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How the Internet of Things is changing the Industrial sector

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Predictions are that there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020 and in our lifetime we will experience life with a trillion-node network. The IoT is ushering in the next Industrial Revolution and will enable new form of analytics to analyse a massive cloud of dynamic, ever changing information and offer information that can be used for operative and analytical purposes.

By Amit Rao

The Internet of Things or IoT is regarded as a disruptive technology and a game changer. The IoT (Internet of Things) will be defined by the exponential growth of web-enabled “things” that measure, monitor and control the physical world, interacting with each other.

IoT is enabling machines and the automation systems to securely connect to each other, in an enterprise and to the rest of the supply chain. Factories will have be able to have more data available from the machinery and the processes thus harnessing the “big data” to provide a increased visibility of the factory floor,  improving upon the product quality, yields, productivity, operational costs and resulting in better risk management, profits and faster time-to-market. IoT makes it possible for organizations to gather, analyse the scenarios and take decision in real-time.

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FoF, Industry 4.0, SMLC – Initiatives for Industrial IoT Around The World

Given the manufacturing competitiveness that IoT can provide to industries and nations as a whole, several government bodies across the globe have initiated programs to enable an ecosystem which will promote growth and drive the adoption of IoT. Factories of the Future (FoF) is a Public-Private Partnership initiative that aims at helping European Union based manufacturing enterprises to adapt to global competitive challenges by developing necessary key enabling technologies like IoT across a broad range of sectors with the objective of meeting the increased global demand of the customers, with high quality products and better use of resources with least wastage.

Germany is promoting the Industry 4.0, a high-tech strategy that promotes the computerization of existing traditional industries such as manufacturing. The goal is to have intelligent factory, which will be self adaptable, resource efficient and the integration of customers and business partners in business and value processes. Technological basis are cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things. Meanwhile, in the United States, an initiative known as the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition is also working on the future of manufacturing. SMLC aims at developing approaches, standards, platforms and shared infrastructure that facilitate the broad adoption of manufacturing intelligence.

Typical industrial setup

While India looks forward to an impetus in the manufacturing sector due to forward looking government policies on manufacturing, investments in infrastructure, favourable currency movement, shrinking labour arbitrage, it provides for an opportunity for the government and various industry forums to drive an early adoption of Industrial IoT which can boost manufacturing productivity, production volumes, profits. It will also result in improved efficiency of systems and infrastructure and will give India a competitive edge inspite of a late start on the manufacturing front.

Information Technology has penetrated the industries over the past decade and manufacturing companies have been implementing sensors and computerized automation for a while now with an array of sensors, Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC), Human Machine Interface (HMI), Motor Drives and PC-based controllers and management systems but they are still largely disconnected from the operational systems and the supply chain. The Industrial IoT brings in a more connected network that provides a great value proposition to the organization by connecting the data to floor workers, managers, planners, supply chain, decision makers and facilitate data management, processing, and analytics.

Building blocks of Industrial IoT

The building blocks of Industrial IoT constitute of Sensing Node (Sensor), Local Processing Node (MCU), Connectivity Node (Wired/Wireless), Remote Embedded Processing Node (MCU/ Processor functioning as Gateway, Bridge or Router), and Cloud Computing (Digital Signal Processors). This building block will also have analogue at each controller unit, software for each block, security in terms of integrity, confidentiality & reliability of the data being communicated between the blocks. Built-in hardware security at each node will be an essential requirement.

Typical Industrial IoT network

Industrial IoT network architecture can be broadly classified as client/server and peer-to-peer. The client/server arrangement works well for application where equipment, process, parameter monitoring is the primary objective. The autonomous, peer-to-peer architecture is characterized by many-to-many connections which are enabled by multiples of nodes working in tandem to achieve the objective.  Each node can take decisions and communicate its status to peers. This form of IoT is able to multi-task, can be controlled remotely and has the capability to transform the system into adaptive & agile one.

Challenges posed by Industrial IoT

The adoption of IoT in Industrial sector also spells a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs and organizations to develop innovative IoT products for the future needs. The Industrial IoT will have various challenges ahead for the designers and system architects.

Connectivity. Will need to have a broad variety of wired and wireless standards for varying needs of the system. The Industrial IoT will constitute of Industry standards like Zigbee for Low power mesh requirements, Sub 1-GHz for low power & long range, WiFi for Direct internet connection with 10Mbps++ speeds, Bluetooth for lowest power, EtherCAT for fast, low latency Ethernet. Other connectivity options ,but not limited to, will be RFID, GPS, 6LoWPAN, ANT+, EtherNet/IP, PROFINET, NFC, Prime Alliance & G3-PLC Alliance. The other challenge is getting the connectivity standards to talk to one another.

Power Consumption. Power will be a critical aspect and will call for the lowest power solutions for any IoT application possible. Technology will be required to power up billions of battery or harvested powered devices. Low power consuming precision analogue & power management ICs, Low power Microcontrollers, Low power wireless connectivity will enable the system design. Harvesting sources could include light, vibration, thermal & RF.

Security. Industrial IoT will manage critical processes within the factory and strong security mechanism will be required to prevent, detect and respond to unintended behaviours or malicious attacks. Built-in hardware security will be an essential requirement. A strong security mechanism also needs to exist for the software and the connectivity medium between the nodes.

Complexity. IoT solutions should be easy to use for manufacturers and consumers. For manufacturers the solution should be easy to develop & design. This will entail a simplified RF design; make it easier for systems/gateways/nodes to connect to internet. Tools & Software availability will enable the ease of design.

Rapid Evolution. IoT is constantly changing and evolving and given that the future requirements will change as the technology reaches a mature stage, a flexible hardware and software portfolio to mix & match will be required.

How can you tackle these challenges?

Texas Instruments has “IoT Ready” portfolio of wired and wireless connectivity technologies, sensors, low power microcontrollers & processors, single & multi-core DSP, analogue signal chain and power solutions. TI also offers SimpleLink™ Wi-Fi® family which includes CC3100 Internet-on-a-chip™ solution that enables designers to add Wi-Fi capability to any MCU. Even more, the CC3200 Internet-on-a-chip solution is the first programmable Wi-Fi MCU enabling development with just a single IC. These new solutions are designed for battery-operated products with the ability to run on two AA batteries for more than a year.

The cloud happens to be a critical block in the IoT architecture and TI offers cloud-ready system solutions designed for IoT accessibility. TI has also introduced a third party ecosystem of Internet of Things (IoT) cloud service providers. This ecosystem will allow manufacturers using TI technology to connect with the IoT more easily and rapidly. The first members of the ecosystem include 2lemetry, ARM, Arrayent, Exosite, IBM, LogMeIn, Spark, and Thing square.

The IoT is driving value into the Industrial Enterprise. Organizations that recognize the new business models created by smart, interconnected devices and investing in Industrial IoT will gain long term competitive advantage.

 Amit Rao is the Area Director – India (West) at Texas Instruments
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