IIoT Webcast three on integration considerations: Questions answered

IIoT Webcast three: Integration considerations, presented live on Nov. 3, is available online for one year for PDH credit, offered by Control Engineering, Plant Engineering, and Oil and Gas Engineering. Below, Webcast speakers answer some additional questions from the audience that didn’t fit into the one-hour live presentation.

By Mike Richmond, Allan "Mike" Peters November 12, 2015

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) promotes intelligent devices and systems by sharing information and awareness among systems and the humans who use them. Integrated networking, security, cyber security practices, and technologies help enable these connected systems. Control Engineering, Plant Engineering, and Oil and Gas Engineering offered a Nov. 3, 2015, online presentation: "IIoT Webcast three: Integration considerations" for PDH credit. Speakers agreed to answer some of the audience questions that were not answered during the one-hour Webcast.

Speakers in the Webcast were:

Mike Richmond is executive director of the Open Interconnect Consortium, a group of 100 organizations creating cloud-native software standards for the Internet of Things (IoT). He has 15 years experience in open source software and, at a major chip manufacturer, led efforts in Web technologies and HTML 5, participated in expansion of Ethernet to 100 mbit/sec, and managed board and operating system products. He also advanced computer architecture at a minicomputer company with a strong presence in industrial automation.

Allan "Mike" Peters is manager business development at M2M-Access, a division of Onyx Engineering. M2M-Access specializes in systems integration and custom solution builds within the IIoT space. He has helped numerous companies adopt technologies that have positively influenced bottom lines and helped maintain or expand market share. He developed an economic development strategy for Ontario’s largest natural gas utility and managed that program for 5 years before venturing into the private sector. 

Questions and answers

Q: What will be the durability of things on the IIoT?

Mike Peters: Durability of things on the Industrial Internet of Things will largely depend on:

  • Hardware source-tested, certified against the conditions or environment
  • Network reliability and back-ups—if the system continually fails it will be discarded at a pretty significant expense
  • Installation—hardware needs to be installed where it will not be interfered with (a no-brainer)
  • Device packaging—to protect against environmental conditions. Device manufacturers will say their devices will last, but I would ask for one to test and then send it to a test lab with a list of conditions to test against.

Q: What are some IIoT best practices?

Peters: There are many, but perhaps the most is identifying a stand-alone pilot project that will generate immediate return on investment (ROI), demonstrate to all the effectiveness of the technology, and provide a stepping stone to further deployment.

Q: How important is interoperability to IIoT?

Mike Richmond: Interoperability is important to IIoT for several reasons:

  • No one vendor may offer all of the device types an application needs.
  • Interoperability tends to lead to more products in a category leading to competitive pricing.
  • Standards-based product use tends to ensure that products will be available in a category for a long time, to assure that spares are available even if the original vendor’s product is not.

Q: In a smart factory solution, what are some key system integration challenges?

Peters: The key systems integration challenges largely center upon managing the complexity of integrating existing and future communications systems (wired and wireless). Add to this managing the huge amounts of data that will be generated beyond what is already generated by existing systems and integrating all that in a coherent manner that protects past legacy system investments.

Q: Neither Ethernet nor Internet nor Java were built with security in mind. How are we expected to cope with the security burden imposed by the millions of devices that may need patching and other vulnerability prevention items in the IoT?

Richmond: Traffic on one branch of a switched Ethernet network is not visible to nodes on other branches, unlike the original coax-based Ethernets. In my talk, I was recommending JavaScript, not Java, but any programming environment, including native C programming is going to have security challenges. I won’t sugar-coat it. If you aren’t prepared to update devices in an IoT environment, don’t deploy them.

Q: We heard a lot about node.js, but what about handling the amount of data? Isn’t big data and handling that data a vital part of the implementation?

Richmond: Absolutely, we just didn’t have time to talk about it. But if you build your IoT applications end-to-end using cloud-based techniques, you’ll be well-positioned to use big data analytics solutions that are also cloud-based.

Q: As an industry, the industrial segment has been historically conservative when it comes to change. How can necessary changes be made?

Peters: Change happens quickly, and solution vendors are always at the door trying to sell something new and advanced. The issue is complexity and cost. If a new wireless router comes out for my home that costs $300 but promises me a new world of speed and connectivity I might buy it, even if I just bought a $200 router last year. This is not the case in many industrial settings where investments are huge, and systems are complex. One of the strongest features of IIoT is that with the right systems integrator past investments can be protected and new advances made modularly.

Q: Which sub-segments have been the most active early adopters for IIoT?

Peters: Slide 37 from the Webcast covered IIoT markets and submarkets. In my mind, the earliest adopters are:

  • Health: Monitoring
  • Energy: All aspects largely due to geography and distance
  • Transportation: Marine, rail, and trucking
  • Smart Cities: Water distribution, wastewater, and security
  • Manufacturing: Mining, oil and gas supply chain, again due to geography and distance
  • Other: Environmental monitoring.

Q: What role can Silicon Valley startups play to advance IIoT objectives?

Peters: There is a world of opportunity for startups (from anywhere) in this space across all aspects of the IIoT ecosystem—namely devices, networks, applications, sensors, and support services.

Q: How is end-to-end IIoT being secured today without gaps in the security path? (End-to-end means from the IoT sensor all the way to where the information will be worked with.)

CE: Cyber security advice is available in this Control Engineering Webcast: "Cyber security technologies and strategies, tips for industrial control systems" https://www.controleng.com/media-library/webcast-archive.html and on the Control Engineering cyber security page

Q: Internet of Everything (IoE) and IIoT are considered an evolution of communication. The focus is on helping established businesses leverage the benefits of IIoT. What strategy would you recommend for a greenfield project, where no infrastructure exists?

Peters: For a new installation of IIoT, follow the same advice for an established business, except without the advantage of an established environment. Developing models and assumptions can be risky without the help of a systems integrator from your vertical industry, such as agriculture, waste water, etc.

Q: What is the biggest difference between Industry 4.0 and IIoT?

Peters: In my view, both will in some way assist or lead the movement toward global deployment standards. The main difference is one comes from an independent country, and the other comes from an industry consortium. These two very different paths and philosophies are heading in the same direction.

– Edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager for Control Engineering, mhoske@cfemedia.com, which is part of CFE Media, along with Plant Engineering, Oil & Gas Engineering, and other publications. Hoske also moderated the Webcast.

ONLINE extra

See four other IIoT/Industry 4.0 Webcasts

See IIoT/Industry 4.0 research

Control Engineering industrial wireless tutorials

Control Engineering Ethernet page.

Control Engineering cyber security page