How open platforms and edge computing help manufacturers ease Internet of Things (IoT) deployments.
Some people call it “islands of automation,” some call it “the industrial automation black hole.”1 Whatever it's called, though, the large mix of equipment, disparate systems and legacy assets operating in most plants today present real challenges to make the connections necessary to implement a true, effective IoT system.
In fact, companies say security and integration with information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) systems are their two greatest barriers to IoT adoption, according to a 2018 Bain & Co. survey.
Manufacturers can ease the connectivity challenge by deploying open integration and communications technologies.
MindSphere from Siemens is one example of an open, cloud-based IoT platform that can ease integration. MindSphere can take data from existing enterprise systems, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), manufacturing execution systems (MES), and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, alongside other data historians and create a global connection with the other industrial equipment, regardless of type or brand.
The real power here, though, is the ability to move these connections and this data from the cloud into the field. This is where edge computing comes into play. Edge computing happens close to where the actual activity is taking place rather than sending it to a central cloud database.
“The integration of edge computing within industrial clouds enables us to stick with the benefits of cloud-based systems, like quick and easy software updates, while at the same time profiting from the advantages of local data processing, like data security and quick reactions of control applications and environment within an industrial production process,” writes Michael Skubacz, head of industry software for Motion Control Systems at Siemens’ Digital Industries.
MindSphere can connect to edge management systems so manufacturers can gain the benefits of the cloud with the strengths of a local solution. Edge analytics is becoming increasingly important in operations as manufacturers realize its ability to bring processing power closer to the sensors and other data-collection devices, according to Bain & Co.
Understanding which technologies can ease the IoT integration process may require some outside help, including partnering with an established solutions partner. For a closer look at some of the key strategies manufacturers can employ to seamlessly connect their machines, read “IoT Connectivity: 5 Ways to Make Legacy Equipment Smart.”
This content was developed together with IoT World.
1Reuters, “Industry 4.0: Connecting the Unconnected”