HomeBuildingsIndustrial IoT is the answer to good and green business, says everyone – says ABB

Industrial IoT is the answer to good and green business, says everyone – says ABB

Industrial IoT is the tech answer to the business challenge of environmental sustainability. Everyone says so; everyone knows so. And yet only a third of enterprises are putting their money where their mouths are, and investing in industrial IoT. That is the message, effectively, from Swiss engineering conglomerate ABB, which has polled the market, done the maths, and identified the gap in the industrial change agenda between thought and action.

Of course, for a business selling industrial robotics and automation software, the results of the poll make clear how business might be done, if only enterprises would put their hands in their pockets to gamble on a leaner and greener future. But business and sustainability are – increasingly, and necessarily – linked, to the point they are almost the same, and greater business efficiency means a lesser environmental impact and a bigger bottom-line.

The new ABB (commissioned) study – of 765 decision-makers in “international” industrial enterprises – found that “future competitiveness” is the single biggest factor for their increased focus on sustainability, cited in 46 percent of cases. Two thirds (63 percent) “strongly agree” that sustainability is good for business profits. Indeed, almost all of them (96 percent) view digitalization as “essential to sustainability”, the poll said. At the same time, only 35 percent of firms surveyed in the poll have actually implemented “industrial IoT solutions at scale”.

The interpretation here, of course, requires you to accept that ‘industrial IoT’ is the same as ‘digitalisation’, at least in the industrial arena where ABB sells most of its wares. Which puts us in the strange half-light of buzzwords and jargon. Except that industrial IoT is a more useful term, actually, because it describes how sensors are attached to machinery and processes in factories and plants, to enable live readouts and calibration to fine-tune performance.

Which promises operational efficiencies, which also should bring environmental ones, which should drive cost savings. A level up, and the same operational insights should also bring productivity gains, and possibly even new strategy and monetization initiatives, to make business spiral upwards. ABB refers to “billions of better decisions” – which is the name it has also given to the report containing the results of the poll.

“The adoption of relevant digital solutions to enable better decisions and achieve sustainability goals needs to accelerate in sectors like manufacturing, energy, buildings and transport,” said ABB. But the penny has dropped, at last, it seems. Even as two thirds (65 percent) are yet to invest in industrial IoT in serious fashion, almost three quarters (72 percent) of respondents said they are “increasing investment in industrial IoT”.

The objective, said ABB, is to “specifically to address sustainability aims” – with a view to “improving energy efficiency, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and driving change”. Other results said: 71 percent are giving greater priority to sustainability objectives as a result of Covid-19; 57 percent reckon industrial IoT has had a “significant positive effect” on operational decisions; and cybersecurity concerns remain the biggest barrier to IoT investments.

Peter Terwiesch, president of ABB’s process automation business division, commented: “Sustainability goals are a crucial driver of business value and company reputation, and industrial IoT solutions are playing an increasingly important role in helping enterprises achieve safe, smart and sustainable operations. Unlocking insights hidden in operational data holds the key to enabling literally billions of better decisions throughout industry and acting upon them, with significant gains in productivity, reduced energy consumption and lower environmental impact.”

He added: “Industry accounts for more than 40 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions today. If we are to reach climate objectives such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, industrial organisations need to implement digital solutions as part of their sustainability strategies. Embracing these technologies at all levels – from the boardroom to the facility floor – is key, as every member of the industrial workforce can become a better decision-maker when it comes to sustainability.”

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