The IIC’s new reference architecture provides a comprehensive perspective on best practices for implementing AI in Industrial IoT environments
By Wael William Diab
Chair, Industry IoT Consortium Industrial AI Task Group
The Industrial Internet of Things integrates the industrial assets and machines—the things—with enterprise information systems, business processes and people who operate or use them.
With these connections to the industrial assets and machines, modern technologies enable the application of AI to machine and operational process data to gain insights into the operations, optimize them intelligently to boost productivity, increase quality, reduce energy and material consumption, increase flexibility and ultimately create new business value.
All this must be done while maintaining commitments to safety, reliability, resilience, security and data privacy as the trustworthiness of the systems and conservation of the environment as social values.
IIoT is a natural extension of the industrial and internet revolutions. IIoT is a major force driving economic growth, now and for the coming decades, at a greater pace than prior revolutions. As outlined by the World Economic Forum,2F “The first industrial revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The second used electric power to create mass production. The third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now, a fourth industrial revolution is building on what has preceded it, blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres.”
To accelerate this digital revolution the Industry IoT Consortium (IIC) is advancing the technology of IIoT across a diverse set of application domains.
The Application of AI to IoT Applications
Industrial artificial intelligence is the application of AI to IoT applications in industry, in areas like smart manufacturing, robotics, predictive maintenance, diagnosis of infectious disease with machine learning and autonomous vehicles.
The use of AI is pervasive in the enterprise, helping organizations achieve significant benefits in terms of better insight, faster decisions and more effective operations. In particular, AI plays a key role in driving the IT/OT convergence with a growing range of practical applications in industry, for example automating routine labor tasks, driving autonomous vehicles, understanding speech and performing medical diagnostics. Industrial AI is a major contributor to value creation in the fourth industrial revolution.
In a new white paper entitled “Industrial IoT Artificial Intelligence Framework,” the IIC has developed an AI reference architecture for industry. The document looks at the considerations that must be addressed during an AI implementation’s full lifecycle within an IIoT system, from design to implementation and operation.
This Industrial AI Framework uses the architecture viewpoints of the IIoT, viewpoints for short, as defined in the IIC Industrial Internet Reference Architecture (IIRA):
- Business Viewpoint,
- Usage Viewpoint,
- Functional Viewpoint and
- Implementation Viewpoint.
The reference architecture leverages the ISO/IEC/IEEE 42010:20115F5F methodology to identify these four viewpoints. It also highlights four important terms from this standard:
- Stakeholders are individuals, teams, or organizations that have an interest in a system.
- System concerns are interests in a system relevant to one or more of its stakeholders.
- Architecture views are work products expressing the architecture of a system from the perspective of specific system concerns.
- Architecture viewpoints are work products that establish the conventions for the construction, interpretation and use of architecture views to frame specific concerns.
The architecture viewpoints identify relevant stakeholders and their concerns and articulates how these concerns are addressed. A stakeholder may have more than one type of concern, for example an executive may have business concerns as well as concerns about implementation; a system architect may have usage concerns as well as functional and implementation concerns.
Figure: Industrial Internet Viewpoints. Source: IIC IIRA.
The viewpoints provide different perspectives of the complex IIoT system and taken together (as shown in the figure) express the system’s architecture.
- The Business Viewpoint attends to the concerns of the identification of stakeholders and their business vision, values and objectives in establishing an IIoT system in its business and regulatory context. It further identifies how the IIoT system achieves the stated objectives through its mapping to fundamental system capabilities.
- The Usage Viewpoint addresses the concerns of expected system usage, typically represented as sequences of activities involving human or logical (e.g. system or system components) users that deliver its intended functionality, ultimately achieving its fundamental system capabilities.
- The Functional Viewpoint focuses on the functional components in an IIoT system, their structure and interrelation, the interfaces and interactions between them, and the relation and interactions of the system with external elements in the environment, to support the usages and activities of the overall system.
- The Implementation Viewpoint deals with the technologies needed to implement functional components (functional viewpoint), their communication schemes and their lifecycle procedures. These elements are coordinated by activities (usage viewpoint) and supportive of the system capabilities (business viewpoint).
For AI technology, the architecture viewpoints can help current and aspiring providers and operators of AI-enabled IIoT systems to identify and gauge the value that AI technology can bring to the system’s design and operation.
The viewpoints facilitate a systematic way to identify industrial AI system concerns and their stakeholders and bring similar or related concerns together so they can be analyzed and addressed effectively.
To learn more, download the Industrial IoT Artificial Intelligence Framework at https://www.iiconsortium.org/pdf/Industrial-AI-Framework-Final-2022-02-21.pdf
 World Economic Forum (2016): The Fourth Industrial Revolution: What it Means, How to Respond. https://bit.ly/3CRmjzz.
 IIC: Industrial Internet Reference Architecture. Refer to Annex C for details.