In recent years we have all rode the IIoT wave, discussed topics with science fiction sounding names such as ‘augmented reality’ and ‘artificial intelligence’ and generally seen interest in technological advances in manufacturing undergo an unprecedented evolutionary period in the general public’s awareness and shows no sign of slowing.

So, what are the hot topics in 2019? There are so many it was difficult to shortlist, so I’ve decided to focus on three topics that I am being most regularly asked to provide content for, by the editors.

IT/OT cybersecurity – A Manufacturer’s Greatest Challenge

You may be surprised to learn how many industrial automation and processing companies are only just becoming aware with this potentially catastrophic threat.  The organisations already in the know, are on record as saying cybersecurity is their single greatest threat.

Cyber attackers are exploiting security flaws that result from gaps between the IT/OT infrastructure as companies introduce Industrial IoT (IIoT) devices and Edge computing equipment. Integrating information from sensors both in and out of control systems creates confusion between a corporations IT/OT responsibility. Adding external suppliers further complicates enforcement of security requirements for new assets.

To help combat this, companies need to converge their IT and OT cybersecurity to clearly define responsibilities and remove any potential security gaps.  This approach will help ensure more consistent security levels across entire organizations reducing the organization’s overall cyber risk.

Cloud and Edge Solutions 

With the convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) and the industry’s continued transformation, manufacturers are rethinking the way they operate their businesses. The use of Cloud and Edge solutions is enabling companies to have better control and insight over their industrial processes. 

Edge technology reduce the volumes of data that needs to be moved and the distance the data must travel.  The analysed and processed data from different plants is stored in the Cloud, enabling critical business information to be accessed and controlled solely by IT.

This approach means the deployment of Edge devices with embedded analytics, Edge servers, gateways and Cloud infrastructure enables manufacturers to support business decisions in real time, monitor assets, provides analytics and machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI) to understand and take appropriate action.

This can help manufacturers reduce production inefficiencies, compare product quality against manufacturing conditions, and pinpoint potential safety, production or environmental issues.

IIoT Continues to Evolve

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is without doubt a technology that will become even more widespread in 2019.

The IIoT continues to be de developed for comprehensive systems monitoring and maintaining complex large-scale production lines. It uses machine-to-machine communication to improve safety, production time and operating efficiencies. 

IIoT, connectivity enables faster communications and response to change. Advancements in AI and machine learning will allow IIoT systems to more effective including monitoring, predicting and reacting to factory and product line issues, keeping production going and ultimately improving safety and a company’s financial performance.

The fundamentals of the IIoT is not just an industrial technology; we can see parallels with the IoT as we bring this technology into our homes.  Heating thermostats, burglar alarms and I can even speak from experience. The lighting in my house is controlled by a smart ap on my connected to the cloud, so they come on when my alarm goes off, and come when the sun sets in a shade of colour just right for my mood and I can switch them off from my phone when I remember I left the bathroom light on when I went to work. Perhaps a topic for another day.