IT and OT convergence will drive Internet of Things adoption

Rockwell Automation, Schneider Electric executives see transformational impact of Internet of Things (IoT) as devices become smarter and more integrated to expand manufacturing efficiency.


Citing an Industry Week study that found less than 14% of manufacturers have tied their machines to an enterprise network, Rockwell Automation chairman and CEO Keith Nosbusch said the potential for IoT to drive greater efficiencies in manufacturing was huge. He made the comments at the 2014 Internet of Things World Forum in Chicago, presented by Cisco. Courtesy: Rockwell Automation, CiscoThe days of discussing the convergence of information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT) are over. With billions of devices already connected through the Internet of Things (IoT) and billions more to still bring on line, that convergence now is a reality. 

The challenge, as two major industrial automation companies pointed out at the 2014 Internet of Things World Forum in Chicago on October 14 and 15, is to deliver that connectivity in a way that lowers overall costs and protects data security.

But as Rockwell Automation chairman and CEO Keith Nosbusch said during his Oct. 14 remarks at the Forum, IT/OT convergence still is in its infancy, and it holds great promise for the future. 

“We believe we are at the inflection point,” Nosbusch told about 1,500 attendees at the second World Forum, hosted by Cisco and sponsored by dozens of major IT and software companies, Oct. 14-16. “We are just beginning the journey, driven by the convergence of IT and OT. Historically these are two different worlds.

“Both IT and OT are essential, but true convergence remains a challenge. Over past several years, we've been working to bridge this gap, to bring a robust IP-based infrastructure with hardware and software products and services,” Nosbusch added. “Only a few of the most progressive manufacturers have truly been able to bridge the IT/OT gap.”

Nosbusch and Schneider Electric chief technology officer Pascal Brosset each called IoT “transformative” in the manufacturing sector and beyond, but Brosset also noted that adoption will increase when the cost to tag devices decreases.

“Why isn't every pump self-diagnosing? Because it is too expensive,” Brosset said during his keynote remarks Oct. 15. “One thing our customers expect is to make it cheaper. To me, that's one thing we don't talk enough about. When you take the price down, then growth is exponential.”

Brosset cited the example of MMG Mining, which increased mining capacity by 20% and added $1 billion to the company's bottom line just through instrumenting every asset in the mine. 

“By getting the data, you constantly monitor performance of every asset in the mine, and then you can calculate best possible performance,” Brosset said. “For a mining company, this is big business.”

Citing an Industry Week study that found less than 14% of manufacturers have tied their machines to an enterprise network, Nosbuch said the potential for IoT to drive greater efficiencies in manufacturing was huge, and a focus for everyone involved in all aspects of IoT technology development and deployment.

“Industrial operations will change more radically in the next 10 years than in the last 50 years,” said Nosbusch, who said Rockwell's data shows that 34% of entire IoT growth opportunity is in manufacturing. “There's a great need for industry to unleash the untapped value of IoT.”

He cited four areas where IoT would be transformational:

  • Faster time to market
  • Lower total cost of ownership
  • Improved asset utilization
  • Enterprise risk management.

“IoT must help customers realize tangible business values,” Nosbusch added. 

Brosset sees another fundamental change with the IT/OT convergence. Devices that once delivered data now would be called on to analyze events and reports at the device level, and only then report it up to the network level.

“We will go to event-driven architectures,” Brosset said. “In the future, smart devices will be doing a fair amount of pre-processing, then sending events through the network. It's truly distributed intelligence.”

Speed of adoption will be another issue. Brosset noted that the technology and the concept of an IT/OT convergence is revolutionary, the actual implementation will be somewhat less of an event. “The message we get from customers is, ‘How do we deliver that revolution as an evolution?’” Brosset said. “It's going to take all of us doing it together.”

- Bob Vavra is content manager, Plant Engineering, part of CFE Media, along with Control Engineering and Consulting-Specifying Engineer, 

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