It is still early innings for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and the fourth industrial revolution has barely begun, yet organisations without a digital strategy are already falling behind. This trend toward more connectivity, data, computing, and technology will only grow. Enterprises that digitally transform themselves will, in fact, empower themselves to take advantage of the new technologies that can help them achieve their business goals.To maximise IIoT project return on investment (ROI), enterprise information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) professionals need to work together. IT must securely pull data from OT equipment before it can process it and share the appropriate insights with OT professionals, as well as other internal and external stakeholders. Historically, a disconnect has existed between IT and OT in most organizations. IT and OT both innovated and added capabilities, but this was done by taking divergent paths and by being designed in proprietary ways.
Traditionally, IT worked from the top down to deploy and maintain enterprise infrastructure/business applications, while OT worked from the ground up, focusing first on the end device (e.g., machinery) before moving on to monitoring and control-type functions. OT professionals rarely had to work with networked technology. The introduction of IIoT technologies unifies these efforts around the central theme of data, so that IT can embrace newfound operational responsibilities as OT professionals become familiar with IT tools.
IIoT solutions can virtualise control systems from multiple manufacturers and converge them under a single administrative platform. They can restrict control access to on-premise workers and transmit analytics off-site for strategic planning. But reaching the point where all of these moving pieces come together in a real-world production environment can be messy. Many OT devices come up short in key areas, such as interoperability and security, due to the prevalence of over proprietary protocols, in the legacy machine-to-machine (M2M) market out of which IIoT grew. IT and OT must work together using the appropriate protocol converters and taking the necessary security measures to both connect and protect mission-critical operations. If they can do this, it can result in a converged system that they can update and adapt far more easily than before.
With a converged IT/OT system, IT can regulate access to IIoT tools, ensuring security. The appropriate stakeholders can then
monitor digital twins, running digital tests and simulations based on near real-time, real-world data to optimize the performance
of all sorts of assets, reduce downtime, and perform predictive analysis for failing parts. IIoT tools can also empower the integration
of other technologies, such as augmented reality (AR), collaborative and connected robotics, and product lifecycle management (PLM). A converged IT/OT system with IIoT tools feeds into PLM software for improved data management. In a recent survey conducted by
ABI Research, when asked to rank the most desired outcomes of applying emerging technologies to manufacturing organizations,
respondents ranked “improved data management” in the top three more than any other outcome, as seen in Chart 1 below.
To achieve this level of IT/OT integration and make the digital transformation, ABI Research provides strategic guidance in the form
of the following step-by-step framework, which is explained in greater detail below:
Appoint a chief digital officer (CDO).
- Train cross-functional teams.
- Align business goals.
- Choose partners that accelerate innovation.
- Scale applications.