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Essential Considerations for Choosing an IIoT Platform

Industrial automation essential considerations for choosing an iiot platform

What are the Capabilities of an IIoT Platform?

The industrial internet of things (IIoT) promises to seamlessly integrate industrial sensors, machines, and robots, connecting them with external systems for improved control, monitoring, and automation. IIoT platforms typically can perform the following tasks:

Device Connectivity and Management: IIoT platforms typically provide tools for connecting and managing various industrial devices, sensors, and equipment. Protocols such as MQTT, OPC-UA, or Modbus and APIs or SDKs for device integration, configuration, and monitoring may be offered. IIoT platforms also often support device provisioning, firmware updates, and device lifecycle management.

Data Ingestion and Processing: The solutions can facilitate the collection and processing of data from connected devices. This may involve data ingestion, storage, and processing in real-time or near real-time. IIoT platforms may also offer data normalization, aggregation, and transformation capabilities and edge computing capabilities for local data processing at the network’s edge.

Data Analytics and Visualization: Often, IIoT platforms provide built-in analytics capabilities for processing and analyzing data from connected devices. It may involve descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, or prescriptive analytics and machine learning or artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities for advanced data analysis. IIoT platforms may also offer visualization tools for creating dashboards, reports, and alerts for monitoring and decision-making.

Automation and Orchestration: Automating and orchestrating industrial processes or workflows can be performed based on data insights or predefined rules. Automated actions or triggers based on real-time data from connected devices, such as remote equipment control, predictive maintenance, or process optimization, can often reduce management efforts and errors.

Integration and Interoperability: IIoT platforms often offer integration capabilities with other enterprise systems, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), or manufacturing execution systems (MES). This enables seamless data exchange and interoperability between IIoT and other business-critical systems.

Applications can be diverse and include various industrial sectors, such as manufacturing, logistics, energy, transportation, agriculture, and more.

Addressing Common Challenges for IIoT Platforms

Many businesses have legacy machinery to consider that was installed long before the IoT was common. The potential of IIoT platforms is clear, but implementing IIoT solutions in an existing business can be challenging. Challenges include the need for built-in connectivity, limited computational capabilities, and outdated communication protocols. Even organizations using newer machinery or devices may have concerns about data security, speed, storage, or compatibility. Our experience with Edge Computing with healthcare to government clients has enabled us to mitigate some of those challenges, where a reliable, secure, and high-performance network is important.

A well-designed IIoT platform offers plenty of potential utility, including improved connectivity, networking, and the ability to integrate the system into sophisticated applications. Rockwell Automation describes many of these capabilities in its guide to choosing an IIoT platform. The company also offers helpful advice on deploying a solution that will work with your existing systems.

There are some key takeaways from Rockwell Automation’s eBook. One example includes ensuring that the platform is accessible to users and third-party developers. As such, both parties can work with the platform by aggregating and managing any data it gathers. Some organizations need to process high volumes of data in real time. Others may have specific security, privacy, or data retention and auditing needs, for instance.

Rockwell lists seven key capabilities for IIoT platforms:

  1. Robust connectivity and protocol support
  2. Scalability & flexibility
  3. Security and privacy
  4. Integrations & API tools
  5. Data management
  6. User management
  7. Application development.

Depending on your organization’s size, medium and long-term goals, and existing infrastructure, you may prioritize one or more of these capacities above others. In an ideal world, an IIoT platform would score well on all of the capabilities mentioned above. Hence, it would offer ease of use, good scalability and security, and powerful APIs so that developers can extend it and interface with it.

Scalability is particularly important for many of our clients. Technology is constantly evolving in many sectors, and it’s vital to ensure that any newly deployed machines can interface with the existing network along with any software or data collection tools being used. A good IIoT platform is as future-proof as possible, with APIs that offer lots of options for developers to ingest data and interface with the platform in ways the client has asked for and ways they have not yet thought of.

At NCS, we’ve worked with many organizations on networking and IoT projects in various industries. We’re proud to partner with Rockwell Automation to help our clients, from the aviation sector to education, improve their IT facilities while remaining compliant with relevant industry regulations and ensuring their IT solutions can grow and evolve with them.

Whether you’re looking to upgrade an existing network or build out new systems, our team is here to help you with the latest solutions from Rockwell Automation. Contact us to schedule a consultation to learn more about NCS and how our partnership with Rockwell can help you use the industrial internet of things in your organization.

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