Interoperability and the IIoT. Two crucial concepts in modern manufacturing and industrial environments – and two concepts that Distec is proud to be able to help you tackle. But what do they actually mean, how do they fit together, and how can we help?
Introducing the IIoT
The industrial Internet of Things, or IIoT, is one of the most dynamic and exciting specialist areas of development within the broader IoT. As we know, manufacturing and industrial environments rely on a great deal of highly-specialised hardware. From factory floors and production lines to power plants, such environments typically feature dozens, hundreds or even thousands of machines carrying out an array of functions.
As in any other aspect of the Internet of Things, the industrial Internet of Things introduces connectivity to these environments. Smart sensors are fitted to hardware throughout the industrial environment, measuring anything from temperature, to oil levels, to the number of revolutions a particular piece of kit has made. In turn, those smart sensors collect information in real-time from equipment throughout the environment, and transmit it to a platform or engine where real-time data analytics can take place.
And from there, dynamic insights are automatically generated, on anything from the efficiency of a production line to the likelihood that a piece of equipment will soon require routine maintenance. Those insights can even generate tangible actions – instructions sent back into the environment. Perhaps a particular machine will be instructed to speed up, or slow down. Perhaps a maintenance engineer will be alerted to carry out an inspection at a particular time. The point is, these insights are generated automatically, in real-time and on an ongoing basis, making the entire industrial environment more effective, more efficient and more intelligent.
The interoperability challenge
However, these new IIoT ecosystems are not without challenges – specifically, challenges around interoperability.
Typically, the hardware in a particular industrial setting comes from a wide range of different manufacturers. Furthermore, once IoT devices (that is, connected sensors) and IoT platforms are introduced into the mix, they typically come from a range of different manufacturers too. And as explained by Mahda Noura, Mohammed Atiquzzaman and Martin Gaedke, the array of different devices and IoT platforms which are deployed in a typical IIoT context – where each solution provides ‘its own IoT infrastructure, devices, APIs, and data formats’ – means that many of those systems are not able to ‘talk’ to each other.
Interoperability is the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information, particularly where those systems are made by different manufacturers. Different systems need to be able to access each other’s data, transmit data to each other and, crucially, consolidate and make use of that data in an organised and centralised way.
Get interoperability right an IIoT context and you can gain significant competitive advantages. You can make previously disparate systems talk to each other and share information, potentially driving significant efficiencies. You can shift to a predictive maintenance model, whereby your hardware is checked, repaired and upgraded proactively at the most sensible time, thereby extending its useful lifespan without disrupting your operations. You can position yourself flexibly for the future, with a far more holistic and integrated industrial environment.
How Distec can help
This is why Distec has partnered with Red Lion, provider of IIoT products and industrial devices which are rugged and reliable, built to withstand harsh environments for remote asset monitoring.
Red Lion’s highly integrated, innovative data gathering and analysis features help manufacturers to develop cyclical processes to ensure operational improvements and continuous cost reduction. And crucially, Red Lion’s solutions connect many different devices, including legacy equipment, enabling them to ‘talk’ to each other in ways they could not before. In other words, Red Lion enables interoperability in IIoT contexts – helping industrial and manufacturing organisations to truly harness the benefits of the Internet of Things.
Want to learn more about how we can help you develop an IIoT ecosystem? Get in touch today.