On the 24th of April, MEP and EIF Chair Pilar del Castillo hosted an EIF debate on The Impact of the Internet of Things on European Industries. She welcomed participants with the reminder that Europe is a global manufacturing leader, and that 80% of Europe’s exports are manufactured goods. We must therefore become leaders in the digital transformation of our manufacturing base – which is to say front-runners in the data economy.
Pearse O’Donohue, Director for Future Networks, DG Connect, European Commission, stressed that development of the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) for manufacturing transformation lies at the heart of Europe’s Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy. While by 2020 the value of IoT applications for European manufacturing is seen to reach €286 billion, the overall impact will be literally unmeasurable, extending across the entire economy and society. Europe must therefore aspire to a leadership position, which will require both horizontal and vertical IoT ecosystems, within which the creation of both standards (including for data security) and certification systems will be a primary requirement. IoT will therefore be a focus area for industrial R&D funding in a coming Commission proposal.
Justin Hobbs, Senior Director for EMEA Technical Solutions, Zebra Technologies, observed that there is an infinity of use cases for the digital transformation of manufacturing industries, all of which however are based on technologies which first sense a physical phenomemon in real time, then analyse the data, and finally trigger a consequence. A key factor for success is to extend real-time visibility as widely as possible across the system and collect all data in one base. Emerging technologies for these purposes include heads-up display and augmented reality, voice-directed selection, video-analytics and drone technology. Staff training needs to be part of the package; real-time hands-on training systems are evolving for this, allowing for immediate staff insertion.
Thomas Walloschke, Steering Board Member and Chair of Working Group 11 on Manufacturing, Alliance for the Internet of Things Innovation, stressed that: 1) IoT devices that are not data-secure will not be acceptable, which will demand full supply-chain security, 2) IoT for manufacturing will also give rise to value-added services, and 3) we will need vertical ecosystems for full industry 4.0. As seen at the recent Hanover Fair, all EU member states are themselves creating publicly-supported projects to advance digital transformation of their manufacturing sectors. Germany, France and Italy are now involved in trilateral cooperation but an EU and continent-wide framework will be essential to reap the benefits of our single market as these technologies grow from greenfield to mainstream.