Industrial IoT: Making production data-driven, safer and more efficient

Oct 18, 2016

blog

Industrial IoT: Making production data-driven, safer and more efficient

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Industry 4.0 is often described as IoT applied to manufacturing. It will revolutionize how plants across different industries work. Pessimists emphasize job cuts caused by automation, security concerns and high investment costs. Optimists focus on increased efficiency, operational insights, sustainability and technology advancements.

It is called Industry 4.0 for a good reason: the technology is going to transform manufacturing into a data-driven, safer, leaner, greener and more efficient business. Machines will become interconnected; data will flow into analytical tools, which will in their turn provide operators with actionable insights. As a result end-users will get cheaper services and goods (e.g. electricity, cars, food etc.)

However, big opportunities come with big challenges. Here are some of them:

  1. There are no Industry Standards.

As the technology is still immature there are no fixed standards to software, hardware and infrastructure. Best practices and predictions help enterprises gain some certainty. But as new devices and methods are going to appear an IIoT landscape may change very fast.

Difference in how systems are built makes it difficult to safeguard them from hackers. At the same time damage from the attack would increase directly with hardware interconnectivity (imagine the impact of an attack to a smart power grid).

IIoT has so many components blended into a unified facility. That’s why creating a security plan requires covering all possible attack vectors (production processes, machinery and software etc).

That is why IoT security is a white hot topic which is being addressed by security specialists across industries.

  1. Need for transformational changes

IIoT brings intelligence to decade-old machinery which had not been intended for it.

By far manufacturing has been less affected by IT due to high cost of equipment and long-life performance. Many plants and even industries have been operating on the old-school equipment which gets harder to maintain. Spare parts are becoming rare; data from these machines may be in a format which does not fit into new environment.

Now manufacturers have a chance to make their production smart. However to add value and deep insights on company’s operations software, hardware, analytical and sensory components need to work as a single whole.

Such convergence will affect the very essence of manufacturers’ business who would need to acquire IT and Data Analytics expertise they’ve never had.

Not only is it necessary to get brand-new skills but also merge them with existing OT (Operation Technology). OT focuses on tracking changes and controlling industrial devices and systems. IT adds business and engineering context to the data, transforms data into actionable insight. When properly integrated they fuel company’s adoption of Industry 4.0.

  1. Time, money and expertise

IIoT is a large-scale costly initiative which takes years to implement and requires special knowledge. Building a convergent IoT system is impossible without cooperation – strategic partnerships help fill in the expertise gaps while strengthening company’s focused skills.

Industrial IoT are time-consuming due to complex integrations, security requirements and scale (number of sensors). Moreover planning, creating infrastructure, adjusting IT systems may be done by several vendors.

Conclusion

While most companies realize the importance of adopting IoT they need to allocate today’s budgets for long-term costly projects with uncertain ROI. It’s not an easy decision to make.

However those companies who start doing their first IIoT attempts are likely to see greater return. By trial and error they get understanding of the new business, learn how to work in Industry 4.0.

Learn more about Qulix IoT solution development.