Consumer IoT is big. Industrial IoT is much bigger.

Every metric related to the internet of things is eye-popping. “Things” connected to the internet by 2020: 18 billion to 50 billion. Contribution to world economic value by 2025: $2.7 trillion to $6.2 trillion. Data generated annually from these connected devices? 162 zettabytes by 2025, according to the IDC report “Analytics: Unlocking Value from IoT Data” (June 2017).

There are big variations in those numbers, but even the lowball figures tell you that the most conservative industry watchers believe the impact of the internet of things (IoT) will be huge. Given that there are only so many smartwatches, Nest thermostats and Amazon Alexas people can buy, where are all these IoT devices going? And what will they be doing?

Industrial IoT

You can start to get a handle on the scope of IoT once you realize that the applications for IoT extend way beyond consumer devices. In fact, the clear majority of devices will serve in industries and markets other than consumer devices. Discrete manufacturing, transportation and logistics, and utilities will each spend $40 billion annually on IoT technology by 2020.

As DXC’s white paper, “Realize Industrial IoT,” explains, much of the data generated by IoT devices will be used to power sophisticated predictive analytics that companies will employ to maintain production quality and to detect variations in performance that could indicate a premature failure. IoT devices will also supply data used for process automation and robotics, predictive maintenance, condition monitoring, product testing and safety efforts, as well as the handling and analysis of materials.

IoT isn’t a future technology, though. It’s delivering value to companies today. Some industrial companies use internet-enabled devices to support inventory management and workforce management, to customize activities across multiple locations, or to connect previously disconnected business processes. Beyond the factory floor, networked technologies continue to be deployed across global supply chains and to support fleet and logistics management activities.

IoT technology enables companies to extend their vision beyond the enterprise. For some companies, this creates powerful new monitoring capabilities. For example, by gathering data from an electrical turbine or transformer in the field, a utility can process and analyze that information in real time — and react more quickly to address an emergency or a developing problem. Similarly, a logistics company with IoT-enabled package tracking will be able to follow individual shipments at a more granular level, improving delivery rates and reducing losses. These are just two simple examples of the way IoT-enabled edge computing will measurably reduce data obsolescence and improve response-to-alert performance.

Realizing the full industrial capabilities of IoT technology will likely take decades, simply because of the timelines involved in equipment turnover. And when the data starts pouring in, companies will need to have the infrastructure and analytics in place to make use of it. If the current pace of market growth is any indication, manufacturers, utilities, transportation companies and many other industries are ready to tackle those challenges. By the numbers, they are expecting IoT investments to deliver big returns.

Learn more about the impact of IoT on manufacturing and other industrial firms, as well as  how to make the transition to a more connected, data-oriented environment in the DXC paper, “Realize Industrial IoT.”