The Internet of Things (IoT) is getting a great deal of attention today. And the predictions for IoT growth figures are eye-catching, to say the least. For example, a recent report from IDC predicts that the worldwide IoT market will grow to $7.1 trillion by 2020. Despite all the potential promise of the IoT, some people remain skeptical about real-world use. Will we, after all, really need a toaster or refrigerator that links to the Internet?
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), however, is one area where connected devices are common, and some would argue have more practical benefits than the consumer aspect of IoT. Even with its clearer potential, before any serious IIoT plans are put into action, many questions remain to be answered.
Here are five key elements industrial organizations should consider before embarking on the path to IIoT initiatives:
Legacy equipment: Take inventory of automation devices such as PLCs, RTUs, robots and drives. How old are they? Do they need to be replaced or upgraded? Is your legacy equipment going to be able to communicate with newer equipment? How much time and money will this take? What cost-effective solutions can address your current infrastructure?
Protocols/communications: Along with the equipment, what protocols are being used by the devices in your network? How many are in use? Do they need to be converted in order to get the devices to communicate with others in your environment? What type of media (cabling) are you using in your locations? Fiber-optic cable? Serial (RS-232/422/485)? Copper?
Location/environment: Where is your facility located? If your equipment is in a remote location, can your devices be monitored via cellular networks? Are 3G or 4G/LTE networks available to reach your site? If not, are broadband or fiber-based networks available? Also, within the building itself, what is the overall environment? Is it hot and dusty or kept at a controlled temperature? Is there lots of vibration? Are you using industrial-grade equipment that is designed with wide environmental ratings and industry certifications?
Security: According to a recent Business Insider Intelligence survey, 39 percent of executive respondents indicated that privacy and security are the most significant barriers to IoT investment. Security was the most commonly cited concern among respondents. Though this survey applies to all items in IoT, security should be an important concern for IIoT as well. How can sensitive data be protected when it is collected and transferred? What security measures are in place for the systems that collect, monitor, process and store IIoT data? Are there any regulations regarding the protection of data and information that you need to be aware of?
Staff: As more technology-based devices are added to your network, do you have IT staff on hand, as well as other employees whoare tech savvy and can help with installation and monitoring on the factory floor? Is software or remote monitoring needed to keep tabs on devices in other locations?
At Red Lion Controls, we offer industrial automation and networking solutions that help organizations address these questions when making the move to IIoT. With support for more than 300 different industrial protocols, our automation products allow a range of different machines in heterogeneous environments to talk to each other. These offerings, coupled with Ethernet switches and cellular M2M, enable the reliable flow of data anytime, anywhere across almost any medium, device or protocol. This data can then be easily monitored by operators and engineers, giving organizations a communications foundation for IIoT deployment. With the right equipment, systems and people in place, organizations can easily turn IIoT hype into reality and use real-time data visibility to drive business advantages.
Red Lion Controls is a U.S. manufacturer of industrial automation and networking solutions that help organizations connect, monitor and control assets worldwide. Visit www.redlion.net/connect to learn more.