The Industrial Internet of Things


Don’t miss the big space in the middle 

Daniel Drolet

Over the past 25 years, there are two ends to the spectrum of thought related to this process in which the world needs to be viewed in order to properly launch both the IoT in general as well as the I2oT.

Industrial automation and control always needed to be mechanized through machines—such as manufacturing, processing, buildings, energy, transportation, etc.—and over time and through that evolution we began adding efficiencies and minimizing labor. We then progressed to distributed control, which led to distributed sensing, which then led to distributed intelligence for critical systems.

Meanwhile, on other end of spectrum—the consumer or human interface end—this group embraced all of the devices that were being produced from the factory (which were themselves utilizing automation equipment) whereby humans became interested, intrigued, and overly addicted to the great conveniences, comforts, and improvements to their overall quality of life.

This ultimately caused two interesting results; where one extreme improved the mechanism of production (i.e., industrial and factory floor), the other caused the benefits and value to be realized by human users which ultimately developed the residential and consumer markets.

As we all know, the consumer markets that developed for radios, televisions, and appliances led to the convenience of cell phones, tablet computers, smart devices, consumer GPS, and other intelligent devices that improve our day-to-day lives.

This created one very important and often overlooked realization—recognition of the two extremes often misses the continuum between the two extremes, and what that continuum represents—such as the entire commercial industry of services, products, point of sale, payment systems, security, and overall societal infrastructure that we use every day in our life and work.

This entire continuum IS the IoT which involves distributed control, distributed sensing, distributed intelligence, M2M communications, and human interface and interaction such as social media, which is driven from an underlying theme and infrastructure of e-commerce. This essentially relates to all activities that are important to a human or other entity. What Herman Storey describes is the two ends of the spectrum. PCN believes that focusing on the interconnectivity of the two ends by enabling intelligent infrastructure for the continuum in the middle is required to have a successful IoT or I2oT.

PCN has developed technology and products to enable rapid upgrade to “intelligent infrastructure” through repurposing and reusing existing legacy infrastructure. I2oT deployments can then be realized with linkage specific to the overriding goals and objectives of what I2oT is supposed to be, and allows the “industrial communication revolution” to finally take hold. Due to cost, timelines, operational shutdown, security, and capital expense requirements alone, society cannot simply shut down to replace legacy infrastructure with new IP based communication infrastructure in order to achieve its overall goals with IoT or I2oT. There are new technologies on the horizon and bleeding ones here today that are the stepping stones for deployment of multiple architectures on single communication or existing communication infrastructures.

By being able to use existing functioning infrastructure as is, and while simultaneously overlaying IP Ethernet networks anywhere within that infrastructure, network owners easily deploy new devices, applications, and systems without impacting those that are currently performing a required task. Managed migrations to the “industrial Internet” and I2oT can now be a global successful effort that ensures critical infrastructure upgrades within industrial systems, buildings, energy, oil and gas, transportation, and other industries.

Daniel Drolet is executive vice president of PCN Technology Inc. 

Key concepts:

  • Internet protocol technologies are quickly moving to industrial applications.
  • The Internet of Things offers many potential benefits for industrial users, but only in the right contexts.
  • A careful and purposeful approach can make adoption more practical and avoid many pitfalls.

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Anonymous , 08/06/15 02:37 PM:

In my personal opinion, based on experience, the less disruptive we can make IIoT the faster it will be adopted. It is when disruption occurs that adoption is delayed (read “Crossing the Chasm”). For instance, if the lines between Instrumentation & Control (I&C) side and the IT side have to be blurred, there becomes much confusion and apprehension. If the lines of responsibility can be kept crisp, and where each has minimal dependency or interference on the other, the adoption will be faster. The same goes for the lines of responsibility between the instrument group and the control system group. If there is a clear line of responsibility between all then each group knows what to do to make the information flow unobstructed. For example, an instrument technician must be able to replace a transmitter in the middle of the night without consulting with the IT department and without getting help from a system engineer. Technology can evolve but it is more difficult to change established ways of doing things around the plant. Both business systems and control systems can use Ethernet and TCP/IP technology, but the way these two systems will be managed is different due to mutually exclusive requirements. Therefore, let each department manage their own infrastructure the way required by each application – they meet at a single well defined interface point. Avoid mixing IT network and I&C networks in the same box to enable each department to manage the network to their requirements. Just because the technology is the same doesn’t mean it has to be managed the same way. One might think that common management brings some benefits, but if there are more drawbacks then keeping them separate makes sense.

I personally agree with Herman that a single physical medium will not serve all requirements. Just like our home and office need both Ethernet and USB, and both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the plant environment needs both Ethernet and fieldbus, and Wi-Fi and WirelessHART.

IPv6 is not necessary for IIoT. What is required, by definition, is that each device (‘thing’) has a unique identifier. An IPv6 address is one way of uniquely identifying a device. FOUNDATION fieldbus and WirelessHART and other industrial protocols have unique IDs that work just as well. Plants built on these technologies are in a good position to move to IIoT when the time is right.

I agree that many industrial protocols already exist in plants connecting millions of devices. These devices lay the foundation for the IIoT so any developments in IIoT need to be backwards compatible with these devices and networks to ensure speedy acceptance of IIoT paradigm where these devices are accessed remotely from other offices.

What is required to make data flow freely from sensors to the enterprise is communication without barriers. This requires that the application protocol which is used over IP networks is the same as the fieldbus application protocol used by devices that sit on automation networks like FOUNDATION fieldbus, WirelessHART, Modbus/RTU, PROFIBUS-DP, and DeviceNet etc. That is, the corresponding application layer protocol used across Ethernet and other IP network are FF-HSE, HART-IP, Modbus/TCP, PROFINET, and EtherNet/IP respectively. By using the underlying fieldbus protocol with the corresponding Ethernet protocol the data can flow freely and unobstructed without gateways, drivers, and data mapping etc. A simple linking device is all that is required to connect Ethernet to a fieldbus. This in turn enables intelligent device management (IDM) remotely:

Upgrading fieldbus protocols to use IP at device level would mean all the fieldbus protocols would have to be changed. Manufacturers would have to maintain two concurrent versions of the fieldbus device (in addition to the 4-20 mA/HART and WirelessHART versions) since existing plants already use these. At the instrument level IP adds little or no value (since devices already are uniquely identified and can be accessed remotely through an IP linking device) so it may not make sense to change all these protocols creating new versions of all of them.

I agree we should use the existing application layer protocols rather than creating new protocols. Indeed it is possible to create IP devices that support multiple application protocols. For instance one application communicates with the device using HART-IP, another application uses FF-HSE, a third application using PROFINET, and a fourth application using Modbus/TCP – all from the same device, all applications getting the same data but through a different IP port. This requires the multi-protocol solution is implemented as intended, like on Ethernet and Wi-Fi, where the application protocols access the device directly through their assigned IP ports, not by “tunneling” across another application protocol of some type.
Anonymous , 08/06/15 02:38 PM:

I personally agree with Rick that backwards compatibility and integration with existing network technologies and devices is important. These devices are the foundation of IIoT. There are linking devices available for connecting all fieldbuses to IP-based networks: WirelessHART to HART-IP, FOUNDATION fieldbus H1 to FF-HSE, Modbus/RTU to Modbus/TCP, PROFIBUS-DP to PROFINET, and DeviceNet to EtherNet/IP. The same application protocol is used on the IP side as on the fieldbus side meaning data flows freely without barriers such as data mapping.

The way whereby devices are identified to humans in the industry is by “tag” name. So device tag is the logical way whereby devices shall located in the IIoT. Existing industrial networks like FOUNDATION fieldbus and WirelessHART already support locating devices using device tag. That is, a device is identified as for example 51-PT-101; humans do not need to know the address of the device. These protocols are the foundation of the IIoT. Plants built on these technologies are in a good position to move to IIoT when the time is right.

Modern protocols like FOUNDATION fieldbus already support communication of real-time and non-real-time data in separate timeslots such that non-real-time data does not delay real-time data.
Anonymous , 08/06/15 02:38 PM:

I personally agree with Drolet that existing industrial networks cannot be replaced by IP-based communication. Instead, continue use of fieldbuses, connected to higher level Ethernet and IP through linking devices. A key element is that the Ethernet application protocols be the same as the application protocols for the underlying fieldbuses: Modbus/RTU<>Modbus/TCP, DeviceNet<>EtherNet/IP, PROFIBUS<>PROFINET, FOUNDATION fieldbus H1<>FF-HSE, and WirelessHART<>HART-IP. This ensures data flows unobstructed without undue integration effort.
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