Create a free account to continue

Six Transformative Technologies Impacting Manufacturing – Part 2

Digitization and connectivity make operational technologies (OTs) vulnerable to existing cyberthreats and create new threat vectors within an organization.

Find Part 1 here.

No. 3 - Cybersecurity

Q: Have I accounted for protecting my operational technologies in my corporate cybersecurity strategy?

A: Digitization and connectivity make operational technologies (OTs) vulnerable to existing cyberthreats and create new threat vectors within an organization. Cybersecurity strategies must consider extending protection to OT systems, in a similar fashion to those deployed for IT. This is especially true in smart factories that are increasingly making use of cyber-physical systems to improve manufacturing processes. Cyberattacks against those systems are a reality, and therefore their cybersecurity is imperative.

Q: Have I included security in the design and production of my products?

A: Many new technology products include connectivity, but not all are designed with security in mind, especially those that belong to the IoT world. This lack of security can have serious repercussions in post-market: easy cloning, device subversion for cyberattacks, loss of functional/critical safety, device failure and data loss that can lead to liability and non-compliance with potential security/safety regulation. In the parts belonging to manufacture and wholesale markets, security by design can enable a more robust build of final devices, cutting down on potentially defective and vulnerable products.

Q: Are there post-market secure service opportunities or new business cases (such as lifecycle device management) that could create better customer stickiness with my product?

A: There is a transformation of many industries to an as-a-service model. These core services are offered under an umbrella term called “lifecycle management,” where the device is managed post-market through various technologies, focusing on trust management, product security, and service integrity. In manufacturing settings, the ability to provide secure maintenance and management services to products after-market is significant, increasing device lifespan, creating customer stickiness, and opening new value creation opportunities with new feature enhancements.

No. 4 – The Internet of Things (IoT)

Q: How do you deliver actionable analytics to the employees that need to act?

A: You must start with a business or operational goal or problem that needs solving. Once you know what you hope to achieve, IT liaisons on the affected OT teams or joint-task forces between IT and OT can increase communication and exchange of ideas to help digital technology specialists understand the needs of various business units. As a result, those business units better understand how to use IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) platforms and IT systems. Increased exchange of ideas and access to the right information will help solve the original problems and build potential for future innovation.

Q: How can you securely network mission-critical assets in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to allow access to insights or control of those assets by the appropriate employees?

A: First, we as an industry have misnamed the IIoT. Although we already see quite a few connections linking to AWS or Azure, even public clouds do not allow simply anyone to access the data like one might do on the Internet. The IIoT looks more like a collection of Industrial Intranets of Things with “Subnets of Things” within them. For your Subnets of Things, you need hyper-converged on-premises edge platforms. By working with companies such as VMware, Eurotech, Dell EMC, HPE, or FogHorn Systems in conjunction with a platform provider, you can run digital tests and simulations based on real-world data to optimize the performance of assets, reduce downtime, and perform predictive analysis for failing parts or run the applications your platforms enable all at the edge.

Q: If edge computing can solve so many problems, how do workforces benefit from the cloud?

A: While edge computing can help improve operations at individual plants, cloud computing helps set longer-term global strategies for larger corporations. Consolidating data and computing in the cloud can find more underlying trends in the long term and help coordinate operations across geographies and job functions. For instance, if a part is failing, maintenance obviously needs to know, but so does purchasing, accounting, the engineering team, and the supply chain. Accounting and engineering have different work and deadline cycles than maintenance, but they also need to know. Accounting needs to update the books, and engineers need to plan to improve the next product series. Cloud platforms help link these employees and their functions.

Q: Can a single connectivity technology address all Industrial IoT applications in the future?

A: Stringent network demands of industrial applications have historically driven an ecosystem of proprietary and application-specific protocols with most of the communication protocols based on wired connectivity technologies, such as Fieldbus and industrial Ethernet. In more recent times, wireless connectivity has shown potential in reducing network costs with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellular, and 802.15.4 based technologies used in varying degrees.

With the increasing availability of low-cost sensors devices, the proliferation of wireless connectivity is expected to gain wider adoption. However, with a massive install base of wired devices, especially Fieldbus, Ethernet-based protocols are likely to co-exist with wireless technologies. 

Q: Which connectivity technologies will have the most impact and drive different use cases or IoT applications in an industrial environment?

A: Wireless connectivity technologies’ low network costs and increasing availability of industrial-grade sensors will proliferate in the industrial environments complementing wired technologies. Wireless sensors networks using Wi-Fi, BLE, 802.15.4, and LPWAN technologies will be used in gathering environmental and process control information. Cellular technologies that can support very low-latency communications will witness wider traction in monitoring and control applications.

Q: What impact will IoT platforms have on small and medium-sized industrial companies and their market readiness to compete with large companies?

A: According to an ABI Research industry survey in July 2017, which focused on the IoT adoption U.S. market, IoT familiarity and adoption was strongest in large companies, whereas the majority of small and medium enterprises (SME) were either not implementing or in the early assessment of IoT. While large companies’ implementation is often seen at the operational level and target business functions that can benefit most from operational efficiencies, SMEs’ implementations are more strategic in nature and can have an impact on the overall business. Benefits of IoT are still mainly focused on improving operational efficiencies that deliver immediate ROI (return on investment). With IoT, SMEs can not only benefit from faster decision making with improved visibility of the supply chain but also from efficient demand planning.

Find Part 3 here

Stuart Carlaw is Chief Research Officer at ABI Research.

More in Industry 4.0