By Todd Snide, Group Senior Expert, Schneider Electric
The Internet of Things is coming and in some industries is already here but is in its infancy. Industrial Automation is ahead of most other industries in the readiness for the Internet of Things (IoT) and more specifically for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). When one looks at the deployment of the sensors, actuators, and low-level devices that are needed to enable IoT or IIoT, Industrial Automation has an advantage.
Most industries are waiting on the deployment of the low-level connected devices to enable IoT in that industry. Industrial Automation on the other hand already has over a billion connected devices deployed. By connected device I mean an end node that is Internet Protocol (IP) enabled or is directly controlled by a proxy device that is IP enabled. On a curve of connected devices needed to make IoT effective, Industrial Automation is much higher up the curve than other industries. That is not to say Industrial Automation is done growing with respect to IoT -- far from it. There will be many more devices deployed at an increasing rate. The rate of growth will be lower with respect to some of the other industries and especially in regards to commodity device industries. The Industrial Automation rate of growth will still be impressive.
(A cartoon by the author)
Where Industrial Automation may be lagging other industries is in the gathering of useful data and the use of this data. Much of the information that resides on the end device that could be useful is not gathered. Data that is not consumed at the field or process levels in the traditional Industrial Automation hierarchy is not gathered. If it is gathered, the data is not being sent up the network in most cases. The value of this data is increasing and Industrial Automation networks are starting to collect the data and communicate this data farther up the hierarchy. Energy usage and concerns are the first initiative spurring the change in the data transmission strategy. However if the data is not used then there is no reason to collect it.
With all these enabled connected devices in Industrial Automation and the desire to communicate more data there is a concern for cyber security. Stuxnet taught us this. Cyber security is being addressed. Even in resource constrained devices there are solutions to support encryption and other cyber security requirements. The Scalable Encryption Algorithm (SEA) is an example.
The Industrial Internet of Things will change how Industrial Automation networks are designed and used, both now and in the future. IIoT will increase the productivity of the Industrial Automation network. With the large number of currently deployed connected end devices, the understanding of the value of new data that is available at the end device, the deployment of cyber security practices, Industrial Automation is already part of the Internet of Things. There are more changes to come for Industrial Automation and IIoT. Industrial Automation is ready for these changes as well.
This post originally appeared on the Schneider Electric blog