We are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, known as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The IIoT has gained momentum due to its promise of increased efficiencies and better access to the information needed to make critical business decisions. Companies that embraced the movement have transitioned their businesses and technologies from centralized servers and PCs to distributed cloud-based server systems, which bring advanced analytics and business intelligence to where it’s needed most.
However, for those who have yet to make the transition, there are likely many questions around how to take the IIoT from a theoretical concept to something more practical.
To help with this, Moxa has broken down the IIoT into three main pillars to illustrate how data can be collected from your edge devices and transferred to cloud-based platforms so it can be made actionable.
1. Collecting data
Collecting data-enabling IIoT applications requires collecting large amounts of data from numerous sensors and machines. Often times, these sensors and machines may be considered legacy devices that are not compatible with IP-based networks. This is where media and protocol conversion come in.
By leveraging devices such as serial device servers and protocol gateways, you can make your devices interoperable, which makes the data collection process easier and more efficient. Additionally, many companies are incorporating edge-computing platforms for more efficient data processing at the local field site.
Essentially, the first pillar involves the preparation of data before being sent across the network.
2. Connecting data
The second pillar of IIoT connectivity focuses on your internal network and making sure it is designed to handle the vast amounts of device data you plan to collect by looking at network reliability and cybersecurity measures. In fact, this is arguably the most important pillar of your IIoT setup because it’s the backbone of your operations.
To ensure your connection is reliable, it’s important to consider the bandwidth impacts of the new data being collected. Often times, network operators may need to upgrade their current switches, access points, and routers to support the increased levels of traffic. Additionally, this is a good time to consider adding or improving any connection redundancy within your network.
When considering cybersecurity, it’s important to make sure each network device is designed to meet the IEC 62443 Industrial Security Standards. Devices that comply with these standards will offer features around account, identifier and authenticator management, password-based authentication, public key authentication, use control, data integrity and confidentiality, and more.
So in short, the second pillar ensures mission-critical applications stay operational and remain protected from unwanted access. It is the bridge between your end devices and the cloud.
3. Making data actionable
While the first two pillars are fundamental to enabling the IIoT, they generally consist of technology that has been around for decades. The third pillar, on the other hand, tends to be less understood and involves transferring your data securely to a cloud-based platform in order to make it actionable for your business.
However, like with most technology, there isn’t a single way to do this. With a wide range of competing technologies and cloud-based applications, it is often difficult to determine which approach would be best for your business.
To help customers with this, Moxa has compiled information that breaks down the various IIoT platforms and provide a few example architectures that can help your business get connected. A good place to begin is by understanding the various IIoT platforms recently identified by the ARC Advisory Group.