Fast Forward

  • The IoT vision is a massively instrumented world of intelligent sensors and actuators improving performance and efficiency.
  • IoT will streamline, collapse, and create system architectures that are more affordable, responsive, and effective.
  • IoT eliminates the need for cumbersome, expensive, and difficult to maintain middle-level automation software.
Cover Story

Internet of Things

Industrial automation industry exploring and implementing IoT

By Bill Lydon

The idea of the Internet of Things (IoT) has been creating a great deal of excitement in the computing and communications industry for some time. Currently, the industrial automation industry is starting to explore and implement IoT concepts and technology. Other terms related to these concepts are machine to machine (M2M), Internet of Everything, Internet of Things, and IP (Internet protocol) to the Edge. Kevin Ashton, a British technology pioneer, is generally attributed with inventing the term "the Internet of Things" in 1999; although the concept has been discussed in literature since at least 1991 ( Commercially, in 2008 IBM launched its Smart Planet initiative. The same year, the nonprofit IP for Smart Objects (IPSO) Alliance was started with more than 50 members from technology, communications, and energy companies to promote the IP for "smart object" communications.

cover-interchange The IoT vision is of a massively instrumented world of intelligent sensors (analog and digital) and actuators (analog and digital) communicating using IP to improve performance and efficiency. Internet protocol is the primary protocol in the Internet layer of the Internet protocol suite, delivering packets from source hosts to destination hosts solely based on the IP addresses in packet headers. There are a broad range of IoT applications that can be improved with sensing and control, including health care, traffic control, vehicle safety, energy use, agriculture, and manufacturing. This vision includes coupling massive sensing and control with big data and analytics to accomplish advanced levels of optimization and efficiency.

Industrial automation has a history of adopting commercial technology as it becomes mainstream, and applying IoT technologies to improve performance and enable better integration with business systems is a logical step.

Industrial automation

IoT applied to automation uses this technology to streamline, collapse, and create system architectures that are more affordable, responsive, and effective. The goal is frictionless communications and interaction from manufacturing field input/output (I/O), including sensors, actuators, analyzers, drives, vision, video, and robotics, for increased manufacturing performance and flexibility. This revolution will drive intelligence to the edge of the system with the ultimate goal of all industrial devices supporting IP, including field I/O. Wireless IP devices, including smartphones, tablets, and sensors, are already being used in manufacturing. The wireless sensor I/O open standards WirelessHART, ISA100, and WIA-PA are all IP devices supporting the latest IPv6 standards, which leverage larger address spaces and improved cybersecurity standards.

The IP-enabled manufacturing automation architecture will distribute more functions into new breeds of powerful industrial controllers and sensors/actuators with embedded processors, eliminating the need for middle-level software that is cumbersome, expensive, and difficult to maintain.

IPSO Alliance

 Cover IPSO Logo

The IPSO is a global collaborative forum, including many Fortune 500 high-tech companies. Founded in 2008, the nonprofit organization focuses on providing a foundation for industry growth through building stronger relationships, fostering awareness, offering education, promoting the industry, generating research, and creating a better understanding of IP and its role in the Internet of Things. I  asked IPSO a couple of questions about the IoT.

What is your functional definition of the Internet of Things?

"Connecting the unconnected. This means identification of the device, a communication infrastructure able to securely deploy billions of devices, and open standards to sustain innovation in manned and unmanned environments. The IoT benefits from decades of innovation and the benefits of experience from large deployments [on a worldwide scale] using Internet protocol technologies and associated security protocols," says IPSO president Patrick Wetterwald.

What standards does your organization believe are fundamental to the success of the Internet of Things?

"IPv6 up to the end device is the common basis for the IoT. International standard organizations in all domains [industrial, smart grid, transportation, home] have already published standards based on IP [IPv6] communications and will continue to work on endorsing IP technologies on their respective domains. Internet protocol technologies are the responsibility of the IETF [Internet Engineering Task Force]. A close relationship with the IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] ensures that all the communication layers work perfectly together. ISA and IEC are examples of organizations that have published standards based on IP [IPv6]," says Wetterwald.

Pascal Thubert, technical leader at Cisco, IPSO member, and IETF 6TiSCH co-chair, also commented on the IoT, "Wireless sensor networks offer the capability to extend the reach of monitoring and control beyond what is physically and economically possible with wires. The next step of process optimization will be gained by leveraging the collection of currently unused measurements by widely distributed sensing devices and analytic capabilities. This will require the combination of the best of IT and OT [operational technology] together, forming the IT/OT convergence, aka the Industrial Internet. This evolution is perfectly illustrated by the emergence of time-sensitive networking, on both wired networks with deterministic Ethernet and wireless networks with 802.15.4e TSCH, that are initially driven by automation applications and generalized to multiple industries, such as audio video and finances."

The alliance recently announced IPSO CHALLENGE 2014, a global IoT competition where IPSO and its sponsors award monetary prizes for the most innovative use of IP tech in the IoT. There are prizes and incentives worth more than $50,000 USD, and 10 semifinalists will be given the opportunity to demonstrate working prototypes to industry experts and investors at Sensors Expo 2014 (

Big data/analytics

Powerful industrial controllers and sensors/actuators with embedded processors can locally control, optimize, perform analytics, and refine data. IP-enabled smart sensors, actuators, and output devices will perform control communicating horizontally and vertically in automation system architectures. These devices are also becoming big data sources, accessible using IP communications and federated using big data software that runs on a large number of processors that do not share memory.

Hadoop, formally called Apache Hadoop, is an Apache Software Foundation project and open source software platform for scalable, distributed computing. (Note: "Hadopp" is a name project creator Doug Cutting made up and is not an acronym.) Hadoop analyzes both structured and unstructured data. The Apache Hadoop software library is essentially a framework that allows for the distributed processing of large data sets across clusters of computers using a simple programming model. Hadoop can scale up from single servers to thousands of processors, each offering local computation and storage.


cover-interchangeOPC UA supports the Internet of Things with an efficient and secure infrastructure for communications from sensors and controllers to business enterprise for automation systems in manufacturing and process control. It uses Web services, which are becoming the preferred method for system communications and interaction for all networked devices. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web, defines a Web service as "a software system designed to support interoperable machine-to-machine interaction over a network."

I asked Thomas Burke, OPC Foundation president and executive director for his thoughts about the Internet of Things:

Thomas Burke  

OPC UA fits into the Internet of Things paradigm to serve a range of applications, including industrial automation. OPC UA provides secure communications using established computer industry standards, including IP and Web services, to allow the multitudes of devices to gather and convert remote data into useful information to make intelligent decisions. OPC UA by definition and by design is all about being the technology and specifications that provide an infrastructure for multivendor, multiplatform secure, reliable interoperability for industrial automation and related domains.

OPC UA is about collaborating with a multitude of information model providers. OPC becomes the transport and discovery mechanism for generic client applications to discover and be able to exchange data and information with servers that understand the intricate details of the lower-level device applications and their corresponding information models.

One of the most exciting things is OPC UA has been demonstrated and proven to be scalable into a chip and very small-level embedded devices. I have been carrying around the Raspberry Pi, demonstrating the power of OPC UA in such a small device. This is perfect for the Internet of Things if you imagine all the devices to be connected and how OPC UA provides an open standard for communications and integration of devices and applications.

Protection is a high priority to ensure that communications and the exchange of data and information is highly secure. OPC UA provides a scalable, secure architecture that allows you to configure security down to the lowest level object in the OPC UA server-enabled device. With this you have secure, encrypted communication and can provide the necessary access controls for reading and writing the data and metadata associated with that lowest level object.

The Internet of Things with OPC UA provides a unique opportunity to leverage volumes of sensor data in applications to improve operations and efficiency in a wide range of applications.

My vision of OPC is all about collaboration and the importance of developing standards that are successfully adopted by the vendor community into real products and services.

PLCopen integrated Web services

cover-interchangePLCopen and the OPC Foundation have been collaborating for a few years, and together developed IEC 61131-3 PLCopen function blocks that incorporate OPC UA. These OPC UA function blocks make it easy for programmable logic controller (PLC) programmers to seamlessly link information directly from controllers to other systems and business enterprise systems transparently using Web services. The new function blocks allow users of PLCopen certified controllers (PLCs) to expose information in a semantic, standardized way to transparently exchange data between supervisory control and data acquisition, manufacturing execution systems (MES), and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and from PLC to PLC.

Eelco van der Wal, managing director at PLCopen, described it this way, "Communication is not about data. Communication is about information and access to that in an easy and secure way. In order to communicate in Industry 4.0 or the Internet of Things, there are open standards needed that are implemented on a broad scale. To provide these standards, the organizations PLCopen and OPC Foundation cooperated. The OPC UA technology creates the possibility for safe and transparent communication independent of the network, which is the foundation for a new communication age in industrial control. PLCopen provides the technology to make the information in the controller accessible in a harmonized way. This means that communication on the factory floor is becoming possible "out-of-the-box." PLCopen even provides machine-to-machine communication, as well as machine-to-cloud communication, connecting the controller to the world and the world to the controller."

Manufacturing integration

Companies have been grappling with the integration of manufacturing and business systems to increase efficiency for a number of years. Enterprise IT has been evolving for years from ERP, material requirements planning, manufacturing resource planning, and MES to integrated suites encompassing business functions, supply chain management, asset management, production scheduling, and optimization. These systems are becoming real time, aided by the growing availability and adoption of IP-based technologies, making it practical to improve manufacturing performance and return on assets. The task of manufacturing and IT people is to orchestrate the application of new technologies to achieve performance goals. There are now XML standards for ISA95/IEC/ISO 62264 (B2MML) and ISA88/IEC 61512 (BatchML) to work well in this new environment. The IoT may well be the catalyst for tightly integrated business and automation systems.

Cybersecurity issue

The IoT leverages IP communications standards, technology, and infrastructure, but this also broadens the cyberattack surface for all applications, including industrial automation systems that use IP-based networks. The industry acknowledges the risks of cyberattacks on production environments have increased dramatically, including unintentional breaches, industrial espionage, and state-sponsored attacks. These attacks can result in unscheduled downtime, interruptions in equipment availability, and production disruptions. This is a real dilemma. The advantage of implementing IoT technology to improve efficiency and productivity is in opposition with cybersecurity goals to keep predators out. The ISA-99 Industrial Automation and Control Systems Security standard and the ISASecure certification Embedded Device Security Assurance (EDSA) are two important elements supporting the securing of systems. EDSA focuses on the security of embedded devices and addresses device characteristics and supplier development practices for those devices. An embedded device that meets the requirements of the ISASecure EDSA specification earns the ISASecure EDSA certification, a trademarked designation that provides instant recognition of product security characteristics and capabilities, and provides an independent industry stamp of approval similar to a "safety integrity level" certification (ISO/IEC 61508). The ISASecure EDSA certification offers three levels of recognition for a device, reflecting increasing levels of device security assurance (

Industry 4.0

The Internet of Things is a key technology in the Industry 4.0 project conceived under the German federal government's High-Tech Strategy focusing on information and communication technology (informatics). The High-Tech Strategy was adopted in 2006, reaffirmed by the federal government in 2009, and expanded in 2010 as the High-Tech Strategy 2020 initiative. Participants include private industry, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, and the Federal Ministry of the Interior. In late 2011, the KOMMUNIKATION Promoters' Group of the German Industry-Science Research Alliance initiated the initial working group with the purpose of drafting comprehensive strategic recommendations for implementing Industry 4.0. The goal is the intelligent factory (smart factory), which is characterized by adaptability, resource efficiency, and ergonomics, as well as the integration of customers and business partners in business and value processes.

Professor Detlef Zuhlke, Ph.D.  

Professor Detlef Zühlke, Ph.D., scientific director at Innovative Factory Systems at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence discussed the Smart Factory initiative at the Hannover Messe 2014 preview event. It is an association to develop new ideas with partners and to put these ideas into practice in common projects. Contributors to this effort include 28 partners and sponsors, including Siemens, Harting, Cisco, Phoenix Contact, Festo, Belden, Rexroth, Beckhoff Automation, Emerson Process Management, and Weidmueller. Zühlke discussed the need for standards, including physical, mechanical, pneumatic, and communication, to accomplish more efficiency and functionality to achieve Industry 4.0. He cited standards that support these concepts, including OPC UA, WSDL, EDDL, and IEC 61499. He also discussed the need for flexible horizontal and vertical communications between controllers, field devices, and enterprise systems. Professor Zühlke explained:

Each element of everything, from the factory down to machines and their sensors and actuators, will become smart [i.e., have a built-in Web server capability]. This makes everything addressable and accessible in the connecting network. As the network will follow the Ethernet/IP standards, every object is part of the Internet. Each object can communicate with every other object regardless of application level or function.

Manufacturing implications

The strength of the Internet of Things is that everything down to end devices, including sensors, actuators, and controls (i.e., contactors, relays, circuit breakers), can be accessed using the Internet infrastructure. This access opens the possibilities for holistic and adaptive automation with the goal of increasing efficiency. This is a logical evolution in step with the Internet of Things trend and will lead to more responsive and efficient production, along with better integration with business systems.

Competitive risk

As these architectures evolve, users have two big risks. The first risk is adopting these technologies before they are proven and suffering through growing pains. The second risk is not adopting them when they are stable and before competitors use the technologies to outperform them in the marketplace.

What are suppliers doing?

The Internet of Things is being forecast as a catalyst for major growth in monitoring and control that most industrial automation suppliers are exploring. There are a wide range of applications and thoughts on the topic. I posed questions to a number of suppliers to get their views:

  • What is your functional definition of the Internet of Things?
  • How will industrial automation systems change to achieve the goals of the Internet of Things?
  • What products (hardware/software) do you deliver today that are components for users to deploy the Internet of Things?
  • What products (hardware/software) will you be delivering in the next twelve months that are components for users to deploy the Internet of Things?

Internet of Things (IoT)

Industrial automation industry exploring and implementing IoT 

The InTech article on the Internet of Things (IoT) ( explores how IoT is affecting industrial automation. As with many emerging concepts, there are various views and thoughts. The author posed questions to a number of companies about how they define IoT and its impact on industrial automation. Their answers are below.

ABB - Marc Leroux, Chief Technology Evangelist, Collaborative Production Management

We hear IoT being referred to many different ways, sometimes with prefixes to make it more relevant-like Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Manufacturing Internet of Things (MIoT). However, there are a core set of characteristics to consider:

  • Devices need to be intelligent. That is the starting point. Fortunately, this is an area that ABB, along with other automation vendors, has focused on for more than 10 years. By intelligent we mean that the devices must to be able to run, collect data, understand their current status or health, communicate with other systems and devices, and react to configuration or operational changes securely. Devices need to be able to run autonomously or as part of a larger system.
  • There needs to be an infrastructure that supports the devices. The infrastructure is more than plugging in a TCP/IP cable. It contains built-in security and can be adapted for different environments. It has communications, localized storage, remote storage, and data access. A key element of this is the contextual understanding of the data obtained from devices. Without context, the data is just . . . data. The infrastructure uses models to transform the data into actionable information.
  • Analytics and optimization are the third component. Analytics drive the optimization. The optimization can be either localized or systematic, and it can be manual or automated. The analytics are dependent on the implementation and can run the gamut from using the information to make better, faster decisions all the way to self-healing devices, effectively transforming the information to knowledge. Everything on the IoT must first be capable of operating safely and securely, and then adding business value.
  • The distribution of information is another key element. Having actionable information available is not helpful unless it can be acted on in a timely fashion. This could mean distributing it to individuals inside the organization, other systems in the network, other devices, or back to the device itself.
  • There needs to be an organization to consume the information produced. Too often we focus on the device functionality without understanding the business context. Having information available is, again, meaningless without a purpose. The organization sets the objectives or desired behavior and is responsible for maintaining and validating the status. Too often there are business changes made without realizing the impact on the manufacturing systems. Also, all of the above points need to be achieved cost effectively, or they will not be accepted as required by an organization.

The above can be summarized as intelligent devices with seamless interoperability capable of acting in a collaborative fashion to achieve business benefit in a cost-effective way. If you think about this, the IoT is really pulling together the major buzzwords and trends used today:

  • devices produce data
  • which needs to be stored (big data)
  • on some type of infrastructure (cloud computing)
  • with analytics using the data (analytics)
  • and distributing the information (mobility) 

The keys to making the IoT successful in the long run are the intelligent assets, contextual data, security, and a business problem to solve (we often forget the last one). Contextual data is often trivialized, but it is a key component. No context to the data means that we end up with a big mess (instead of big data), and the analytics can deliver the wrong result (that may look right). With mobility we can put wrong information in front of many people, quickly. All of the items listed above need to operate in concert with each other.

The good news is that ABB has been addressing these issues for years, and we have really been at the forefront of the IoT wave. 

Industrial automation impact

Because I strive to make myself unpopular with my colleagues in our automation business, I would say that the major impact will be on the connections of currently unconnected devices (OK, maybe that isn't the best wording). In a lot of ways, having intelligent devices can be seen as diminishing the role of programmable logic controllers (certainly) and distributed control systems (other than safety or regulatory conditions). It will propagate the concept of stand-alone subsystems as part of a larger mesh. In many cases today, there is reluctance to add devices to a control system unless they are needed for control, due to the cost factor. The promise of IoT is to remove this barrier and make any information available to anyone, anytime. Over the next 10 years we are going to see control systems reimagined and transformed to play a different role in manufacturing. They will still exist, but they will certainly be different, with more emphasis on information. 

B&R - John Kowal, Director, Business Development

For industrial automation, the Internet of Things expands the level of connectivity that already exists. The cell phone company that lets you turn your home's lights on and off, change the thermostat, and lock or unlock your doors is a good example of IoT connecting what were previously manually operated, unconnected devices.

But in industrial automation, we already identify and represent unique devices. It may or may not be over the Internet, and it may not be every device, but in general industrial automation is ahead of consumer adoption-for once! 

Industrial automation impact

More devices will be connected and more machine components will be monitored. It is a matter of degree. We are already using mainstream interfaces, such as tablets and smartphones, to communicate with control systems. That is not news any more.

Change will come from a need for deterministic network bandwidth, processing power, and distributed intelligence, at a more attractive price point than legacy platforms offer. This is the model that was responsible for the proliferation of servo motion-a steady increase in capability with a corresponding reduction in hardware costs. 

BECKHOFF Automation LLC - Graham Harris, President

Internet of Things is a very simple phrase that encompasses a vast array of industrial and consumer applications today and expanding into the future. It is all about smart devices, connectivity, and data analytics. It is almost too broad to define, so I prefer the phrase Industry 4.0 for our world of industrial automation. This phrase helps us focus on today's challenge of the convergence of information technology (IT) and automation. To meet the challenges of global competition, fast-changing consumer tastes, and increased profitability, progressive companies had to improve their processes by obtaining more information about events/activities in all machinery or processes and analyzing that data in various ways. The first phase is horizontal or machine-to-machine communication, which breaks down the "islands of automation" syndrome. The next productive phase is vertical communication to enterprise resource planning (ERP) and manufacturing execution systems (MES). In this phase, data from the machinery or process can be used for overall equipment effectiveness, track and trace systems, energy management, condition monitoring, reducing work in process, etc. However, obtaining that data easily and quickly is a significant challenge, as traditional machine control was not designed for connectivity to ERP and MES. IT organizations need to help make the connections, and cooperation with control engineers is a critical task.

The next phase of the evolution to Industry 4.0 is the analysis of the data for production efficiencies. Real-time changes in product flow, products, machine types, recipes, and programs can be made by the central control. In some cases, machine-to-machine communication can occur for real-time adaption to changes without the central controller. This is more challenging, though, because anticipation of change needs to be preprogrammed into each device. 

CISCO - Chet Namboodri, Director of Manufacturing Industries

The IoT revolution is connecting previously unconnected industrial machines, devices, and sensors, such as packaging machinery, semiconductor photolithography tools, robots, motors, photoelectric sensors, and numerous other industrial objects. The connection of these industrial objects allows communication of information like pressure, temperature, quantities, vibration, energy, and other manufacturing parameters, creating an automated real-time decision engine. Collecting this information optimizes machine performance, production runs, and supply chain logistics and creates unprecedented opportunities to innovate and drive efficiency across the entire manufacturing value chain. 

Industrial automation impact

Standardization, computational power, and security are the three main considerations that will change how industrial automation systems are designed and deployed to benefit from IoT.


Currently, many industrial automation system deployments are a collection of disparate proprietary technologies and networks. This type of automaton system design will not be able to scale and accommodate the number of IoT devices coming online. Automation systems must evolve and leverage standards-based technology to drive flexibility, scalability, efficiency, and cost savings into their designs. IoT is accelerating the adoption of unmodified standard Ethernet as the de facto standard for operational technology (OT) systems (or we can say plant floor systems).

Ethernet has emerged as the plant floor (or OT) standard replacing fieldbuses due to the ubiquitous use of the protocol for IT systems. Manufacturers have learned how to efficiently design automation systems using Ethernet for the most demanding time-critical applications. Using Ethernet throughout a converged IT/OT enterprise greatly simplifies installation and maintenance while opening the door to many advances in communication technology. Compatible wireless technologies can be installed easily, and safety networks can also communicate over Ethernet. All these benefits can be gained at lower costs than those of proprietary fieldbuses. 

Increase computational power

All these objects (or devices/things) generate enormous amounts of big data. Manufacturing enterprises need to consider a cloud-hosting strategy (private/public/hybrid) to address the amount of data from the exponential number of IoT devices connecting to the network. Enterprise software systems (ERP/MES/supervisory control and data acquisition [SCADA]) will have to be upgraded with self-learning algorithms that can comb through this data and determine trends for increasing efficiencies.


The entire operations of the business are interconnected. Previously, a security breach might involve the theft of proprietary or confidential information, but in the future, security vulnerability has the potential to freeze machinery and production lines-in some instances costing manufacturers more than $1 million/minute of downtime. Moving away from siloed automation systems requires an architectural approach to intelligently integrate security technologies into the converged IT and OT automation system. This business imperative alone will transform how automation systems are designed and deployed. Improve security through control of plant network access by user and location with identity services. For example, use secured convenience ports and controlled partner and contractor access to plant assets.

Freescale Semiconductor - Michael Haight, Microcontroller Group Product Marketing

Many people think IoT consists of anything connected to the Internet, but it is much more complex and sophisticated. IoT actually requires a service layer that sits in the middle, managing communication between gateways. With IoT there is a level of intelligence, recognition, and self-actualization that takes place. The technology learns to adapt to specific, requested conditions that support the user.

For example, consider a watch that has sensors embedded. It measures pulse, temperature, location, and activity. It then logs that information on the individual's cell phone. In IoT, the data logged on the cell phone monitors if anything noticeably and negatively changes, indicating a potential health issue, and pushes that information to the physician in the context of the medical records. If someone is missing, the GPS can be turned on to locate him or her. With the same sensors, you can measure a variety of data and support multiple uses.

Industrial automation impact

Everything today feeds automation, which will lead to IoT, but a secure service delivery infrastructure is needed to bring the "little guys" on board with the implementation. Just like mobile apps took off because an open platform empowered companies and developers of all sizes, IoT needs a similar support system. Early adoption will take off within the next three to five years, with meaningful transformation in the industry and technology by 2020.

GE Intelligent Platforms - Bernie Anger, General Manager

The Industrial Internet, or the Internet of Things, is the infrastructure that enables the convergence of machines and intelligent data. It drives customer value through connectivity across machines, data, insights, and people.

The IoT enablers create value through the combination of one or more of the following:

  • Improved asset performance, typically enabled by fleet-level intelligence or improved insight delivered anytime, anywhere, on any device
  • New service models enabled by real-time and near-real-time information availability
  • Higher customer intimacy, resulting in shorter issue resolution cycles enabled by faster issue visibility (or ability to predict future issues in advanced applications), as well as faster equipment evolution cycles driven by enhanced machine learning

Industrial automation impact

Two key changes:

  • Design to be connected. Most industrial automation systems were designed with an expectation of isolation from external networks. So, for full participation, vendors will evolve their offerings to be secure and easy to connect by design.
  • Become more adept at managing and analyzing operational data at the machine, on premise, and in the cloud. From there, the analytics can help optimize operations.

ILS Technology - Fred Yentz, President and CEO

The Internet of Things is often used as a synonym for machine-to-machine communications-or M2M. Although definitions of the two may vary, the solutions are fundamentally very similar: providing access and connectivity between (remote) devices or assets and enterprise systems and applications for monitoring and controlling equipment and for performing data processing and analysis. Today's wireless and wired networks have evolved into a seamless IP-based "network of networks," making large amounts of data available in real time through the cloud, combining cellular, satellite, or fixed networks. We see the "Internet" in the Internet of Things as the underlying, scalable, open architecture that provides easy integration of all kinds of things-large and small-with all kinds of applications and services that help drive business innovation and performance.

Industrial automation impact

Industrial automation systems are increasingly moving toward scalable standards-based software platforms that can easily connect and integrate manufacturing equipment with enterprise systems. Forward-thinking organizations are also leveraging the cloud to provide secure access and make data available to a broader authorized audience both internally and externally anywhere, anytime, offering compelling apps and dashboards on mobile devices. This unlocks a tremendous opportunity for creating new business models around remote service enablement and predictive maintenance-reducing cost, increasing revenues, and improving compliance.

INFOR - Warren Smith, Director

INFOR's definition of Internet of Things is machines, equipment, and devices that interact and provide value to business operations. For manufacturing it is machine tools, molding machines, jigs, test fixtures, and the complete facility that manufactures products. It includes material handling equipment and any device that can receive bi-directional input and output from a business operating system to drive its actions and then reply back about the completed actions. For example, this could be a torque wrench given parameters that are specific to an automotive seat being assembled (where each seat may be unique and require different values). Once the wrench has completed its specific task, the specifications of actual work done are reported back to the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Another example is live location tracking for a fork lift to guide it to the next pick. Real-time speed and operating data are reported back to the system to measure driver efficiency. Another example is a distribution company that has vehicle maintenance and telemetry from vehicles-to improve route planning, improve driver efficiency (driver economics), and increase vehicle uptime with proactive maintenance.

Although this type of data may have been collected in the past, the pervasive nature of the Internet of Things allows more devices to be "configured for purpose" on the fly and then communicate, not only centrally, but to each other to improve efficiency, reduce cost, and improve safety. 

Industrial automation impact

INFOR is seeing the move from separate or distinct MES/SCADA systems to direct integration with ERP systems. ERP systems today have flexible/configurable web-enabled screens that can be deployed on the shop floor-so there is no need for separate MES. Data (SCADA) from machines can be pulled directly into the ERP-or in INFOR's case, placed on the ION bus and published to all systems that have a need to process the information, including ERP for production information, enterprise asset management for maintenance, data vault for business intelligence, and analytics. Once the data is collected from the machine sensors, it is important to use preconfiguration tools, such as OPC, to classify the information.

ERP systems today have the microrouting details (machine parameters, operating values) that can set a machine's operations specifically for the item being processed or assembled. Having that data and the resulting live visibility directly in the ERP can improve everything from real-time scheduling and error handling to alerting and reporting. Old MES interconnections often created delays where the ERP was out of sync with the production floor for hours or longer. With today's real-time orders, including just-in-time, Kanban, and Lean, ERP must stay in perfect communication with the shop floor. 

Invensys, a Schneider Electric Company - Bimal Mehta, Director Software Product Management

The Internet of Things for the manufacturing sector refers to the rise of Internet-enabled devices used to connect and network the industrial manufacturing process. This approach produces vast amounts of data that change the way manufacturers think about their operations and manage the manufacturing process.

When we fully reach the era of the Internet of Things, manufacturers will have the capability to track every aspect of a business, from managing manufacturing processes, suppliers, and inventory, all the way down to field service staff. IoT will essentially complete the full supply chain. When fully leveraged, IoT could mean better inventory management, pulled production instead of pushed production, accurate activity-based costing, and automatically adjusted logistics that adapt to changes in the manufacturing layer (and vice versa). And these are just a few examples. Moreover, productivity is expected to increase as operation and maintenance teams have increased awareness of the process/machine state in real time. 

Industrial automation impact

We are in an information age, and that applies to every system and business. Innovation is currently being driven by data: how we use it to make decisions, improve processes, understand our customers, and predict behavior. The Internet of Things allows us to take full advantage of that data.

Industrial processes already create more data than any other source. By enabling devices for the Internet, data and information become more accessible than they were before, whether devices were in a remote location or data was otherwise not easily accessible. This essentially drives industrial manufacturing processes to become connected and networked through the sharing of data, leading to lower costs, more optimized processes, and the ability to make better and faster decisions in real time.

In the future, automation networks will use data to self-configure, self-regulate, and suggest efficiency improvements. Many of the decisions an operator currently makes will soon be made by the machine themselves, freeing the operator to focus on improving the efficiency of the system, addressing things like energy usage, security, safety, and process tuning.

Additionally, industrial operators will morph into a cross between industrial engineers, computing experts, and data scientists. 

Mitsubishi Electric - Sloan Zupan, Senior Product Manager, Mitsubishi Electric Automation, Inc.

Improving the accessibility of automated control systems has become increasingly important as manufacturers have globally distributed manufacturing facilities. The retiring workforce and the lack of skilled labor to replace those who are retiring is creating a burden on the manufacturing community. Often manufacturers are leaning on external resources such as system integrators and machine builders for support services. Manufacturers are searching for innovative ways to monitor, manage, and maintain production equipment while enabling remote users to perform support services. The Internet has become the vehicle to connect support resources and automated manufacturing assets together. Often a connection to a cloud resource is used to create a secure connection to manufacturing sites and equipment. Once a connection is established, the machinery can share information with other machinery and higher-level business systems-plus support resources can access the control system to perform service efficiently and less expensively. Internet of Things refers to the ability of machinery to talk with external resources through Internet technologies.

Industrial automation impact

Industrial automation products are helping machine builders design next-generation machines that correct the most commonly occurring problems. Likewise, today's industrial automation can share information about how operators interact with a machine and how maintenance people support machines. Having the ability to collect, monitor, and analyze all this new information does come at a cost. Many existing control systems and communication infrastructures are inadequately designed to do the data handling, processing, and transferring without burdening the processes. However, the rewards can be huge for those who have the foresight of information transfer requirements and have selected architectures designed to handle the bandwidth required for data collection and dissemination while controlling the process. Today's controller and network offerings are much more capable than those of previous generations.

National Instruments - Tom Bradicich, Ph.D., R&D Fellow

Originally, the Internet of Things simply called out that common "things," not just people and machines, can be network connected and accessible, providing some utility. Today the term asserts that virtually any object, machine, or device is, can, or will be network connected and has built in intelligence. Though all of these "things" are indeed networked, not all are networked via the Internet, as defined by the strict definition of very specific protocols, connectivity to public networks, etc.

A large portion of the connected things will generate data from the physical world or analog sources such as location, light, velocity, voltage, temperature, moisture, pressure, or radio signals. These are sources of large amounts of data, and hence big "analog" data challenges are emerging amidst the IoT. As a result, I see Big Analog Data™ solutions growing in importance as a way to harvest the value of data from the IoT. Ultimately, it is all about the data from the IoT, and the engineering, scientific, or business insight derived from the data. 

Industrial automation impact

Industrial automation is a very broad term. If we define it to mean automating the various activities in industry-such as manufacturing, processing, logistics, and supply chain management-then I would say the IoT has different effects on different parts. Consider what today is achieving celebrity status in manufacturing-the Smart Factory. It is vogue because network connecting all equipment, tools, IT systems, and even the product itself, gives new and immediate insight into each task in the manufacturing process. This insight makes it possible to improve decision making and control, which drives efficiency.

For example, data can be presented to the plant manager directly from the robotic arm systems, as opposed to having to go through the robotic systems vendor. As a result, data is both immediate and unfiltered. Consider the availability of product quality trend data in real time via sensors and instrumentation that connect the product and its automated test systems to the IoT. In addition, all of this data can be analyzed virtually anywhere and anytime because it is connected to the IoT. This leads to one of the most compelling benefits of the IoT-it overcomes time and place dependencies. This has a profound effect on the efficiency of operations for companies with a global presence. 

Rockwell Automation - John Nesi, Vice President of Market Development

The Internet of Things will be the catalyst for manufacturers to modernize much of their production infrastructure, to help them move into the "connected enterprise" state. More specifically, as "things" are becoming smarter, communicating using the same network technology as the Internet-Ethernet, the Internet of Things will help facilitate the move from legacy systems into more contemporary information-driven business systems. Many facilities are still running on intermediary quality systems and MES-type systems that do not leverage information as robustly as they could.

Modernization of plants begins with an Ethernet backbone, offering manufacturers inherently more opportunity. In order to leverage the opportunity of the Internet of Things, data flowing into and out of the plant needs to be contextualized. And as more machines and devices become Internet-enabled, information capacity needs to grow through legacy system upgrades.

With this opportunity, IoT also injects more risk into production systems. As the industry is populated with more smart devices, it requires a single framework to keep it secure. As smart devices gain more accessibility and continue to dominate the Internet, there needs to be a secure environment that differentiates data, secures it, and then identifies its availability and privilege by role, location, or both. 

Industrial automation impact

To best use IoT to achieve the goals of the connected enterprise, industrial control systems will need to adopt the network practices of IT to handle, filter, and contextualize the data served up by Internet-proliferating devices. Although this might burden controllers, requiring more processing power in a controller to act on more data, and burden software to filter data, it might also change the way we implement the network itself in order to parse data more appropriately in the future.

Siemens Industry, Inc. - Raj Batra, President Industry Automation

Many everyday objects and machines contain microcomputers that control their operations and enable useful applications. These embedded systems are increasingly being joined together in networks and are revolutionizing not only manufacturing, but also energy distribution and transportation systems.

Industrial automation impact

Industrial automation systems will be part of a distributed intelligence system in which factories no longer require centralized management. In such a scenario, raw materials and production machines will enter into a dialogue in order to optimize manufacturing processes by themselves.

Small embedded systems akin to miniature web servers will act like a digital product memory and communicate wirelessly. Machines will be able to flexibly switch from one production run to another without central control system intervention.

Wind River - Ido Sarig, Vice President, IoT Solutions Group

A new world has emerged as we shift from isolated systems to Internet-enabled devices that can network and communicate with each other and with the cloud. Commonly called the Internet of Things, this new paradigm is being driven by the convergence of increasingly connected devices, cloud economics for computer and data, and the acceleration of big data analytics to extract value from data. The transformation is generating new opportunities that companies can seize right now to generate new revenue streams, develop new services, enhance productivity and efficiency, improve real-time decision making, and develop new and innovative experiences. Wind River has been a pioneer in the Internet of Things since long before it had a name, practicing and refining a network approach based on powering interconnected, automated systems.

Industrial automation impact

Existing industrial devices (which we refer to as "brownfield" devices) that were designed to be stand alone, or to only connect to proprietary, on-premise networks, will be modified to connect to the Internet. New industrial devices (which we refer to as "greenfield" opportunities) will be designed from the get-go to enable such connectivity-in order to reap the benefits of IoT, such as decreased service cost through predictive maintenance and remote management. To do so, both brownfield and greenfield devices will have to address the challenges of secure connectivity-to ensure that these systems can withstand the inevitable network-borne attacks that will target them. In addition, smart edge devices and intelligent gateway switches need to be deployed, to reduce the huge volume of data generated by machines to the minimal subset required for predictive maintenance and remote management.

Yokogawa, North America - Bruce Jensen, General Manager, TSSC VPS and Services

IoT refers to any device, instrument, or input/output (I/O) subsystem that would be IP addressable. This is especially key to any sensing or measuring device or actuator/final element.

Industrial automation impact

At the device level, instruments and transmitters would have open IP addresses.

Devices that support digital protocols like Foundation fieldbus and Profibus/Profinet currently have some kind of MAC address already. To support IoT, open Ethernet protocols need to be adopted-I do not think we would want to create stacks to support all the various digital protocols. This would allow devices to communicate directly to human-machine interfaces, controllers, other transmitters, and basically anything else through mesh communications (almost like wireless in the nonwired world) and be able to communicate directly without I/O subsystems.

But at the basic level, all these objects are require to be IPv6 compatible, and bandwidths and communication speeds would have to open up dramatically.

As such, this would be the ultimate in interoperability, i.e., Yokogawa logic solvers on another supplier's control network, or another supplier's transmitter directly interfaced to a Yokogawa SCADA platform, or a Yokogawa pressure transmitter communicating directly to a valve (some might call this FF now). However, this would work through an Internet layer instead of a dedicated field network. There would be no need for the I/O subsystem anymore, except maybe as giant DNS resolvers.

Your thoughts

Please feel free to send your thoughts about this new and evolving topic to Bill Lydon at [email protected].  

About the Author

Bill Lydon is chief editor for InTech.
Lydon has been active in manufacturing automation for more than 25 years. He started his career as a designer of computer-based machine tool controls; in other positions, he applied programmable logic controllers and process control technology. In addition to experience at various large companies, he cofounded and was president of a venture-capital-funded industrial automation software company. Lydon believes the success factors in manufacturing are changing, making it imperative to apply automation as a strategic tool to compete.