The technology components that support the internet of things may be well known but how to secure, standardize and skill up IoT projects is still unsettled business. The Industrial Internet Consortium, a nonprofit organization focused on the industrial IoT and founded by AT&T, Cisco, General Electric, Intel and IBM, is set on changing that.
For years, the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) has built working projects or "testbeds" to experiment with new IoT products, services, processes, and to figure out how these IoT components can be made to work with existing technologies in a controlled environment.
"A hallmark of the IoT system is making things work together -- integrate or federate -- that you never thought were going to work together. And that's hard because they weren't designed to work together," said Richard Soley, executive director at the consortium, at the recent MIT Sloan CIO Symposium. "We drive the requirements for interoperability between those standards by building testbeds -- by building systems -- and making sure those systems work together."
SearchCIO caught up with Soley, who is also chairman and CEO at the standards consortium Object Management Group, at the event to talk about the goals of the IIC, whether IoT standards are impeding IoT technology adoption and his message for today's CIOs. Below are excerpts from the interview; click on the player to hear the interview in its entirety.
What is the aim of the Industrial Internet Consortium?
Richard Soley: The Industrial Internet Consortium, or IIC, is focused entirely on learning how to apply internet of things technology to industries. IoT technology is nothing particularly new. The idea is to take data from a large number of sensors, do real-time predictive analytics and deliver the results to decision-makers for decision support or to deliver the results directly to actuators in the real world. That can be applied to manufacturing and production, but also to agriculture, healthcare, and so forth.
What we're doing is building what we call testbeds -- large working projects -- and collecting information about how to hire, how to train, how to partner, how to build ecosystems, as well as what needs to be integrated and, very importantly, what are the standards necessary to make those things work together.
Where do those working projects or testbeds come from -- vendors or industry?
Soley: Our testbeds come from both directions -- from technology vendors that have technology ... but also from the user level down. Every two weeks, we have a call in which we have some technology vendor saying, 'We've got this technology we're looking for a use case.' But we also have users who say, 'I have this use case in mind, I'm looking for the technology stack that solves my problem.'
What is preventing companies from adopting IoT technology?
Soley: What's slowing IoT adoption is expertise: Finding the people who have big data analysis expertise; finding the people who understand how to build these ecosystems across technologies and across industries. That's hard. So I think it's a people problem more than a technology problem.
When developing standards, how do you get everyone to agree?
Soley: The key is getting people to understand why it's valuable to all of them. It's a tragedy of the commons issue: If you can make sure [companies] understand the value of coming together and finding what they do not compete on, and how they can build a competitive marketplace on top of that, you'll be successful.
What role does the CIO play in developing IoT standards?
Soley: The most important message I have for CIOs today is the disruption we're talking about is not in IT. It's not a technology disruption. It's a disruption of the agriculture industry. It's a disruption of the pharmaceuticals industry. It's a disruption of the machines and manufacturing and production industry. That's where the disruption is. ... [And CIOs] have a choice: They can participate in that disruption or they can wait to be disrupted. The latter is not usually a good choice.