It's that time again, when the technology prophets proclaim their insights for the coming year. To cut through all the clamor, we've summarized some of the trends emerging from the prognosticating. Visions for 2014 focus on a couple of common themes such as mobile computing’s continued takeover of consumer and business life and the explosion of cloud-based productivity. But dovetailing these, and central to many tech predictions this year is the idea that 2014 will truly be the year of the Industrial Internet.
Although complex ideas can take time to achieve ubiquity, the Industrial Internet has bucked that trend and grown swiftly over the past few years. But if 2014 is truly going to be the year it catapults forward, what new factors will help make it possible?
When the tech watchers speak about the continued onslaught of mobile computing against traditional desk-based work, there's a subtle, added implication: content, not hardware, is the emperor of 21st-century technology. Hardware, while continuously evolving to be faster, lighter, cheaper, only serves to access content more quickly, efficiently, and unfettered by environmental circumstance.
To that end, the Industrial Internet should benefit greatly from the rapid mobilization of computing. Smart Machines will become cheaper and easier to produce because they'll draw on the very advances that make mobile computing ever more successful -- powerful, but crucially energy efficient chips. Both Intel and ARM are set to release the next crop of low-power chips next year, and many are designed with Industrial Internet applications in mind.
Mobile computing growth will also spur better and more available tools for data visualization so that workers, managers, and operations officers can monitor their processes in detail, flexibly, and reliably, no matter where they are. More mobile devices means more useful information in people's hands. When workers can directly see the Industrial Internet's benefits literally in their hands, entire businesses will too.
Many companies have already begun seeing the cloud benefits of Software-as-a-Service and Platform-as-a-Service applications. In 2014, many more will, according to most tech predictions.
The key here for the Industrial Internet is platform growth. As platforms evolve, developers will have to target which platforms make the most sense to create applications for. The Industrial Internet will benefit from platform unity -- if developers can develop all sorts of applications for a common platform, the platform become even more healthy. A healthy platform with a robust ecosystem of apps will be more attractive to businesses than highly-specific inflexible alternatives.
Concerns and confusion regarding cloud services in enterprise are less than they were, and the continued adoption of the cloud for data, security, and applications will help drive the kind of infrastructure needed for large-scale Industrial Internet systems and make selling those systems more compelling.
Selling large-scale Industrial Internet solutions will become easier in 2014 as consumer-level solutions become more widespread. Why? Because demonstrating the technology on a consumer level will make it a necessary part of the culture and help showcase its benefits on an industrial scale.
The Industrial Internet in consumer appliances will grow because of those low-cost, highly efficient chips, and selling smart appliances as value-added devices should get tangible demonstrations of the Industrial Internet technology into consumers' hands.
As with most sweeping technological changes in society, people are eager to see the nascent potential of the Industrial Internet fully realized. And because so many applications like Google Search and Facebook undoubtedly changed the world in a very short period of time, it might be tempting to lump the Industrial Internet into that kind of category and to be disappointed when the immediate results aren't there. But the Industrial Internet is far more complex than just an idea, and its success depends on a variety of manufacturing, infrastructure, economic, software, and data innovations.
Will 2014 be the year of the Industrial Internet? It's impossible to say. At what level, either technologically or in terms of market penetration, can we confidently proclaim "the Industrial Internet has arrived"? The Industrial Internet's rollout reflects its greatest strength as a solution in that it is constantly evolving, growing, and adapting to best meet the needs of its time. It's inevitable that the Industrial Internet will eventually make its way into most areas, but until then, it might be a better idea to simply watch it grow up and take stock in its milestones as they come.