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Keys to effective IIoT design

How does the IIoT change the way industrial products and services are designed? What types of opportunities should companies seize and which challenges should they expect to tackle? Petri Asikainen, Director of  Core Technology Development at Konecranes, shares his insights.

Machines report on their usage and condition. Maintenance interaction data is combined with equipment engineering information. Remote-controlled cranes. Logistics chains are truly transparent, as each link is programmed to anticipate the next steps, optimizing flow across the entire chain.

As low-cost sensors and powerful software turn the IIoT from buzzword to reality, the opportunities for new product and service design seem endless. But where should companies start?

Focus on customer value

“The starting point for successful design is a deep understanding of the client’s processes and needs.”

According to Petri Asikainen, Director of Product Development at Konecranes, the key to great IIoT design involves taking a step back from all the cool things that technology can do, and focusing on where it can offer clients the most value.

“Buyers in industrial companies are usually highly rational. Most of them do not care for fancy new gadgets or features just for the novelty of it,” says Asikainen. “The starting point for successful design is a deep understanding of the client’s processes and needs. What is essential and useful for them? Can you make significant improvements in efficiency or work safety? How can you make their life easier?”

Sometimes the solution might not be selling new equipment, but rather retrofitting old equipment with sensors that connect it to intelligent networks to extend its lifespan. Or, it may not mean new sensors but developing software to utilize the sensor data already available in a new way.

“When you have a solid understanding of the user environment, there’s quite a lot you can do by developing the software instead of adding new hardware or sensors – and it’s often more cost-effective too,” he continues.

Design products that communicate

It’s important to note that in the IIoT environment, your products are just small pieces of a larger network. To offer real value, they must fit into, communicate with and improve the client’s existing system.

“With any type of new product, you need to ask the basic questions: How will it communicate with its surroundings and other intelligent systems like enterprise resource planning software? What type of data should it gather and for what end?” explains Asikainen.

Not all data is equally useful either. With increasing amounts of automation, and more smart machines and programs being used at industrial sites, the human operators’ ability to handle new information is often already at its limit. As Asikainen points out, “Especially in user interface design, you should be careful to present only the most crucial information at each given moment.”

Another aspect concerns the high demand for data security in the industrial setting.

“Unlike on the consumer side, you cannot monetize customer data by sharing it with third parties,” Asikainen says. “Data security is a huge issue in IIoT design, as the possible risks with data breaches are often severe.”

Use data to deepen understanding of client needs

“With a clear focus and insight into client operations, IIoT solutions can produce tangible gains for most industrial clients.”

While there are challenges in designing for the IIoT environment, there are also huge opportunities. For one, the influx of new information allows designers to form a deeper understanding of clients’ real needs and to offer them optimized solutions.

“Before, we had an incomplete view into how clients actually use our equipment and services. Now, we can start the design process from facts and real-life data. That is a great advantage for both sales forces and product development.”

In practice, this can mean creating new service concepts or equipment models that fit the clients’ use patterns more precisely. Or it could include offering complementary services that improve safety and quality such as staff training sessions on how to use the equipment efficiently.

The good news, says Asikainen, is that with a clear focus and insight into client operations, IIoT solutions can produce tangible gains for most industrial clients.

“In heavy industrial settings where production volumes and material flows are large, optimizing equipment and tweaking processes with the help of new data can bring in significant savings,” concludes Asikainen.

Petri Asikainen works as Director of Core Technology Development at Konecranes.

Interview w/ Petri Asikainen

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Securing IIoT systems still a contractual no man’s land

The industrial internet is a continuously evolving and layered infrastructure built on connected machinery – a large proportion of which has not previously been linked to the internet. The fact that these machines can now be accessed online brings new challenges for IoT service providers as well as their clients. Furthermore, questions remain regarding responsibilities, says Pasi Vilja, Chief Information Security Officer at Konecranes.

Last year, a massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack swept through the globe and nearly disrupted the entire internet. Experts called it the largest attack of its kind in history. Afterwards, close investigation revealed that the assault had been orchestrated completely through IoT devices. A huge number of web cameras were left unprotected, and this offered an easy opportunity for hackers to mount a large-scale attack via the internet.

“This is a great example of the vulnerabilities born out of millions of unprotected devices suddenly being connected to the internet. As the number of internet connected devices continues to grow, new vulnerabilities also arise, bringing forth questions about internet safety which we haven’t faced before,” Vilja says.

The need for shared solutions to these questions is growing increasingly dire as more and more machines – many of which were designed before the advent of the IoT era – are connected into the internet, and operated in ways which couldn’t have been considered at the time they were made.

Implementing security measures in the era of IoT

According to Vilja, security in the context of the industrial internet can be implemented mainly through the same types of practices already used in securing computer networks. Keeping up a proper firewall, requiring identification, and constantly surveying and reacting to problems that arise quickly are important, as is updating software.

“The same principles work in both an ordinary IT context and an IoT environment. On the software level, there isn’t that much of a difference in how the systems can be kept safe in either setting. Still, the industrial context adds a layer of complexity to the equation,” Vilja says.

One of the greatest differences in terms of web security in an industrial context is the machinery’s long lifecycle, which brings forth new questions on service providers’ responsibility to offer their clients updates for extended periods.
“Some machinery in industrial use still run on Windows XP or even NT. For the former, support ended in 2014 – ­ and for the latter, in 2004. How are we going to ensure that systems will be kept secure when some of the machines have lifecycles of 50 years? These are still questions to be discussed,” Vilja says.

Another issue comes up with the variety of machines being connected to the web. Industrial companies might have a combination of old, non-connected machinery which is now being connected to the web, point-to-point connected machines, and newer internet connected machines. When they open all these machines gradually to the internet, questions arise on how to make sure that no gaps are left between the different ways to connect.

Discussions about responsibilities still underway

Who has the ultimate responsibility regarding the IoT solutions in use and keeping them up to date? Is it the service providers? And if so, then how long and how actively do they have to ensure that the security is current? According to Vilja, these questions are still open for discussion, and no concrete best practices have surfaced yet.

“This is very much a discussion still to be had. Service providers must take responsibility to ensure that the services they offer are maintained to protect against new security threats. But only the clients know their full set-up and probably don’t want automatic updates from multiple providers. And how knowledgeable are the clients about the relevant security features or risks? This is still a contractual no man’s land,” Vilja says.

Another concern is that in highly specialized systems that have been tweaked or integrated by clients, the updates could cause interruptions – or even shutdowns –  in their operations. On the other hand, refraining or neglecting to update their systems could also end up leaving their entire systems vulnerable.

According to Vilja, in order to form proper guidelines, open discussion and continuous surveillance are essential. Eventually, the best practices will be formed, and they are likely to follow precedents from the computer market.

Ultimately, the same rules apply to web cameras and smart refrigerators as for industrial sensors – basic security measures go a long way, and they must actually be implemented in order to ensure operational safety.

Pasi Vilja is the Chief Information Security Officer at Konecranes.

Interview w/ Pasi Vilja

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Why Industry 4.0 is not only about IoT devices

Commentary on Industry 4.0 that only focuses on the Internet of Things (IoT) entirely misses the point, argues Ben Merton in his article in IoT Tech News. More than 80% of Computer Numerically Controlled machinery is owned by small and medium-sized businesses, who are unlikely to have enough resources to make full use of the IoT functionality of their machines.

The opportunity exists for centralized, technology-driven solutions that use IoT to connect and manage all the entities in a given supply chain. An end-to-end, IoT enabled manufacturing solution will not only reduce the cost and complexity of managing an outsourced supply chain, but also lead to a whole host of environmental and social benefits like reducing the amount of waste, lowering overall costs and localizing.

Read more about the true power and impact of IoT and Industry 4.0: https://www.iottechnews.com/news/2017/apr/18/why-industry-40-not-only-about-iot-devices/

Image credit: oYOo / Shutterstock.com

Via IoT Tech News

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The Operations Technology (OT) vs. Information Technology (IT) debate turns to better security

While OT managers may see the benefits of IoT-enabled asset monitoring, IT leadership can see IoT connectivity as a security threat. IoT-connected machinery offers uptime rewards at minimal risk but when done wrong, that connectivity into OT systems can pose big threats.

Material Handling Product News has interviewed several security experts on the ways to avoid security vulnerabilities when moving from closed-off OT systems to wireless networks and IoT connectivity.

“Integrating these systems can provide a lot of efficiency and help with goals like uptime, but at the same time, as things become more connected, they become more vulnerable.” says Keith Blodorn, director of program management at ProSoft Technology, which specializes in industrial communications and remote access solutions.

Read more about how companies are solving IoT connectivity data security issues: http://www.mhpn.com/article/the_operations_technology_ot_vs._information_technology_it_debate_turns_to

Image credit: Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock.com

Via Material Handling Product News

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Pushing IIoT predictive maintenance forward: two challenges to overcome

Enabled by wireless technology and connected devices, communication between machines and human technicians is fueling a shift from preventative to predictive maintenance. To push IIoT predictive maintenance technologies up the slope of enlightenment and spark mainstream adoption and success, two major challenges must be overcome: the challenge to obtain high quality data from industrial machines, and that to fuse sensor data with maintenance activities.

An article in Reliabilityweb offers solutions ranging from deep learning algorithms to tapping into the intuitive human capacity of sound-based diagnosis.

Read more about ways to overcome IIoT maintenance challenges and combine deep learning and human input: http://reliabilityweb.com/articles/entry/pushing-iiot-predictive-maintenance-forward-two-challenges-to-overcome

Image credit: Zapp2Photo / Shutterstock.com

Via Reliabilityweb

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