Kyle Voosen, Ali Bravo, and I recently represented NI at the Q1 2017 Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) meeting in Reston, Virginia, near Washington, DC. NI is a member of the IIC, which hosts this meeting for industry leaders from around the globe to accelerate the development and adoption of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
As the IIoT matures, the areas of focus for the IIC have become clearer. The meeting introduced the concept of “hotspots” that exist at the intersection of IIoT use cases and IIoT vertical industries, where IIoT interoperability is especially challenging or undefined.
To help address these “hotspots,” the IIC focused on testbeds that prove out ways to overcome challenges and realize the benefits of the IIoT sooner. The IIC plays a strong role in shepherding the development of testbeds that demonstrate the usefulness and viability of IIoT technologies, applications, and processes. This meeting provided testbed leaders the opportunity to update the membership on their progress.
IIC member companies are actively developing 21 testbeds that range from Condition Monitoring & Predictive Maintenance to Communication and Control for Microgrid Applications. They’re even developing the Smart Airline Baggage Management Testbed, which I wish would hurry up! Though testbeds are diverse, Mitch Tseng from Huawei reminded the crowd that, “From 36,000 feet, every testbed looks the same,” which means they all adhere to the three-tier IIoT model described in the Industrial Internet Reference Architecture. This model consists of the Edge Tier, Platform Tier, and Enterprise Tier. The Edge Tier often lists CompactRIO as the edge node of choice when testbeds require advanced measurements or computational power at the edge.
Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) Wins the Testbed Showcase
The meeting featured the first-ever Testbed Showcase that educated attending members on the strategic value provided by eight key testbeds, half of which involve NI. I presented an overview of the Time Sensitive Networks for Flexible Manufacturing Testbed. I began by reminding the audience that for the IIoT to be successful, a network is essential, data communication is vital, and siloed, proprietary systems are bad.
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.
Nineteen companies, including NI, Cisco, Intel, and Bosch, are working together on the TSN Testbed to ensure network performance and interoperability among vendors. This level of activity helps explain why the TSN Testbed was voted the Most Valuable Testbed by IIC meeting attendees at the Testbed Showcase! Votes were based on criteria like vision, goals, impact, and benefit, along with innovation and experimentation, and outputs and results.
The meeting wasn’t all about testbeds, though. We’ll continue to play an active role in developing testbeds for the IIoT, but there are many projects and “tasks forces” in flight. Look for other updates from the quarterly meeting soon!