Deep-Dish Manufacturing

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has become more visible within the general tech community, and there are geographic hubs that are quickly being developed around the world. Chicago is one of the up and coming hubs for IIoT given its manufacturing legacy, and I had the great pleasure to dig into the eco-system on my visit last week. A few notable areas of IIOT that are experiencing strong growth:

  • Smart factories. Also known as “Industry 4.0,” an application of IIoT to factories to enable cost-savings and greater product customization.
  • Process automation. Increased sensing and better access to data enable process industries to improve production efficiency and reduce operating and maintenance costs.
  • Energy infrastructure. Power utilities can access real-time data, automate remote monitoring and extend the life of existing assets by integrating them into modern communication networks.
  • Transportation. Transit system operators can implement new, more streamlined processes in areas such as video monitoring. This results in improved operational and safety monitoring with faster incident response time.

In Chicago, UI Labs provides a strong foundation for large corporations to partner with universities and startups to accelerate the growth of IIoT in manufacturing. Their partnership with DMDII consortium enables startups and companies like Lockheed, Rolls-Royce, GE, and McKinsey to test and demonstrate manufacturing technologies.

Given that we are still in the early days of IIoT, technologies that are developed collaboratively by multiple corporations and startups have a stronger chance of succeeding. Interoperability and integration remain to be the largest challenges facing IIoT implementation, and hence innovation behind closed corporate doors will not be enough. A corporate-agnostic environment that experiments with world-class startups will take home the bacon.

Another amazing resource is mHUB, which focuses on physical product development and manufacturing. The founder of mHUB, Bill Fienup, also the founder of maker haven Catalyze and multiple hardware companies, is committed to lowering the barrier of entry to physical product development while providing the tools, equipment, mentorship, manufacturing connections that startups need to turn their ideas into businesses.

Here are some highlights of up-and-coming startups in Chicago:

  • DATTUS, the Industrial IoT Platform for OEMs and Manufacturers to enable Industry 4.0 smart factories and smart machines.
  • AE Machines, a software platform to design and automate machine movement.