Why is the connection piece so hard?

By IoT Now Magazine

Increased usage of digital technologies by the manufacturing industry is inevitable but, while the shift is gradual, the pressure to go faster is greatWhen Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) and the Industry of Things World Conference conducted a survey to find out how successful industrial IoT (IIoT) projects have been in the last 12 months, the responses uncovered that only 53% of respondents thought their IIoT projects had met or exceeded goals. The remaining 47% said their goals had not been reached.

IIoT isn’t about companies buying a technology and suddenly they’re digital. It’s an entire architecture which encompasses an ecosystem with careful communication across various touchpoints within an organisation, all of which requires common standards as well as new technology architectures to create convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT).

One critical and common chokepoint is a lack of understanding about device connection. Even if devices are connected, there are often no simple tools to manage the devices in order to extract and transmit the data out of one language into another; for example the transmission and translation of programmable logic controller (PLC) data into enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

Let’s look at the top five things to consider about the connection puzzle and how to weave them into your overall plan.

1. Getting things connected is easier said than done

During the discovery phase, many IIoT vendors gloss over this. Once manufacturers decide to take the plunge, they suddenly realise that connecting to all these different devices – legacy and modern, proprietary and open source – is really difficult, and results in significant delays which blow up the original projected timeframe.

If you’ve ever engineered systems on the plant floor, you know there are those things down on the plant floor that are a nightmare to connect to and integrate with a variety of other applications. A simple data collection task can end up taking weeks of custom coding.

2. Embrace complexity

There is no single standard way of connecting everything together. Over time, the industrial plant floor has evolved as technology has changed. For better or for worse, this advancement also means more complexity and it is not going away; in fact, it will increase.

As a result, plant floors have a mixture of device brands, different protocols, and different proprietary data sets. Embracing complexity means we accept there are a lot of moving parts in IIoT solutions that we need to link together for success and that requires a level of expertise which is better addressed as a holistic solution versus a complicated system of patch work.

3. Prepare for latency

One piece that addresses complexity is open platform communications (OPC). OPC was designed to provide industrial automation with a standard networking protocol that requires polling to receive data from devices. Polling is where the system must ask the device for data at a preset rate, such as once every second or once every half hour.

OPC requires multiple steps to send data; it is not point A to point B. A typical path looks like this: PLC […]

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Posted on: January 18, 2018

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