Many of the life-changing advancements brought to bear by the Internet of Things (IoT) stem from cloud storage and cloud analytics: controlling your home with your voice, seeing inside your fridge with an app, and storing and accessing every picture ever taken of your children on any smart device from anywhere in the world. These technical marvels would be pure wizardry to anyone living 50 years ago.
Timing is essential to IIoT networking
The Industrial IoT (IIoT) doesn’t get as much mainstream attention as its consumer-oriented cousin, but it will arguably have an even greater impact on our society. The IIoT can be defined as a vast number of connected industrial systems that are communicating, coordinating, and acting on shared data to improve the performance of operational technology (OT).
By this definition, it’s tempting to think of the IIoT as simply a hardier variant of the IoT. This line of thinking has given rise to devices like IIoT gateways, which can be thought of as the fax machines of the IIoT, translating OT data for the IT infrastructure. Although gateways enable the communication of OT data to the cloud (or fog), they usually scrape away something fundamental to most IIoT systems: time.
We tolerate (barely…) some level of lag, delays, and reloads while streaming Game of Thrones on HBO GO. But these glitches cannot exist between two high-speed assembly robots or, worse yet, between a geofenced safe zone and the brakes of an autonomous earthmover.
Edge Nodes: the key to maximizing IIoT speed and reliability
Employing the IIoT to monitor and control our farms, test facilities, power grid, and factories means we must do more than simply collect and share operational data; we must also understand the importance of data latency and synchronization between our connected, industrial assets. Put simply, IIoT success hinges on the communication of the right data at the right time.
This IIoT fact of life has given rise to a layered architecture defined by the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) called the Industrial Internet Reference Architecture. This IIoT architecture consists of three tiers: the Edge Tier, Platform Tier (on-premises IT), and Enterprise Tier (cloud-based IT).
In the IIoT, decisions can happen at all three tiers, and the volume and timing requirements of the data normally dictate how to architect a system. Maximizing performance and reducing unnecessary data transfers are two primary reasons for pushing decision-making down to Edge Nodes deployed at or near OT assets. In this light, IDC predicts that by 2019, at least 40% of IoT-created data will be stored, processed, analyzed, and acted upon close to, or at the edge of, the network.
Edge Nodes, like CompactRIO, can certainly maximize the speed and reliability of IIoT control loops. They also serve an important role in data reduction, feature extraction, and decision-making. For instance, by pushing machine learning models for predictive maintenance to the Edge Tier, CompactRIO can locally detect an anomaly and determine what the potential impact of the anomaly is on the lifetime performance of the asset, without burdening the IT infrastructure. From there it can work, through the less time-critical Platform and Enterprise tiers, to schedule the appropriate repair/replacement service. Flowserve, one of the world’s largest suppliers of industrial and environmental machinery, is working with PTC, HPE, and our own teams to implement such a solution for their customers today.
Though the IIoT megatrend is taking the OT world by storm, our customers have been quietly adding distributed measurement and control systems to their assets for decades. With connectivity to any sensor, nanosecond analysis and control, open and connected software, and world-class ruggedness, we're uniquely positioned at the IIoT edge.
Time-sensitive networking, IIoT Lab: what we're doing to advance the IIoT
Looking to the future, we're working tirelessly with our partners to create industry standards and prove out IIoT concepts. We recently opened the Industrial IoT Lab, which showcases the latest IIoT technologies and provides a collaborative space for an expansive ecosystem of partners with different expertise to work on solutions that will change the way businesses operate.
One vital IIoT technology featured in the Industrial IoT Lab (and mentioned previously in this blog) is Time Sensitive Networking (TSN). TSN is the evolution of standard Ethernet (IEEE 802.1) to provide deterministic data transfer and Edge Node synchronization down to 100 ns. By using standard Ethernet components, the cost to achieve TSN levels of determinism and synchronization for the IIoT will be much lower than using specific cabling or boutique Ethernet variants.
We’re confident that the IIoT will benefit greatly from TSN, ensuring the secure, predictable, reliable and uninterrupted flow of information from sensor to cloud.
As @ladylabview (currently unofficial on Twitter, but official in my heart) and a leader in Corporate Marketing at NI, I find myself wearing several hats these day: self-proclaimed software geek, tech marketer, and computer scientist, to name a few. Fitting with my recent appointment to the Girlstart Board of Directors, I am also proud to wear the hat of a STEM education supporter and Women in STEM advocate.
I’m not alone in my pursuit to empower women and STEM, though. It is an incredible privilege to join others around the world who are shedding light on the need for support and empowerment within STEM.
I am proud that NI, as an organization, recognized this need and chose to prioritize investing in the next generations of engineers and scientists early on. From a student’s first time to work with a robot to celebrating lifetime achievements, investment in STEM education fuels the potential of future innovators who will continue to solve the world’s greatest challenges as technology evolves.
From my vantage point, many accomplishments have been made in STEM fields over the past few months, with leaders from around the world stepping up to cultivate, champion, and celebrate growth in their industries:
I have seen this growth in the United States as policymakers passed legislation in favor of bolstering education programs and promoting women in leadership at NASA and NSF.
Our company has partnered with it by developing the Women’s Leadership Forum at NIWeek, because we understand that carrying the torch of growth and empowerment is vital.
NI has invested in it through continued partnerships with organizations like FIRST, LEGO® Education, and Girlstart, knowing in addition to having access to technology, students of all ages and backgrounds need to feel like they belong and can succeed in STEM long-term.
Personally, this supportive spark in my own engineering story came at the encouragement of those around me, the village of people around me who invested in and empowered me to realize my own potential and fit in STEM. Because of their influence, I have made it a point to pay my engineering excitement forward to my own kids (to their chagrin at times) and children at a local elementary school where I serve as a LEGO® robotics mentor. After all, we may never know where the next Katherine Johnson, Grace Murray Hopper, or Wendy Freedman will be. They may just need us to empower them to envision their own future in STEM.
Every day, I realize more and more the importance of investing in STEM, and I invite you to engage in opportunities to support your own communities. I also encourage you to take these steps to celebrate your own STEM journey:
Remember who sparked your journey.
Look beside you and celebrate those who currently support you.
Look in front of you and see who champions where you are trying to go.
The future of engineering is already here, and NI is committed to growing its potential.
Throughout the year we participate, attend, and host countless trade shows, conferences and industry meetings. To help you connect with us, we’ve compiled a list of events we’ll be at during the second quarter of the year.
Exclusively for our partners, Alliance Day equips integrators, consultants, and product developers with technical and business training, and provides opportunities for networking with global sales, product management, and R&D.