4 Things You Must Know about the IIoT

Some of the big players in the IT world believe that competition, resource constraints, and an aging workforce are just a few of the key elements that are driving innovation toward IIoT. A company that decides to invest in this technology will observe a clear advantage over other competitors in a relatively short time. The availability of a new set of analytics, generated by continuous monitoring of real-time data, will enable that same company to gain a deeper insight into its production process, and also to reduce costs by reducing waste, downtime, and unnecessary maintenance.

Understanding current trends, security, and future perspectives in the Industrial Internet of Things will benefit any sized company. According to a 2013 report by Aberdeen Group, 53% of U.S. manufacturers that implement IIoT have improved their business, increased their competitive edge, and reduced total costs.

Acquire Smarter Talent and Maintenance

Product failure is still the top risk component; but, failure to acquire and retain talent is becoming a real challenge for every company that aims to be a market leader. We are enabling our machines to be smarter, but in order to do that, companies are required to have a more technically skilled workforce that understands new technologies and that keeps itself constantly up to date.

With IIoT, the paradigm of maintenance shifts from predictive to reactive. Monitoring every machine using its own particular operating conditions means scheduling downtimes can happen days before a part is supposed to break. Manufacturers can react to data generated by the machine. In some cases, it is also possible to predict precisely how many operational cycles are left before a breakdown.

Understand the Importance of Big Data

IoT, as a network of connected smart devices, inherently also compiles large amounts of data.  Big Data on its own is not particularly useful, so, analysis tools must be created to manipulate the data into products and ways in which it can be understood and further used.

With billions of devices being connectined over the next several years, there will be a massive increase of new IoT applications, a huge demand for bandwidth, connectivity to cloud solutions, and secure access to data analytics.

Utilize Service Models

This new technological revolution also allows the use of completely new business models, which could not exist otherwise.  You may have seen this already in the software area. Manufactures of equipment and devices which include IoT sensors  — which can collect information on time, air pressure, temperature, scrap, work pieces, lot number, together with some more canonical information on alerts, errors, and downtimes — may also become service providers. Customers that are interested in optimizing and reducing costs might want to have all of this on each machine in their production line, and therefore they could pay more for this service.

IIoT, other than for remote locations requring cellular services, will require robust connectivity via routers, access points, or gateways specifically designed for IoT. The cost of storage is going down, but maintaining a server implies high costs, due to electricity, cooling systems, operators, and other miscellaneous factors.

Avoid These Pitfalls

The Internet is basically an unsecure data highway.  Having all the data from all the machines of a certain company traveling over the internet is not necessarily a reassuring scenario, especially if those machines control critical processes.  Anyone, from anywhere in the world, can scan for certain IP addresses, find out their location, what type of device they are associated with, and what OS is running on them. With the right skills, and some luck, it would be possible to generate destructive consequences with just a few mouse clicks.

Security is not always considered as carefully as it should be in our day-to-day applications. It is unlikely we are used to thinking in a secure way when dealing with our internet-connected devices.

All the major players in the IIoT world seem to agree on a few preliminary steps that anyone can take to increase the security of a network at every level. First and most important, think like an attacker—for instance, try to hack your own system. Look for weak points and try to gain access to private information. Identify vulnerabilities, both at the software and hardware level. Validate your design, keeping in mind security principles and identify countermeasures that can be added. Sit down with your engineering team and come up with a Risk Management Assessment, scanning every node and edge on your network identifying all the possible attacks. Focus on robustness. Include several security layers in your design and think about how to react to certain attacks and how to recover from them.

>>Read more by Matteo Dariol, Machine Design, October 25, 2016