The technology industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the the increasing demand for optimised production processes, cost reduction, and improved productivity, and growing importance of technologies such as sensors and actuators, industrial automation systems, data analytics, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence (AI). These technologies enable real-time monitoring and control of manufacturing operations, predictive maintenance, seamless communication between machines, and data-driven decision-making. In the last three years alone, there have been over 3.6 million patents filed and granted in the technology industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in Internet of Things: Smart factory systems. Buy the report here.

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

300+ innovations will shape the technology industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the technology industry using innovation intensity models built on over 2.5 million patents, there are 300+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, environmental sensors, digital twins, and network-on-a-chip are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Intelligent embedded systems, smart factory systems, and smart grids are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are contactless verification, wearable physiological monitors, and software defined wide area network, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for IoT in the technology industry

Smart factory systems is a key innovation area in IoT

Smart factory systems are advanced manufacturing systems that integrate operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) to facilitate streamlined and productive production processes. These systems leverage a combination of data, analytics, cloud computing, automation, robotics, AI, and the Internet of Things (IoT) to enable real-time monitoring of operations and the optimisation of manufacturing processes. By incorporating these technologies, smart factory systems enhance operational efficiency, improve product quality, and enable proactive decision-making based on data-driven insights.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 360+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established technology companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of smart factory systems.

Key players in smart factory systems – a disruptive innovation in the technology industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to smart factory systems

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
State Grid 498 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 392 Unlock Company Profile
Hitachi 351 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Electric 283 Unlock Company Profile
Intel 251 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Heavy Industries 205 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 197 Unlock Company Profile
Emerson Electric 150 Unlock Company Profile
Furukawa 148 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries 133 Unlock Company Profile
China Southern Power Grid 122 Unlock Company Profile
NEC 118 Unlock Company Profile
Honeywell International 112 Unlock Company Profile
Yokogawa Electric 110 Unlock Company Profile
Toshiba 107 Unlock Company Profile
Panasonic 90 Unlock Company Profile
Omron Tateisi Electronics 88 Unlock Company Profile
Rockwell Automation 81 Unlock Company Profile
General Electric 76 Unlock Company Profile
Korea Development Bank 74 Unlock Company Profile
Gree Electric Appliances 72 Unlock Company Profile
LG 67 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Heavy Industries 61 Unlock Company Profile
Japan Wool Textile 61 Unlock Company Profile
ABB 59 Unlock Company Profile
Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust 58 Unlock Company Profile
Fanuc 57 Unlock Company Profile
Schneider Electric 57 Unlock Company Profile
China Petrochemical 52 Unlock Company Profile
International Business Machines (IBM) 52 Unlock Company Profile
Dell Technologies 51 Unlock Company Profile
China Tobacco International 48 Unlock Company Profile
EssilorLuxottica 47 Unlock Company Profile
China Tobacco Yunnan Industrial 47 Unlock Company Profile
NIKE 46 Unlock Company Profile
POSCO 46 Unlock Company Profile
Fujifilm 42 Unlock Company Profile
Bayerische Motoren Werke 42 Unlock Company Profile
Omron 41 Unlock Company Profile
Gebr Knauf 41 Unlock Company Profile
Hon Hai Precision Industry 40 Unlock Company Profile
Inspur Electronic Information Industry 39 Unlock Company Profile
Robert Bosch Stiftung 38 Unlock Company Profile 38 Unlock Company Profile
Aviation Industry 37 Unlock Company Profile
Safran 37 Unlock Company Profile
State Grid Information and Telecommunication 35 Unlock Company Profile
Toshiba Mitsubishi-Electric Industrial Systems 34 Unlock Company Profile
Reactive Technologies 33 Unlock Company Profile
Illinois Tool Works 32 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

State Grid Corporation of China is one of the leading patent filers in smart factory systems. The company’s patents are aimed at invention related to a power demand side management platform comprising five sub layers that include a data source layer, a network layer, a data layer, a support layer, and an application layer.

According to the invention, such services as power information monitoring analysis, energy application service, demand side management information issuing and the like can be provided for government users, power grid companies, energy application users and social users, and availability and application performance of a 7*24-hour system can be realised.

The system can timely discover a fault phenomenon and provide an early warning. It can also perform fault cause auxiliary analysis and have an automatic fault processing capability, reducing operation costs, shortening  the problem solving time, improving user satisfaction, and ensuring safe, stable and highly efficient operation of each service system.

Other prominent patent filers in the space include Siemens and Hitachi.

By geographic reach, Thomson Reuters Global Resources leads the pack, followed by THORLABS and Reactive Technologies. In terms of application diversity, Intel holds the top position, followed by Precitec Optronic and Alphabet.    

IoT innovation in smart factory systems refers to the integration of IoT technologies into manufacturing processes to enable efficient and automated operations. By leveraging IoT in smart factory systems, organisations can achieve higher operational efficiency, reduced downtime, improved product quality, and enhanced overall productivity.

To further understand how IoT is disrupting the technology industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Internet of Things – Thematic Research.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.