The Internet of Things (IoT) has been around for more than 20 years. During that time, its users have learned much about its benefits, value, and seemingly endless applications. They’ve also been educated on avoiding the security threats and performance concerns that are inherent in any digital system. In this fifth of six articles, we’re talking about the IoT’s more recent adoption as an industrial tool and how past experience with the technology gives new corporate users time and foresight to avoid unnecessary expenses and delays in their Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) adoption projects.
Implementing Your IIoT System: Two Main Concerns
Experience indicates that there are two major concerns to address when strategizing for and implementing an IIoT system:
- Ensuring that it has adequate digital security features in place
- Creating a sufficient infrastructure to support its full functionality
Both of these considerations contain a myriad of other issues that could interfere with the adoption or implementation of the industrial automation system’s function and performance.
The fundamental challenge posed by any automated digital system is maintaining its security. Every digital device is vulnerable to intrusions.
Even before factoring in risks specific to industrial settings, there are significant threats to consider. Common attacks include:
- Data siphoning, where hackers ‘listen in’ to data transmission and steal the information
- Device hijacking, where lost or stolen phones and tablets become the source of potentially devastating breaches
- Legacy interference, where hackers exploit the vulnerabilities exposed when legacy and digital technologies aren’t appropriately connected or secured
The IIoT configuration itself poses security issues simply because it’s a network of digital devices connected through wireless technology. Protecting that network from unintended intrusions or breaches means putting protections around its instruments and its wireless element — and that means adding security programming to all networked devices, to their signals, and to the portals to which those signals are sent.
Further, in most IIoT adoption strategies, security tools used to protect the systems must also protect equipment that has different communication capacities. For example, companies that integrate SMS notifications into their IIoT infrastructure are also assimilating the SMS/cellular technology into the Internet service that runs the overarching IIoT structure. Protecting cellular technology from inappropriate interference requires adding appropriate security features to both transmitting and receiving devices. Those receiving devices may be cell phones or tablets located next door or across the country.
Adding to the complexity of the IIoT security plan is the fact that all included technologies must also be monitored to maintain their security. It’s not enough to simply put security programming into all IIoT transmitters and receivers; network owners must add monitoring programming to the schematic as well and integrate those programs and their streaming data into the underlying infrastructure of the IIoT network.
Assessing and Including Infrastructure
Optimally, the fully launched IIoT network will enhance productivity and profitability for every user. However, achieving those goals does not require a complete rebuild of an organization’s digital architecture. Early adopters recognized that IIoT systems work best when they are designed to embrace and embody the foundational corporate infrastructure. That means the IIoT development and implementation strategy should track and align with corporate goals and plans. Assessing its potential against that existing enterprise framework will help digital configuration developers clarify where and how IIoT resources will work best to help the company gain those ends.
At the same time, enterprise leaders should consider how the organization as a functioning business will incorporate and manage its new IIoT resource. Introducing any new asset to an existing production line or manufacturing strategy also requires building in the training and practice needed to master and efficiently operate the added resource. New IIoT owners should consider the time and economic resources required to attain a competent IIoT workforce and build those details into their design and implementation strategy.
Adding technical resources to an existing digital infrastructure also brings another level of complexity to both the IIoT inclusion plan and the underlying enterprise technology groundwork. In some cases, the newly operative devices take over the work previously done by humans or within a siloed department. Those legacy efforts are now either obsolete or diminished in value. IIoT system designers and corporate leaders should work together to determine whether to dispense with or re-configure these assets moving forward.
In other cases, organizations may not have the clear direction or infrastructure in place to ensure that the data streaming from the new network gets to the corporate sectors that need it the most. Many companies today have expanded or grown incrementally over time, so they’ve not yet articulated a comprehensive picture of their current corporate productivity. Without that awareness of how the company generates and uses all of its data, the organization will not be prepared to maximize the value of its IIoT data.
Not least significantly, layering digital capacities on top of the existing network workloads adds stress to the resources those processes rely on to achieve the highest possible performance quality. It may be necessary to invest in additional servers and storage capacity before beginning the IIoT project to engage the full potential of the newly installed industrial automation system.
Organizations wishing to enhance their profitability and productivity should consider how IIoT assets will impact these issues as they contemplate the total cost of ownership (TCO) of their IIoT adoption strategy.
Partner with ICA Engineering
ICA Engineering has been helping organizations successfully map out and implement IIoT systems for years. They understand both the benefits and the challenges those systems introduce into every corporate network infrastructure. ICA’s experts are sharing the lessons they’ve learned with their new IIoT customers, including the City of Orange. You’ll read that Case Study in our next post. Call ICA today to gain insights about how an IIoT network can improve the performance of your enterprise.