April 21, 2020
Planning for IIoT Implementation
It’s all too easy to get caught up in the possibilities of “digital transformation” and “Industry 4.0,” and the potential to transform the unstructured data from “dumb systems” into productivity gains and profits.
IIoT implementation is far more complex than installing sensors and learning the ins and outs of a new analytics program. One poorly-configured element, missed update, or outdated piece of equipment provides an entry point for attackers to compromise the whole system.
In this article, we’ll go over the process of creating an IoT implementation roadmap that will help you ensure that you cover all of your bases, down to the last endpoint.
Building a Successful Roadmap for IIoT Implementation
From the SMB to the enterprise, organizations across all sectors are catching on to the massive opportunity offered by the industrial internet of things (IIoT).
However, to actually reap those benefits, you’ll need to define your goals, assess your current capabilities, and determine what resources are required to put your plan in motion.
As a first step, you’ll need to perform an audit of your existing ecosystem. Here, we’ve broken it down into five main categories:
Evaluate your existing assets; software, hardware, data collection, analytics tools, and processes.
- Do you have real-time visibility into current operations?
- Are you able to predict maintenance issues?
- Are all endpoints secured?
- What about your legacy equipment?
- How old are the devices and systems you’re currently using?
- What will need to be replaced?
- Which assets can be adapted?
You’ll want to determine if you have the technical assets in place to capture and store this influx of data, and if not, what will you need to put in place to make it happen?
2. Communications & Protocols.
After you’ve developed a sense of what devices are included in your system, you’ll need to consider how to configure those devices and how they’ll communicate with each other. Communication must be both consistent and secure.
- How will you communicate with the devices?
- How will devices communicate with each other?
- Where do you currently get your internet from?
- How much coverage will you need?
- What are your data rate requirements?
- Energy efficiency requirements?
- What are the protocol security requirements?
Next, you’ll want to assess your environment. You’ll need to consider everything from the location itself to any potential issues, equipment, and installation logistics.
- Where is the facility located?
- How much space will your system cover?
- Will it be contained in one building or distributed across several miles?
- Are there multiple sites to consider?
- If the equipment is in a remote location, can each device be monitored via cellular networks?
- What are the on-site conditions? Humid? Dusty? Temperature-controlled?
- Does the equipment vibrate quite a bit?
- Are there safety hazards such as potential gas leaks? Dangerous equipment?
- How will you protect sensitive data?
- What existing measures are in place for capturing, monitoring, and storing data?
- Is your industry subject to any data protection regulations?
- Do you have a process for maintaining device security?
- A strategy for securing your network and detecting threats?
5. Organizational Structure
According to Robert Schmid, Deloitte’s chief IoT technologist, successful initiatives are all about assembling the right team because, he says, “today, you can’t do this alone.”
While the tech sector has long embraced Agile methodologies, many industrial firms still follow a more traditional model that isn’t designed for the rapid pace of the IoT environment.
IT needs to become embedded in production lines, supply chains, and maintenance, which will require a major shift in how both IT and OT operate.
Additionally, organizational silos don’t end with operations and IT; you’ll want to incorporate customer usage data, sales and marketing metrics, inventory management systems, financial reporting tools, and any other systems your organization uses.
Consider the following areas when assessing your team and their readiness for an IIoT system:
- What systems are you currently using that collect key business insights?
- Are they connected?
- Are there data silos limiting visibility into any processes?
- How is your organization structured? Is there collaboration between departments or do they operate independently?
- Do you have IT staff that can handle installation? Remote monitoring?
- Do you have staff with IIoT experience?
Proof of Concept
Rather than launch your initiative company-wide, we recommend starting small and rolling out a pilot that addresses one or two business objectives at a time. The benefit here is that you’ll have an opportunity to launch rapidly and demonstrate success to the rest of the organization. This helps validate the investment to the C-suite while making a case for convergence of the operations and IT teams.
Network management is another key aspect of your IoT implementation strategy as it enables real-time performance, security, and connectivity monitoring.
- Connectivity. You’ll have a few different options for achieving IIoT connectivity, including WiFi, cellular, Bluetooth, Sigfox, Lora, etc. Again this depends on bandwidth requirements, power consumption, the location of your environment, and several other factors.
- Complete Visibility. Your network should provide a complete view of every connected device, allowing you to control operations and troubleshoot issues as they emerge. Quick response is especially critical for those managing distributed assets.
- Communications Protocols. In a connected factory, devices from different manufacturers must work together. As such, you’ll want to look for solutions such as advanced HMIs or protocol converters that support multiple protocols, so devices can easily communicate with each other.
- Automation. IoT processes can be programmed to respond intelligently to events and improve system performance. Depending on your use case, you may want a solution that makes optimization decisions.
Selecting an IIoT Platform
Every device in the network, from printers to sensors to retrofitted legacy equipment, needs to work together as a cohesive unit. IoT platforms work behind the scenes to connect every device, sensor, and machine, allowing you to develop your ecosystem and manage processes across all connected systems.
So, as you might imagine, choosing an IoT platform is a critical decision that will impact several aspects of your business.
Here are some characteristics to look for while weighing potential options:
- Open platform. Avoid using proprietary solutions and look for a platform that can integrate with your legacy equipment, smart devices, and the technologies you’ll adopt a few years down the line.
- Development tools & templates. Some platforms offer modular templates, APIs, and test environments to speed up development processes.
- Solution that scales. You’ll want to find a solution that grows with your business and can accommodate new devices, software, apps, and locations.
And some essential capabilities:
- Edge computing. Edge computing allows you to monitor data in real-time by bringing processing close to the data source. This is essential for IIoT applications that involve continuous uptime like predictive maintenance or process monitoring. The quick processing time offered by the edge is also critical for detecting cyber threats that put OT equipment at risk.
- Cloud computing. Where edge computing addresses time-sensitive data, you’ll want to use the cloud for analyzing data, managing business tools, and long-term storage.
- AI & Analytics. The primary benefit of IIoT is the massive amount of data it generates, so you’ll want to look for a solution that sorts and analyzes data, extracts actionable insights, and performs actions based on its findings.
- Remote Device Management. Remote access allows users to manage systems, set controls, and take action when something goes wrong. This is especially useful when data processing happens both at the edge and in the cloud.
- Security. You’ll want to find a system with role and access management, end-to-end encryption (at rest and in motion), endpoint security, secure communication between devices and the cloud.
Securing IoT and IIoT
IoT implementation forces teams to become aware of things that were never on their radar prior to transformation. IT teams are well-versed in protecting data and devices, yet haven’t been confronted with the consequences of a large scale attack on OT equipment.
Operations engineers, on the other hand, monitor environmental conditions, production processes, and safety, but the technologies they’ve long used historically weren’t part of a connected network.
Security is a critical part of industrial IoT implementation planning. It must be incorporated into your end-to-end system, as one missed vulnerability can cause financial, legal, and reputational damage and potential safety threats.
While securing IIoT systems is much more involved than this, here are the core areas you’ll need to consider:
- Devices. Make sure all devices are equipped with multiple security layers before installing them. Additionally, you’ll need to be able to account for every device in your system and detect new ones trying to access the network.
Networks. Securing the network requires organizations to apply appropriate protections to all connected assets. For example, AI-based threat monitoring scans for abnormal behavior and new vulnerabilities, two-factor authentication prevents unauthorized access, and firewalls & encryption support secure remote access.
Data. Personal information, IP, sensitive data–all must be protected from the moment of capture, then during analysis, transmission, and storage.
Make Your IIoT Implementation a Success
IIoT is already transforming the industrial landscape, and it’s organizations that nail these initial steps that stand to succeed.
While the failure rate of IIoT projects is staggeringly high, avoiding these common mistakes can help prevent your organization from becoming a statistic:
- Implementing IIoT without a clear business objective in mind
- Failing to establish the right culture and change management process
- Connecting devices without a plan for managing data
- Installing devices without developing a secure foundation
Done right, an IIoT can help organizations optimize their production processes, make data-driven decisions, and drive revenue like never before. Contact 3Pillar Global to learn how we can help.