A Race Car and the Industrial Internet of Things

An industrial facility is like a race car in that hundreds of sensors are generating massive amounts of data. Are you using your data as effectively as a Formula 1 team?

Jeff Lund, Senior director, product line management, Belden’s Industrial IT Division
Jeff Lund, Senior director, product line management, Belden’s Industrial IT Division

As you watch a Formula 1 car race around a track at speeds of more than 200 mph, have you ever considered who actually makes decisions about things, like when to change a tire or pass another car?

You might assume this falls on the driver, but what you might not realize is that the driver’s pit crew—and a team of engineers located hundreds of miles away—are monitoring the car’s every move by analyzing data from dozens of sensors. With the real-time insights the sensors provide, the support team helps the driver decide on the next pit stop, what adjustments to make, and how to enhance performance at future races. This two-way communication and data analysis happens simultaneously to create a competitive edge that can turn a losing car into a winner.

What could you do with your operations if you were to collect and analyze more information than you do today?

In many ways, your factory floor or industrial facility is like a race car. Hundreds of sensors and machines are generating more and more data. If that data is fed to the right decision-makers in an easily digestible way, you can transform your business and operate more efficiently, reliably and safely.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) enables the connectivity to allow businesses to gather greater insights and make data-driven decisions to achieve better business results. Though we don’t know all the applications that our businesses will build on the IIoT, there are two things we do know for certain: There will be more and more devices connecting to our industrial networks and there will be more and more data crossing the network to feed business applications and provide finer-grained control.

To get a handle on this fast-approaching reality, you need to build an infrastructure that is designed for reliability and growth to handle the increased data flows, and that can provide end-to-end security to ensure reliable operation and protect against the increased risk of threats that greater interconnectivity brings. The following five steps will help you get the most out of your IIoT initiatives:

  1. Start by assessing what you have, where it lives, what it does, who owns and manages it and, ultimately, where you want to be.
  2. Migrate and/or update your technology to Ethernet and move away from older legacy fieldbus systems or proprietary technologies.
  3. Take a look at your network design and ensure you’re following best practices, such as segmenting into zones and conduits or employing wireless solutions.
  4. Protect your network through a layered approach, with security measures built into each level of the network.
  5. Establish ongoing monitoring and troubleshooting to keep up as technology and security threats evolve.

As more devices are connected to the network, there will be more interconnectivity with the enterprise side of the business and more users with access to the network. This increase in users, whether they are internal or external partners, means more sources of potential infections. Therefore, it’s critical to address security issues and put measures in place to protect your industrial network.

Even if you still feel uncertain about IIoT in general, or how technology or security threats might evolve, that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps today to be prepared for the future. A scalable and secure infrastructure is the foundation for enabling you to build whatever network application you might need years down the road.

The key thing to remember is that—just like in a Formula 1 race car—data can provide a competitive advantage. But having access to all of that data is only useful if it can be made actionable. The promise of the IIoT is already beginning to allow that. With an integrated and well-designed network infrastructure in place, teams can make more informed and confident business decisions and obtain greater system control through access to real-time data.

>>For more information about taking advantage of the IIoT and getting your network infrastructure ready, visit Belden’s online resource center.

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