Unleashing the power of the industrial internet


Digital & Data Governance

Picture of Stephan Reimelt
Stephan Reimelt

The Single Digital Market strategy sets out a roadmap for how Europe can capitalise on the next digital revolution. Speed will be of the essence as will creating an environment to stimulate the investment and innovation needed.

Pragmatism and courage to adapt to a fundamental change in our economic activities are now required. The Internet of Consumers is a daily reality for billions of users, and the ‘Industrial Internet’ will give the global economy a significant boost. For Europe it represents an opportunity of €2.2trillion by 2030. In the energy sector alone, it can bring significant savings. A 1% efficiency improvement in gas-fired power generation represents €11billion in fuel savings over 15 years.

The Industrial Internet can also be the catalyst for a ‘Productivity Revolution’ helping wipe hundreds of billions of euros of wasted time and resources by combining internet-connected machines, product diagnostics, software and analytics to make business operations more efficient, more proactive, predictive and strategically automated.

However, many in industry remain to be convinced about the impact it represents. For example, two thirds of all German managers in the industry still believe that it will only affect some areas of production. This is seriously underestimating its impact. The Industrial Internet will create new business models, generate added-value beyond a company’s own production and supply chain, and use the power of cooperation between companies.

Many European countries are well placed to capitalize on this new industrial era including a large number of medium-sized companies, which are technology leaders. The Industrial Internet will emerge at the interface between production and consumers. This is where European companies are particularly well-established: they know exactly what their clients need and how to create industrial added-value in a digital world. By recognising this potential, the Industrial Internet can also stimulate transatlantic cooperation.

The European engineering sector and technology companies from the US are working closely to establish the Industrial Internet. Of course, many questions concerning standards, data security and customer access will have to be answered in future. On the other hand, close collaboration can spark innovation: while the US is home to some of the best software and IT companies, many leading industrial enterprises are located in Europe. Instead of creating a digital divide, we need transatlantic bridges in order to use individual strengths to our mutual advantage.

The industry has to demonstrate that it is fighting for the trust of its clients as well as for data security. A zero-tolerance policy on data security has to be the prerequisite.

The question of how to regulate the rights to use data arising from the collaboration between companies, which will be the most important asset in future, remains untouched by this. In this regard, there is a fundamental difference between Industrial and Consumer Internet. The largest part of industrial data is not related to individuals. So it should not be subjected to the same rules that apply to the Consumer Internet, without disabling the comprehensive, global processing of data.

The Industrial Internet revolution is here. It is a global phenomenon that will grow strongest wherever it has the greatest freedom for innovation. This is why we should not try to limit the pitch by imposing unnecessary regulations from the very start. Instead, we should recognise its potential, let the game begin and the decide, where to draw the line by defining the necessary smart standards.

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