"If you get a couple of high-profile, winning-use cases that Wall Street buys into, that's a potential to move a stock—that could happen in two years," said Patrick Moorhead, a technology analyst and founder of Moor Insights & Strategy. "If a company like GE can clearly show some very big payback for a customer and that customer gets dragged around the planet as a poster child for the industrial Internet of things, that could give an emotional boost to the Echelons, the Intels and the Freescale Semiconductors."
Moorhead suggested that the companies in line to benefit first may not be the industrials themselves but the crowd of system-on-a-chip and technology-platform providers whose solutions enable devices on different networks to communicate with each other.
Echelon, the San Jose, Calif.-based firm founded 25 years ago by former Apple CEO Mike Markkula, hopes to start shipping its IzoT platform later this year to customers like Honeywell, Siemens and firms in the lighting-control industry who are making the transition from analog to digital lighting. Cisco, which last year merged three of its business teams into its new Internet of Things Business Group, recently announced its IOx computing infrastructure, which will allow customers using its rugged routers far out in the field to more efficiently crunch data.
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Most manufacturers and factories that adopt industrial Internet systems could see a mild stock jump as time and cost savings drive productivity—and their bottom lines—up. But the true driver of a sustained run in industrial stocks will come when corporations find new revenue streams, say some analysts. Profitability will skyrocket when firms effectively learn to find value in the mountains of data flowing in.
"People have realized that the value of analytics on this scale can really change business models," said Kipp Bradford, technology consultant and entrepreneur. "The power of that data extracted from the Internet of Things will allow companies with a traditional business model of selling a tangible asset to sell the service more effectively provided by that asset."
As companies become more adept at analyzing the data flowing in from sensors, "the majority of that revenue will be services—'You're monitoring my air-conditioning; I'm paying you for a service,'" LeHong said.
Bradford and others point to airlines and automakers, whose sensor-laden, Internet-connected planes and cars of the future could allow them to amass—and then sell—information like the maintenance and failure rates of parts and passengers' buying habits. Yet while pinpointing where and how often during the workweek a Prius driver stops for morning coffee may not seem so difficult, recognizing potentially hazardous patterns in the mess of data flowing from an offshore oil rig will take a little longer.