The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) was founded in March 2014 by companies including AT&T, Cisco, General Electric, IBM, and Intel. As an open organization that is managed by its members, it has grown to more than 250 members from 26 countries. The IIC aims to accelerate developments related to the Industrial Internet as well as the Internet of Things and other commercial services. The German Country Team joined the IIC in September 2015. The team is based at the Steinbeis Transfer Center Innovationsforum Industrie (STCII), putting it right under Steinbeis’ roof.
The IIC coordinates initiatives which raise new requirements and develop specifications for new (Internet) protocols and standards. The focus lies in creating cross-domain interoperability and interconnectivity. Common architectures and open standards are key here. This should clear the way for business model transformation and give new service providers a way of becoming integrated into established value chains through digitalization.
One of the primary activities of the IIC and its members is to coordinate and implement what it calls “testbeds.” This involves using Industrial Internet solutions in specific usage scenarios on a controlled, experimental platform, and testing them in a real scenario under live conditions. Groups of IIC members come together in a testbed to develop and test cross-domain solutions related to the Internet of Things. Networking in various IIC working groups thus brings about new and innovative products, services, and processes in the field of Industrial Internet.
The number of testbeds currently working within the IIC runs into double digits. Of these, the IIC Steering Committee has declared nine as openly accessible and in the later stages of their work:
The testbeds are flanked by working groups. These raise overarching requirements in general areas such as architectures or trust and security. They also develop suggested specifications for each of these areas. These then flow back into the testbeds and they have also led to the creation of the Industrial Internet Reference Architecture (IIRA). This reference architecture serves as an important regulatory framework and offers companies extensive support in their digital transformation. The IIRA specifically addresses the cross-domain use of Internet technologies, since it presupposes an increasing merging within industry on account of increased numbers of value chain networks arising from Internet technologies. The focus of the IIRA thus lies in cross-domain interoperability and interconnectivity.
There is a big difference between this and the Reference Architecture Model for Industry 4.0 (RAMI 4.0), which was published by the Industry 4.0 platform. The latter focuses on manufacturing domains from the perspective of the Industrial Internet and has an industry category for manufacturing. For industrial enterprises this then raises an essential question: How compatible are the reference models? This is because, based on the current focus, one could expect significant added value from merging the two. A task force made up of IIC and Industry 4.0 platform members is looking into this and Steinbeis has representatives from the Ferdinand Steinbeis Institute on the task force.
The IIC has gained incredible momentum through its activities over the past two years – to such an extent that the initiative has garnered worldwide attention and is being accelerated. In addition to Asian companies, more and more companies from Europe and Germany are becoming active partners of the IIC. Since the topics being pushed by the IIC are so important for the German economy – especially the strong base of industrial SMEs – in 2015 a German Country team was founded within the IIC. The contacts on the management board include Dr. Richard Soley (Director IIC), Prof. Dr. Heiner Lasi (Ferdinand Steinbeis Institute), Prof. Dr. Hans-Georg Kemper (University of Stuttgart), and Viktor Paland (Sigs Datacom). The focus of the German Country Team’s activities partly lies in strengthening cooperation between German IIC members. In addition, the STCII also acts as an intermediary between the IIC and German SMEs, processing and making available any IIC contents that might be relevant for SMEs. What’s more, small and medium-sized enterprises based in Germany should be given the opportunity to participate in testbeds and use cases through the German Country Team. They also need to exploit the STCII’s role as an agent of transfer in order to share various issues and concerns within the IIC. To this end, the German Country Team can support the IIC’s activities in Germany while taking local factors into consideration. For SMEs that are unable to actively represent themselves in the IIC, it also offers the option of participating in the development of the Industrial Internet as it gets out of the starting blocks.
Sandra Haltmayer and Professor Dr. habil. Heiner Lasi are directors of the Steinbeis Transfer Center Innovationsforum Industrie, which runs the German Country Team within the Industrial Internet Consortium. Further key areas of activity include sharing new insights and linking committees, especially within the context of Industry 4.0.
Professor Dr. habil. Heiner Lasi
Steinbeis-Transferzentrum Innovationsforum Industrie (STCII) (Stuttgart)