The role only CSPs can play in Industry 4.0
Orchestrating ecosystems for Industry 4.0 integration
The founder of McDonald’s, Ray Kroc, said there are two keys to success. The first is being in the right place at the right time. The second is “doing something about it.” With Industry 4.0 in full swing, communications service providers (CSPs) are in the right place and certainly in the right time. Now they just have to make the most of the opportunity in front of them.
As trusted, enduring brands with strong customer relationships, CSPs are well-positioned within Industry 4.0. They have a chance evolve from connectivity providers into high-value ecosystem orchestrators and transformation enablers. But to make that happen — to “do something about it” — CSPs need to zero in on where industry is struggling today and change the conversation they’re having with their customers.
Understanding Industry 4.0 pain points
Companies looking to take advantage of Industry 4.0 know that it’ll take some experimentation to get everything right. But according to Michael Weller, Innovation Leader at Verizon, that experimentation can’t come at a risk to production, safety or quality. Fear of that risk has slowed or even stalled many Industry 4.0 efforts.
“Companies know they need to experiment in Industry 4.0, but they want assurances and they want support,” says Weller. “They need it to be de-risked.”
Another major stumbling block for Industry 4.0 is scaling up. Thomas Renger, Global Service Provider as a Partner Program Leader at Nokia, says many initiatives are proofs of concept that either don’t deliver their expected benefits or, if they do succeed, often lack the ability to scale. “Enterprises are looking for a partner who can provided stability and expertise,” says Renger. “CSPs have the potential to do that.”
Industry 4.0 has shown its potential, but many enterprises are wary of moving forward. CSPs bring reliability and experience to de-risk Industry 4.0 experiments and explore high-performance use cases. They’re in the best position to marshal ecosystems to get those experiments to scale up.
Providing support for evolution
One of the most important ways CSPs can support their industry partners is through their reliability.
While “Industry 4.0” can be interpreted in many different ways, the central premise is simple: it’s about connecting assets and information to gain new insights, then using those insights to build a competitive advantage. That’s an area CSPs already excel in, making them perfectly placed to deliver highly reliable, secure connectivity — and then extend that value with local compute capabilities for real-time applications. “It’s not a bad thing to be good at connectivity,” Renger says.
In addition, CSPs who understand the many different use cases for Industry 4.0 connectivity — and the specific performance requirements needed for everything from automating processes to improving the customer experience — can bring a lot of value to their enterprise customers.
One such use case is computer vision. People can learn more quickly if data is presented in a visually stimulating way, so technologies like augmented reality and computer vision can help usher in a new era of user experience on factory floors and in warehouses. Computer vision has a wide variety of applications, including observing customer behavior and product engagement, reviewing product quality, tracking machine health, and monitoring safety compliance for machine operators.
CSPs have the expertise to build a network architecture that guarantees the connectivity, compute and storage resources required for computer vision. But the sensors and video streams necessary for computer vision consume massive amounts of data, meaning the reliance on many different cameras and sensors will tax current wireless networks. This will push industry to adopt LTE and 5G — and CSPs can bring more value to the table by not just providing that connectivity but by making the adoption of it as effortless as possible.
Building the ecosystem
Even the most innovative, advanced CSP can’t be the sole provider of end-to-end Industry 4.0 solutions. But a CSP who can bring all the right players together — so that enterprises don’t have to — will become extremely valuable partners. They’ll be able to reduce vendor complexity, accelerate deployment schedules and de-risk initiatives.
“Connectivity is about 15 percent of the total value of Industry 4.0,” says Nokia’s Renger. “It’s essential, but there is going to be a strong shift to apps, integration, management solutions and devices. CSPs can be the ones to bring everyone together.”
Changing the conversation
All of this amounts to one thing: CSPs need to think like a customer. They need to learn what industries are trying to accomplish in pursuit of more agile and flexible operations — and what help they need to make that happen.
When a CSP is thinking like a customer, they’ll talk to their customers differently. The conversations will change so that CSPs won’t lead with their existing offerings, but instead they’ll listen to their customers’ needs. According to Weller, this represents a significant shift for both CSPs and their customers.
“CSPs are used to pitching and customers are used to being pitched at,” he says. “But that’s not the model anymore. Customers need to start with what they’re looking for. They need to pitch their pain points and their business goals.”
According to Weller, customers should begin these exploratory conversations with probing business questions, as opposed to just hearing a presentation. As for CSPs, this means they can’t just offer a single type of network architecture and expect it to address every customer’s every need.
“A single network approach is unlikely to serve most customers,” says Weller, who believes CSPs need to consider the value of “network optionality” — that is, multiple, customizable and modular solutions for multiple needs and pain points.
Making the most of the Industry 4.0 opportunity
“Unlike past revolutions, Industry 4.0 doesn’t replace manual labour with machines or automation,” says Weller. “It leverages intellectual skills — creativity, expertise, problem solving and decision making. This puts communications front and center.”
Because of its foundation in connectivity and focus on the network, the Industry 4.0 revolution is almost tailor-made for CSPs — as long as they “do something” about it, in the words of Ray Kroc. And that means becoming a new kind of network partner by thinking like a customer, changing their conversations, orchestrating an ecosystem of solution suppliers and adopting a more flexible approach to network architecture.