Leveraging IIoT-ready solutions helps connectivity, data access

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) provides the ability to analyze data and gain comprehensive insights from assets, processes, and products.

By Paul McLaughlin, Honeywell Process Solutions December 1, 2015

To run a reliable operation that continues to improve performance, industrial organizations need to install smarter field devices, achieve more connectivity with automation systems and applications, collect more data, and find ways to use that data throughout the plant.

Today, intelligent field devices, digital field networks, Internet Protocol (IP)-enabled connectivity and Web services, historians, and advanced analytics software are providing the foundation for an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Finding IIoT’s value

In a typical industrial plant, the mere connectivity of intelligent instrumentation already supports remote service and predictive maintenance; but, ultimately, the value in IIoT can be found in the ability to analyze data and gain comprehensive insights from assets, processes, and products.

IIoT has been developed as a means of leveraging smart, connected field instruments, enterprise-integrated automation, secured cloud-based data, and advanced analytics. The strength of this solution is that everything down to end devices can be accessed using the Internet infrastructure. This opens the possibilities for adaptive automation with the goal of greater production efficiency and responsiveness, coupled with better integration of business systems.

For industrial firms, the IIoT will play an important role during the entire plant lifecycle: from initial design and engineering in the upfront, capital-expenditure-based project stage to the complete operations-expenditure-based operations and maintenance lifecycle phase where value is realized from industrial assets.

Challenges for the industry

Competitiveness on a global scale makes it imperative for industrial organizations to achieve their plant-automation objectives both on time and within budget while focusing on minimizing operational costs. This requires new ways to shorten schedules and minimize risk by optimizing activities at every phase of an automation project.

There’s no question the Internet age has brought about a wide range of connectivity, information management, and access options. Although many of these technologies have been adapted to process-automation platforms, it is crucial to address security and safety concerns before connecting process instruments via the Internet or related technologies.

IIoT creates a heterogeneous, multivendor environment at all levels of the architecture. Suppliers, meanwhile, have an obligation to support interoperability of instrumentation with both control systems and upstream applications. They must also help customers optimize the entire project lifecycle, which starts with quickly and reliably engineering solutions to fit the construction or retrofit schedule of the plant. Other key considerations include continuous operation, device failure and replacement scenarios, and the long-term sustainability of equipment and software.

Take a holistic approach

While smart-instrument connectivity and interoperability are inherent to the vision of the Industrial Internet of Things, the ability to tightly integrate data from connected devices to a plant’s distributed control system (DCS) and advanced applications is integral to IIoT’s primary value proposition.

Leading automation suppliers like Honeywell are taking a holistic approach to helping customers realize IIoT’s full potential. They are focused on delivering a well-bred solution that ensures control systems, smart instruments, and applications behave in a congruent manner; as well as providing an enhanced user experience with products that are easier to use, more efficient, and more productive.

The IIoT-ready approach is intended to unify operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT), with an emphasis on maintaining effective safety and security practices. It provides significant cyber-security advantages versus a heterogeneous system that is limited by common-denominator-type capabilities, thus it better protects field instruments from growing cyber threats.

Benefits to end users

Thanks to the power of smart instrumentation integrated with state-of-the-art DCS platforms to enable intelligent, connected production assets, industrial organizations are improving performance, reducing risks, lowering capital and operating costs, and increasing reliability.

An IIoT-ready approach to automation project execution with cloud-based engineering saves time while minimizing risk and taking control systems and instrumentation off the critical path. This contrasts with the traditional, time-consuming methodology of developing data sheets and specifications for a product, creating a model number, building the devices, and performing factory- and site-acceptance tests.

During a project’s capital-expenditure phase, companies can derive significant IIoT-related benefits from remote engineering and design, which improves collaboration between engineering resources to help compress project schedules. Project teams no longer have to wait for the instrumentation freeze to allow physical equipment to be constructed and shipped to the site.

Later, in the operational phase, value is obtained from effective predictive maintenance strategies, the availability of real-time diagnostic information from automation assets, and easier access to information. IIoT-connected instruments provide new, robust data that can be collected, analyzed, and acted upon to improve asset availability and performance.

Thanks to the emergence of the IIoT, industrial organizations now have the ability to connect smart devices, systems, and applications to provide plant and enterprise personnel with actionable information to enhance operations and business outcomes.

Controls and instrumentation suppliers can help their customers minimize automation project risks, shorten schedules, lower total lifecycle costs, and eliminate complexity by providing a well-bred system that’s ready for this promising new world.

Paul McLaughlin is Chief Engineer in Honeywell Process Solutions.