Written by Keri Gunther, IIoT and Computing Division Manager
The internet of things (IoT) has significantly changed O&M at many wind farms. IoT provides near real-time access to information and data from internet-connected devices, such as turbine sensors and condition-monitoring software. It lets wind-farm operators monitor and regulate much of a turbine’s operations through remote access, which may result in tremendous time and cost savings.
Wind operators or techs no longer have to visit a wind site, typically hours or days away, to determine asset health. They can simply access data online through a click of a keyboard or touch of a smartphone.
An industrial-grade IoT network offers wind-farm operators many benefits including improved operational management, access to real-time data, and automatic system warnings. Such advantages can also apply to centralized office, control centers, or manufacturing facilities. By connecting devices via the Internet it is possible quickly and efficiently share and extract pertinent information, ultimately streamlining and optimizing operations.
For example, IoT-connected sensors let manufacturers monitor in-house tools or track turbine components that are in storage or en-route to a project site. IoT technology can also be used to monitor equipment use, employee workload, or simply adjust the office temperature.
One way a business can leverage IoT technologies safely and efficiently is to transfer data from centralized servers and PCs to distributed cloud-based server systems. Cloud-based systems are optimized for storing large volumes of data and sharing it with minimum latency. There are additional benefits to using a cloud-based server.
- A quicker time to market. For most companies, installing IoT onsite involves network infrastructure upgrades to accommodate the rise in data traffic. It also means building new data management and analysis capabilities, and deploying new devices and sensors. This typically results in high costs and is a drain on company infrastructure. Alternatively, cloud-based IoT offers quick and simple deployment at a lower cost.
- Greater data mobility. Data that’s stored in a cloud server is accessible from almost anywhere and free from infrastructural or networking constraints. A quality system lets users connect devices and sensors to powerful data acquisition and analytics applications in the cloud, which can then process data so it’s available in any format.
- It’s scalable. A cloud-based IoT system means there’s no need to maintain complex network infrastructure, development platforms, or applications typically required to process IoT data. It’s flexible and lets companies scale up and down depending on their storage requirements.
The IoT transition
For companies contemplating a cloud-based IoT transition, the task may seem daunting. Here are three key steps that describe how data can be collected from edge devices and transferred to cloud-based platforms, quickly and easily.
- Collecting data. Step one involves prep work to ensure reliable transfer of data across a network. Enabling IoT applications requires collecting large amounts of data from many sensors and devices. Typically, these are outdated, legacy devices that are incompatible with IP-based networks. So it is important to employ serial device servers (which transfers data between a computer serial port and an Ethernet local area network) and protocol gateways (which enable devices to communication) to ensure device interoperably. This, in turn, makes data collection easier and more efficient.
- Connecting data. The second step of IoT connectivity focuses on a company’s internal network to ensure it is reliable and secure. Essentially, it is the bridge between a company’s end devices and the cloud.
To ensure reliability, it is important to assess a network’s bandwidth. Typically, network operators will need to upgrade current switches, access points, and routers to support the increased levels of data traffic. Additionally, this is a good time to consider adding or improving connection redundancy within the network. This design uses multiple or redundant pathways to prevent loss of control or data in the event of unexpected network failures.
To meet cybersecurity standards, it is critical that each network device meets the IEC 62443 Industrial Security Standards. Devices that comply with these standards offer important security features, such as user control, password-based authentication, account, identifier, and authenticator management, data integrity and confidentiality, and others. This ensures mission-critical applications stay operational and remain protected from unwanted access.
3. Transferring data. The third step involves transferring data securely to a cloud-based platform. There are multiple ways to do so, and determining which approach is best for a business is key.
Technology research and advisory firm, ARC Advisory Group recently identified four new platforms needed for IoT digital enterprise:
- Device connectivity platform: the hardware and software required to enable connectivity between the cloud and field data.
- Cloud computing platform: the on-demand delivery of computing, database storage, and other IT resources through a cloud services platform.
- Cloud application platform: the software platform that runs the applications. Both the computing and application platforms can be summarized as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), a service model that delivers computer infrastructure on an outsourced basis to support enterprise operations. Typically, IaaS provides hardware, storage, and network applications.
- Cloud analytics platform: The system that analyzes data and provides intelligent, actionable suggestions.
Choosing the right cloud-based IoT service provider is key to successfully harnessing data and turning it into real actionable insights for your business. Do your research. A quality IoT platform should make tasks and business decisions easier and more efficient.