An Expanded IIoT Checklist

What does it take to have your very own Industrial Internet of Things project? PROFINET has a role to play:

Things. The starting point. The “T” in the IIoT. In the industrial world these are sensors, actuators, instruments, I/O blocks, drives, vision systems, robots, Ethernet switches, scanners, label printers, RFID, switches, lights, and more. These things provide data.

Data. As simple as “on” or as complicated as a large matrix of parameters for sophisticated devices. Data is what is needed to allow analysis that reveals what efficiencies can be gained. Not very exciting, but indispensable.

Networks. The network is also a “thing.” The network is an asset that also provides data that can help prevent downtime. At the level of connecting things and providing data it must be fast, deterministic, and based on open standards. Ok, that’s a description of PROFINET.

Controllers. Networks deliver the data from the things to controllers… and back again. They also manipulate, apply logic, and generate their own data.

Another network. PROFINET is not the end-all and be-all of needed networks. (Yes, this is painful for me to say.) It is not the best choice for moving data (now having become information) from the controller up. Although there are competing networks for this task, OPC UA makes sense to us… and to SAP, Microsoft, Oracle, and others. And there are other specialty, niche needs for other networks, too. (See Complementing PROFINET.)

Data storage. Perhaps locally in an HMI for trending. Perhaps in a dedicated historian. Perhaps in a historian in the cloud. (Definition of “cloud”: the computer is somewhere else.) The data is stored not for its own sake, but so it can be analyzed.

Analytics. I read that a new hot career choice is statistical analytics, mathematicians who will analyze the data and reveal how the process can be improved and how proactive maintenance can be implemented. I like math, but I fail to see how they will know what to look for. Now the OEM or System Integrator will understand the installation and is in a better position to know what to look for. Here is an opportunity for OEMs and SIs to expand their business models and help their short-staffed clients.

Feedback. None of the above is of any value unless what is learned by analyzing is fed back as improvements in the process. This is where the ROI comes from!

PROFINET bonus. Uptime using advanced diagnostics and fault tolerant architectures on open standards.

It’s not just this simple, of course; the old plant pyramid is gone. See the flatter, more-interconnected replacement where some of the checklist items are skipped altogether.

–Carl Henning