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Rapid Growth in Times of Uncertainty

The industrial Internet of Things (IoT) is enabling and accelerating the convergence of three key technology and business model shifts that are fueling the digital transformation of every industrial enterprise:

  • Connectivity. The number of connected devices and mobile devices is growing at an increasingly faster pace, emanating massive amounts of real-time information that enables deep insight about themselves and the environment around them.
  • Cloud Computing. After years of hesitation, cloud technology is finally becoming a mainstream business platform and a growth engine. New information systems and business operation constructs can be deployed and scale quickly and cost effectively, as connected assets and mobile devices deliver decision-making power to all ranks in the organization.
  • New Business Models. Cloud-connected assets and customers, coupled with real-time information and decision-making capabilities form the foundation for new ways to engage the business and its customers. Businesses can deploy innovative customer-centric outcome-based engagement models and respond to changing market conditions with greater agility and flexibility.

Industry is making strides in developing Internet of Things technologies and articulating the potential business value of industrial IoT and Industry 4.0 solutions. The upcoming years of the IoT evolution will be characterized by rapid technology acceleration, as the vision of an always-connected world, in which everything and everybody is connected, is becoming an everyday reality.

And company leadership is under pressure to seize the opportunity. Eager technology vendors, enthusiastic investors and analysts, and deluge of breathless headlines, all entice corporate management to jump on the IoT bandwagon before it’s too late.

However, as technology forecaster Paul Saffo aptly observed, one should not mistake a clear view for a short distance.

Early rosy projections about growth in the number of connected devices and the economic impact of the industrial Internet of Things are proving overly optimistic, particularly about the ability of industrial companies to pursue the vision effectively. A survey by the Boston Consulting Group found that while US companies consider digital technologies critical, many lack a holistic adoption strategy and a sense of urgency. A report by KPMG reaches a similar conclusion, highlighting a growing gap between executive ambitions and the corresponding transformative action plans.

To a great extent, the excitement and promise of growth are tempered by lingering concerns about IoT network security and data privacy. Others are still uncertain how to go about articulating comprehensive business models and return on investment.

What Does the Industrial IoT Mean for Product Designers?

What does the industrial Internet of Things mean for the designers of connected products that enable new customer engagement models? Are IoT “things” just like any other industrial equipment, only connected to the Internet? or are there certain design and technical elements business planners and design engineers should consider?

To understand the relationships between the Internet of Things and product design, we need to consider three layers of responses:

Design for IoT

At its most fundamental level, designing products for IoT concentrates on incorporating basic telemetry features such as sensor electronics and Internet connectivity, and, rather obviously, the necessary mechanisms to secure these devices from rogue access and malicious hacking.

Design for the Business of IoT

A less obvious observation, often missed by IoT enthusiasts, is that the product architecture and features must be aligned with business operations. Designers should adopt a business-centric point of view and optimize features and capabilities specifically to achieve the intended business outcome.

For instance, a design to maximize system uptime requires not only remote monitoring capabilities, but could also include optimizing replaceable unit (FRU) granularity to streamline field service operations, spare parts inventory, and workforce availability and training.

Design by IoT

But there is much more to the question about the relationship between the Internet and the “things.”

Most engineering organizations lose sight of their products once they are sold or installed in the field. Always-connected products and customers provide a nonstop stream of structured and unstructured information about products, services, and user interactions. This rich feedback from diverse connected ecosystems, including social media, enable faster and precise design iterations and effective continuous improvement. In essence, the IoT is driving product design!

Seven Industrial IoT Predictions for 2017 and Beyond


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The Internet of Evil Things

The Seventh Seal (1957)

Guest post by Joe Barkai. Original story appeared here

How Secure is the Internet of Things?

You may have heard me at a conference or read my response to questions concerning the security of the Internet of Things. When asked, I sometimes “refuse” to answer this question. This is not because I do not think that data security—and the closely-related data privacy—are not important; of course they are.  But I want to highlight the point that data security and privacy are foundational issues that are not unique to IoT devices. Every enterprise must ensure that all data—IoT generated or not—is secured and that data privacy and ownership are handled properly.

But in light of the recent highly-publicized cyberattacks, and a session with Chris Valasek (who is best known for wirelessly hacking a Jeep wrangler) and Mark Weatherford (past deputy Undersecretary for Cybersecurity at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security), I thought I should provide a brief update.

CCTV Bots Attack the Internet

On October 21, a massive, highly-distributed cyberattack, involving millions of IP addresses and a malicious software, crippled web servers across the U.S., temporarily shutting down DNS services and rendering major Internet sites inaccessible.

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) are not new. But according to web security firm Sucury, this was the first time it had observed an attack powered solely by hacked CCTV devices. The company discovered attackers have compromised more than 25,000 digital video recorders and CCTV cameras, and are using them to launch DDoS attacks against websites.

Taxonomy of IoT Devices

Internet-connected devices, such as the CCTV devices involved in the DDoS cyberattack, are getting cheaper and more powerful. This trend inspires conceptual architectures that place smart, connected devices at the edge of the IoT network.

There are some perfectly good arguments as to why sophisticated devices with autonomous decision authority should reside at the edge of the network. For instance, moving decision-making devices closer to the industrial processes they control improves real-time control and reduces network traffic and information latency.

On the other hand, there are also equally convincing rationales to consider the use of less sophisticated and less autonomous edge devices.

First, devices that do not need to perform complex computational tasks are simpler and cheaper, consume less power, and are less prone to failures. And because of their low computation bandwidth and limited command and control reach, these devices are far less prone to hacking.

Much more importantly, however, many business decisions should not and cannot be performed at the edge device level. While command and control of a single machine can be done locally and autonomously, the type of deep insight that drives predictive analytics and long-term decisions is based on multiple inputs from the broader IoT and business network: multiple machines, multiple production lines, and in multiple locales. These types of analyses and decisions can only be carried out centrally.

There is no single “ideal” architectural. The power of the Internet of Things is in the ability to form a flexible decision-making architecture, and to move analytics and decision making as needed between edge devices (for example, for real-time control), and centralized cloud applications such as fleet optimization.

In my book The Outcome Economy: How the Industrial Internet of Things is Transforming Every Business, I propose a taxonomy of IoT devices, which can serve to determine the level of decision-authority that should be given to different edge devices.  The following is a shorter version of this taxonomy description.

Activity-Aware Devices

The basic building blocks of the Industrial IoT are single-task devices such as sensors, pumps, valves, and motors. These devices can measure and send discrete pieces of information (a sensor) or respond to a simple on/off command (a pump, a valve, or a motor).

An activity-aware object “understands” the physical world in terms of event and activity streams, where each event or activity is directly related to the task the object is to perform: turn on, measure, etc.

The operating model of activity-aware devices is typically a simple linear sequence of data collection and processing functions, such as a time or state series. These devices primarily measure and log data, but do not provide interactive, analytic, or self-governance capabilities.

Policy-Aware Devices

A policy-aware device is an activity-aware object with an embedded policy model. A policy-aware device can sense and interpret events and activities and respond to them based on predefined operational and organizational policies.

The governance model of policy-aware devices consists of application-specific policies expressed as a set of rules that operate on event and activity streams to create actions. The model provides context-sensitive information about event handling and work-activity performance. In particular, it can issue warnings and alerts if it’s unable to comply with the policy or the operating model.

Many industrial devices, even simple ones, are policy-aware devices. For example, a thermostat in a cold-chain application is commanded to maintain a certain ambient temperature range. In other words, the thermostat has an autonomous decision-making capability to enable it to comply with the policy. An air-conditioning unit and an alarm system are other examples of policy-aware devices.

Process-Aware Devices

A process is a collection of related activities that are sequenced in time and space to accomplish a task or a combination of tasks. Process execution rules can be included for dynamic recombination of activities to support a broader range of interrelated activities, tasks, and sub-tasks, and have greater event-handling agility and decision capacity.

A process-aware device is aware of and “understands” the organizational processes that it is a part of. Moreover, it is also aware of other devices in its subnetwork operating in tandem to implement the process and can relate the occurrence of real-world activities and events of these processes to the user.

Cold-chain logistics, process automation and control, robots, and manufacturing execution systems (MES) are examples of process-aware applications.

The application model of process-aware objects is built around a dynamic context-aware workflow model that defines timing and ordering of work activities. Work processes (that is, sequence and timing of activities and events) communicate with others to accomplish predefined, high-level tasks.

Not Everything Than Can Be Connected, Should Be

Every industry survey stresses security concerns as one of the top hurdles in the way of broad adoption, and the publicity of IoT-generated DDoS attacks, which impacted both businesses and individuals, will further erode the confidence of consumers and corporations alike. There’s probably very little damage in curbing the enthusiasm of those that marvel the vision of connected refrigerators and toasters, but the participants in the Industrial IoT and the connected infrastructure overall, should intensify the conversation about standardization, certification and registration, and the delicate balance between enforcement and enticement.

These conversations are critical, but, as stated before, are not limited in scope to the Internet of Things.

While we work to encourage the use of standards, best practices, and better technology, let’s remember that not everything than can be connected, should be.  Let’s focus on valuable scenarios rather than the digital chatting between coffee pots and toasters.

(Portions of this articles are from The Outcome Economy: How the Industrial Internet of Things is Transforming Every Business)

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