Industrial Internet Consortium: Purpose and membership

4This is the first of in a series of articles describing the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC). The first entry describes the goals, membership, and a broad outline of its work.

The Industrial Internet Consortium was founded on March 27, 2014 by AT&T, Cisco, GE, IBM and Intel. Its mission is “to accelerate growth of the Industrial Internet by coordinating ecosystem initiatives to connect and integrate objects with people, processes, and data using common architectures, interoperability, and open standards that lead to transformational business outcomes.”

The rationale behind the Consortium is cooperation and collaboration. The founding companies discovered they had to solve similar technical problems with different partners repeatedly, with the danger that the problems would be solved in incompatible ways. Rework increases costs and the likelihood that similar technologies will be incompatible, even when developed by the same company. This was both ineffective and inefficient. To scale the Industrial Internet so it can be widely utilized and adopted, there must be an ecosystem to enable innovation across multiple companies and technologies.

This innovation often springs from small companies who need partners. These companies can ill afford the time and money required to trek to every potential partner, open the doors, find the right people, establish relationships, and then commence lengthy negotiations. They’d go out of business. They need a forum to meet the right companies, and some templates for how to construct agreements that are beneficial to all parties.

Moreover, the Industrial Internet is a “blue ocean” market, full of opportunity and bereft of competition. Why quibble over tidbits near the shore? Why not grow new markets in collaboration with partners, each taking a share of a larger pie in “coopetition”?

As of May 1st, IIC membership totals 163 companies, representing public and private organizations across the world including large global leaders, startup companies, system integrators, research institutions, universities, government institutions, and market researchers. In Figure 1, the small slice includes founders and individuals.

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Figure 1: The Industrial Internet Consortium is comprised of public and private entities, from startups to market leaders, from non-profit organizations to government institutions.

Many of the large companies, and certainly the founders, are global. They may have headquarters in the U.S., Japan, or South Korea, but their reach is worldwide (Figure 2). Nearly half the membership comprises small companies. This is a result of a deliberate decision to price small-company membership at an affordable level to encourage smaller companies to join and so support the goal of encouraging an ecosystem for innovation.

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Figure 2: The Industrial Internet Consortium is a global organization that encourages innovation and ecosystem advancement by supporting smaller companies.

Initiatives

IIC Ecosystem

The IIC has three main initiatives, as illustrated in Figure 3. The first element, the IIC Ecosystem, brings companies together to advance innovation, create ideas, insights, and best practices, and to provide thought leadership. The Industrial Internet has started to transform the industry through new processes and connected products and services. One goal of the IIC is to create awareness of the innovation happening today, and to champion innovation in connected intelligent machines and processes to external audiences with a look at what is to come.

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Figure 3: The three main initiatives of the Industrial Internet Consortium are identified as the IIC Ecosystem, Technology & Security, and Testbeds.

Sample Ecosystem activities include teaming with the World Economic Forum on its January 2015 report, “Industrial : Unleashing the Potential of Connected Products & Services” [1]; keynotes and talks at more than 20 conferences in North America, Europe, and Asia; published case studies from IIC members; opening a global digital conversation on specific topics; and more.

Technology & Security

The second initiative is Technology and Security. This provides interoperability, security, and privacy by producing requirements for standards in open architectures. Note that the IIC produces requirements for standards, not the standards themselves. The IIC is not a standards organization. Rather, it hopes to use its depth (from applications to chips) and breadth (across much of the industrial space), and a spirit of collaboration and cooperation, to bring together and harmonize global standards activities to avoid market fragmentation and grow that market!

When Sir Tim Berners Lee invented the Universal Resource Locator he could not have imagined what the Internet would become over the next 30 years, and that innovation continues today. So it is with the Industrial Internet – we can’t predict what it will be a few decades from now, but we do know that to grow it must have an open architecture that is secure and private, with interoperable parts (or, in English, parts that work together).

Testbeds

The third and final initiative is Testbeds. We can write requirements, blog entries, standards, and presentations laden with bullets till the cows come home. But does it work? To find out, we have to build something and put it through its paces. The IIC facilitates Testbeds by bringing companies together to build these facilities. Then, by executing real code and moving real machinery, we can determine whether the architecture really is open, interoperable, secure, and private. And iterate.

Testbeds require funding. So, in addition to bringing companies together to fund them, the IIC has several initiatives to build relationships with academia and global government agencies to build public-private initiatives.

To learn more about the Industrial Internet Consortium or find out how to become a member, visit www.iiconsortium.org.

References:

[1] World Economic Forum. “Industrial Internet of Things: Unleashing the potential of connected products and services.” http://www.weforum.org/reports/industrial-internet-things-unleashing-potential-connected-products-and-services.

Stephen Mellor is Chief Technical Officer for the Industrial Internet Consortium.

Industrial Internet Consortium www.iiconsortium.org

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