The Industrial Internet of Things is a very broad topic—encompassing everything from sensors to networks to machinery. At the core of it all, however, are the communications, systems and processes connecting machines to each other, as well as to people and larger corporate systems.
To ensure you are building the proper foundation for your Internet of Things (IoT) future, consider these four critical factors for a successful IoT deployment:
Among the challenges faced by today’s industrial companies is how to at once take advantage of emerging technological innovation while still protecting the sizable investments already made in existing systems. Legacy technology cannot simply be abandoned, nor can companies undertake the cost of its wholesale replacement. Rather, connecting legacy infrastructures with new things must be streamlined so they can securely and reliably interoperate across the enterprise.
Intelligent gateways that aggregate and filter data near the edge of the network offer one way to effectively capitalize on new and emerging technologies, while also extending the value of existing systems. This is especially critical for manufacturing enterprises, since about 85 percent of their equipment is not connected, or is considered “brownfield.” These systems must be converted to connected systems to enable them to share data.
Manageability of these systems becomes increasingly important as well. As ever-greater numbers of devices are connected to the network, we must ensure that the devices are manageable. Only this way can we guarantee that future policies, system upgrades and other advances can be deployed and their benefits realized.
In a world in which security breaches have become all too common, it is increasingly crucial that we ensure the inviolability of our factories and manufacturing plants. The consequences of failure could be profound and far-reaching. Achieving that security starts with ensuring the integrity of data, and that means safeguarding the transmission of data as they travel from decentralized locations through new devices and legacy equipment, across internal networks, and to and from the Cloud and/or data center.
Required to safeguard data is a holistic solution based on a tight integration of both hardware and software security and services. This is the first step in successfully converting data into greater productivity and efficiency, new business solutions and services, and faster time to market.
Accessing secure data is, however, just the beginning. As IoT accelerates, our challenge shifts to unlocking the value hidden inside the data. That requires analysis, turning the information extracted from the data into actionable insight your business can use. To do that, you need the right hardware/software infrastructure able to access, analyze, share and store your data.
Interoperability and standards
If manufacturers are to realize the promise and potential of IoT, it is critical that the billions of things that make up IoT are able to connect and interoperate. Only through common frameworks based on truly open industry standards can secure, reliable interconnections and shared information in IoT be achieved.
It is with that goal in mind that organizations such as the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC) and Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) have been established. The OIC, for example, which currently includes Intel, Samsung, Atmel, Broadcom, Dell and Wind River, seeks to define a common communications framework based on industry standard technologies. This would enable companies to wirelessly connect and intelligently manage the flow of information among personal computing and emerging IoT devices, regardless of form factor, operating system or service provider.
As IoT grows and expands, the ecosystem plays an ever more pivotal role in driving new thinking and advancing the industry. In addition to open industry standards, IoT requires a robust network of trusted partners if it is to reach its full potential to transform industrial operations.
Companies like Intel and Siemens will continue to work together to bring about innovations—such as the Simatic Industrial PC profiled in our article in the first issue of the Industrial Internet of Things supplement. Such advancements will help accelerate IoT as they address and support issues ranging from interoperability and security to connectivity and Big Data analytics.
John Wilhite is PC-based automation product manager for Siemens Industry Inc. (www.usa.siemens.com/industry). Shahram Mehraban is global head of energy and industrial vertical segments, Internet of Things Group, for Intel (www.intel.com/industrial).