March 21, 2018 | Edward Layeux
As B2B ecommerce continues to change the way brands, manufacturers in particular, transact and maintain their customer relationships, two leaps remain in front of them.
The first is re-contextualizing their relationship with their end customer. According to Forrester, about 50% of manufacturers are providing ecommerce services to their customers.
The second is addressing the impact of data and AI on the elimination of the “man in the middle” in predictable, regular transactions.
IIOT plays a role in both leaps, as disruption across channels between builders and buyers makes data just as important as the product itself.
Our perception of the world around us is shaped through our senses such as our sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch. Our senses enable us to explore, discover, and experience life and the infancy of possibilities. Our emotions are guided by our senses and can provide us with information on how to feel. Similarly, what we feel can be influenced by what our senses are experiencing. Moreover, our senses provide a window for us to detect, interpret, learn, communicate, and process information – much like our modern technology devices.
Technology has enhanced our digital and, arguably, our social worlds, and created new possibilities such as the ability to heighten our immersive experiences with Virtual and Augmented Reality. Additionally, the automation of internet-connected devices requires a knowledge-based labor force that can step beyond traditional roles. As technology brings new depth to immersive and highly responsive digital experiences, industries such as manufacturing are re-imaging their operations in ways never before thought possible. This transformation is a convergence of technologies, and is known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Much like the revolution that industrialized machine manufacturing, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is reshaping and transforming workforces and manufacturing plants, this time through the adoption of internet-connected technologies, automation, robotics, and sensors.
In fact, the “first” industrial revolution occurred in the eighteenth century, introducing mechanical production at an “industrial” scale, as well as water and steam power. The second, in the early twentieth century, brought electrically powered mass production and the iconic assembly line. The third, in the 1960s, linked together computers and information technology, as well as introducing automation to industrial processes. 
With the Fourth Industrial Revolution, internet-connected technologies are enabling distributed and autonomous systems to communicate and make intelligent process decisions, ultimately responding “automatically” to situations in real time. The skill sets that are driving this transformation are aligned with knowledge-driven workers who are empowered with experiences that go beyond traditional manufacturing roles.
Internet-connected technologies and the shift towards an automated and knowledge based workforce are quietly building a robust Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The IIoT is an extension of the Internet of Things (IoT) into industrial environments. Using multi-sensor systems, automation, robotics, advanced analytics, and cloud platforms, the IIoT connects a multitude of cyber-physical smart technologies into the manufacturing supply chain and ecosystems. As a result, these technologies form intelligent systems that can monitor, collect, exchange, analyze, process, and deliver valuable information like never before.
This transformation is driving unprecedented levels of efficiency and productivity for manufacturers. For example: predictive analytics can help detect issues like corrosion inside refineries; real-time data can be leveraged to help uncover plant capacity; and cyber attacks over industrial environments can be more easily prevented. In all of these scenarios, the IIoT is driving new insights and outcomes. 
On the front line of the IIoT are smart sensor innovations that gather and harness data.
Smart sensors are at the heart of the IIoT, and are revolutionizing the manufacturing industry. These intelligent sensing devices use mobile microprocessors, sonars, cameras, optic systems, and audio/video technologies. They are applied to industrial processes and hardware including machinery, tools, robots, and equipment platforms, and connect to automation systems, predictive analytics, and maintenance services. Sensors can simultaneously gather and process large and complex data, including real-time audio and video, and push it through the manufacturing chain.
Like our human senses, sensors have developed more human-like sensory perceptions. They are proficient at identifying and locating objects, and processing data from their environment. Sensors are optimized to process multiple product configurations, and to independently perform tasks such as bi-directional communication, monitoring, data conversion, scheduling, maintenance, and quality control.
Intelligent sensing technology provides an accuracy and consistency that performs well at higher production rates, and is essential in capturing diagnostic and interpretive data for intelligent decision making. Further, sensors provide a level of predictive maintenance efficiencies that enables manufacturers to address imminent equipment failures before they turn into serious issues.
Manufacturers incorporate sensor technology into their operations, and even into the products they manufacture across a variety of industries including aerospace, automotive, metals, food processing, plastics, rubber, electronics, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and biomedicine.
For example, automotive manufacturers combine smart sensors and advanced analytics to create smart cars with airbags, safety belts, bumper shocks, and features like auto-braking, blind spot detection, and lane-departure alerts that are all informed by IIoT. Moreover, the promise of autonomous self-driving cars provides comprehensive sensing capabilities that help detect the environment, communicate with other vehicles, and navigate safely without human intervention. These autonomous cars perceive the world through a combination of sensors including cameras, radar and LIDAR—a radar-like technique that uses invisible pulses of light to create a high-resolution 3D map of the surrounding area. 
Realizing the Benefits
For manufacturers, harnessing the IIoT creates efficiencies that drive smarter and faster business decisions, improving sustainability, decreasing downtime, increasing cost savings, and realizing greater profitability. With industries facing rapid change and uncertainty, accessing internet-connected technologies, smart sensors, and data analytics services will empower manufacturers and allow for greater business opportunities.
For customers, the IIoT ultimately improves product experiences by benefiting from more efficient manufacturing and maintenance operations. For example, with predictive analytics and data tracking software, equipment manufacturers can respond quickly to customers with part maintenance, ordering, updates, and replacement options, as well as providing critical remote support. In addition, predictive capabilities aid customers by warning of potential part failures or improvements to performance by running diagnostics against real-time data. 
As an example, Michelin sells tires with embedded sensors to track fuel consumption, tire pressure, temperature, speed, and location in fleet trucks. This data is then sent to a cloud service where the data is analyzed. As a result, Michelin has realized savings of up to two liters of fuel for every 100 kilometers logged by its drivers. 
The Final Revolution?
The IIoT is transforming manufacturing in fundamental ways, and is ushering in a new era of innovation for the manufacturing supply chain. Industries that have embraced this transformation are realizing the benefits and opportunities.
However, one cannot help but wonder where future industrial revolutions and innovations will take us, and in what ways they will transform our world.
View SMITH’s Webinar on the Future of B2B.
 - https://www.panpwr.com/blog/industry-4.0-and-the-industrial-internet-of-things
 – https://www.ge.com/digital/blog/everything-you-need-know-about-industrial-internet-things
 – https://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21737420-making-vehicles-drive-themselves-hard-getting-easier-autonomous-vehicle-technology
 – https://www.designworldonline.com/benefits-industrial-internet-things/
 – https://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/12/12/3-key-benefits-from-industrial-internet-of-things.aspx