What are different levels of the internet

Understand and use the 5 levels of the Industrial Internet of Things

The internet of things

Terms like Internet of Things (IoT), digitization and Industry 4.0 are on everyone's lips.

The networking of everyday things such as televisions, smartphones and entire houses under the term smart home is omnipresent. As consumers, we can also benefit from new services and business models such as Netflix, Spotify, Google Maps, Apple Pay or Amazon, and of course we incorporate them into our everyday lives.

In addition to this area of ​​IoT, which has already become commonplace, more and more companies are trying to gain added value from the networking of machines with one another, from the networking of people and machines and from the digitization of various production and administrative processes. From this endeavor is the term Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Today, the majority of modern tools are already equipped with the required sensors and there are also a large number of solutions for retrofitting existing systems.

The challenge

Many production systems, administration processes and supply chains are therefore not (yet) really smart. Orders and delivery notes are passed through the business process in paper format, supplemented by hand and the information obtained is manually entered into various systems.

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Small and medium-sized companies in particular often find it difficult to start the IIoT process and develop a long-term strategy for this topic. According to the "Internet of Things 2018" study by the International Data Group, a large number of companies see different priorities or no added value for the use of IIoT technologies. A lack of in-house know-how and a lack of ideas for business models in relation to the development of the IIoT are also mentioned. Now is the right time to start the IIoT process. The technology offers the necessary prerequisites and at the same time there is a good opportunity to secure a lead over the competition.

The solution

To counteract these uncertainties, it is advisable to start with small and simple use cases. When setting up an IIoT system, there are five typical levels to consider:

Fig. 1: The 5 phases of the IoT

1. Machines & Products

The IIoT infrastructure is the subject of consideration on the first level. These can be individual machines or entire systems. These are equipped with sensors that record the relevant process data. When introducing an IIoT system, it is necessary to define which data should be recorded and with what frequency.

2. Connectivity

The recorded sensor data is transferred to a module that acts as an interface (gateway) between the local production (on-premise) and the IIoT platform (cloud). There is both the possibility of upstream data processing (edge ​​computing) and the possibility of encrypting the data.

3. IIoT platform

The IIoT platform connects the connected data sources and makes them available for further processing. It thus forms the central interface in the IIoT infrastructure. The IIoT platform can be set up independently by companies, depending on the application. Often it makes sense to choose one of the diverse platforms available on the market. It is necessary in advance to define all requirements with regard to security, compliance, functionality, scalability and open interfaces to data sources and applications of the platform. If you have your own requirements in mind, it is easier to orientate yourself with the large number of offers (> 500) and to make a well-founded selection.

4. Integration & Analysis

Once a functional framework has been created on levels one to three, the real added value of the IIoT is created on the fourth level. The aim here is to extract information from the linked data that will advance the company. The simplest form of this is the visualization of the production and business processes. Clear dashboards and KPIs can be used to gain new knowledge about the processes and to communicate errors. For example, there can be separate representations for the production manager who monitors a production line and for the management, who is responsible for several locations. In the next step, automated messages can be created from the data, which are triggered, for example, when a temperature limit is exceeded. If the system is further developed, automated control commands can be generated from these messages and (sub) processes are controlled automatically. Finally, it is possible to process the data with algorithms from the field of machine learning and thus to develop not only self-regulating, but self-learning systems that optimize themselves independently.

Depending on the application, prefabricated functions of the IIoT platform can be used or your own applications can be developed. The area of ​​data visualization is already advanced today and can be used relatively easily, as many IIoT platforms include this possibility. In this way, quick wins are achieved for the company before the implementation of individual solutions. In the area of ​​self-controlling systems there are fewer fully developed applications, but the necessary tools are available so that special competitive advantages can be generated in this area.

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5. Business strategy

The collected data and information make it easier at the beginning of the journey to concentrate on optimizing the existing processes. With increasing experience and growing know-how, the IIoT is a topic that influences the entire business strategy of a company. The new transparency can serve to change not only your own company, but the entire supply chain and to develop new business models based on the data.

security

It is of the utmost importance as a company to retain sole power of disposal over internal company data and the analyzes derived from it. Therefore, the point of security cannot be viewed as an additional level, but must be implemented at all levels. For all design decisions of the IIoT infrastructure, it must be checked whether the desired security standards are being adhered to. In addition, it is necessary to close security gaps that occur or are discovered immediately. For this reason, the effort required to implement and maintain the required standards should be taken into account from the outset.

Conclusion

Studying the described levels of IIoT is a good place to start. Figure 2 summarizes possible subsequent steps.

SMEs must not shy away from the challenges that come with getting started in the IIoT.

External companies such as SWMS Consulting can help identify useful use cases and help with the implementation of these. Cooperation with supply chain partners or the creation of research projects is also a good way to start.

Fig.2: Exemplary IoT implementation process

  

“IIoT projects” are often created, whereby it should be noted that these are not viewed as projects, but as a process, since consistent implementation requires follow-up projects and constant further development. These create the need for investments, which, however, open up both short-term and long-term competitive advantages and profit opportunities.

In the following block contributions we would like to deepen certain topics on IIoT, share experience reports, use cases and trends with you and consider them in detail.

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