By Stephen Mellor, CTO of the Industrial Internet Consortium
The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) is little over two-weeks old, but it's already at work.
As its mission states, the Industrial Internet Consortium intends "to accelerate growth of the Industrial Internet by coordinating ecosystems initiatives to connect and integrate objects with people, processes and data using common architectures, interoperability and open standards that lead to transformational business outcomes." To make that a reality, we have established several Working Groups (WGs), including the Technology and Security WGs, of which I am the team lead. Team participants include some of the industry's who's-who in their field: Lead Architects, Distinguished Engineers, Senior Scientists and more.
Based on an analysis of what needs to be done, we have established a set of deliverables (which will be refined over time, of course) and identified those that need to be tackled first. These deliverables are:
Use cases to identify industry needs, technology gaps and architectural requirements. What don't we have that's necessary to perform industrial internet functions? Well, the first step has to be identifying what those functions are. We can never find them all -- nor would we want to, the whole purpose being to enable applications of which we know nothing. (When Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the URL, did he anticipate an online pornography industry?) But what we can do is find blue-sky applications of the industrial internet, and abstract from those what technologies we need to make them a reality.
Framework for the construction of reference architectures. We need open architectures if we are to support the applications of the future, but how should we represent such a beast? We require a form that is lightweight -- easy to understand and pick up and use right away. We'd also prefer to avoid duplication of effort, and make use of prior work. This is why we have a team focused on establishing this framework, before we actually construct the architecture.
Glossary of terms. I know what the Industrial Internet is, and so do you, but do we mean the same thing? Ambiguity is a feature of natural language, but in technical conversations it's a bug. We want to avoid conversations that begin "When I say Industrial Internet, I mean..." and establish a common vocabulary and vernacular. We hope too to make those terms universal within the industry.
What happened to the working groups? The Technology WG initially identified these deliverables, and when the Security WG saw them they realized immediately that they need:
- Use cases against which they could model threats and establish vulnerabilities
- A framework for the reference architectures onto which they could layer their security framework, and
- A common set of terms
Accordingly, the members of the two WGs are now working together in these teams and meet as a working group only to coordinate the teams' work.
It's a lot of work with an aggressive schedule ("yesterday would be good"), but it pays to ensure that the requirements are broadly based from many vertical industries, and the architectural foundation is firmly grounded. While the scope is daunting, we have top talent -- with more joining us weekly -- from a broad range of companies that are working collaboratively to address these challenges.
From time to time, I'll update this blog with the workings from these committees. In between, you can reach me at [email protected].
Stephen Mellor is the Chief Technology Officer for the IIC, where he directs the standards requirements and priorities for the Industrial Internet. He is a well-known technology consultant on methods for the construction of real-time and embedded systems. Stephen is the author of Structured Development for Real-Time Systems, Object Lifecycles, Executable UML, and MDA Distilled. He is also a signatory to the Agile Manifesto. Until recently, he was Chief Scientist of the Embedded Software Division at Mentor Graphics, and founder and some-time president of Project Technology, Inc., before its acquisition. He participates in multiple UML/modeling related activities at the Object Management Group, and was a member of the OMG's Architecture Board, which is the final technical gateway for all OMG standards. Stephen was the Chairman of the Advisory Board to IEEE Software for ten years and a two-time Guest Editor of the magazine, most recently for an issue on Model-Driven Development. He is also an adjunct professor at the Australian National University in Canberra, ACT, Australia. He can be reached via email at [email protected].