New IIoT technologies, strategies for a new year
Industry analysts are offering their year-end predictions for 2016 with a focus on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and its continuing impact on manufacturing structure and strategy.
ARC Advisory Group analyst Greg Gorbach offered 10 trends for 2016. He said that the trends, "Are an interesting mix of positioning and technologies, but taken together, they point to continued momentum and acceleration in the direction the industry has embarked upon-embracing disruptive technologies to transform manufacturing." Gorbach’s 10 predictions (which can be found at the IIoT/Industrie 4.0 link on the ARC homepage at www.arcweb.com) include:
- Expect to hear a lot more about "digital transformation." In the confusion over what exactly to call the next wave of manufacturing intelligence, Gorbach noted that none of the names do an especially good job of explaining the underlying benefits. "Digital transformation" is a good moniker, Gorbach wrote, "because it reflects what ARC hears from end users who tell us that they can no longer continue to run their business with old technologies, processes, and business models, that things must change, even though they don’t know where to start."
- Focus on customer relationships. As more sensors wind up in more devices, there also will be more data available to manufacturers on how end users interact with the device. This, in turn, will help create more responsive new products.
- Platforms, platforms, platforms. Gorbach said the use of the word "platform" is well ahead of anyone explaining just what a platform will accomplish, but he promises more research to help define the term.
- External expertise improves asset performance management (APM). This external service offering holds two advantages for manufacturers, Gorbach wrote. "The knowledge, skills, and capability for supporting plant assets such as control valves, exchangers, and other plant equipment will begin to shift from in-sourced or contract direct-hire to remote services," he said. "This change also lessens the industry concern over retiring skilled workers."
- Reference architectures rule. "Reference architectures will continue to be a hot topic in the coming year, and will reinforce the ongoing convergence of IT (information technology) and OT (operational technology) technologies," said Gorbach.
- Analytics everywhere. What to do with all the data is one of the big issues for 2016, Gorbach said. "If we had to make just one analytics prediction for 2016, though, it would be this: There will be an outbreak of companies saying ‘OK, we’ve collected the data, now what?’"
- Supply chain control towers. Supply chain management is a crucial issue for IIoT adopters, and Gorbach said that part of the plant will benefit from enhanced tracking, real-time alerts, and improved decision-making enhanced by predictive analytics.
- Cybersecurity. IT security is one of the key concerns raised in the modern plant that’s getting a lot of attention and analysis. Gorbach cited strategies, such as unidirectional security gateway solutions, that manufacturers can use to take the lead on cybersecurity.
- Greater protection for edge devices. Calling them "a weak point for both IoT and IIoT," Gorbach noted that legacy network edge devices refresh slowly and are expensive to replace. He said it would be the network’s responsibility to provide security for these devices.
- Wait, this is different! Gorbach noted the fundamental changes in manufacturing driven by IIoT adoption and implementation don’t begin at the device level. "A growing number of control engineers will finally begin to understand why the potential for digital transformation with IIoT… is not the same as what they have been doing with SCADA and automation systems for 30 years," Gorbach said. "Software, scalability, analytics, and the possibility to reinvent business processes are what will really drive the uptake of technology and the coming digital transformation."
– Bob Vavra is content manager, Plant Engineering, CFE Media, firstname.lastname@example.org.
– See additional stories about the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and from Gorbach linked below.