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Q&A with HCL – Industrial IoT: Benefits and barriers

Is Industrial IoT (IIoT) the next big thing? We sit down with HCL’s head of IoT to discuss.

By James Nunns

In the early days of IoT, we heard a lot about its use in our homes to switch on heating, lights and other home devices, but things have moved on since then; IoT is morphing into something very different as part of the Industrial IoT.

So what does that look like in practice: what benefits can it bring, and what barriers does it need to overcome? Sukamal Banerjee, Corporate VP and Head of IoT WoRKS at HCL Technologies, answers our questions.


It’s projected that a billion connections will be created in the IoT. Where will the majority of those be?

SB: The biggest potential gains from IoT will be realized in Industrial IoT (IIoT) use cases. The vast installed bases of most manufacturing companies across the globe still largely run on pre information era systems where machines or entire clusters of machines run in a black box fashion. Very little information about the state of the machines, potential problems or improvement areas are actually captured in any form. This is also true of other non-manufacturing equipment like delivery trucks, or oil pipelines. IIoT promises to bring these ‘dark assets’ to light through a network of sensors that are physically installed on these machines/ equipment capturing and transmitting data in real time to a data platform that creates actionable intelligence.

The number of these sensor connections will expand as network effects kick in and more value is created by bringing in more machines and more data points in the scope. This will dwarf most existing estimates/ projections, but at the same time make the metric of connections irrelevant. The true gains will be measured in the orders of magnitude in efficiency improvements seen by asset heavy industries.


What in your view is the biggest barrier to IIoT deployments?

SB: Widespread adoption of IoT across industries will need quite a few immediate issues to be solved. IoT market fragmentation or lack of standards is definitely one, while security is another.

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Interoperability between existing IT infrastructure and systems and the new IoT platforms is a key barrier to adoption. This has the potential to ramp up the costs and complexity of IIoT deployments significantly. The industrial internet will rely on an interconnected digital ecosystem that enables machines and core physical infrastructure components to communicate and share data seamlessly.

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Do you think cyber security concerns are preventing IIoT from being used to its full potential?

SB: There are the obvious concerns over security and privacy. As more endpoints are connected to the internet, the organisational attack surface will be increased dramatically, exposing them to an even greater risk from cybercriminals. As such, current cybersecurity measures will soon become inadequate. Organisations embracing the IIoT must look to develop new security frameworks that span the entire cyber physical stack, from device-level authentication to appEnterpriselication-level security


What’s the key piece of advice you’d offer to an organisation that’s considering IIoT?

SB: It’s important to appreciate that no new technology arrives with all questions answered at the start; it evolves based on technology innovation and beneficial use cases. In IoT, we are seeing early moves to tackle all these problems from technology companies, industry associations and standards bodies. As a key IoT provider in the market, we are also working with our partners to improve interoperability standards, security standers and improve key definitions to reduce market fragmentation. It’s a continual process which will evolve over a period of time.

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