A lot of people expect big things from the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and ABI Research is attaching some numbers to the expectations, forecasting that industrial manufacturing applications will generate more than $138 million this year from cellular and satellite connectivity fees.
The IIoT market will add more than 13 million new wireline and wireless connections worldwide in 2017 to an installed base exceeding 53 million connections, according to the research firm.
“The costs for data storage and compute processing dropped significantly in the past few years making the digitization of industrial equipment now possible for nearly every manufacturing business,” said Jeff Orr, research director at ABI Research, in a press release. “New applications are possible, including predictive analytics, digital twin simulation modeling, and gaining insight that enables new business models and sources of revenue.”
The Asia-Pacific region has the largest concentration of new IIoT connections with more than 5 million additional expected in 2017. The global opportunity will continue to grow over the next four years, with a projected 18 million new IIoT connections annually by 2021. ABI noted, however, that some compression is expected for connection-related revenues, which will decline to $122 million in 2021.
While most connections are made using fixed line (DSL, cable modem, Ethernet and PSTN), wireless connections will account for about 25% of new IIoT connections in 2017.
General Electric takes credit for coining the term Industrial Internet in late 2012. It estimates the Industrial Internet could be a $225 billion market by 2020 and has made significant investments in it. Industries impacted by IIoT include oil and gas, retail, healthcare, utilities, factories and transportation.
Last month, GE Digital, Nokia and Qualcomm Technologies announced they had demonstrated a private LTE network—operating in the 3.5 GHz CBRS band—for the IIoT market, meshing together each party's platforms and technologies. The companies said they will conduct further research and live field trials throughout 2017 based on the demo.
In rural areas of the U.S., there's still a lot of work to be done to achieve the full benefits of IIoT.
Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) President and CEO Steve Berry told lawmakers during a March 21 hearing on broadband deployment that the IIoT probably has the greatest promise for economic growth and sustainability to bring new jobs to rural America, but first the LTE and VoLTE networks need to be in place before 5G can be built on top of that.
“The first priority is coverage,” he said. “If you don’t have a signal” and you don't have access to wireless connectivity, then it’s hard to get to the next generation IoT. “We have to finish the job that we started, and then I think we’ll be ready for the 5G world.”