Just as the Internet of Things is expected to completely transform our daily lives, the Industrial Internet of Things will overhaul traditional processes in the public and private sector. However, five critical challenges must be overcome.
When most of us consider the Internet of Things (IoT), the first thing we focus on is household goods, wearable devices, or maybe cars – the consumer side of the third-platform computing revolution. However, many of the most stunning advances are being made in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), where the technology will change the ways that cities are structured and managed; agriculture is conducted; power is created and fed to end users; and products are built and shipped.
Although the transformative power of the IIoT is extraordinarily exciting, it’s not going to be easy. Understanding of cloud systems has become more refined over time, so technologists have a better sense of how to approach these systems. However, major hurdles still remain, per a 2015 analysis by National Instruments.
What Is the Industrial Internet of Things?
Um, what are we talking about again? You can think of the Internet using the power of all the content and websites for everyone’s mutual benefit. In a similar manner, you can think of the cloud as a network of servers that uses the power of the entire network for the good of all its users. The IIOT is another variation on this same theme, creating a patchwork of integrated systems that share data, insights, and functionalities to boost productivity.
One obvious example of a device within the Industrial Internet of Things would be a mechanism on a shopfloor that can gauge fluctuations to know when parts should be replaced. The device’s big data-empowered, cloud virtual machine-based predictive work could avoid downtime that can sometimes cost millions.
Airbus has chosen to get ahead of the crowd and dive headfirst into the IIoT. “They’re adding intelligence to their tools, intelligence to their drills and fastening machines,” said National Instruments VP Eric Starkloff. “They’re adding robotic machines that can work and interact side-by-side with humans.”
One scenario would be a worker noticing that a nut must be tightened. Her smart glasses could tell her exactly what the nut is and where it is within the physical environment. That same data can then be passed to the smart drill she uses so that it can adapt to fit the particular size nut. The beauty would be that all the systems are connected, so inventory would be adjusted to reflect components needed for the fix.
Manufacturing plants are just one small part of the IIoT. It will also be used in various other scenarios such as allowing buildings to use energy more efficiently and cities to switch the timing of traffic signals in real-time to reduce traffic jams.
Here, though, are the hurdles:
As indicated above, IIoT uses the same basic framework as the Internet – you are connecting worldwide systems. However, the Industrial Internet of Things has stronger controls.
“When dealing with precision machines that can fail if timing is off by a millisecond,” argued the whitepaper, “adhering to strict requirements becomes pivotal to the health and safety of the machine operators, the machines and the business.”
Standards are needed, and some IT groups are working to create ones based off those used for audio/video synchronization. As the overarching guidelines become more reliable and the integrity of data becomes increasingly confident, emergent technologies such as vehicle-to-vehicle will become exponentially more strong (with interconnected rather than disparate information).
Focusing on interoperability and scalability is the only way that IIoT users will be able to take full advantage of the scalability potential.
Typically a manufacturer’s system is expanded through the addition of black boxes or the construction of a specialized end-to-end platform.
Black boxes don’t allow for the real-time scalability that can optimize your efficiency and predict part failure. End-to-end services can be contained by proprietary blocking.
“If you’ve got a lot of black box systems, if they don’t communicate well together,” Starkloff offered, “then you’re missing the whole point of the Industrial Internet.”
Tens of thousands of sensors can be used to build IIoT systems, which means that the threat surface for hacking grows exponentially. You aren’t just worried about them taking information out but also plugging false numbers into your database, potentially leading to disaster. For example, the smart power grid could be a target for terrorism. Criminals might even get nasty and make you rock hard to AC/DC.
The pieces of the Industrial Internet must not be rigid but built to adjust to new advancements and standards. The ability for seamless software updating and parts upgrading is critical.
Your system must be built with interoperability in mind, with a fully scalable real-time network. By building the entire system on the same cloud infrastructure, you no longer have to worry about the hardware component. You can center yourself squarely on software operability as needed.
A Virtual Machine for your IIoT Project
Note how the report argues for the use of the same infrastructure for building your IIoT application so that you have less moving parts as you grow.
Superb Internet is built to meet strict industrial standards, with guesswork-free, PassMark-rated cloud servers.
By Kent Roberts