IIoT – Industrial Internet of Things at Emerson Exchange
Yep, IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) again! But this time someone else will do the talking besides me! At the Emerson Exchange, a big annual event in the instrumentation world, Emerson Automation Solutions presented its IIoT strategy.
This event usually shows off hot new concepts and technology, and Emerson’s vision of the future rarely disappoints. This company drives a lot of innovation, and aligning with their vision can bring a host of benefits. Smaller companies often wait for Emerson to push a new concept before they start investing in it. So on to the event!
April 12th, 2016: On the first day of the exchange, Peter Zornio, Emerson’s chief strategic officer, opened the company’s IIoT presentation. I have to say it impressed me. Let’s dive into the details of the concepts and solutions Peter presented.
Peter opened the presentation by asking if anyone had heard of Internet of Things (IoT), Industry 4.0, or Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Of course, most audience members had. After the introduction, he made a joke about cloud solutions.
You can decide for yourself how funny it was by watching the video below.
Then he began talking about government agencies across the globe starting initiatives related to these topics, and corporations supporting these initiatives. That should give you some idea how important these ideas have become.
The U.S. had big companies at the event: CISCO with its IoT slide show, GE with “Industrial Internet,” IBM with “Smarter Planet,” and Microsoft with “Internet of Your Things.” And none of these presentations, in my point of view, promoted their tech the SMART way.
Why? Because they never showed real integration. Choosing any of their platforms would bind you to the company. We don’t know which tech will become the market standard, but every company wants to push its solutions.
Regardless, digitalization drives these concepts. Devices send their data to a cloud or platform for analysis. Once you have that analysis, you can take action.
But back to Peter. He split manufacturing into design and production. For design, we have Industry 4.0, focused on customized products and data mobility.
I have to say, he gave a superficial overview on this topic. The slides gave more information based on McKinsey’s report, “Industry 4.0: How to navigate digitizations in the manufacturing sector.”
Here Peter commented on the idea of feedback control. Devices send data to a platform, which runs algorithms and analytics to support your decisions and actions.
Peter compared this setup with what we’ve done for more than 40 years, use field devices to send data to control systems for the algorithms and calculation.
He claimed this as the first real IoT setup, called the INTRAnet of things, born from the PlatWeb Emerson created in 1996. Here, we have industry protocols and IT protocols, with all data kept in the plant and no external access to it.
Internet of Things
Then, he presented the same slide with the new IoT concept. You still have sensors in the field, but they have more applications than just control. You can use the same devices for energy monitoring, reliability, safety, and other functions.
All field data comes through internet protocols and can go anywhere. At this level, you have big data, where you can store and process all your information. Then, through the automated analysis, you can create new information related to your process.
This allows you to access your data anywhere in graphic forms. That means you don’t need a math degree to understand the data you have. The cloud platform will analyze and present the data to you in simple, readable formats.
Industrial Internet of Things
In this part of the presentation, Peter introduced the Emerson solution to IIoT, based on the idea that devices must do more than control the process. They also should improve performance in four key areas.
Process First, to connect ideas with production, you need advanced control and improvement of your process, execution, and quality.
Health, Safety, Security, and Environment (HSSE) Next, you have to provide real-time tracking of plant conditions as they apply to potential damage or loss. This applies to people as well as equipment and structures.
Reliability Third, you must monitor the condition and performance of your devices and systems for longevity. You can use data from your devices now to predict and affect future conditions and performance.
Energy Last but not least, you can increase plant efficiency by measuring and optimizing the use of your plant’s energy and minimizing loss.
With all this in mind, I have to ask, can you use third-party devices in the solutions presented? It seems like it, but let’s finish Emerson’s presentation before drawing conclusions. Peter mentioned that IIoT applications will likely focus on reliability the most.
Peter also pointed out all the IoT solutions on the market, from protocols and platforms to cloud storage, driven by companies like Microsoft and IBM. We have a lot of options for collecting data from this big universe of solutions!
Here you see how the distributed control system (DCS) would keep the process working safely, with the field devices connected with wired and robust protocols.
On the other side, the IIoT solution would send data directly to a platform rather than through the DCS. You have a clear separation between them. Peter also noted that most devices in the IIoT part would operate wirelessly, with wifi providing its benefits to the application. At this point, Peter presented Emerson’s three solutions for IIoT.
The first option, the traditional model, would have plant operators working with the field devices and the platform. These operators would make the decisions and take the actions necessary to run the plant, which of course requires significant expertise.
For the second, the hybrid, the field devices would send data to an application platform, and the customer could decide whether to run the system or allow a third party to do so.
In the third, all data would go to Emerson for monitoring and maintaining the plant, following the “service as a solution” concept.
This slide depicted valve monitoring, with a wirelessHART to collect data and Fisher DVCs to analyze it. Everything looks fine, but I have a dilemma here.
What if I have three different brands in my plant? Should I change all the positioners to Fishers to get this monitoring? Can the system read the advanced diagnostics of my Metso, for example? Can my device type manager (DTM) system use the gateway from Emerson?
Here, you start to see that Emerson’s IIoT vision looks a lot like Emerson running your entire system. A lot of other companies have this idea too. It lacks a viewpoint on integration with different brands.
However, the next slide presented an example of IIoT service with your devices paired with tools from Emerson and Microsoft! Hey, hope for diversity yet! I liked seeing this kind of preparation, and it puts Emerson ahead of a lot of companies on the market.
The presentation finished with a table showing which traditional devices have IIoT-ready solutions. Now I get to give you my thoughts on the presentation overall!
First, Emerson clearly has a lead on a lot of other companies in the IIoT race, but with mostly proprietary solutions.
Yes, you have open protocols to integrate devices in different applications, but the valve example showed a lot of limits on third-party devices. On the plus side, IIoT development still has a ways to go, and we don’t know what will happen. Standardization may take time, if it happens at all.
It’s really cool to see how far we’ve come and how many solutions we have to improve our processes. We need to support tech evolution, but we should also ask for integration among the tons of brands in the field.
The video below has the entire presentation, if you want to watch: