The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is now an established model. Numerous organisations in manufacturing, utilities and other industrial sectors are benefiting from the intelligence generated by embedding connected sensors throughout their environments, whether for proactive equipment maintenance, process streamlining and efficiencies, or even product innovation.
However, deploying a brand-new IIoT ecosystem is not always straightforward. Many organisations still face significant barriers to adoption, either at the project planning stage or in the early phases of implementation. And, while small-scale IIoT deployments can be cost-effective, quick and simple to undertake, larger ones can cause significant organisational disruption and financial losses if they fail.
As such, it makes sense to consider the major barriers to IIoT adoption upfront, and to take steps to avoid them. Here are the top four we think you need to consider.
Barrier 1: Visibility
Any enterprise IoT project vastly increases the number of connected devices or ‘things’ on the corporate network – which means that a comprehensive system for keeping track of each individual device, and the users accessing them is essential. You need to not only be able to authorise and verify the identity of each individual device and user; you also need to be immediately alerted as to any authorisation or performance problems.
As such, any IIoT deployment needs to be built around a single centralised platform and dashboard for managing the entire ecosystem. This platform should not only enable you to keep track of each endpoint and user across your IIoT deployment; it should also allow you to clearly understand the data being collected, and the business actions you should take as a result of those insights. IIoT visibility isn’t merely about day-to-day operations; it is also about information visibility.
Barrier 2: Security
As mentioned above, embracing the IIoT means introducing a great many new potential points of entry to your enterprise network – points of entry which can potentially be harnessed by cybercriminals. All of those endpoints need to be adequately protected against malware and malicious hacking, as well as accidental damage or infiltration as a result of digital vandalism. Meanwhile, the huge amount of data generated and transmitted throughout an IIoT infrastructure requires protection from the same multitude of threats.
Achieving comprehensive IIoT security means developing security by design, rather than layering it on after the IIoT infrastructure has been laid out. Your security solution needs to identify and authorise each individual device, and actively protect each of those devices from infection and infiltration. It also needs to encrypt all of the data throughout your IIoT ecosystem, both in transit and at rest.
Above all, you need to treat IIoT security as a journey, rather than a one-stop destination. Just as the threats facing your IIoT infrastructure are continually evolving, so your security tools, technologies and processes need to evolve too.
Barrier 3: Integration
A survey by IoT Nexusfound that 77% of IoT professionals think that interoperability is the most significant challenge facing the IIoT. This makes sense; the typical manufacturing environment features both a vast amount of disparate pieces of hardware, and a series of strict protocols which may not be interconnected. Then the IIoT comes along, and tries to layer a single connected infrastructure on top.
There are various approaches to dealing with this challenge. A cloud-based, cross-purpose platform from managing the overall IIoT architecture is usually a good place to start, as is using standard protocols wherever possible, such as Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure and Message Queue Telemetry Support. Open industrial interoperability standards should also be considered. Two examples are Open Platform Communications Standards (OPC) and the OPC Unified Architecture specifications.
Barrier 4: Users
With any new enterprise technology deployment, the hardware and software are only half of the picture. Those technologies also has to be used – effectively and appropriately – by employees.
In terms of the IIoT, this can raise some interesting challenges. How can you ensure that every staff member understands the new deployment, not just in terms of operating the connected ‘things’, but also in terms of using the data collected to drive business actions? How do roles change when the IIoT drives a more proactive and predictive approach to equipment maintenance? Successful IIoT deployments include careful staff training plans, and a thorough revisiting of all job roles and responsibilities to consider how they change in light of the new technology.
Topics: IIoT adoption