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Yes, You CAN Connect

Sept. 24, 2015

Getting everything connected to make your factory as smart as it can be is a daunting task. And then, exactly what to do with all that data lurking out in the fog? One key: Do the processing closer to the data source.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) says that all things shall be connected, right? But, in practice, getting everything connect is, as noted in previous blogs, a sometimes daunting task. Beyond simple connectivity there are questions of bandwidth, reliability, and exactly what to do with all that data lurking out in the “fog” on the edge of the enterprise.

One idea, already gaining currency in IT, is the concept of edge computing – doing more processing closer to the data so as to limit the volume of raw (and generally low value) data zipping across the network and, instead, sending analyzed and digested information to where it is needed.

One group, the Mobile-Edge Computing (MEC) Industry Initiative, has been focusing on fostering the technology. Their white paper notes, “Wireless sensors are key enablers to many mission-critical scenarios, from smarter traffic to video analytics. Wireless sensors are expected to grow in their numbers exponentially over the next 10 years. The cellular network is the ubiquitous platform for integrating these devices with vertical back office solutions.”

The authors also point out that the worlds of IT and telecommunications networking are tending toward convergence, which may make possible new capabilities.  For example, a key transformation has been the ability to run IT based servers at the network edge, applying the concepts of cloud computing.

One attempt at addressing that IIoT challenge is being offered by Real-Time Innovations (RTI), a company that is focused on IIoT connectivity. In August, the company introduced its latest Connext DDS 5.2 software that is supposed to address application-to-application data exchange at both the network edge and in the cloud.

According to RTI, Green Energy Corp. has started to apply Connext DDS 5.2 to improve visualization of live data feeds for the company’s Microgrid Solutions.

Stan Schneider, CEO of RTI and member of the Industrial Internet Consortium Steering Committee, will be discussing the key characteristics of IIoT systems in a keynote address at SmartIndustry 2015, “A Reference Architecture for the Industrial Internet.” Prior to his role at RTI, Schneider managed a Stanford robotics laboratory, led an embedded communications software team and built data acquisition systems for automotive impact testing. In addition to a PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science he holds a BS and MS and is a graduate of Stanford's Advanced Management College.

In his talk, Schneider is slated to focus on what to consider before deploying a solution and how a common language will facilitate faster IoT development.

Read more about the IIC Reference Architecture in Stan's recent blog, "Data Connectivity in the Industrial Internet Reference Architecture."

Alan R. Earls is a Boston-based writer focused on technology, business, and manufacturing — a field where he spent the earliest part of his career. He has written for publications and websites as diverse as The Boston GlobeComputerworld and Modern Infrastructure as well as Industry, The Manufacturer, and Today's Machining World and is a regular contributor to the Smart Industry Connect blog.