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The Industrial Internet of Things – Decisions for the Future

Jamey Hilleary, Director of M2M Products
Elecsys Corp.

Most people yearn for the marvels and opportunities the future will present.  We are always anticipating the “next great thing” and at times can barely contain our excitement when it is finally within reach.  We will endure backorder lists and lines around the block to get our hands on the newest phone or tablet.  The latest device, the coolest new app, and the next big internet sensation capture our attention and prod us to imagine what possibilities lay just beyond the horizon.  Technology is evolving at rates unparalleled in human history, and this trend appears to be continuing in exponential leaps.

In the consumer world of the Internet of Things (IoT), the primary downside of the speed at which technology is evolving is the ever-present perception that the device you just purchased will be obsolete by the time you leave the store.  This concern is based in reality to some extent, and does affect the timing of purchases for many consumers.  Some people are “early adopters” and want to have the latest technology as soon as it is available.  Many who fall into this category do not mind, and perhaps even expect, a few bugs and glitches in a newly acquired product.  They may consider that an even trade-off for the satisfaction of being on the cutting edge.  Others prefer to wait and “let the dust settle” prior to jumping on the latest technology bandwagon.  People in this group typically want the expanded possibilities offered by the latest technology, but expect a trouble-free customer experience.  They are willing to wait a little while in order to let others work out the kinks in new devices.  There are yet other people who are hesitant to acquire the latest technology at all.  They may be satisfied with what they are currently using, or, as is often the case, concerned about committing at the wrong time and getting stuck with an obsolete product.  Fortunately for all of these consumers, the evolving technological landscape offers a plethora of first, second, and third generation products at any given time, fulfilling the needs of even the most discriminating customer.

We can see these same approaches to emerging technologies in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).  There are the technologically aggressive “early adopters” that want to incorporate and even help develop new technologies as they become available.  In industry, the companies that are willing to acquire and incorporate cutting edge technology in the earliest stages of development are “need driven” with significant challenges in their enterprise data acquisition systems that must be addressed.  In the oil and gas pipeline industry, for instance, data security breaches could result in catastrophic failures affecting health, safety, and the environment for years to come.  Lower priority data acquisition concerns, such as long latency poll response times and communication failures, are potential factors that contribute to breakdowns of system integrity and can certainly affect corrective reaction time in the event of catastrophic failure.  The world has a never-ending thirst for the energy provided by the oil and gas industry.  Large oil and gas pipeline companies need big data and data analytics in order to operate in a safe and efficient manner.

As on the consumer side of IoT, there is a great deal of reluctance on the part of many corporations to embrace the latest technologies.  It is apparent that the need for robust, cutting edge, secure, high bandwidth data communication is essential for industries of all types and sizes.  Unlike the consumer market, enterprise data systems entail large capital investments with multi-decade life cycle expectations.  With technology changing so fast, many companies have developed legitimate concerns about committing to technology that may be obsolete long before its planned end of life.  In addition, there are always concerns that adopting new technologies may render existing systems obsolete through incompatibility.  Into this morass enters the concept of “future-proofing”.  As mentioned earlier, we may marvel at the endless possibilities that the future holds, but the future can be a scary place as well.  Will the decisions we make today regarding enterprise data security have the ability to meet the standards for future security needs?  Will the data acquisition and communication systems we adopt now be compatible with our needs 20 years from now?  Will the devices we deploy to the field today still be able to integrate with our network in a decade?  All of these concerns, and more, make updating current systems and adopting new technologies somewhat of a gamble.

Elecsys-1Future-proofing can be accomplished through careful selection of hardware and software with an eye toward system compatibility; past, present, and future.  There are many state-of-the-art host systems that incorporate, or accommodate, a variety of communication protocols, along with connectivity to cloud-based and broker driven data repositories.  Field devices that enable data communication, such as the Elecsys Director and RediLink products, provide easy and secure connectivity to any field device, whether old, new, or yet to be created.  Communication hardware developed with open architecture allows incorporation of legacy device protocols as well as incorporation of future protocols as they are developed.  Additionally, data security can be extended to the field, and updated as needed as new security standards are implemented.  Finally, as more field to enterprise communication paths become available, managing for most available bandwidth at the lowest cost is becoming a priority.  These types of field communication devices excel at automatically handling communication fail-over using multiple paths enabling maximized data throughput in the most cost-effective manner.

Industries of every size and scope can benefit from evolving technology.  Data is rapidly becoming the lifeblood of efficient enterprise management.  The ability to acquire and effectively use large amounts of real-time data is becoming a significant factor in separating the great from the good, in terms of operational excellence.  Being left behind during this ongoing technological revolution will certainly be detrimental to a company’s growth and could endanger its long-term survival.  Technological growth, with a keen eye toward selecting devices and systems that will evolve with the technology, can provide those “future-proofed” solutions that enable an organization to thrive today and for decades yet to come.

For more information please visit www.elecsyscorp.com

Don’t Miss Elecsys Corp.’s IoT West Presentation. Learn more at: www.remotemagazine.com/IoTWest/

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