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A New Era, A New Lexicon, A New Challenge

Winter 2016

CEO, Hilscher North AmericaWhether the forecast of tens of billions of devices connected by 2020 is right or not, we at Hilscher are now certain of the IIoT future for automation. And our customers are confirming we are on the right track.
You may have heard about our partnership with IBM in implementing John Deere’s strategy—the Smart Manufacturing Platform—for getting more from their factory data. Their aim is to make better products more effectively. We’ve also announced an agreement with SAP to provide field-level data via our netIOT Edge Gateway to the SAP HANA Cloud Platform and the SAP Asset Intelligence Network for improved asset management.
I keep hearing: “So, how much does all this cost?” Well, in hardware terms at least, it is very cost-effective indeed and can fit all budgets. Multi-million dollar investments are no longer needed to deploy an advanced system.

Along with the change IIoT is bringing to industry, a new lexicon is emerging that we must all get familiar with.

For example, we hear more and more about “on-premise” data processing. Rather than send data to the cloud and wait for a reply, processing happens within the edge gateway.

That may not sound like a full-blown IoT implementation, but believe me it fills a big gap, especially in automation. On-premise gateways support open-source software as well as a variety of “as-a-service” solutions, so running applications such as IBM Watson locally becomes feasible. Imagine having the power of Watson analyzing your equipment today!

Then there’s the tantalizing “promiscuous mode” of operation. Hilscher’s netIOT Edge Gateway has the ability to listen to everything on the network—including regular control activity—and write data to the cloud. In this scenario, remote applications can be configured for “read only,” which ensures the separation of IT and the field to prevent security breaches.

Node-RED, an open source solution for configuring IIoT structures, is another term and technology gaining prominence.

It is at the heart of Hilscher’s “Thing Editor,” which makes designing and building IIoT functions really easy. I guarantee you’ll be seeing much more of Node-RED in the IIoT future.

Amid all this change and new terms, many things remain the same. Well-proven technologies like OPC UA and MQTT (see article top left) are becoming increasingly relevant. OPC UA offers multiple benefits. It supports secure data collection both horizontally and vertically within a network, and even upwards into the cloud. Via its embeddable OPC UA Nano and Micro profiles, it facilitates reading data from field devices that no PLC would be interested in and will encourage the evolution of smarter devices that deliver data such as temperature, vibration, current and voltage from field devices in parallel with real-time monitoring and control data.

With all these features—and more—IIoT is destined to add a new dimension to operations.
New ways of monitoring and control will evolve and could lead to new ways for vendors to work with customers; for example, the leasing of machines or the continuous monitoring and improvement of equipment by the OEM in real time.

Who knows what other benefits will arise as users become familiar with what’s available. It’s a genuinely disruptive scenario that could put early adopters well ahead of competitors.

The opportunities appear limitless. But don’t worry, even with the major changes being brought by IIoT, you stay in control; it’s your skills, experience and creativity that ultimately count.
The biggest question of all is: What exactly do you want to achieve?

IIoT is kick-starting a new era in automation. Are you up for the challenge?

From an article originally published in Automation World and reproduced here with permission.