How to reap even greater value from IIoT with unified namespace

Jan. 20, 2022

"You need a unified namespace—a software solution that acts as a centralized repository of data, information and context."

HighByte's Tony Paine

Communication within a start-up is pretty straightforward. If you have a question about a new product launch, you go directly to the owner or CEO. Problems with a design flaw? Talk to your lead engineer.

As that business scales, your lines of communication become more complex. You may need to send information through multiple channels to get an answer. Without an easy way to send or retrieve information, it might get lost or misinterpreted or you may wait days for an answer. 

Anyone who has worked in that environment knows the inherent challenges.

Similarly, when organizations implement new industrial IoT solutions, they may work fine at first but become less effective as the project or company scales. The more capabilities you add, the more connections you create throughout your data systems.

For example, today you might need one or two pieces of production data, such as downtime or line speed, from a machine that feeds information into a business-intelligence system and an analytics-software package from different vendors. As your organization grows, accessing this information becomes more complex because you now have thousands of connection points. Each time you add an application to the system, you need to build connections between the new software and the other systems with which it must communicate. This dramatically increases integration costs and slows deployments.

To scale your industrial IoT implementation, you need a unified namespace—a software solution that acts as a centralized repository of data, information and context where any application or device can consume or publish data needed for a specific action. The solution allows users to collect data from various sources, add context so there’s meaning to it, and transform it to a format that other systems can understand. Without a centralized data repository, it could take months to deploy a new analytics application across the entire enterprise versus hours with a unified namespace.

For nearly two decades, MQTT has served as an effective messaging protocol that allows any program or device to publish data. It doesn’t offer interoperability between third-party devices and applications; technology companies have brought data interoperability to MQTT devices and applications through the development of the Sparkplug specification.

Sparkplug is an open standard built on top of MQTT that defines the message format for Sparkplug-enabled applications. Many industrial sensors and systems have adopted the Sparkplug specification with MQTT as a means of integrating systems due to Sparkplug's prescriptive topic namespace, payload definition, and state management. 

As Walker Reynolds, president of Intellic Integration, said, “The most important element of the unified namespace is that it is a stepping stone to get us to the holy grail. What is the holy grail? The holy grail is that our business processes are closed loop—that is that we can collect information about the state of our business in real time, put it in one location, plug it into the cloud…our machine-learning algorithms are going to learn about our business in real time, make predictions or recommendations on how to improve the process in real time and push back those recommendations.”

This is where you begin to unlock the real value of machine learning because you now have the connectivity you need to optimize your systems, devices and processes in real time and scale your IoT capabilities without costly, time-consuming implementations.

Tony Paine is co-founder & CEO at HighByte