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Impact of IIoT on automation systems design

28 May 2015  | Suhel Dhanani

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The Internet of Things, or the IoT, is a current buzzword gaining traction in a number of industries. A variation, the Industrial IoT (IIoT), is quite the rage within automation companies seeking to add a high-margin software component to their traditional businesses. Coming from a semiconductor chip company whose devices enable much of the automation equipment out there, we at Maxim Integrated have a unique perspective on how automation system architectures are evolving to support the IIoT.

This article looks at the system architecture for the IIoT, and focuses on the design challenges that must be solved to successfully implement IIoT-capable systems. Special attention will be given to the growing need for more and smarter sensors, MicroPLCs, and the emerging IO-Link standard.


The path to Industry 4.0 Is via the IIoT
Siemens categorises the industrial revolutions in three distinct phases. The first industrial revolution started with the introduction of mechanical production facilities helped by water and steam power. The second revolution began with the introduction of electric power. The third came with the advent of automation, which could be argued happened when the first programmable logic controllers (PLCs) appeared on factory floors. Now Siemens, along with the German government, believe that it is time for Industry 4.0, a new revolution when custom components will be produced in a fully automated fashion (figure 1).


Figure 1: The path to Industry 4.0 is via the IIoT. Graphic source is: DFKI (2011).


In Industry 4.0 production from inception to delivery will be based on communication among the parts to be created and the assembly line machines. Germany is pushing this IIoT movement to leverage their manufacturing and embedded software expertise within the industrial domain. In the United States General Electric (GE) is working on a similar initiative called, 'The Industrial Internet'"1

Manufacturing is the sector that can get the most leverage from the IoT because of the sheer amount of data captured and processed within manufacturing. And data is the underpinning of the IIoT since it can all be analysed and visualized to help optimise operations and costs. Within manufacturing the intelligent sensors, distributed control, and complex, secure software are the glue for this new revolution.


What exactly Is the IIoT?
Industry experts and market analysts define the IIoT.

 • "The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the next wave of innovation impacting the way the world connects and optimises machines. The IIoT, through the use of sensors, advanced analytics and intelligent decision making, will profoundly transform the way field assets connect and communicate with the enterprise. "2
 • "Leading O&G companies are building an infrastructure where sensors, data management, advanced analytics and automation are being used to unlock production, reduce operating costs and optimise assets."3
 • "The Industrial Internet, a connected network of intelligent machines working the way they are intended, will transform business as dramatically as the consumer Internet has changed our lives."4

Another way to define the IIoT is to look at industrial network in the form of layers shown in figure 2.


Figure 2: The automation systems stack that enables IIoT.


At the bottom of the stack are the devices (systems) on the factory or process floor. These can be field sensors, controllers, PCs, and all of these hardware systems can include (or not) aspects of hardware security. These end devices must have useful data to communicate and are generally connected to communication hubs, gateways, and switches so that the data is put in the cloud (or an intranet) as big data.

Once this data is out "there," different analytics and optimisation software can be developed to optimise the manufacturing assets for a myriad assortment of tasks: system uptime, scheduled maintenance, power efficiency, and more efficient resource utilisation.

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