The continued development of the Internet of Things (IoT) was one of the top manufacturing trends to watch in 2017, and the transformative impacts IoT is having on equipment manufacturing will shape the industry for years to come. 

Defined as the Internet-enabled interconnection of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, IoT is a trend to be understood and embraced because of the incredible potential it offers AEM members to positively impact their respective businesses.

AEM published a number of articles in 2017 geared toward raising awareness of IoT and its effects on manufacturing today. Here are five key takeaways that members can apply to their knowledge of this cutting-edge trend:

1. The Internet of Things affects everyone. 

According to retired construction industry veteran Jim Kissane, the fourth Industrial Revolution has arrived and, like it or not, everyone is affected by it. While IoT heralds the idea of smart, connected devices, the question of how the equipment manufacturing industry addresses the challenges and opportunities brought on by this trend has yet to be definitively answered.

What the industry can agree on, says Kissane, is that businesses of all types and sizes need to prepare themselves to take advantage of the opportunities presented by IoT. Increased awareness of the impacts IoT will have on the industry will allow companies to not only survive -- but thrive -- in an ever-changing business environment.

2. The Internet of Things offers manufacturers a unique opportunity to provide value to their customers. 

Since IoT is extending internet connectivity beyond traditional devices to everyday items (such as construction or agriculture equipment), AEM Senior Vice President Al Cervero urges manufacturers to face this trend head-on and find value from it.

The reality is, everything is getting connected, everything is producing data and it is all getting stored somewhere. End users of equipment are operating machinery and creating vital data to improve efficiency. Manufacturers are then reviewing the same data. Since all of this connectivity might make the end users uncomfortable, Cervero says the onus is on equipment manufacturers to address their concerns by providing value.

3. People -- not technology -- are the most important driver behind the Internet of Things.  

The rise of the IoT has brought a problem of great significance to light, however. Dr. Larissa Suzuki, a renowned researcher, computer scientist and software engineer, notes that people essentially impede its progress and development.

More specifically, Suzuki says, the question of how technology alter people’s lives often focuses too intently on the technology. Consequently, it loses sight of the people whose lives it would be changing. Furthermore, she notes, that mindset could be especially dangerous to the construction, farming and equipment manufacturing sectors, where companies have been slow to embrace IoT.

The solution is human innovation, as is the will to utilize technology in unexpected ways. And, as the capital costs of innovation continue to decline, Suzuki believes fortune will favor the bold.

4. Don't wait to leverage the Internet of Things. 

The adoption of IoT has not yet reached the "hockey stick" growth curve in the equipment manufacturing industry, but AEM’s Cervero says it’s inevitable.

While many of AEM’s smaller members and those who have yet to connect their equipment do not see their role, it’s critical for the industry as a whole to envision a future state where manufacturers help customers with their business, regardless of the current data off of machines.

5. Embracing Internet of Things can help a manufacturer positively impact its bottom line. 

A manufacturer’s ability to harness the power of IoT to make even small, incremental improvements to its business can help it both serve its customers more effectively and increase its profitability.

According Aaron Hillegass, president and CEO of Big Nerd Ranch, an Atlanta-based mobile app development, training and design firm, the modern world is growing increasingly connected over time, and equipment manufacturers are beginning to realize the potential provided by the ever-developing Internet of Things to make lasting, positive impacts on their respective organizations. The technology is available, it's just a matter of the industry being willing to fully embrace it and invest in it.

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