The Internet of Things presents opportunities for industrial enterprises to get a clear picture of the performance of their assets, and according to one senior executive, it allows for smarter business decisions for those companies both now and in the future.

Alison Koh is Schneider Electric’s acting software director for the Pacific region, and will be sharing her thoughts in a deep dive session on enterprise asset performance management at the upcoming Industrial IoT Summit in Sydney.

She sat down with IoT Hub in the lead-up to the event to discuss the evolving nature of connected devices in industrial enterprises.

“Industry is looking at IoT and really wants to understand what the return on investment is for industrial IoT. I think it’s really important for the industry to start understanding that it’s not just about connecting ‘things’ to the Internet, but rather there’s a lot more complexity around it for industries," she said.

Koh added that there will be a focus on “innovation at every level”, and that real-time data will be a critical component to successful industrial IoT ventures.

“Manufacturers and facility owners, for example, will start to adopt different practices, and the ways that control rooms are currently run will shift – using real-time data and proactive decision-making – into the management layers and planning functions of the business, into scheduling and maintenance functions, QA, and logistics, among others,” she said.

“All of these business functions will start to look at real-time and contextualised information to help them make better decisions and drive productivity and optimisation.”

Balancing business strategy with game-changing tech

There are multiple vendors touting technology solutions to bring industrial companies into the IoT age, and Koh believes that the business needs must be carefully balanced against the promise of cutting-edge technology.

“I think there’s a lot of hype in the market at the moment. I think that we as an industry need to sit down and look at our business strategies, and then look at the technology we can apply to achieve our goals,” she said.

“We need to keep that in focus, but we also need to understand – before we look at our strategy – what technologies are available that are game-changers.

“This will be a particularly interesting concept to embrace, particularly as technology is going through another evolution or step-change in terms of the speed-to-market and the efficiency gains to be had.”

She said that today’s technology can be leveraged to base bigger strategies against to enable larger step-gains in the future, in terms of productivity and optimisation.

This is particularly important as local companies no longer compete within their regions, but on a global scale, according to Koh.

Are Australian industrial companies jumping on board the IoT wagon?

Koh has watched Australian companies react to the growth of industrial IoT practices in a number of different ways.

“There is a lot of connected products adoption, bringing them into traditional systems. We see local companies having a look at the lowered cost of infrastructure, the fact that it’s cheap to set up, less ongoing maintenance, and therefore lower ongoing costs as the drivers for this trend,” she noted.

“I see a lot of adoption purely based on the return on investment benefit, but I’m also seeing a lot of reticence in Australia around the cloud approach, particularly in terms of cybersecurity and the security of their information.

“I think that adoption will happen. When you talk to customers and industry and ask them what they look at on their smartphones through cloud services, they look at a lot of confidential information, so I think there needs to be a mindset change to the way industrial operational data is managed and used in the cloud.”