Purdue, Indiana and the Internet of Things

Imagine, for a moment, Indiana as the epicenter of the rebirth of Midwest manufacturing. The Internet of Things and flexible electronics have converged to create that opportunity.

The Lab has been exploring this opportunity with Ali Shakouri, head of the Birck Nanotechnology Center. Birck has established a national leadership position in flexible electronics, and Indiana could leverage this position to build a vibrant cluster for manufacturers exploring the opportunities of the Internet of Things.

Background to Indiana’s Opportunity

The explosive growth of the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) represents the confluence of sensor, data analytics and Internet technologies with enormous growth potential.

  • McKinsey estimates the market opportunity ranges from $2.7 to $6.2 trillion through 2025. 30 billion devices, connected to the Internet, will transform markets.
  • Growth opportunities will extend across a wide range of vertical markets including healthcare, agriculture, government, automotive, and infrastructure.
  • The IoT is also remaking the face of manufacturing, a transformation that the Germans call Industry 4.0. The full life cycle of a product can now be monitored, measured and managed.

The emergence flexible sensors and electronics

Sensors and electronics power the IoT. Traditional silicon-based sensors are powerful but expensive. They limit the growth of the IoT.

  • New technologies have emerged that enable sensors and electronics to be printed on flexible, bendable materials.
  • This development opens the door to large scale market opportunities across multiple vertical markets.
    Product designers can embed sensors into products that are wireless, lightweight, interactive, thinner and comfortable.
  • Widespread application of low-cost sensors can also lead to dramatic new applications in precision agriculture and environmental monitoring.

The current obstacles to large scale commercialization of flexible electronics

Commercial applications require high speed “roll to roll” manufacturing of flexible sensors and electronics. These manufacturing technologies have been proven in the lab.

  • To bring these technologies to commercial scale, manufacturers need a pilot facility to bridge the gap between lab and market.
  • No single manufacturer has the incentive to invest in a pilot facility.

The Opportunity: A Pilot Facility  

Indiana can position itself in the emerging IoT by bridging the commercialization gap in flexible sensors and electronics. By constructing a pilot facility for flexible sensors and electronics, Indiana can become the epicenter of transformed manufacturing (Industry 4.0) in the Midwest.

  • The project secures Indiana’s position in the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0.— The project brings together a rare nexus of technology expertise, manufacturing equipment and knowledge, and experienced, innovative leadership. It builds the foundation for a high tech manufacturing ecosystem in the Midwest. 
  • A pilot project leverages statewide strengths.— Purdue provides a foundation for a successful pilot plant. This foundation creates a platform to extend to technology assets and expertise throughout that state.
    • Birck has already engaged leading research groups in nanoelectronics, nanophotonics, MEMS, RFIC design, nanobio sensors, composite manufacturing, polymer processing, and analytic chemistry.
    • Purdue also has the nation’s top programs in engineering, pharmacy, agriculture and food safety.
    • Purdue is home to the $90 million Birck Nanotechnology Center and its state-of-the-art nanofabrication and characterization facility.
  • Business already shows support.— Birck’s current partners include partners include a semiconductor tool manufacturer (Applied Materials) and various applications leaders (Landauer, Eli Lilly and Company, United Technologies).
  • The project will attract more private sector interest.— a public-private partnership with state-of-the-art manufacturing capabilities focused on IoT (e.g. wireless, wearable and biocompatible sensors and actuators) could have transformational impact in Mid-West. A commitment by Indiana would likely catalyze investments by other companies in Midwest and globally, in markets such as digital health, smart infrastructure, precision agriculture, and intelligent packaging.
  • The approach follows a successful model.— In Belgium, IMEC offers a successful model of how collaborative investment can transform an economy.