Use industrial Internet of things to propel automation investments, higher productivity

Interest in the industrial Internet of things (IIoT) seems likely to spur greater automation investments and, with that, greater manufacturing productivity, suggested Dr. Richard Soley, Industrial Internet Consortium executive director, at the Moxa Global Distributor Conference.

By Mark T. Hoske September 6, 2014

More automation investments and higher manufacturing productivity seem the likely results of greater interest in the industrial Internet of things (IIoT), suggested Dr. Richard Soley, Industrial Internet Consortium executive director, at the Moxa Global Distributor Conference. Soley, the Sept. 3 keynote speaker, said, "Industrial IoT is the Next Industrial Revolution." With greater connectivity comes greater responsibilities for cyber security policies, procedures, and technologies, he said, noting a May 9, 2013, online heist where cyber criminals stole $45 million. 

Too slow to change

Soley scoffed at the idea that the Internet has changed everything, giving multiple examples where it hasn’t changed quickly enough.

  • In 1980, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), such as Modicon 584 programmable controllers, were using ladder diagram programming, as some work on expert systems to automate debugging. The same is true today.
  • Energy grids are largely manual, with little built-in monitoring and intelligence, perhaps even at greater risk, now, with so many more variables than 30 years ago. 
  • When airplanes pull into a gate, jet engine data should be downloaded over a high-speed connection, analyzed against setpoints for any degradation, so maintenance crews have up-to-date status reports nearly instantaneously. That doesn’t happen, but it should.
  • In hospitals, oxygen sensors often fail, so medical professionals may ignore related alarms for too long for a patient’s own good. If O2 sensor information was correlated with respiration sensors, reliable, life-saving alarms could save lives. No one does that integration, Soley said.
  • Oil and gas data integration is needed from multiple sensing sources to provide tenth of a second decision making for critical assets, such as oil rig drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Most information is crunched remotely, and satellite communications alone take a quarter to a half second for data transfer to the locations with the computing resources. Not good.
  • Rail and transport don’t use real-time information integration nearly enough and could augment safety, comfort, and efficiency by doing so.
  • Homes are just beginning to use truly smart and easier to use energy management systems (smart meters and smart thermostats).
  • How can we prevent reoccurrences of major financial system meltdowns? What if markets were monitored for similar patterns and steps are taken before the meltdown? Such monitoring is now required in the U.K., Germany, Japan, and the U.S., but current systems do not have the required connections to millions of sensors worldwide or the ability to analyze against benchmarks, nor do they provide visualization and decision support as needed, Soley noted.

Huge industrial opportunities

The Internet has changed nothing in many places, Soley said, but potential benefits are huge, especially for industrial applications.

Citing GE statistics (GE coined "IIoT"), Soley said:

  • Industrial sectors benefiting from industrial Internet opportunities account for $32.3 trillion in economic activities.
  • The 1% savings resulting from efficient applications of industrial Internet solutions could save billions in operational costs: $30 billion fuel savings per year in the aviation industry, $66 billion in savings for gas-powered fleets, and a $90 billion reduction in oil and gas industry costs.

Various sources have various estimates, Soley said; though most suggest that by 2020 there will be at least 50 billion smart objects connected to the Internet.

Data is doubling about every 20 months. Stored information in the world now totals 1200 exabytes. With all that, agility, predictive analytics, security, and privacy concerns remain high. Companies need to be able to sense what’s going on, integrate that information, and deliver decision support to decision makers, Soley said.

More connections? How?

How will that connectivity happen? Government, industries, big data advocates, those concerned with security, academia, and manufacturers are looking at ways to cooperate and create standards for connected technologies via the Industrial Internet Consortium, Soley said. Formed March 27, 2014, with five companies, 68 companies were involved as of August. (Moxa was one of the first to join after the five founding companies (AT&T, Cisco, GE, Intel, and IBM) Soley said, within days after the organization was announced.)

The organization provides testbeds for cyber physical systems, technology, and security, and thought leadership related to IIoT.

Communications in the middle

John Yelland, vice president of Moxa global marketing, said Moxa technologies working in the middle can enable the IIoT. With about 9 billion connected devices to the Internet at present, the IIoT will drive the next industrial revolution, Yelland said, with connected systems to drive data, decisions, and connectivity.

Myriad applications include smart rail, remote diagnostics, signaling controls, passenger safety, entertainment, security, wireless access, traffic light control, remote prioritization, and automated towing. Vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications will decrease travel time and increase throughput. Manufacturing efficiency will increase. Smart marine applications will improve security and decrease costs. Smart oil and gas fields will sustain production 24/7, and power and Smart Grid applications will decrease energy costs and increase reliability.

Moxa is enabling the IIoT, Yelland said, with sensors at machine level, greater connectivity, big data, and analytics. "We fit in the enabling layer in the middle; Moxa in the middle," Yelland said.

The Moxa Distributors Conference, with about 250 attendees this year, is held every three years, in a different region of the world.

– Mark T. Hoske is content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering,

ONLINE extra

The Industrial Internet Consortium says its purpose is to "further development, adoption and wide-spread use of interconnected machines, intelligent analytics and people at work. Through an independently-run consortium of technology innovators, industrial companies, academia and government, the goal of the IIC is to accelerate the development and availability of intelligent industrial automation for the public good." The Industrial Internet Consortium ("IIC") is a trademark of the Object Management Group Inc. (OMG,, a not-for-profit 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization.

Learn more and see a video at 

See links to other IIoT articles below. 

Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.