Over the past two and a half years, the members of the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) have been enthusiastically and creatively building an ecosystem in which participants can find other key IoT industry contributors and create relationships. Here they solve the interoperability, security and privacy issues in IoT integration problems, and discover the best practices for designing, building and fielding IoT applications in industrial & enterprise systems — in healthcare, manufacturing, electrical grid systems, agriculture and many other areas. IIC’s members have decided to seek disruption themselves rather than wait for the market to disrupt their own businesses. Not surprisingly, this ecosystem has rapidly grown to over 250 organizations from about 30 countries, including mining companies, manufacturers, software vendors, big data analytics companies, data visualization companies, research organizations, universities, government agencies, other technology vendors and many others who are partnering to specify, develop, implement and test the Industrial IoT solutions in the real world.
Industrial Internet Consortium members believe that pulling an ecosystem together with the shared purpose of seeking and testing transformational business outcomes is a worthwhile endeavor. As a result, we have a lot of things going on, and we’re moving quickly. In fact, we now have six Working Groups, and over twenty Task Groups ranging from healthcare to energy to security and thought leadership. We have about 25 active testbeds, with an equal number of additional testbeds in development.
Testbeds: where the rubber meets the road
For any complex Industrial IoT implementation to be successful, there are diverse technologies that need to be integrated. We’re not talking about plugging your FitBit into your laptop or using your smartphone to control your home thermostat. We’re talking about the challenges of existing industry equipment and structures (brownfield) and integrating these with new equipment (greenfield), or in many cases equipment that is not even available for purchase (can we call them “dreamfield?”). Testbeds provide an environment for companies and multi-disciplinary stakeholders to team up and take these solutions to the test track, to prove out complex systems and gain real-world experience. These testbeds are generating all sorts of best practices and requirements and priorities for standards organizations; the recent launch of the Industrial Internet Interoperability Coalition (I3C) outlines our long-range plans. The I3C initiative is designed to leverage our testbeds to provide the necessary information to ensure the creation of standards and open-source solutions that enable privacy, security and interoperability to accelerate the adoption of IoT in the industrial and enterprise space.
Several of the IIC’s most well established and widely used testbeds are fronted by Bosch in the areas of manufacturing quality, asset efficiency and time sensitive networking. Participation in the Track and Trace Testbed, in which Bosch initially collaborated with Tech Mahindra and Cisco, and now includes NI and SAP, has put forth a connected tools solution that automates a number of routine tasks, improves tool performance and decreases wear and tear. Using tools’ positioning information and a precisely determined location of a component, such as an aircraft on the shop floor, a user knows that the tool is currently located at the vertical stabilizer, for example. Backend software automatically sends instructions that specify the torque needed to tighten bolts there.
With equipment and system processes becoming intelligent, virtually every activity in the industrial enterprise – say an aircraft, factory, or oil field – generates data. The Asset Efficiency Testbed led by Infosys, with support from Bosch, Intel and PTC, provides a holistic approach to harnessing this data in real time, then using analytics for decision-making to accurately anticipate and correct failures, maximize performance, conserve energy, reduce waste, improve quality and grow profits. And yes, sometimes even save lives.
In addition to manufacturing applications, testbed benefits span horizontal industries. To support new digital capabilities and connected manufacturing , designers and users need more reliable and secure access to smart edge devices. Standard network technologies must evolve to meet the demanding requirements of these next-generation industrial systems and improve the way we operate our machines, electrical grids and transportation systems.
The Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) Testbed championed by Bosch, National Instruments, Cisco, Intel, KUKA, Schneider Electric and TTTech will advance the network infrastructure to support the future of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0. The technology supports real-time control and synchronization, for example between motion applications and robots, over a single Ethernet network. TSN can at the same time support other common traffic found in manufacturing applications, driving convergence between IT and operational technologies. Why is this valuable? TSN drives increased connectivity, unlocks critical data from big data analytics which can be used to improve decision-making, increase performance, and enables new business models based on smart, connected systems and machines.
The challenges of the Industrial Internet of Things are massive: not just security, privacy and standardization but data quality, real-time analysis, network performance and many other factors. Testbeds are a major focus of the IIC and its members. Our testbeds are where “the rubber meets the road.” Innovation and opportunities of the industrial Internet – new technologies, new applications, new products, new services and new processes – can be initiated, thought through and rigorously tested to ascertain their usefulness and viability before coming to market. Testbed partners are each lending their different areas of expertise and inventing the future.
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