The engineer & the Internet: ‘Things’ aren’t what they used to be
Throughout 2018, tech-savvy subscribers to CFE Media engineering titles – which include Control Engineering and Plant Engineering — will be kept abreast of important productivity advances via IIoT for Engineers, a series of print-and-electronic supplements, newsletters and webinars.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) supports optimization and reliability in process automation, enterprise-assets management and industrial-IT-based business operations.
It’s exactly those worlds that readers of CFE Media’s engineering titles inhabit.
CFE Media IIoT editorial deliverables focus on best-practices implementation and application of IIoT solutions in discrete-manufacturing and process industries. Case-study examples demonstrate that engineers already use IIoT to address tactical challenges and form strategies for improved productivity.
IIoT for Engineers will appear each quarter in CFE Media engineering titles. Moreover, an electronic IIoT Report newsletter will inform subscribers of news pertaining to the latest developments in IIoT across the range of its industrial applications.
Definitions and more
The “things” that IIoT refers to are uniquely identifiable objects. Their virtual representations, combined with middleware and a service orientation, allow machine-to-machine communication among computers, embedded processors, smart sensors, actuators and mobile devices, with limited human intervention.
CFE editors say the IIoT concept combines advances in sensors and smart devices at the process level; enhanced connectivity across operations and execution; and analytics availability for decision makers. One way to look at IIoT is as an alternative to the traditional automation triangle of control, execution, and enterprise levels.
At the device level, new generations of multi-parameter and industrially strengthened sensors are being introduced, as well as Internet fieldbus and protocols, advanced Internet switching, and a range of embedded systems.
In a largely unforeseen development, microcontroller kits have emerged as an industrial solution for building IIoT digital devices and interactive objects. These microcontrollers, along with cybersecurity gateways, will be found closer to process sensors and actuators, acting as a kind of distributed intelligence, making devices smarter, enabling analysis and putting closed-loop control at the process.
In a plant environment, therefore, IIoT efforts might start with pervasive use of sensors and wireless to allow monitoring of things like pumps, motors, steam traps, heat exchangers, valves and piping systems. The same IIoT principles applied in production plants deliver similar benefits to buildings and surrounding infrastructure.
In process automation, by substituting open-computing for proprietary standards, IIoT-based integration encompasses legacy systems, to improve productivity of existing processes without major operations disruptions.
At the execution level, the point may be to have a single interface that melds automation elements and the IT network, or maintenance with an operations view.
Unlike some integration technologies proposed over the years, IIoT embraces legacy systems and the installed base, and progress can proceed from “the bottom up.” In other words, innovation can be achieved by mid-size enterprises, and the capital investment involved doesn’t necessarily require a corporate initiative. In this it resembles the supervisory-control (SCADA) markets that grew so precipitously in the 1990s.
- In process control & automation, the cloud and mobility transform SCADA implementations and remote field services.
- For enterprise-assets management, connecting complex, disparate machines and equipment to operations and enterprise systems enables machine-to-machine connectivity, predictive, asset-based maintenance and secure monitor and alarm.
- Further, software as a service IIoT contributes to a changing paradigm for application implementation, management and use. Software as a service paired with ubiquitous connectivity allows industry to quickly and securely tap into the latest application capabilities.
- When it comes to business operations, real-time insight based on contextualized information and data analytics allows rapid, reasoned response to demand changes. Other impacts, such as for example, product-design influence, are even more strategic.
IIoT-based technologies and applications will evolve into solutions that support specific engineering management roles in discrete-manufacturing and production-process industries. How these emergent technologies, some of them already in use for years, will transform the global industrial landscape, is the story that IIoT for Engineers will tell in 2018.