For industrial companies, the ability to interact with physical equipment has never been easier. Now you have the ability to access vast amounts of data from a variety of sources in order to make meaningful business decisions. Many of your competitors are making meaningful investments in such systems. There’s an urgency to get started with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIot) and you might not be able to wait until tomorrow. Here are 6 critical factors you need to consider when implementing IIoT.
Start with the end in mind. Most highly engineered systems already have lots of data collection, engineering knowledge, and deep understanding of how things are supposed to work. Just because an IIoT solution could identify abnormal equipment behavior, is it valuable? Even if it’s valuable, is it actionable?
In order to assess these questions, it’s important you make sure you’re able to create meaningful value in the new data landscape before you implement an IIoT solution. To do this, there are some key ingredients you need to cover:
- You need data engineering expertise to understand how and when you'll access and process massive volumes of data.
- You need data science expertise to understand what data is required to solve specific problems.
- You need business process understanding to understand how you could use insights from analytics to make better and faster decisions.
You don’t need to have all this expertise in-house. However, make sure you cover all areas.
Many people think IIoT requires uninterrupted connectivity through a robust and reliable communications network. However, many industrial assets operate in remote or rugged environments without persistent Internet access. When considering how to implement an IIoT solution, the frequency of sampling and streaming data, and the underlying edge computing and communications infrastructure, go hand-in-hand with what problems you need solved in what time frame. Before investing in expensive infrastructure, it's important you understand such considerations.
Operators need to monitor assets in real time to ensure those assets are performing optimally. They need to balance increased visibility and notifications in a way that doesn’t cause alarm fatigue or information overload given existing controls systems. Insights need to be actionable. It’s not enough to detect an anomaly. That insight must be valuable. It’s not even enough for the insight to be valuable - it needs to be actionable in a time frame that makes sense. All of this visibility is in the context of existing control systems, and potentially existing OEM or other third-party monitoring solutions. Make sure you have the right amount of visibility for the specific problems you’re trying to solve.
Make sure you’re able to scale your IIoT system so you can easily accommodate new components/devices and handle increasing data loads without any trouble. IoT solutions must scale seamlessly, both now and later, to support thousands of new sensors and devices as well as existing non-IoT devices. Users also need to be able to incorporate this information into actionable results, in a way that integrates with existing processes and systems.
Converging information technology (IT) with operational technology (OT) is challenging, as they have been developed separately with independent system architectures not meant to be connected. A fully functional IoT solution requires seamless data sharing between your different assets from different manufacturers and other complex systems within your organization. Make sure your IIoT solutions integrate, support various data sets and protocols, and work reliably with the systems. The best way to approach this is often with "infrastructure on demand". This means connecting just those assets and data systems required to solve specific business problems, and then scaling the rollout after the value is proven.
Cybersecurity threats are coming at us from every direction and the actors are becoming more and more sophisticated. Even in industrial organizations. Connecting components to one another and to outside networks increase the risk of unauthorized intrusion and can result in financial losses and personal harm. Every device or sensor represents a potential risk. It’s imperative you make the IoT system secure from the ground up and integrate security in the IIoT implementation plan.
Make sure you set up a plan where you integrate and consider all these critical factors before you start implementing. Good luck.