Prepare your plant for the “Internet of Things” – the proliferation of digital devices that promises to revolutionize industrial production through the ubiquitous interconnectivity of the Internet Protocol (IP).
Many of these “things” are already operating on the factory floor. Today, IP-enabled microprocessors – the brains inside digital devices – seamlessly connect conventional automation equipment such as I/O modules and variable-frequency drives. But true catalyst behind the transformation of the industrial landscape is the explosive growth of digital devices adopted from other disciplines.
Video cameras, RFID readers, digital tablets, security swipe-cards – these open-standard, IP-enabled devices and others are helping manufacturing and process operations reach new heights of production quality, efficiency, security and safety.
Even more powerful technological trends will drive the expansion of the Internet of Things deeper into the industrial fabric. Those factors include the unprecedented ability to combine hardware and software over industrial Ethernet for ever-greater levels of performance and connectivity. Add to that the exponential increases in processing power, storage and bandwidth available at lower and lower costs. Then there’s the emergence of mobile and cloud computing, along with the ability to analyze Big Data and turn it into actionable information.
To get full benefit of this intelligence, all devices within a plant need to talk with one another, as well as those at the enterprise level, using a unified networking infrastructure that is IP-centric. That’s because only Internet Protocol suite – the world’s defining networking technology – can ensure the scalability and harmonious coexistence of the Internet of Things, and support their innovative services.
Enter Industrial IP. Today and for the future, all industrial networking infrastructures must harness the end-to-end connectivity of the Internet Protocol software suite for every application.
Barriers to Industrial IP
Despite all the business advantages of industrial network convergence, a proportion of the automation world still deploys individual networks for individual applications.
But there’s a high cost to running multiple networks and attaching the hardware required to connect them to the rest of the IP-connected operation. And the price – along with the complexity of network infrastructures – will rise as IP-connected devices continue to multiply within plants, requiring a profusion of additional gadgetry to connect them.
The consequences of separate networks go well beyond unnecessary cost and complexity. Two or three networks consume more physical space than just one. Managing and maintaining multiple networks requires more people and training than a simple, single system.
Most importantly, such a complex network infrastructure lacks the scalability and flexibility that will be necessary to meet the digital demands of the future – and take full advantage of the opportunities.
For example, what if:
- You could access “prognostics” along with diagnostics, so you’d know not only what’s happening in your plant, but problems likely to arise?
- Off-site experts could reduce the impact of an aging workforce by analyzing a multimedia data stream, including instant messaging, voice or video?
- Every handheld digital device in the factory could report the status of every fixed device, giving personnel mobile access to real-time, actionable information?
- Wearable sensors could help you could track the location of each employee in the factory, so you could ensure everybody got in case of a fire?
- You had a pervasive security solution throughout your system that allowed a sensor to connect to the industrial network just as securely as a PC does in the office?
These capabilities and more will become possible because of the many intelligent – and increasingly small – devices that will emerge and become part of the Internet of Things over the next 10 to 15 years. The overwhelming majority of these digital things will naturally depend on IP because of its overarching interoperability.
But the greatest value of Industrial IP is its ability to increases the amount of information and the level of communications associated with production processes, creating more room for agility and innovation in the industrial space.
Advances in IP technology
Automation providers who’ve stayed with non-standard, multiple networks have convinced their customers that separate networks lead to high-performance production.
But that myth has been busted by the widespread adoption and use EtherNet/IP (Industrial Protocol). Instead of overriding the power of IP, EtherNet/IP puts the software protocol to work, allowing industrial producers to easily take advantage of higher-level protocols that IP supports.
Among these are functions the rest of the computing world – indeed most every other industry – take for granted. For example, FTP, to send files, SMTP, to send an email and HTTP for web browsing. Add to that list even more recent and powerful digital communication technologies such as VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol).
Other protocols have been developed specifically for industrial applications, such as the Common Industrial Protocol (CIP). CIP encompasses a comprehensive suite of messages and services for the collection of manufacturing automation applications – control, safety, synchronization, motion, configuration and information. Thus, CIP provides a unified communication architecture throughout the manufacturing enterprise, allowing users to integrate these manufacturing applications with enterprise-level Ethernet networks and functionality, as well as the Internet itself. Not to mention all of the other advantages and tools that people around the globe are developing every day.
To take full business advantage of this communications revolution, the whole of industrial automation must move to a holistic digital communications fabric that supports all subsystems present within industrial applications.
These subsystems will become services to operational management, with IP ensuring coexistence and enabling shared services in a consistent way.
Industrial IP can bring together automation, surveillance, facility management and access-control subsystems within a single infrastructure to reduce deployment and operational costs. Industrial IP will ensure consistency of security policy, practice and procedure. These are all done by eliminating duplicated networks, freeing both human and financial resources to focus on improving production and increasing innovation.