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IIoT is not a revolution – It’s an evolution

Jörgen Palmhager Issue: Europe II 2016
Article no.: 9
Topic: IIoT is not a revolution – It’s an evolution
Author: Jörgen Palmhager
Title: COO
Organisation: HMS Industrial Networks
PDF size: 186KB

About author

Jörgen Palmhager is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at HMS since January 2007. Prior to that, Development Manager at HMS from 1992 until 2006.

Jörgen has a B.Sc. in Computer Systems Engineering from Halmstad University.

Article abstract

Many people speak of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) as a trend for the future and a revolution for the automation industry. But if you ask Jörgen Palmhager, COO at Swedish industrial communication specialists HMS Industrial Networks, he would argue differently. “The Industrial Internet of Things is not a trend for the future, it is happening as we speak – and it is an evolution, not a revolution,” he says. We caught up with Mr. Palmhager to let him explain the HMS view on IIoT. 

Full Article

“For us at HMS Industrial Networks, the Industrial Internet of Things is nothing new,” says Jörgen Palmhager, Chief Operating Officer at HMS and frequent lecturer on IIoT. “We have been ’Connecting Devices’ for more than 20 years and seen the IIoT technology evolving for several years under different names such as Cloud Technology, Machine to Machine (M2M), or Remote Management. These buzzwords, have been around for years, but it is now that we are starting to see a wider acceptance on the market under the common umbrella IIoT. ”
Information is the key – and it is already there
Many companies are now starting to work out strategies for IIoT and while the implications may far-reaching, the technology itself is actually not be that hard to implement. Indeed, Jörgen Palmhager claims that IIoT does not require massive investments or huge, complex projects. It is basically about getting data from automation applications to IT systems for processing. “The key thing is that the data is already there, residing in the existing Operational Technology (OT). The trick is to get the data translated into a format that IT-systems can understand, and there are already products and solutions available to do this,” says Jörgen Palmhager.
Different drivers for different markets
But if this technology has been available for some time, why is there so much talk about IIoT right now? “Well, that depends on where you ask that question,” says Jörgen Palmhager. “There are different drivers for IIoT depending on where you are in the world. In the U.S., we see signs of a manufacturing renaissance as more and more production is moving back to the states and domestic production is re-established. Also, many of the world-leading software and IT companies are located in the U.S and are entering new and advanced manufacturing partnerships. If you look to Europe, the main driver is to maintain manufacturing competitiveness and keep exporting machines and systems. The Industrie 4.0 initiative in Germany is an example of this. If we look towards China, we see increasing labor costs and a need to increase quality, ergonomics and environmental sustainability. So the drivers for IIoT are different depending on where you are in the world but the overall task is the same: Gathering information from operational technology to be presented to IT systems.”
Information enables Smart Operations and Smart Things
Jörgen Palmhager repeatedly comes back to the notion that information is the key to the smart factories of the future – and that the information is already there, residing in the factories’ PLC systems. It just needs to be “translated” to be understood by IT systems. That is why he sees IIoT as an evolution and not a revolution.
“What is revolutionary, however, is the effect that IIoT will have on the industrial world,” he says. And the effects vary, depending on who you are.
“For factory owners, IIoT will enable so called 'Smart Operations’” says Jörgen Palmhager. “By getting data from the factory floor to IT-systems, it is possible to do system analysis, production statistics and monitor machines and system health. The connected factory of the future will be far more efficient and self-guided. Indeed, I often say that the factory of a future will have only two employees – a man and a dog. The man will make sure that the machines work and the dog will keep the man company.”
Mr. Palmhager continues: “Machine builders, on the other hand, will see their machines become 'Smart Things’ – constantly online for business intelligence and remote maintenance. This means that machine builders can sell services around maintenance and upgrades – they will become service companies instead of product companies. So the implications of IIoT are revolutionary, while the technology itself is more of an evolution.”
Solutions are already available
According to Jörgen Palmager, IIoT-products are already available – and have been for some time. “Companies who produce or manage installations which are remote by nature, power generators, wind turbines, telecom base stations etc., have been connecting their machinery to the cloud for many years, but we are now seeing a wider acceptance on the marketplace,” says Jörgen Palmhager.
He divides the emerging IIoT-solutions into three main categories:
• Cloud solutions
One example of this is a gateway which connects industrial machinery such as a drive, generator, a or a UPS to the cloud where it can be monitored and controlled remotely. Some remote gateway vendors have their own cloud solutions, while others offer connectivity to third party clouds and IoT-platforms such as Thingworks, Oracle and SAP.

• Edge gateways — bridging the gap between IT and OT
Machines on the factory floor are often referred to as Operational Technology or OT. By connecting these machines to the IT level, it is possible for business intelligence systems to get unprecedented access to live information from production facilities.

This connection is made possible by IT/OT gateways or “Edge gateways.” "Edge" in this case refers to the edge between the IT systems and the factory floor systems.

• Industrial networking — connecting the old and the new
Industrial communication systems today primarily consists of legacy systems such as CAN and PROFIBUS – well-working and established industry-specific networks installed in millions of systems. However, in the last decades, there has been a push for IP-based technology which has made Industrial Ethernet become a popular. These are now the fastest-growing networks in new industrial installations.

Consequently, there is a vast amount of industrial systems that need to be migrated to new technologies and this change will be gradual — no company wants to change well-functioning systems overnight. Migration from old to new calls for gateways and middleware software to upgrade existing well-working machines and systems to take advantage of the new technologies.

IIoT provides a huge opportunity to new gains in flexibility and productivity but also challenges as to how to merge existing installations to these new technologies.
So what are the challenges?
All new technology has its challenges and IIoT is no exception. Security may be the number one aspect to consider when implementing IIoT according to Jörgen Palmhager. “As the industry becomes more connected, it also opens its doors to threats such as viruses and hacker attacks. Solid, proven and trusted communication solutions between OT and IT will be very important. Another challenge is the reluctance to change. It will be challenging for product companies to transform themselves to become service companies and establish new business models, but they will need to in order to become efficient,” says Jörgen Palmhager.
Choosing the right supplier of IIoT solutions
So although the technology for IIoT may be easily accessible, it’s business implications may be substantial. Therefore, it is crucial to choose solid, industrial quality solutions for IIoT to make sure that you have a secure and reliable solution. “At HMS, we see great potential in industrial IoT and earlier this year, we acquired the Belgian company eWON to strengthen our know-how of remote management of industrial equipment. As the need for connectivity and communication is increasing, IIoT solutions open the door to devices and machines on the factory floor so users can do machine analytics, KPI-follow-up and predictive maintenance etc. The results? Smarter industrial solutions.”


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