Have Questions About the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)? We’ve Got Answers

Wago regularly receives questions from customers about a variety of technology topics, which have ramped up with the advance of IIoT and the onset of COVID-19. Here are answers to some of the questions we’ve seen most often.

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Charlie Norz, Automation Product Manager, Wago
Charlie Norz, Automation Product Manager, Wago

Q: How has the pandemic affected the IIoT world overall and specifically Wago?
A: Many manufacturing and process facilities have been evaluating the business advantages of using IIoT-based solutions. For some of these companies, they have accelerated their IIoT projects as more employees are now working remotely. Using cloud-based applications to monitor, control, and optimize plant floor manufacturing can be done from anywhere in the world. 

Q: Do you see these effects being permanent? Why or why not?
A: IIoT is a long-term and permanent solution for the future of manufacturing. Companies that started with small test IIoT projects are now enjoying the business benefits from the technology.  Most companies we work with plan to expand their IIoT application to multiple applications in the future. We offer great opportunities and solutions for every company. While there is no such thing as an all-in-one solution, smart products, methods, and partners will help advance digitalization in your business in ways that benefit all involved. Digitalization is something that we will see ramp up significantly over the course of the next two to five years.

Q: Why is it important that companies start moving forward towards digitalization now if they already haven’t?
A: It is all about data! In the past, the technical data from the field made it through to the control levels at best. That’s changed now. Thanks to modern information technology, the most important information from production is no longer restricted to the classical automation pyramid, but is now available at any time and place. However, the technical conditions must be right for this. 

As the world becomes smaller, it becomes necessary to move to digitalization to increase production productivity while increasing quality and having flexibility to meet the changing demands of the market.  IIoT is a key technology to enable manufactures to meet these business needs.

Q: What are some trends you see ahead for IIoT over the next year? 
A: Cloud-based IIoT can be used for hundreds of different applications including machine learning, predictive maintenance, data mining, digital twins, OEE calculations, line comparison, dashboards, and many more. There are also many different ways to engineer these applications. For some, using tools from cloud service vendors are the way to go. However, this takes deep knowledge in specific algorithms. The other option is take advantage of pre-built solutions for these applications. In the next several years, companies will begin to utilize these prebuilt tools. 

Q: What are some contributions Wago is making to IIoT?
A: At Wago, we provide PFC200 controllers with tools to seamlessly connect to popular IIoT and SCADA systems via MQTT, Sparkplug, and OPC UA. For example, these tools can help connect to Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, IBM Cloud, and the SAP Cloud to name a few. Our new PFC200 features the ability to exchange data with two different clouds in parallel. For example, in applications where manufacturing data goes to one cloud and maintenance info to the other, the information can be aggregated and used for analysis. These capabilities create true added value for your company—whether for increasing the efficiency of in-house production, implementing energy management, or developing additional end-customer services.

In the coming year, we will be adding new IIoT related devices that include edge computers and edge controllers to our product line. These devices operate at the edge of the network for local control and data pre-processing and aggregation before it is sent to the cloud.  

Also, a new on-machine IP67 platform—like Wago’s I/O System Field—with industrial fieldbus protocols and OPC UA for direct device-to-cloud connection will be released. These high performance modules are designed for Time-Sensitive Networking and are unshakeable in the harshest environmental conditions. Modern, decentralized production facilities require automation solutions that ensure the highest level of connectivity, which is what our I/O System Field provides.

Q: What do you see for the future of IIoT?
A: IIoT is the future and is here to stay. It will be a big part of industrial automation moving forward and we at Wago offer solutions specifically for this and look forward to helping companies with all of their digitalization needs.

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