Depending on your industry, you probably already have the building blocks you need to get started. Like Will Aja of systems integrator Panacea Technologies said for an article in Control Global: “The basics of IIoT have really been in process automation for a long time because we’ve been connecting processes and whole plants for years.”
In this article, we’ll look briefly at the tools you need to succeed with the IIoT.
The basic tools: Something to collect data, something to aggregate it, and something to make sense of it
A big benefit of the IIoT is that it allows you to collect a ton of data from various sources, put that data together, and get actionable insights.
For example, in a previous article, we saw how an oil and gas company took almost 19 million measurements per day from over 21,000 oil wells and used that information to decide when the wells needed adjustments and repairs. This effort saves the company roughly $145,000 per month per field.
No two IIoT implementations are the same. The one that’s right for you will depend on your goals, and the first thing you should do is sit down with all of the relevant stakeholders and decide exactly what you want to accomplish. This will help you choose the tools that will best help you reach those goals.
However, there are some basics that every IIoT project must have. At the very least, you need a system to collect the data from different areas of your plant, a system to aggregate the data, and a system to turn the data into information you can act on.
Control Global provides a good basic overview of the must-have tools and must-know skills for the IIoT. For data collection, they specify:
“Intelligent sensors, instruments, I/O modules and other device-level components, which are smarter than traditional counterparts because they have microprocessors, Ethernet ports, Internet-protocol addresses and internal webpages.”
You also need a network infrastructure, which increasingly means wireless, network communication protocols, and, of course, network security.
The specific data collection tools you use should be directly aligned with the goals you identified. Remember: It’s not just about collecting data. It’s about collecting data that will inform the actions you take to achieve your desired results.
Next, you need somewhere to store all of the data you collect — a database. An IIoT database is different from the other types of databases you may work on every day. As this TechTarget article explains, “Some of the most important considerations are scalability, ability to ingest data at sufficient rates, schema flexibility, integration with analytics tools, and costs.”
If you want to build your own database, MongoDB is a popular tool. This what appliance and automotive parts company Bosch uses to do everything from monitor vehicle component performance to manage manufacturing maintenance schedules.
Finally, data on its own is just a bunch of numbers. You need an analytics tool to turn that data into information that you can use to make decisions and take action.
There are many options for data analytics solutions. The right one of you depends on your field and your needs. For example, CSB-System makes an IIoT-ready enterprise resource planning (ERP) software specifically for the food industry. Plant design software Engineering Base automatically feeds control engineering with technical data for more efficient use of IIoT applications like predictive maintenance.
This is obviously a very cursory overview of IIoT tools. For more information, check out these articles:
- Plant Services: IIoT: Choose the right tools for the job
- Control Global: Exploring the tools, skills needed to navigate the Industrial Internet of Things