by Ralf Neubert, Senior Director of Innovation and Technology, Industry Business, Schneider Electric
The IIoT promises more operational efficiency and lower costs thanks to close coupling of machines and systems.
The advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) has brought the need for more connected components and for designing with automation in mind. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), or what some like to call Industry 4.0, is characterized by greater intelligence integrated into components. This intelligence gives design engineers the ability to pinpoint sources of inefficiency and incorporate greater sustainability, speed and cost savings into machines.
Ultimately, the IIoT is changing how engineers work when designing automation components. Connected machines will give design engineers the opportunity to identify points of inefficiency, make improvements, and in turn, boost profitability. The resulting smart manufacturing enterprise will be more efficient, safer and sustainable.
Today, some smart devices are fully online, driving efficiency and productivity within machines and on the factory floor. Ethernet is being built into the backbone of most products, so third parties can develop modules using the standard Ethernet protocol and hardware layer. These moves facilitate an IT/OT convergence (where OT is operational technology, simply: people and technology that supports industrial processes) for a component that is truly ready to integrate in the IIoT architecture.
Leveraging intelligent products to advance the IIoT
One example is Ethernet-connected motors and drives that provide operational insight to plant managers at a device level. Energy management calculations, diagnostics, pump curve information and other data become easier to monitor. These smart connected products can enable data analysis locally without overloading higher-level systems residing either on-premises or in the cloud.
Digital applications and services will also help end users realize the better business performance promised by the IIoT. Simple data collection must be extended to include analytics that deliver valuable business information. Some examples of such applications and services include installation optimization, asset management and protection, condition-based monitoring, augmented reality applications, and OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) calculations.
How IIoT affects design engineers
As the IIoT spreads, it forces design engineers to rethink their products and applications. The promise is that this rethinking will lead to increased operational efficiency and lower costs.
Furthermore, these smart connected devices operate as part of a larger system. So the plants of tomorrow will be more connected as well. For example, in the future, automation control functions may even move to cloud-based infrastructures.
As these changes arise, design engineers will orchestrate the functions of cloud-based services and control functions at the device level. Designers will have to consider the whole lifecycle of a system or product. Architecture choices like open protocols, platform-independent application program interfaces will be good routes to better efficiency.
There are challenges for designers of IIoT devices and systems. They must understand interfaces and how to access them to provide and consume the right data at run-time. Common communication interfaces that implement and extend applications faster will help open and harmonize standards like OPC unified architecture embedded in devices.
Security will be a key concern and adopting a “secure by design” strategy will be a must in the IIoT arena. Design engineers will need to include options for encryption. Application security and access control will define the devices connected to the network and the permissions those devices have. In addition, protocol security and application security will need to be consistent. Supply chain security will be an issue as well, starting with the coding of products, their manufacturing, delivery, installation, maintenance and disposal. Having services in place to help customers keep systems secure will be critical in the IIoT era.
All in all, IIoT allows Big Data to be processed with new, advanced analytics tools. It also lets mobile technologies drive greater business value. Plus, it enables more efficiency and profitability, better cybersecurity, innovation, management of safety, and reduced CO2 emissions.