrum, be it storage, sensors or the cloud services build around them. Our customers run mission critical applications on our solutions.

What challenges are you facing in implementing IoT-enabled storage solutions?

The biggest challenge facing IoT solutions is ‘interoperability’. The diverse hardware, legacy systems and protocols that need to come together to provide a modern and seamless solution is easier said than done.  This compounded by organizational challenges, security concerns have often led to organizations failing to scale their pilot projects.

Constraint related to data ingestion depending on the problem we are trying to solve. We overcome the challenges by recommending the right solution architecture for our customers to manage edge to cloud storage using our Lumada IoT platform.

Which industries are adopting IoT enablement and what are the business cases?

At least 60% of IoT value creation is expected to be in the B2B space even though the early adopters and growth is currently seen in the B2C segment today. IoT adoption is happening across all industry verticals. The impact on business and customer service are driving factors. Asset intensive industries like manufacturing, transportation, energy & utilities are increasingly deploying IoT platforms at the forefront to derive economic benefits from IoT.

For example, in manufacturing the leading business use cases are around operations management, predictive maintenance, yield management & human productivity, health & safety.

Please share some learnings from customer deployments. 

While we have many success stories in customer deployments, there are also learnings from some pilot projects. Typically it revolves around lack of attention / concern around the following aspects:

Change Management: Often these projects are treated as technology projects whereas this requires cross business collaboration to realize the true value and benefits.

Interoperability: Linking legacy systems with its propriety protocols and silos remain a key challenge. Understanding this and resolving this early in the design phase is key to the success of deployments.

Customization:  The interoperability issue also leads to customizations at time of deployment that adds cost and diminishes the future potential to scale. Having a scalable solution is key from a design perspective.

Security: The threat is even more given the increase in number of endpoints that inevitably becomes targets for hacking. Therefore, designing the right security layers is key in any deployment.

Privacy: Not just on B2C but even on B2B, this is a growing concern and if not addressed early in the design can lead to significant challenges and thereby cost. For example, while monitoring health and safety of a worker through an IoT solution, there has to be due consideration for individual privacy.

Is edge computing ideal for all IoT deployments or are there use cases where IoT deployment is better in a traditional IT architecture and environment?

Edge computing is best suited where local intelligence and processing is required for quick decision making. Edge utilizes computing resources at site level so that workload is placed closer to where data is generated. For example, edge devices in remote locations where the network bandwidth and latency are an issue can utilize local compute power in deciding next best action.

Another use case is video analytics solutions where transmitting the entire streaming data to the Cloud or data center is expensive and slow. Edge computing nodes that consist of smart cameras can do the initial level of analytics and the footage can then be transmitted for further analysis. Another scenario is while understanding the machine/process behaviour to adjust the parameters in real time using AI/ML.

Traditional IT architecture has limitations in addressing the growing needs of local intelligence, closed loop control, device management and protocol support.

Which is the fastest growing product category in your portfolio and why do you think is driving its uptake?

Our Lumada stack of products and solutions are growing fast due to rapid IoT adoption and digital transformation initiatives of business. Key solutions like Lumada Manufacturing Insights that propel productivity, uptime and quality gains and Lumada Video intelligence products (Video Insights, Video Data Management and Intelligence devices) are enabling growth.

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