Each spring owners, CEOs, and other leaders from some of the world’s top automation and control system integration companies meet to share their experiences, sharpen their skills, and catch up on the latest trends at the annual Control System Integrators Association Executive Conference, CSIA 2018. This year the event was held in cool and breezy San Francisco, with a record attendance of just under 600 participants
Compared to last year the importance of IIoT is becoming more recognized among conference organizers and participants alike. Several of the talks and workshops had “IIoT” in their title and content. When we told people we work in the Industrial IoT space, the response was usually interest combined with varying degrees of understanding.
Despite a growing familiarity with the term “IIoT”, there seems to still be quite a bit of uncertainty about what it is, and more importantly, its value. In one workshop I attended, there was a lively conversation about the precise definition of IIoT. After several opinions were given, the general consensus was that IIoT can mean different things to different people. Some, for example, saw little difference between IIoT and SCADA, while others attempted to simplify the terminology to meet their understanding, such as by defining the term “edge processing” as “a fancy way of keeping data in the plant.” You could sense the sincere efforts to embrace the new concepts of IIoT, mixed with a reluctance to step into a new mind-set.
This new mind-set is in some ways easier to accept by professionals and experts outside industry. In another presentation, Evolution of the SI (System Integrator) Role, Tony Rigoni of Cisco Systems spoke about the growing demand for bridging OT (Operational Technology) and IT via IIoT, and said that IT system integrators can’t do it right now. They don’t have the industrial background or experience. But he warned that system integrators in OT need to get on top of it quickly, because the IT people are waking up to the opportunity.
The Value of IIoT
Other non-industrial professionals at CSIA 2018 eyeing IIoT opportunities include investors. In a panel discussion among venture capitalists and investment bankers, David Mount from Kleiner Perkins, whose focus is primarily on IoT companies said, “The value of IIoT will be in connected control.” In other words, bidirectional data communication. Underlining his point, he said, “Closing the loop is a big opportunity.”
What he was alluding to is a capability we have been offering for several years now—the ability to not only collect data and store it in the cloud, but also the ability to send commands back to the system. Sometimes referred to as “supervisory control,” this can be as simple as switching off a pump that is overheating to updating recipes or sending complex commands. Instead of just storing data, the cloud now becomes a conduit for securely exchanging data and control in real time.
As system integrators worldwide wake up to the wealth of opportunity inherent in IIoT, it is our responsibility and our privilege here at Skkynet to offer them the full value of IIoT, from integrating plant OT with office IT to the ability to connect and control remote systems, anywhere, securely, in real time.