Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0 webcast speakers provide extra answers

Tutorial: Questions and answers follow related to “Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0 webcast: Overview and practical advice for today.” Additional audience questions here provide added advice and answers about IIoT and Industry 4.0.


Additional answers are provided below related to "Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0 webcast: Overview and practical advice for today." Questions came from audience members from the May 12 webcast, now archived.

Like the webcast, these answers show ways technologies can help implement the ideals described in the IIoT and Industry 4.0 frameworks.

Answers below are provided by Dr. Richard Soley, executive director of the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), and Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering (part of CFE Media, along with Plant Engineering and Oil & Gas Engineering). Hoske created an Industry 4.0 presentation from Plattform Industrie 4.0 sources for the webcast, but, here, he is answering questions based on his own knowledge, not necessarily representing the Industry 4.0 position. 

Dr. Richard Soley is executive director of the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC). Courtesy: IIC. Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering (part of CFE Media, along with Plant Engineering and Oil & Gas Engineering). Courtesy: CFE Media.Q: How does IIoT or Industry 4.0 differ from machine to machine (M2M) services?

Dr. Soley: M2M focuses on the communications layer; it's important, it's necessary, but it's not sufficient. IIoT is about applying the M2M communications layer, real-time, predictive analytics, and other technologies (like machine learning and so forth) to making industrial systems more efficient and enabling new and transformative business models.

Hoske: I understand M2M communications and services to be more of a subset of IIoT or Industry 4.0, perhaps more specific to a device, machine, or workcell. Call it what you will; we do need better and faster information integration and intelligence in planning, design, simulation, testing, operations, maintenance, and end-of-equipment life, as well as across the enterprise and the supply chain.

Q: As an end user how do I encourage my original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to adopt these standards?

Hoske: End users have far more power than they realize. Insist on being open to new technology, focusing on standards and proven approaches, and participate in open organizations that prove your support for the approach. Encourage OEMs to be involved in organizations and standards that promote these concepts if they seem to make sense to you, and, in requests for proposals (RFPs), include compliance with specific standards as a mandate. I don't think enough end users do that.

Q: What is the first step to adopting IIoT in my organization?

Dr. Soley: As with any new technology or management approach, choose an important but smaller problem to attack and bring in the right expertise to get the problem solved. Don't ignore organizations that bring together end users, vendors, and researchers as places to get solid experience and good advice!

Q: Can existing equipment be retrofit to link with IIoT?

Dr. Soley: Of course you can integrate existing infrastructure with IIoT solutions! In fact, many IIoT solutions are designed with this requirement in mind-especially since completely replacing legacy systems can be costly.

Q: What are the special requirements for hardware and software to implement Industry 4.0?

Hoske: I believe interoperability and compliance with standards that allow greater information flow will enable efforts like Industry 4.0 and IIoT. In the past, some suppliers have used the leeway allowed, even within some "standards," to thwart interoperability and promote a single-vendor-centric ecosphere. That seems to me like arguing over the slice of pie, rather than making more dessert for all.

Q: How can we justify IIoT installations based on return on investment (ROI)?

Hoske: I've heard that some organizations work on pilot programs for these supporting technologies to show ROI value and to gain buy-in from personnel. A recommended best practice is to redesign the process first with new capabilities in mind, then apply new technologies-don't just apply new tools to a tired process.

Q: Where does the IIoT end? Are there defined boundaries where IIoT ends and something else takes over?

Dr. Soley: No, which makes it confusing and difficult, especially with so many vendors claiming "IIoT compliance." Instead, focus on ROI and transformative business value-not tech claims.

Q: What is a PLC?

Hoske: PLC stands for programmable automation controller, an industrial computer used for control of discrete manufacturing processes. Sorry. We usually try to spell out all acronyms.

Q: Do you see the use of robotics increasing in the future? And, will this affect the human workforce?

Dr. Soley: As more industries begin deploying industrial Internet solutions, repetitive tasks will become automated, freeing up the human workforce to focus on tasks that require more analytical skills, including creative problem solving and collaboration.

Hoske: Robotics help humans avoid dull, dirty, repetitive, and unsafe situations and make manufacturers more productive so they can continue to offer high standards of living to employees.

Q: Note that the "new" model PLC shown in one slide was developed more than 15 years ago, so it really is not a valid 2015 example ... newer PLCs are programmable via Ethernet [in multiple languages, including Ladder Logic]. PLCs have evolved more slowly than other electronics, but they have advanced quite a bit.

Hoske: My apologies. Even though this mention was used as an example and was not a product endorsement, I missed removing it; the webcast was supposed to avoid product references. PLCs certainly have advanced significantly in capabilities, and other IEC 61131-3 programming languages are used beyond Ladder Logic, along with other non-IEC 61131-3 programming. Even so, research from Control Engineering has shown that Ladder Logic remains the most used programming language for PLC programming.

Q: Track and trace is a great concept. Are there any models on the Internet to use as a template?

Dr. Soley: How about track and trace itself? Check out

Q: What is the role and importance of a system integrator who has up-to-date knowledge of many different platforms and data security requirements?

Hoske: System integrators have tremendous knowledge to bring to these concepts and have been on the forefront of information integration for a long time.

Q: Richard: How would you evaluate the different approaches of Germany and the U.S. towards Industrie 4.0?

Dr. Soley: The IIC is not a U.S. organization; it is worldwide, with members in dozens of countries, so we do not take a "U.S." point of view. If you mean what is the difference between the IIC approach and the Konsortium Plattform Industrie 4.0 approach (a joint German industry/government activity), then the difference is quite clear. IIC is focused on creating and discovering transformative business outcomes through the development and fielding of testbeds. The Plattform has, to date, focused more on creating valuable visions of the future of industrial systems, though there is now a broader focus.

Q: Who is going to patch the devices in the IIoT? Who is liable? The seller? The installer? The owner?

Dr. Soley: Cyber security is a major and important issue and central to the IIC process (and the reason for the IIC's Security Working Group). You have to design security in, and that's the reason we address it from the beginning. As to liability, I do believe that the deep participation of insurance companies in the IIoT will eventually clarify liability issues, as will upcoming case law.

Hoske: In February, I heard an MIT professor suggest that industrial cyber security may be now where safety was 15 or 20 years ago. The analogy was that few care to talk about cyber security now, just as few wanted to talk about safety then, lest someone find out and do more damage. Cyber security damage is being done, whether companies want to use the available tools and mechanisms to improve and share information or not. People are catching on, however: We do need greater information flow, and we need defense-in-depth protection of devices, information, and systems.

Q: Will standards apply to America, Europe, and Asia, or will each have its own standards?

Dr. Soley: The majority of IIoT standards will most likely apply worldwide, but depending on individual needs, standards bodies and IIoT consortia in each region may opt to develop their own. The more broadly standards are adopted, the less fragmented will be implementation.

Q: Which industry is leading the IIoT implementation?

Dr. Soley: Without a doubt, the manufacturing industry is leading the charge with the rise of smart factories. But many other industries are quickly adopting IIoT technologies including energy, health care, and transportation.

Q: What is the next revolution after IIoT?

Hoske: I think so many things attach to and flow from IIoT and Industry 4.0 that advantages may include smoother migrations and adaptations to new capabilities because of greater interconnectedness. What if we had the next revolution, and it was so smooth and rapid, no one noticed or called it one?

Q: So instead of developing new protocols that are unique, why aren't the equipment makers using http/https, SSL [secure socket layer] connections, and standard databases at the machine level?

Hoske: Yes, imagine the productivity with standards that really are interoperable versus so many connectors, adaptors, translators, and gateways. What was the value to North American productivity to having 110 V power outlets? While we're at it, we could simplify the tax code, too, and invite the extra accountants and attorneys to retrain to help fill the skills gap in high-tech manufacturing. (I'm grinning as I type that.)

Q: In cars, are we going to be adding so many sensors that we will need sensors to monitor the sensors? Will it be so complex that we can't manage it anymore?

Dr. Soley: We already have sensors that monitor sensors. How do you think your car knows that its oxygen sensor has failed? That's a good thing, and the way we deal with complexity is a systems approach to integration.

Q: It appears that this is mainly an industry-driven process. How can we get government to join the process?

Dr. Soley: Earlier this year, the World Economic Forum released a report on how the industrial Internet will dramatically alter industry worldwide. This definitely served as a wake-up call for governments, and I think—because of this report—we will see more governments getting involved in the next few years.

Q: Are there examples of cyber physical systems in use or under development?

Hoske: In addition to the examples in the webcast, I see, at every show or conference, examples where design, simulation, testing, programming, operations, monitoring, and optimization are becoming more tightly integrated. One recent example was a demonstration where a robot without an end efector was simulated by a computer that showed a grinding bit in the robot, grinding a job, on the screen. Behind the screen, the robot was moving the same way, without the grinder tool attached. It seemed to me the software was integrating and demonstrating job design, simulation, motion-control programming, and testing, in one step. The savings, of course, is that time and effort that went into the simulation to ensure the job could work, [which] then can be transferred immediately to programming and operations when the grinder bit arrives in the shop and is fixed to the robot.

- Dr. Richard Soley, executive director of the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), and Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering (part of CFE Media, along with Plant Engineering and Oil & Gas Engineering),

ONLINE extra

View the related May 12 webcast — Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0 webcast: Overview and practical advice for today 

A PDF of presentation is available for download, and a PDH is available with successful passage of a quiz about the webcast. Three subsequent webcasts are planned on related topics.

Organizations with more information on these topics include:

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