Managing processes with the IIoT

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is creating more streamlined and efficient methods to manage processes.

By Michael Zhang, Maverick Technologies June 14, 2016

It is becoming more advantageous to switch from legacy technology to Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology because of the widespread innovations and the growing amount of data each plant needs to handle. IIoT technology can provide access control through many mediums (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, etc.), providing a flexible and powerful interconnected system.

With IIoT-supported technology, there is less reliance on localized systems, and it allows organizations the freedom to access live data whenever from wherever. The mobility to access information can provide a more streamlined effort, increasing efficiency and reducing the downtime between operations. These smart devices are revolutionizing the way data is communicated not only via human to 
machine, but machine to machine as well.

Practical applications and benefits

By building a plant around smart technology, organizations are able to monitor live stream of data. What it means for plant operators is the freedom to monitor and resolve any issues from a smart device such as a smartphone, tablet, or laptop.

Because the equipment can communicate remotely, the necessity of having staff on-site around the clock is no longer required. Most issues can be solved remotely using smart devices. Another benefit is the predictive nature of alarms and maintenance. By having real-time communication between devices, preventing any problems before they occur is easier. The caveat is that this equipment can get quite expensive and requires software to tie all of these devices together.

On the manufacturing execution systems (MES) side, legacy equipment such as servers can be overwhelmed by large amounts of incoming/outgoing transactions. IIoT technologies are designed to eliminate the headaches that come from dealing with configurations such as OPC DCOM. Since all of the equipment is connected through the network, data can be saved in a cloud-based server, which is much cheaper and less onerous than traditional dedicated servers. 

IIoT challenges

There are several challenges that IIoT faces. Most of these challenges have to deal with the security, integrity, response times, and cost. Having multiple channels of communication methods means security must be more robust to ensure that these devices are unable to be tampered with remotely. Also, devices requiring network connectivity is a double-edged sword. On one hand it improves the cohesiveness of the system. On the other hand, it provides another avenue where problems can arise such as network issues during a process. Because of this, many IIoT devices will allocate some memory in the case that they do disconnect from the network. However, if it disconnects for an extended period of time, data may possibly be lost during the process.

Even with these potential challenges, the IIoT still has enormous potential and has the ability to track and eliminate inefficiencies, prevent critical errors, and add convenience within a process. As this technology becomes more commonplace, IIoT devices will have more functionality, be more robust, and cheaper.

This post was written by Michael Zhang. Michael is an associate developer at Maverick Technologies, a leading automation solutions provider offering industrial automation, strategic manufacturing, and enterprise integration services for the process industries. Maverick delivers expertise and consulting in a wide variety of areas including industrial automation controls, distributed control systems, manufacturing execution systems, operational strategy, business process optimization, and more.

Maverick Technologies is a CSIA member as of 6/14/2016.