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The phrase, “the future is here,” is overused and has evolved into a catchphrase for companies struggling to position themselves in times of technological or digital transformations. Still, the sentiment is understood, especially in times like today, where the Internet of Things is quite literally changing the way we think about hardware and software. We’d like to offer an addendum to the phrase: “The future is here more quickly than we thought it would be.”

Digital transformation, increased computing ability, smart hardware and the growth of connectivity capabilities created a perfect storm of accelerated industry, and many were left scrambling to sift through the large amounts of information and solutions available. With that in mind, we wanted to provide some advice for companies across the industrial sector for the best ways to optimize operations for the Industrial IoT.

1) Upgrade your network and throughput capabilities.

Nothing can kill the ROI of automated processes more quickly than the literal inability to function. It’s important to understand that as you upgrade machinery and invest in the software to run it all, those systems demand greater bandwidth in order to effectively utilize the big data and analytics capabilities. Several options exist, but for most companies some combination of industrial-strength broadband (WiFi), narrow-band, cellular and RF communications will create the most effective network for the needs.

2) Invest in smart hardware.

This may seem like a no-brainer, and really, in the not-too-distant future, you may not even have a choice, but the shift toward Fog Computing is gaining momentum and being able to run decentralized computing between hardware and the Cloud can not only create greater operational efficiency, but it can also allow your data transmission to run more smoothly as well. The beauty of a Fog Computing system is that it allows a greater number of devices to transmit smaller data packets, which frees up bandwidth and speeds real-time data analytics. The core of this lies in the smart hardware.

3) Be proactive about application development.

Smart hardware means that it has the ability to host applications designed specifically for your needs. Previously, many companies shied away from app development because it required highly skilled developers and devices capable of hosting those apps – a combination that wasn’t readily available. Today, the scene has changed. With the rise of Node-RED, it is much easier today to create proprietary applications without a computer engineering degree, and any company serious about leveraging IIoT technology needs to be able to to use the full scope of its data.

4) Secure your communications.

There isn’t much more to be said about the importance of cybersecurity. If the last few years of massive data breaches haven’t rung alarm bells, then you aren’t paying attention. Cybersecurity today is a multi-layered need. Most companies building smart hardware are beginning to build encryption directly into the devices. But, since many companies use Cloud applications for computing and analytics, it is important to invest in strong security measures at that level as well. Unfortunately, the sophistication of cyber-attacks are only going to increase, along with the increase in importance of the data needing to be protected. It pays to be paranoid and act accordingly.

Further Reading:

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A recent study by Cisco suggests that 75% of IoT initiatives will fail. However, there is growing pressure to invest in IoT. Ensuring the success of enterprise IoT initiatives is definitely not easy given technology immaturity, culture obstacles as well as well as the challenges of traditional organizational structure. So put the odds of success back into your favor using a customer-centric, integrated team (IT) philosophy.
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Fog Computing is a slippery concept. It combines two critical components of data computing today, Edge and Cloud computing, into a system that leverages the strength – and necessity – of both. This idea of local computing (the Edge) combined with more complicated analytics engines (the Cloud) opens up a world of possibilities for data communications.

Fog Computing & Emergency Response

Earlier this fall, researchers at Georgia Tech looked at the application of Fog Computing in areas struck by natural disasters. In these areas, traditional means of internet connection are often knocked out of commission, leaving rescuers and victims unable to communicate with one another, even though there are many apps designed to help facilitate rescue. Where Fog Computing comes in is that rather than relying on a direct connection to the internet, different Fog nodes can be leveraged to create an ad hoc network that can still send basic messages:

However, one important advantage of a fog system is that messages can be distributed between a broad network of computers through temporary ad hoc connections, even without live internet connections.

The geo-distributed network of fog nodes, which could be phones, tablets or any device part of the Internet of Things, could generate communication channels in areas where there were none before, allowing the creation of population density maps in flooded areas.

Another application would allow users to check the fog network to see if their family members are safe after a crisis event.

Fog Computing applied in this setting is applicable around the world, as we are reminded daily of both the ubiquity and fragility of wireless communications against the whims of nature.

Smart Grids Need Fog Computing

Across the globe, more and more countries are jumping into smart grid deployments. The good side is that smart energy tools are critical to managing resources. The bad side is that most are not sufficiently developed with the necessary security infrastructure in place. When considering the rapid development of smart grid tech, Fog Computing quickly comes up as a viable tool for ensuring reliable data communication and information transfer between consumers, grid operators and larger energy providers. The Open Fog Consortium, a global Fog Computing group comprised of technology and academic thought leaders, has formed Resilient Information Architecture Platform for Smart Grid (RIAPS), a project aimed at developing software for Fog Computing platforms:

RIAPS is very different from conventional platforms as it was designed for inherently distributed and decentralized applications. An application is composed of interconnected real-time software components (similar to micro-services) that can be event- and/or time-triggered and that interact via well-defined communication patterns, including publish/subscribe and synchronous and asynchronous service invocations. Such components are location transparent and agnostic about the underlying messaging framework.

Although the project is based out of Vanderbilt University, in the United States, the repercussions will be felt throughout the world.

Is Fog Computing the Final Answer?

While Fog Computing has yet to be standardized and applied across the wide range of IoT technologies out in the field today, its ability to combine both local and Cloud data analytics is something that can have an impact in both the consumer and the Industrial IoT. However, the first adapters, companies that play in IIoT settings, will be largely responsible for driving the growth of this concept moving forward into the future.

Additional Reading:

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The manufacturing industry is undergoing many changes. Those specializing in traditional manufacturing are finding it difficult to keep up with the changes. Perhaps the biggest change has been how traditional manufacturing has come under pressure to manage vast amounts of data captured from different sources. Here are some of the reasons the Internet of Things (IoT) can help.

1. KEEPING AN EYE ON SUPPLIERS

Quality control has become easier because IoT helps keep an eye on suppliers. This makes for easier manufacturing processes. Keeping an eye on suppliers is all about looking at all the constituents that the supplier offers. Capturing data about these constituents through IoT helps make for faster data processing and better quality control.

2. MORE PRODUCTIVITY

Thanks to IoT, many manufacturers are now building self-correcting systems. Missing parts are replaced and parts are replenished, giving rise to greater productivity. Since manufacturing industries are looking in particular for ways to boost productivity, there is no way for them to overlook what IoT can do for them. In addition to greater productivity, there is also more convenience since the need for human labor reduces.

3. MAINTAINING SUPPLY LINES

The Internet of Things is expected to help manufacturers stick to lean manufacturing while at the same time helping maintain supply lines. Since lean manufacturing often requires smart management of the supply lines – to ensure that components are never in short supply but there is no overstock – IoT is expected to help resolve many problems. It will help ensure that suppliers located in different regions can be kept in the loop and supply lines can be managed smoothly so that there is no shortage. It will also help reduce waste and optimize the use of resources.

4. UNINTERRUPTED MANUFACTURING PROCESS

Usually, manufacturing is divided into many processes, from sourcing of raw materials to production, transportation and reaching the customer. However, with the Internet of Things, experts envision something extra. The entire process will be smooth and effective. The raw materials will be already marked for production, intended to reach a particular buyer. This is how experts see things play out as IoT advances to new levels.

5. REDUCED COST

As IoT gains more efficiency, manufacturers can expect to see lowered costs. This is one of the primary reasons manufacturing experts are enthusiastic about the role of IoT. It will become easier to track information about products and processes and more automation would help bring about greater efficiency, thus eventually reducing costs. Lowered costs are expected to boost profit margins. If your manufacturing plant has not invested in IoT yet, this might be the right time to start.

6. LAUNCH NEW PRODUCTS

With IoT, studying needs and launching new products becomes easier. There is less jostle and inefficiency than traditional systems. Manufacturing is thus one of the key areas where you can expect a lot of improvement, thanks to the Internet of Things.

7. INTEGRATING OFFLINE AND ONLINE PROCESSES

Traditionally data and manufacturing have been treated as separate entities. However, in manufacturing industries where IoT advances, this is expected to change. As products begin to carry information about them, it becomes easier to assign a processing and logistics path to them. This is why it becomes critical to involve IoT in your manufacturing plant.

8. CONNECTED TO THE CONSUMER

Products are, in the end, manufactured to suit the consumer. Thanks to IoT, it becomes easier to stay connected to the consumer and create products that match their requirements. This offers two-way benefits, as the consumer gets the best products and the manufacturing plant is able to manufacture products per exact specification. There are a lot of benefits that manufacturers can expect in the long term, thanks to the Internet of Things.As manufacturing processes undergo change, it becomes imperative for manufacturers to make the most of the coming revolution. Supply chains and logistics will become smoother thanks to the industrial Internet of Things. According to many experts, we are at the cusp of another major revolution that will change not only how things are manufactured but also the market economy. It is a good idea to be prepared for these changes by investing in the right IoT system.

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Why Edge Computing Is an IIoT Requirement

How edge computing is poised to jump-start the next industrial revolution.

From travel to fitness to entertainment, we now have killer apps for many things we never knew we needed. Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed tremendous improvements in terms of democratizing data and productivity across the consumer world.

Building on that, we’re entering a new era of software-defined machines that will transform productivity, products and services in the industrial world. This is the critical link which will drive new scenarios at even faster rates of innovation. By 2020, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is expected to be a $225 billion market.

To jump-start the productivity engine of IIoT, real-time response is needed at the machine-level at scale and that requires an edge-plus-cloud architecture designed specifically for the Industrial Internet. From Google maps to weather apps, we’ve been experiencing the benefits of cloud and edge computing working together in our daily lives for quite some time.

But, what is edge? Edge is the physical location that allows computing closer to the source of data. Edge computing enables data analytics to occur and resulting insights to be gleaned closer to the machines. While edge computing isn’t new, it’s beginning to take hold in the industrial sector – and the opportunity is far greater than anything we’ve seen in the consumer sector, and here’s why:

Real-time data in a real-time world: The edge is not merely a way to collect data for transmission to the cloud. We are now able to process, analyze and act upon the collected data at the edge within milliseconds. It is the gateway for optimizing industrial data. And when millions of dollars and human lives are on the line, edge computing is essential for optimizing industrial data at every aspect of an operation.

Take windfarms for example. If wind direction changes, the edge software onsite would collect and analyze this data in real-time and then communicate to the wind turbine to adjust appropriately using an edge device, such as a field agent and connected control system, and successfully capture more kinetic energy. Because the data is not sent to the cloud, the processing time is significantly faster. This increases wind turbines’ production, and ultimately distributes more clean energy to our cities, increasing the value of the renewable energy space.

Big data, big trade-offs: The harsh and remote conditions of many industrial sites make it challenging to connect and cost-effectively transmit large quantities of data in real-time. We are now able to add intelligence to machines at the edge of the network, in the plant or field. Through edge computing on the device, we’re bringing analytics capabilities closer to the machine and providing a less expensive option for optimizing asset performance.

Consider the thousands of terabytes of data from a gas turbine. Sending this data to the cloud to run advanced analytics maybe technologically possible, but certainly too cost prohibitive to do a daily basis. Through edge computing, we can capture streaming data from a turbine and use this data in real-time to prevent unplanned downtime and optimize production to extend the life of the machine.

What’s Next

Today, only 3% of data from industrial assets is useable. Connecting machines from the cloud to the edge will dramatically increase useable data by providing greater access to high powered, cost effective computing and analytics tools at the machine and plant level.

Consider the fact that for years traditional control systems were designed to keep a machine running the same way day in and day out for the lifecycle of the machine. At GE Energy Connections, we recently debuted the Industrial Internet Control System (IICS), which successfully allows machines to see, think and do and will enable machine learning at scale. To take IICS to the next level, we’re creating an ecosystem of edge offerings to accelerate widespread adoption across the industrial sector. We’re advancing this ecosystem and empowering app developers who want to play a role in driving the new industrial era. 

Currently, to add value to a software system, a developer writes the code, ports it into the legacy software stack, shuts down the devices and finally, updates it. That’s all going to change. We are working on creating an opportunity for any developer to create value-added edge applications. Customers will be able port the necessary apps to their machine without having to shut it down, just like we do on our phones today. Companies will be able to download apps for their needs and update frequently to ensure their business is running smoothly. While no one likes to run out of battery on their smart phone, an outage for a powerplant is far more costly, so the ability to port apps without shutting down devices and being able to detect issues before it occurs will be a game changer.

From wind turbines to autonomous cars, edge computing is poised to completely revolutionize our world. It’s forcing change in the way information is sent, stored and analyzed.  And there’s no sign of slowing down.

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The Digital Twin: Key Component of IoT

A Digital Twin uses data from sensors installed on physical systems to represent their near real-time status, working condition or position. This modelling technology allows us to see what is happening inside the system without having to be able to get inside the system. It forms a critical step in the information value chain without which it is often impossible to get from raw data to insight, and therefore to value. As the Internet of Things grows, Digital Twins will become a standard tool for Data Scientists and Engineers wishing to use all this new data to automatically understand and respond to what is going on in the real world.
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The Information Value Chain

Why do IoT Architects need to think about value, not just data?

Several years ago I was pitching what would now be called an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solution to the Production Manager of a large manufacturing plant. After describing all the data we could collect, and the metrics we could turn it into, I thought I had done pretty well. What Production Manager wouldn't want our system to get his finger on the pulse of his operation?

Instead, his next question floored me:

"If I don't do anything with the data your system collects, then it doesn't create any value for me, does it?"

I had never imagined that someone presented with real-time, detailed information wouldn't immediately grab it and use it to improve their business. I was so taken aback I could not think of an intelligent response, and needless to say, we didn't win that deal.

I'm not going to suggest that he was right, since "doing something with the data" was implicit in his job description, but there is a germ of wisdom for the IoT community in what he said:

Merely delivering data does not deliver value.

Even lots of accurate data, even in real time. Many IoT systems -- still -- have clearly been designed under the assumption that their responsibility ends at collecting, storing and presenting data: systems where data is collected and put in a data repository or historian; systems where data is collected an put on on-line graphs.

A real-world ACTION that benefits a group of stakeholders is still the only way that any IT system delivers value. For an IoT system to deliver that value, it must construct a chain from data to action. I suggest we call this chain:

The Information Value Chain.

The Information Value Chain is only just starting when you collect the data. Turning that data into information and ultimately into ACTION is harder, and if anything your "data only" Internet of Things (IoT) system has made the problem worse, not better: understanding a small amount of data to turn it into action is extremely taxing, and takes many different skills. Doing that with a torrent of data is overwhelming.

What is the Information Value Chain?

Very simply, the Information Value Chain is the insight that data only creates value if it goes through a series of steps, steps which eventually result in action back in the real world.

Like so:

If we focus primarily on collecting data, then we will create Data Lakes, which are impressive Information Technology constructs, but on their own are passive entities that deliver no inherent value to the organisation.

If we focus primarily on action, then we will make decisions based on inaccurate information and misleading data, resulting in the wrong action, wasted money and lost opportunity. A great example is this Case Study.

How to solve this conundrum? Before we get into the mechanics of building a robust Information Value Chain, the starting point is human, not technological.

To succeed you must start with the right goal

The starting point is this: What is the motivation for your project?

If it is to build an "IoT System," then I suggest that you are heading down the road to failure. An IoT System is a means, not an end, and has as many different embodiments as the word vehicle - Ferrari; Ford Focus; Mack truck; oil tanker.

Here is what you should be setting as your goal:

"To build a system that creates value in [this] way; by enabling [these] actions; using the best methods; with the minimal required human intervention; based on the best possible information; in as close to real time as possible."

There is a lot in this statement. Let's unpack it.

The central message of the Information Value Chain is to see our information systems as part of a sequence who's end result is action that delivers value.

  1. When I approach systems analysis for a Customer, the first thing I write on the right hand side of the whiteboard is a "$" sign.
  2. To the left I have the Customer help me develop an ROI model:
    • Before: X1 action by X2 participant creates X3 value at X4 cost;
    • After: Y1 action by Y2 participant creates Y3 value at Y4 cost.
  3. Then we step left again to describe the decisions that lead to those actions. Now we can write:
    • Who (or what!) will make those decisions; on
    • What timescale;
    • Based on what algorithm.
  4. Now we can ask what information they will need to make these decision and
    • How to extract this information from the data available.
  5. Then, and only then, do we know what data to collect; how to process it, how -- or whether -- to present it; and how much of it and how to store it.

We have found this approach moves IoT from a vague concept of something the Client thinks "maybe" they should do, but are not clear on how it will impact their business, to a compelling business tool with clear purpose and value. That what this is all about!

What do the links in The Information Value Chain mean?

The terms data, information and decision, as well as knowledge and intelligence get thrown around a lot, often interchangeably, yet these are distinct concepts. It is important to understand what we are talking about so that we can define and deliver each link in the chain successfully. Let's start from right to left, as we have just described in our systems analysis process so that we always keep our end goal in mind:

  • Action: something that results in a change in the real-world which has a $ measurable value to a key stakeholder;
  • Decision: a choice between possible Actions made according to a set of rules that maximize the value of the action taken;
  • Information: Data interpreted in a specific context to best support the Decisions the User needs to be able to make;
  • Data: individual facts collected from the Real World environment, as accurately and as timely as possible, not all of which will be relevant to the Decisions to be made;
  • Real World: The totality of systems, machines, people and environmental factors that can affect the right Action to take in any given circumstance.

How do we turn The Information Value Chain into practice?

The Information Value Chain is a great conceptual framework to think about how to get from Data to Value, but as IoT system architects, we are concerned with the practical question of how to deliver Value from Data. This is the purpose of the 5D IoT Architecture, which maps the links in The Information Value Chain to 4 specific architectural components, suggests core requirements for each of those components, and adds a 5th component to continuously improve the solution itself.

This paper is the development of a series on concepts in Big Data, IoT and systems architecture originally published on Fraysen Systems.

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In the United States, precision agriculture is one of the largest industries by both operational scale and economic impact. The technology utilized is typically on the cutting edge, especially for automation and control. Things like sensors, programmable IoT radios and generally more complex software applications have allowed that industry to evolve, domestically, to a point where land and other resources are used optimally. Internationally, although there have been ‘smart’ or ‘precision’ practices in certain sectors of agriculture, many countries are just now starting to adopt the technology to its fullest extent, including the ability to innovate via start-ups and new practices.

India & the Digital Agriculture Revolution

According to an article in India Times (image credit), the country is aiming to secure a 20 percent stake in the IoT market share in the next five years through its ‘Digital India’ initiative. While many might look at India and think of the sprawling and diverse urban environments that could offer some potential complications for IoT, it is rural areas seeing the most interesting developments. There has been a noticeable growth in tele-medicine operations, which can allow patients in remote areas to interact with doctors for consultation, eliminating the need to get to a city, or vice versa. Perhaps an even greater area of growth lies in the agricultural realm. According to the article, agriculture employs 50 percent of the country’s population, so the potential for a digital revolution is high. Farmers are just starting to implement sensor technology, automation hardware, and even leading-edge tools like voluntary milking systems the allow cows to be milked on an automated machine according to biological needs.

Israel’s Precision Ag Start-Up Community

In Israel, where IoT technology is starting to mature, the name of the game is data collection and analytics. Mobile applications, sensor data collection hardware, and advanced analytics software are three areas that Israel is seeing significant market growth, according to Israel21c:

Israel stands out in precision-ag subsectors of water management, data science, drones and sensors, says Stephane Itzigsohn, investment associate at OurCrowd. … “Multiple startups are aiming toward the same goal — providing good agricultural data — but approaching it from slightly different angles,” Itzigsohn tells ISRAEL21c. “One might use satellite images or aerial photography; another might use autonomous tractors. Not all will get to that peak in the long journey of farming becoming more efficient.”

For example, CropX, an investor-backed advanced adaptive irrigation software solution, can be placed throughout a farming area and synced with a smart phone, allowing the operators to receive real-time data updates on things like soil and weather conditions. CropX is based in both Tel Aviv and San Francisco, indicating that the technology may be poised for wide international adoption in the future.

Analytics Drive Italy’s Drought Recovery

Italy is perhaps best known for a single agricultural export: wine. However, many would be surprised to find out that it is one of the top corn producers in the European Union, producing more than 7 million tons of corn in 2015, according to an RCR Wireless report. In 2016, the EU’s total corn output dropped noticeably due to year-long droughts affecting production. In Italy, start-up companies collaborated with industrial ag operations develop and deploy widespread soil sensor and water automation technology to help streamline farming practices and create a more efficient system for resource use. The technology allowed farmers to get a comprehensive look at their operations and identify high and low yield areas in order to better utilize the available space.

Precision Agriculture and the Industrial IoT

The continued maturation of IIoT technology is enabling countries around the globe to better utilize resources like water, energy, and land area to create better agricultural operations. As populations continue to expand, and food production becomes even more important, being able to connect these technologies across the globe could become a key factor in optimizing crop output in critical areas. Imagine the above farm in Italy being able to send its data to data scientists in Germany or the Eastern Europe who could in turn analyze it and provide actionable feedback. Or an industrial farm in Israel managing its yields sending that information in real-time around the country. These possibilities are not far off, and as the networks, hardware and software continue to be adapted, the future of precision ag internationally, will become the present.

For additional reading:

India Times: http://www.indiatimes.com/news/india/how-the-internet-of-things-is-digitizing-agriculture-speeding-up-rural-development-in-india-326546.html

Israel 21c: https://www.israel21c.org/5-israeli-precision-ag-technologies-making-farms-smarter/

RCRWireless: http://www.rcrwireless.com/20161005/big-data-analytics/precision-agriculture-omica-tag31-tag99

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Building a system to get value from the Internet of Things (IoT) or Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a complex process involving a number of very distinct components. We need an Architecture for IoT to define the components which are necessary and sufficient for the system to deliver value. An information system only delivers value if it completes the Information Value Chain, causing real-world action to take place in response to the data it collects. This is what the 5D Architecture does. Luckily, every IoT or IIoT system needs to perform the same 5 core functions in order to deliver value, and therefore the architecture of all these systems is — pleasingly — the same!
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Imagine your worst winter day. Bone-chilling cold, howling, bitter winds, blinding snow and sleet, and your truck is encased in ice. What do you do? You tough it out, scrape the ice off the windshield and get to work.

The radio network deployed at one of the world’s most important weather research facilities has to endure and perform in extremely brutal climates nearly every day of the year, 24/7/365. Lives depend on its successful transmission of weather data. And for over a decade, wireless data radios have gotten the job done at the Mount Washington Observatory.

LOCATION: The private, non-profit Mount Washington Observatory (MWO) in New Hampshire, USA, one of the most important state-of-the-art climate research facilities in the world.

With a weather recording history dating back to 1932, the MWO’s mission is to research the Earth’s climate. Weather observations are reported to the National Weather Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for use in nationwide and global forecasting models.

Additionally, the New Hampshire State Park (NHSP), US Forest Service Snow Rangers, and New Hampshire Fish and Game all rely on the MWO’s current weather data to determine the safety and viability of launching search operations.

In short, the MWO saves lives and provides critical climate data, and rugged wireless data radios delivers it – no matter what the weather conditions may be.

Located on the highest peak in the Northeast United States (elevation 6,288 ft.), the MWO operates mission-critical weather stations in notoriously brutal and erratic weather conditions that are amongst the worst in the world. The long-standing slogan of the MWO is “The Home of the World’s Worst Weather” and summit conditions certainly prove this.

During the summer, researchers encounter 50-100 mph winds with penetrating fog.  Winter conditions include sub-arctic temperatures, 140+ mph winds, freezing fog, and heavy glaze icing.  The weather can change rapidly, going from clear and warm to fogged-in and freezing within minutes.  Additionally, ice accretion rates of up to 12”/hour are often observed. Winter winds can change from light and variable to hurricane-force, and beyond, without notice, with blinding snow eliminating all visibility.  In fact, at one time Mt. Washington held the world record for recorded wind speed of 231 mph.

These unique conditions make the Observatory an ideal location for research and product testing. If a product is stamped “Mt Washington Tested”, know that it has experienced the harshest conditions imaginable on this continent.

It is because of these year-round brutal conditions that the MWO turns to proven data radio technology for mission-critical and extremely rugged wireless communications.

THE NETWORK

On its mountaintop weather station, MWO deploys a radio network of 900 MHz frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) radios (both serial and Ethernet) connecting a network of 28 sensors and devices on five different remote weather stations. These stations and sensors measure temperature, humidity, wind speed/direction and ground temperature. Continuous links are vital to provide real-time weather feeds.

The master radio is located 4 miles away on the summit of 4,063 ft. Wildcat Mountain, with 5 client stations situated at 1,000 ft. intervals along the Mt. Washington Auto Road, a privately owned 7.6 mile gravel and tar road that winds its way to the summit at 6,288 ft. These combined stations comprise MWO’s Auto Road Vertical Profile (ARVP). The Auto Road is closed to the public in winter, but the staff of the MWO and the NHSP routinely travel its treacherous path to and from the summit in full-sized snowcats, breaking through snowdrifts of 10 and 20 feet, carving a notch into its side in the vicinity of the actual road.

Because this type of winter travel is so treacherous, current weather data along the road is crucial for the safety of the crew, and both the MWO and the NHSP rely on FreeWave radios to maintain the constant communications links between weather stations and data servers.

The FHSS radio network has been in operation since 2004.

All 6 weather stations are solar-powered in locations that only get sunlight approximately 40% of the year, so the MWO needs radios that consume minimal power while providing constant 24/7/365 connectivity on the Mount Washington Regional Mesonet. In meteorology, a mesonet is a network of automated weather and environmental monitoring stations designed to observe meteorological phenomena.

RESULTS

According to the MWOs IT Manager, Peter Gagne, “For almost 13 years these radios have been on duty continuously, and I personally can attest to their durability and reliability in conditions that, frankly, radios shouldn’t survive. These radios routinely are exposed to bitter cold and winds that far exceed the radios specifications, and have always passed the test. It is because of this outstanding record of performance, as well as the superior customer support we receive, that we have decided to stay with FHSS radios, despite the multitude of competitors, in the upgrade of our ARVP sites this year of 2017.”

Highlights include:

  • Cost-effective, real-time data transmission enabled by a rugged serial communication solution.
  • Mount Washington Observatory is able to issue severe warnings that assist operations and rescue efforts.
  • Real-time weather data and highly reliable performance in extreme weather conditions.

FreeWave Technologies has been a supplier to the MWO for more than a decade and has provided a reliable and rugged wireless data communiocation network in spite of the brutal weather conditions. To learn more, visit: http://www.freewave.com/case-studies/.  

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Manufacturers seek quantifiable ROI before making leap to IIoT implementation

By now, most manufacturers have heard of the promise of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

In this bold new future of manufacturing, newly installed sensors will collect previously unavailable data on equipment, parts, inventory and even personnel that will then be shared with existing systems in an interconnected “smart” system where machines learn from other machines and executives can analyze reports based on the accumulated data.

By doing so, manufacturers can stamp out inefficiencies, eliminate bottlenecks and ultimately streamline operations to become more competitive and profitable.

However, despite the tremendous potential, there is a palpable hesitation by some in the industry to jump into the deep end of the IIoT pool.

When asked, this hesitation stems from one primary concern: If we invest in IIoT, what specific ROI can we expect and when? How will it streamline my process such that it translates into greater efficiencies and actual revenue in the short and long term?

Although it may come as a surprise, the potential return can actually be identified and quantified prior to any implementation. Furthermore, implementations can be scalable for those that want to start with “baby steps.”

In many cases, this is being facilitated by a new breed of managed service providers dedicated to IIoT that have the expertise to conduct in-plant evaluations that pinpoint a specific, achievable ROI.

These managed service providers can then implement and manage all aspects from end-to-end so manufacturers can focus on core competencies and not becoming IIoT experts. Like their IT counterparts, this can often be done on a monthly fee schedule that minimizes, or eliminates, up-front capital investment costs.


DEFINING IIOT

Despite all the fanfare for the Internet of Things, the truth is many manufacturers still have a less-than-complete understanding of what it is and how it applies to industry.

While it might appear complicated from the outside looking in, IIoT is merely a logical extension of the increasing automation and connectivity that has been a part of the plant environment for decades.

In fact, in some ways many of the component parts and pieces required already exist in a plant or are collected by more manual methods.

However, a core principle of the Industrial “Internet of Things” is to vastly supplement and improve upon the data collected through the integration of sensors in items such as products, equipment, and containers that are integral parts of the process.

In many cases, these sensors provide a tremendous wealth of critical information required to increase efficiency and streamline operations.

Armed with this new information, IIoT then seeks to facilitate machine-to-machine intelligence and interaction so that the system can learn to become more efficient based on the available data points and traffic patterns. In this way, the proverbial “left hand” now knows what the “right hand” is doing.

In addition, the mass of data collected can then be turned into reports that can be analyzed by top executives and operations personnel to provide further insights on ways to increase operational savings and revenue opportunities.

In manufacturing, the net result can impact quality control, predictive maintenance, supply chain traceability and efficiency, sustainable and green practices and even customer service.


BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER

The difficulty, however, comes from bridging the gap between “here” and “there.”

Organizations need to do more than just collect data; it must be turned into actionable insights that increase productivity, generate savings, or uncover new income streams.

For Pacesetter, a national processor and distributor of flat rolled steel that operates processing facilities in Atlanta, Chicago and Houston, IIoT holds great promise.

“At Pacesetter, there are so many ways we can use sensors to streamline our operation, says CEO Aviva Leebow Wolmer. “I believe we need to be constantly investigating new technologies and figuring out how to integrate them into our business.”

Pacesetter has always been a trendsetter in the industry. Despite offering a commodity product, the company often takes an active role in helping its customers identify ways to streamline operations as well.

The company is currently working with Industrial Intelligence, a managed service provider that offers full, turnkey end-to-end installed IIoT solutions, to install sensors in each of its facilities to increase efficiency by using dashboards that allow management to view information in real time.

“Having access to real-time data from the sensors and being able to log in and see it to figure out the answer to a problem or question so you can make a better decision – that type of access is incredible,” says Leebow Wolmer.

She also appreciates the perspective that an outsider can bring to the table.

“Industrial Intelligence is in so many different manufacturing plants in a given year and they see different things,” explains Leebow Wolmer. “They see what works, what doesn’t, and can provide a better overall solution not just from the IIoT perspective but even best practices.”

For Pacesetter, the move to IIoT has already yielded significant returns.

In a recently completed project, Industrial Intelligence installed sensors designed to track production schedules throughout the plant. The information revealed two bottlenecks: one in which coils were not immediately ready for processing – slowing production – and another where the skids on which they are placed for shipping were often not ready.

By making the status of both coil and skids available for real time monitoring and alerting key personnel when production slowed, Pacesetter was able to push the production schedule through the existing ERP system.

This increased productivity at the Atlanta plant by 30%. Similar implementations in the other two facilities yielded similar increases in productivity.


TAKING THE FIRST STEP

According to Darren Tessitore, COO of Industrial Intelligence, the process of examining the possible ROI begins with a factory walk-through with trained expertise in manufacturing process improvement and IoT engineers that understand the back-end technologies.

A detailed analysis is then prepared, outlining the scope of the recommended IIoT implementation, exact areas and opportunities for improvement and the location of new sensors.

“The analysis gives us the ability to build the ROI,” says Tessitore. “We’re going to know exactly how much money this will make by making the changes. This takes much of the risk out of it so executives are not guessing how it might help.”

Once completed, a company like Industrial Intelligence can then provide a turnkey, end-to-end-solution.

According to Tessitore, this covers the entire gamut: all hardware and software, station monitors, etc.; the building of real-time alerts, reports & analytics; training management on how to use data points to increase profits; and even continuously monitoring and improving the system as needed.

“Unless you’re a huge company, you really don’t have somebody who can come in and guide you and create a cost effective solution to help you compete with the larger players in the space,” says Pacesetter’s Leebow Wolmer. “I think that’s what Industrial Intelligence offers that can’t be created on your own.”

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach,” she adds. “They have some things that can give you a little bit of IIoT or they can take an entire factory to a whole new level. By doing this they can be cost effective for a variety of sizes of organizations.”

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Not all Devices are IoT or IIoT

Introduction

Business opportunities created by Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial IoT (IIoT) are among the most
debated topics, as these are designed to function in a broad range of consumer and industrial applications.
Manufacturers of IoT components believe in this new trend, but many of them still not understand the essence
of the IoT concept. In reality, not every controlled device is an IoT nor IIoT.

The IoT/IIoT concept is a communication-based eco-system in which control devices, CCTV cameras and
industrial sensors communicate via the Internet with cloud-based computer systems and data sources, and
the result of this process is displayed on a computer screen, smartphone or used for optimal activation of a
process. Through an IoT/IIoT ecosystem you may boost productivity and achieve unique benefits. Examples
of IoT/IIoT include applications such as; remote operation of home appliances, medical devices, check on
availability of a product in a store, warnings of unusual conditions and malfunctions and more.

Leading market research firms already estimate that by 2020 there will be over 20 billion devices worldwide,
defined as part of IoT/IIoT systems. Although the forecasted number is growing every year, it is not clear
whether these figures correctly refer to what can be and what cannot be considered IoT or IIoT. It is strongly
recommended that decision factors such as outlined below shall be taken into consideration.

Devices not considered as IoT/IIoT

In reality not all devices can be accepted to the “IoT/IIoT Club”. Through the following three examples I will
try to clarify the main considerations referring to this topic.
a) You purchased a home air conditioner activated by a smartphone or a web based application. If the
packing label shows “Wi-Fi-Ready”, you can do that, but it will not necessarily make it an IoT, since remote
activation by itself is not a sufficient condition to call it an IoT.
b) You consider to add a vibration sensor to a large water pump or gas turbine to diagnose a malfunction.
This is not an IIoT, as the vibration sensor device is reporting to a special PLC and an ICS computer
which control the operation of that machinery and may stop it if a fault is detected.
c) You purchased a CCTV camera, which is connected to a home computer or a VCR for security
surveillance. This is also not an IoT, because 24/7 loop recording system does not require additional data
available from cloud based resources and not require cloud based computing.

Devices considered as IoT/IIoT

Here are three commercial, consumer oriented and industrial examples, that according to listed explanations
are considered appropriate for being considered as IoT/IIoT ecosystem.
a) Computerized control of a washing machine. The IoT ecosystem using the built-in controller which
support the decision related to optimal starting of the washing process. Consequently, the IoT controller
device communicates with cloud based data sources related to the following considerations:
• Is there a report from the electric company on unusually high loading of the power grid at the
neighborhood? If yes, the washing process is delayed.
• Is it forbidden to cause unusual noise in a residential area such as may be caused by the washing
machine? If yes, the washing process is delayed
• Is there sufficient amount of hot water from the sun-roof boiler as required for the washing? If not, the
activation is delayed until electric heating of the water is completed.

The operation of a solar power plant can be controlled by an IIoT process. After the power plant receives
a request to start supplying power, the IIoT ecosystem system checks the following conditions:
• Is the forecasted intensity of sun-rays during the next few hours adequate to generate the required
energy to the grid? If not, the power plant activation is canceled.
• Are there alternative electric power resources that are more suitable to generate electricity for the
requested period? If yes, the power plant activation is rejected.
• If there are no other alternatives, the solar power plant will be activated with limiting conditions, and
the power grid operator will be advised accordingly.
c) An order is received to purchase a certain type meat for home use. Following this requirement, the
customer can start and IoT-based search using his smartphone:
• In which food chain is this item available, and what is the ticket price
• Which stores are active during the hours when the purchase is required
• The outcome of that process shall be a list of options sent to the customer
From the three examples listed above you may learn that the IoT/IIoT concept is applicable when it is
impossible to perform a simple interaction between the requesting entity and the device which provides the
service. IoT/IIoT systems allow such interactive process through cloud-based data resources.

Is there a reason for concerns?

Definitely yes, because huge amounts of cheap IoT components without professional configuration and
without cyber security measures will flood the internet network and allow cyber-attacks from all directions and
for any purpose. Can ordinary home owners properly configure these devices, replace the default password
and detect DDoS-type security breach? Of course not, and that's the problem.
Today, as a result of strong expectations towards IoT market, none wants to remember the early 2000’s and
the dot.com bubble. Then, well-known and professional companies invested billions of dollars in products
that did not provide benefits for which users were willing to pay. The benefits came only years later, and then
more resources were required to create new business models in order to recover their losses.

Summary

We all hope for huge IoT/IIoT deployments in the future, as this is good for users, vendors and also for
innovation. But…., anyone considering to develop a new IoT/IIoT ecosystem, shall focus on finding a real
need and properly design a cloud-data based solution that delivers significant benefits.
Cyber protection for any IT and ICS architecture consists of three essential elements that are achievable: a)
the use of security technologies, b) strict adherence to policies, and c) careful user behavior. This is also true
for IoT/IIoT ecosystems. Innovative technologies, components and architectures that will include cyber
protection as part of the IoT/IIoT ecosystem at no extra cost, will definitely drive the success.

Photo credit Martin Košáň via Flickr.

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Antarctica inhabits a unique place in the human exploration mythos. The vast expanse of uninhabitable land twice the size of Australia has birthed legendary stories of human perseverance and cautionary tales about the indomitable force of nature. However, since those early years, Antarctica has become a rich research center for all different kinds of data collection – from climate change, to biology, to seismic and more. And although today there are many organizations with field stations running this data collection, the nature of its, well, nature still presents daily challenges that technology has had a hand in helping address.

Can You Send Data Through Snow?

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) – of recent Boaty McBoatface fame – has been entrenched in this brutal region for over 60 years, the BAS endeavors to gather data on the polar environment and search for indicators of global change. Its studies of sediments, ice cores, meteorites, the polar atmosphere and ever-changing ice shelves are vitally important and help predict the global climate of the future. Indeed, the BAS is one of the most essential research institutions in the world.

In addition to two research ships, five aircraft and five research stations, the BAS relies on state of the art data gathering equipment to complete its mission. From GPS equipment to motion and atmospheric sensors, the BAS deploys only the most precise and reliable equipment available to generate data. Reliable equipment is vital because of the exceedingly high cost of shipping and repair in such a remote place.

To collect this data, BAS required a network that could reliably transmit it in what could be considered one of the harshest environments on the planet. This means deploying GPS equipment, motion and atmospheric sensors, radios and more that could stand up to the daily tests.

In order to collect and transport the data in this harsh environment, BAS needed a ruggedized solution that could handle both the freezing temperatures (-58 degrees F in the winer), strong winds and snow accumulation. Additionally, the solution needed to be low power due to the region’s lack of power infrastructure.

 The Application

Halley VI Research Station is a highly advanced platform for global earth, atmospheric and space weather observation. Built on a floating ice shelf in the Weddell Sea, Halley VI is the world’s first re-locatable research facility. It provides scientists with state-of-the-art laboratories and living accommodation, enabling them to study pressing global problems from climate change and sea-level rise to space weather and the ozone hole (Source: BAS website).

The BAS monitors the movement of Brunt Ice Shelf around Halley VI using highly accurate remote field site GPS installations. It employs FreeWave radios at these locations to transmit data from the field sites back to a collection point on the base.

Once there, the data undergoes postprocessing and is sent back to Cambridge, England for analysis. Below are Google Maps representation of the location of the Halley VI Research Station and a satellite image (from 2011) shows the first 9 of the remote GPS systems in relation to Halley VI.

The Problem

Data transport and collection at Halley VI requires highly ruggedized, yet precise and reliable wireless communication systems to be successful. Antarctica is the highest, driest, windiest and coldest region on earth and environmental condition are extremely harsh year round. Temperatures can drop below -50°C (-58 °F) during the winter months.

Winds are predominantly from the east. Strong winds usually pick up the dusty surface snow, reducing visibility to a few meters. Approximately 1.2 meters of snow accumulates each year on the Brunt Ice Shelf and buildings on the surface become covered and eventually crushed by snow.

This part of the ice shelf is also moving westward by approximately 700 meters per year. There is 24-hour darkness for 105 days per year when Halley VI is completely isolated from the outside world by the surrounding sea ice (Source: BAS Website).

Additionally, the components of the wireless ecosystem need to be low power due to the region’s obvious lack of power infrastructure. These field site systems have been designed from ‘off the shelf’ available parts that have been integrated and ‘winterized’ by BAS for Antarctic deployment.

The Solution

The BAS turned to wireless data radios from FreeWave that ensure uptime and that can transport data over ice – typically a hindrance to RF communications. Currently, the network consists of 19 FreeWave 900 MHz radios, each connected to a remote GPS station containing sensors that track the movement of the Brunt Ice Shelf near the Halley VI Research Station.

The highly advanced GPS sensors accurately determine the Shelf’s position and dynamics, before reporting this back to a base station at Halley VI. Throughput consists of a 200 kilobit file over 12 minutes, and the longest range between a field site and the research station is approximately 30 kilometers.

Deployment of the GPS field site is done by teams of 3-4 staff using a combination of sledges and skidoo, or Twin Otter aircraft, depending on the distance and the abundance of ice features such as crevassing. As such, wireless equipment needed to be lightweight and easy to install and configure because of obvious human and material resource constraints.

In addition, the solution has to revolve around low power consumption. FreeWave radios have more than two decades of military application and many of the technical advancements made in collaboration with its military partners have led to innovations around low power consumption and improved field performance. The below image shows an example of a BAS remote GPS site, powered by a combination of batteries, a solar panel and a wind turbine (penguin not included).

FreeWave Technologies has been a supplier to the BAS for nearly a decade and has provided a reliable wireless IoT network in spite of nearly year-round brutal weather conditions. To learn more, visit: http://www.freewave.com/technology/.

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Monitoring IIoT: How Long-Range Bluetooth Keeps the Machines Running by Brad Canham Infinite Uptime, uses Bluetooth low energy (BLE) vibration sensors in proactive monitoring of industrial machines to avert catastrophic failures. Used in industrial settings worldwide...
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What are common features of IIoT and SCADA/HMI and differences between them? And what advantages do Internet of Things Platforms have over SCADA systems? Find out answers in our new presentation.

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We've updated our IoT platform presentation to tell you more about it, derived products and solutions.

Pleasant viewing!

                           

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Our software offers fully functional monitoring solutions for healthcare organizations. Fast deployment, easy integration, and great usability guarantee quick troubleshooting to your healthcare IT teams.

AggreGate IoT Platform enables centralized monitoring and data aggregation for various wearable medical devices and mobile e-health applications. Intelligent Big Data processing algorithms allow detecting negative trends proactively, providing a strong foundation for building customized predictive medicine solutions.

In addition, choosing AggreGate solutions for your medical infrastructure monitoring, you get all types of industry-specific management.

Find out what AggreGate can offer for your health, medical devices, and facilities in IoT Solutions for Healthcare and Social Institutions website section.

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Tibbo announced the release 5.4 of AggreGate IoT Integration Platform.

We've achieved great results in optimizing AggreGate server performance, especially event and value update storage performance. From now on, a single server can process and persistently store up to a hundred thousand events/updates per second, which is almost equal to 10 billion events per day. Such performance figures don't even require any high-end server hardware.

A new chapter has been opened by this release, presenting AggreGate's graphical and textual programming languages inspired by IEC 61131-3 standard, also known as "SoftPLC". Millions of engineers are now able to use AggreGate as a process control logic development environment.

One innovative feature of AggreGate's automation languages is tight integration of runtime with the Tibbo Project System hardware. Your programmed logic can access and control all Tibbit modules of a Linux-based TPS board/box. Currently available languages are: Function Block Diagram (graphical), Structured Text (graphical), Sequential Function Chart (textual).

Widget capabilities are no longer limited by the standard set of components. Now it can be easily extended. New Widget Component SDK allows to implement custom visual components in Java and use them in AggreGate widgets. Extend AggreGate's wide component palette with UI controls best suited to your needs!

We continue making our UI interface clearer and more user-friendly. The next step is lightweight icons. We redesigned them to be up-to-date with modern flat paradigm. New color coding assists users to navigate over various available toolbar actions.

Other major improvements include:

  • Built-in timestamps and quality for data tables.
  • Component connectors that allow to visually link UI components with each other.
  • Secure and reliable Agent communications. Agent-Server communications now can be SSL-protected. When transferred data amount is critical, data compression can be enabled in parallel to encryption.
  • Granulation, a brand-new highly customizable data aggregation and consolidation tool. The granulation engine allows to combine datasets into compact representation that contains all important aspects of original information in virtually any form suitable for later processing. This allows to reduce memory and storage consumption along with boosting data processing performance.
  • Server remote upgrading. To reduce company's expenses, a remote AggreGate server upgrade operation is now supported. You can use our Unified Console application to connect to a remote server, upload a server upgrade bundle file and wait while the upgrade process is finished. That's it! All operations, including database backup, stopping server, upgrading and restarting will be performed at the server side automatically.

We are bringing our IT & Network Management solution (AggreGate Network Manager) to a new level by turning it into a full-fledged IT Service Management System. In this release, we introduce several essential instruments for that: Configuration Management Database (CMDB), metrics engine and topology-based root-cause analysis tools. Another ITSM functionality - IP address management module - is now available and you can use it out-of-the-box.

AggreGate 5.4 includes new device drivers: CoAP, MQTT, IEC 104, DLMS/COSEM, SMI-S.

You can get detailed information on the new 5.4 release, download and try the updated AggreGate IoT Platform on our website: http://aggregate.tibbo.com/news/release-54.html

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