Full value cannot be achieved without connection and uniformity
In cooperation with RS Ireland
The biggest hurdle for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is standardized data communication. Only when open data standards are embraced by the automation manufacturing community can the true value and operational benefits of IIoT be realized.
Open wireless networks
One challenge facing the IIoT is the need to connect devices, often older ones that are not Ethernet enabled, or those that are beyond the reach of wired Ethernet networks. While IEEE 802.11 WiFi networks are a solution, their range and other technical limitations can be a hindrance.
LoRaWAN and Sigfox
Low power open networks, wider areas (LoRaWAN) can meet the growing demands of massive IoT applications Their combination of low device integration cost, low connection tariffs, low power, high capacity of network and long range have made them attractive to industrial applications which often require that a small amount of data be transmitted frequently.
4G and beyond
There is a lot of excitement about the advent of 5G, but the reality for industrial applications is that 3 / 4G offers more than enough in terms of data rates and latency for the vast majority of industrial IoT tasks.
Mobile network coverage is constantly improving and the choice of industrial mobile devices, such as modems and routers, is constantly expanding. This combined with the relatively low subscription and hardware costs makes mobile connectivity an attractive option for many IIoT projects.
Open data standards
Industrial IoT enables a wider range of technologies that were not previously connected to IP-based networks and connects them through new, emerging networks. However, they still need a common way to communicate if the information is usable. Therefore, there is a strong case for standardized ‘middleware’ which may be the activated key in this fourth industrial revolution. The OPC Unified Architecture (OPC AI) is a standard that can make this a reality.
The OPC AI addresses the need for standardized data connectivity and interoperability in either machine-to-machine (M2M) data interconnection within factory floor systems or data transfer from device to cloud or server, such as output data that switch from PLC to an ERP system. In both cases OPC AI provides a secure, reliable foundation strong enough to facilitate the connection and interoperability of standard-based data.
The true value of IIoT can only be fully realized if communication between devices is based on a global communication standard that can meet a wide range of complex requirements. This can be a high-speed one-to-one transmission communication, or a secure client / server model for two-way communication and control. OPC AI supports both requirements.
Beyond the simple sharing of ‘data’, an essential IIoT era standard should facilitate the rich exchange of information, especially important when large amounts of data are collected (aggregated) by a diversified ecosystem of third party systems third found in typical production environments. Object-oriented information modeling mechanisms of the OPC AI standard directly meet this requirement by standardizing the description of semantic data, enabling the possibility of integration in all layers of the network, as well as the independence of the platform and vendor.
If IIoT is to become ‘business as usual’, the need to find a platform for data-independent data exchange is paramount. In many ways it is the missing piece of the puzzle as there are numerous technologies which can help in tracking device level data in a network, IO-Link is an example. However, allowing this data to be shared seamlessly and securely is vital to allowing the industry to truly harness the power of Industrial IoT and capture the benefits.