Blockchain, traffic and small biz...predictions for 2018

As we near the end of 2017, allow me to predict some trends for 2018...

Kanellos closeup

IoT computing gets local

Until recently, the cloud has been at the center of a number of IoT strategies. The operative idea has been that companies would stream machine data to the cloud where it would be organized, analyzed and then returned to the individuals who sent it there in the first place with gleaming insight about factory performance or potential failures. But reality is setting in. Machines simply produce far more data than is practical to send to the cloud. A substantial portion of the data, meanwhile, is relevant largely to people located where it was generated. Thus, you’ll see a greater emphasis on storing, managing and analyzing data locally. The cloud will mostly be relevant as a way to share data or to analyze data for ultra-complex projects that require vast amounts of servers.

In some ways, consider this a historical equivalent to the distributed computing revolution of the 1980s. It just makes more sense to stay home.

Intelligent equipment comes of age

Remember those comments on how equipment makers would stop selling airplanes and instead start selling engine miles? The groundwork is now in place. By embedding data streaming and other technologies into equipment, OEMs and equipment makers can start to “sell” equipment through use contracts.

IIoT might become IIIoT

Someone threw this acronym at me the other day. It is supposed to stand for Industrial Infrastructure Internet of Things. Hopefully it goes the way of PaaS, which stood for platform-as-a-service but made people think of Paas, the people who make Easter grass.

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Small business gets (more) into the act

Two years ago, things like predictive-maintenance technologies were the confines of big companies or larger organizations. But now you’re seeing small utilities such as White House Utility District, which serves around 90,000 people in Tennessee, use IoT for leakage-detection. Likewise MPWIK in Poland, another water utility, is developing analytics to predict when they might get a surge of flushes. Or small companies like SenseOps develop IoT services. Chalk it up to the declining price of technology and the favorable ROI.

Traffic will drive the smart city

It’s the one application everyone cares about.

Supply chain integrity will become a more prominent issue in security

Utilities, among others, are going to be asking vendors more questions about where their technology was made to protect against rogue firmware and other security issues. Every product in a critical infrastructure will get the equivalent of a DNA scan.

Utilities will become software developers

Utilities have been developing their own technology in-house for decades. Expect to see a number of the leading ones start to sell them to third parties. Uniper, Germany’s mega utility, just got permission to explore ways of selling Tiresias, a homegrown version diagnostics application, to third parties. Sempra Energy has a first ever subsidiary focused on software called PXISE. Some regulators are looking at allowing utilities to profit from data services. It’s potentially a very lucrative data stream.

Blockchain will be talked about…a lot

But it won’t be implemented in huge numbers yet. In the power industry, for instance, it’s just too complicated right now. Power is generated pretty much at the same time it’s used. You’d need an awfully powerful market to keep up. Similarly, manufacturers are just now considering opening up their data to other parties, let alone engaging in automated transactions. Most people like the idea but aren’t ready to act.

Michael Kanellos is senior manager of corporate communications and technology analyst with OSIsoft