Industrial IoT providers see opportunity in Japan scandals


By: Peter Wells
4 Dec. 2017

Industrial giants promoting the so-called internet of things are seizing upon a spate of Japanese manufacturing scandals to push digital solutions as a way to provide customers with greater assurance over the quality of their products.

Suppliers of connected equipment see a chance to make a renewed pitch for their technologies. They say the volume and transparency of data generated by factories of connected machinery and sensors could help restore customer confidence in Japan’s manufacturing sector, which has been tarnished by a string of companies revealing they falsely certified products — in some cases for decades.

Kobe Steel and Nissan Motor, which are among those grappling with data falsification scandals, have earmarked investment in IoT and adopted technology-oriented solutions, respectively, to eliminate opportunities for human tampering in the product inspection process.

Worldwide spending on IoT is expected to reach just over $800bn this year, and rise to $1.4tn by 2021, according to advisory firm IDC.

The amounts allocated by the Japanese companies are a fraction of that, but analysts say their actions could encourage industry rivals to introduce or modernise their own quality assurance procedures in order to assuage doubt among customers.

Such a step could also bolster the overall case for faster adoption of connected technologies in Japan’s manufacturing sector, which is highly automated but lagging behind the US and Europe in terms of digital solutions.

“Robotics with digital solutions will become more important in terms of quality control,” Per Vegard Nerseth, managing director of business unit robotics at ABB, told the Financial Times at the International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo.

Switzerland’s ABB and Japan’s Fanuc are among the world’s biggest robotics makers that are now pushing cloud software and IoT solutions to complement and connect their hardware offerings.