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IoT in Action – Connectivity in Fire & Safety

The Internet of Things (IoT) is having a profound impact connecting buildings and industrial networks to IT environments. By linking your industrial sensors, robotics, trucks, and other equipment with your enterprise applications, through the Internet of Things (IoT), companies have better visibility into what’s happening in the environment. More importantly, these companies can more quickly and effectively respond to that information.

Connected Buildings and Incident Management

One area where IoT is changing the landscape is building management.   Traditionally, building management systems have been maintained on independent and proprietary networks.   This worked when the requirements were for stand-alone systems.   However, with the emergence of IoT, these systems are migrating to an IP/Ethernet based platform.   The benefits of this include: (1) improved ability to communicate between systems, (2) better integration with the building IT networks, and (3) ability to communicate outside the building.

One example is in fire and life safety.   Organizations are now looking at these solutions to be more than fire detection and alarm systems by providing additional capabilities and becoming incident management systems.

Edwards/UTC Moving into IoT

For example, when Edwards Fire Safety, a division of UTC Building & Industrial Systems, was looking for ‘Solutions for the Future’, they looked to Cisco. Working with Edwards, Cisco’s IoT business unit initiated a program under a Strategic Technology Integration agreement that combines Cisco’s ruggedized IE 2000 switch with the fire and life safety system.

To properly operate in these environments, networking devices must be highly ruggedized to protect the internal components. Specific and tight connectors are needed to avoid any possible water penetration and disconnects due to vibrations.

For Edwards, this provides a smart, next generation communication platform that provides three key benefits:

  1. Faster Deployments – The “Powered by Cisco” logo is one that is certainly respected and recognized within the networking ecosystem.   Edwards can leverage this logo to quickly address any concerns about the power of their solution components when working with building IT and networking teams.
  2. Next Generation Platform – Allows Edwards to utilize an IP/Ethernet based solution.   This offers multiple benefits including: common platform, open standards, scale and security, and the opportunity to build additional capabilities on the solution to support incident management.
  3. Solution Support – Enables Edwards to easily and quickly perform diagnostic and remediation of networks issues using a smart and managed switch.

Take a look at the solution at this year’s ASIS Conference:


Finding Solutions for the Future

Cisco makes it easy to capitalize on industrial connectivity and IT-to-operations convergence. We bring industry-leading network and management capabilities to your harshest environments, while providing end-to-end solutions to address every aspect of industrial networking, including plant routing and switching, field networks, embedded networks, and physical security. And all of these solutions integrate with Cisco’s traditional wired and wireless networking, security, collaboration, and data center solutions as part of a single, converged platform. For more information about Cisco switches, visit

Making the ‘Plant of the Future’ a Reality Today

At Automation Fair last month, I participated in several sessions and industry forums as part of Cisco’s participation in this event, which is Rockwell Automation’s largest user conference. What struck me were some of the urgency for many manufacturers in investing in key technologies in their plant environment. It was quite serendipitous, since we announced enhancements to our Connected Factory offering in terms of wireless features. Many of the customers I spoke to had specific wireless use cases in mind for their particular factory floor.

Specifically, we spoke to several well-known Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) and Aerospace companies, and the drive to improve efficiencies through machine monitoring and new analytics to reduce costs or downtime is spurring new investments in IoT initiatives and projects.   According to my colleague Randall Kenworthy, Practice Director for CPG and Life Sciences, CPG companies are pursuing 3 strategies: “Connect,” “Secure,” and “Virtualize.” Most of the assets being used to make products are still dark, securing food safety and intellectual property in an escalating threat environment, and virtualizing plant floors to increase uptime and lower costs. Randall presented to a packed room of nearly 400 attendees in the CPG forum at Automation Fair.

What is interesting today is that a full ‘Plant of the Future’ concept is no longer a ‘pie-in-the sky’ vision but rather a real-life, tested solution that can be deployable today. Take a look at this overview video describing the prime use cases and components of a Connected Factory:

The infographic below encapsulates many of the business outcomes manufacturers are seeking to achieve and how the Connected Factory can make your ‘Plant of the Future’ a reality today: productivity, output increase, innovation acceleration, and energy efficiency. What are your plans to make the Plant of the Future a reality for your factory? Tell us more in the comments below. Thanks for reading.



Get Ahead of the Curve in 2015: Invest in IoT

As the holiday season gets into full swing, executives like you are polishing off strategic and operational plans for the New Year. For many manufacturing companies, 2014 was a good year, for some outstanding, and most manufacturers are optimistic for more of the same in 2015. According to MAPI’s US Industrial Outlook, “manufacturing will continue to grow faster than the overall economy,” with 2015 growing at a higher rate than 2014.

Because manufacturers are looking to get ahead of this growth curve and set the stage for competitive differentiation and advantage in 2015, you are utilizing budgets remaining from 2014 to make smart investments now in new technologies, before the year comes to a close. With strategic investments in operations or R&D/engineering, companies position themselves to be more agile, productive and competitive while the economy slowly but surely continues to strengthen. In an Industry Week report, “Manufacturers are optimistic about their businesses as well as the economy as a whole, and are investing accordingly … Following a profitable growth strategy, they are controlling costs while introducing new products, increasing sales from existing customers, and leveraging data to make smarter business decisions.”

In recent conversations with a few of my Cisco colleagues who happen to be 20+yr Manufacturing / OT (Operations Technology) veterans, these industry gurus describe how they counsel manufacturing clients during the transitional holiday season. Steve Gansen points out that for many companies, budgets need to be expended this calendar year-end (‘use it or lose it’), which presents a great opportunity to change the prioritization for projects. “Many of my customers see this as an opportunity to reprioritize projects and drive budget to improve R&D or product engineering and offerings.” (His comments reminded me of the Sub-Zero’s innovative investments in their product development, NPI and processes.)

Jim Fledderjohn and Dwayne Edwards add that there are other considerations for a variety of Internet of Things (IoT) proof-of-concept (PoC) projects for production environments and engineering programs that present incremental, re-directional opportunities at year-end. From video surveillance to energy management, to factory wireless and plant virtualization, there are many compelling use cases that can be easily ‘piloted’ to deliver immediate business outcomes and measurable ROI. In fact, an option recently announced at Automation Fair is Cisco Services Factory Starter Kit, a fast-track, turnkey PoC package of wireless capabilities for your plant environments.

Jim further describes, “Piloting an IoT project on a small scale lets manufacturers test out a concept in their environment and puts them in a better position to win budget and additional investment in 2015.” Particularly in the US—where according to the latest ISM Report On Business for November, the manufacturing sector expanded for the 18th consecutive month—momentum in the industry just keeps building. And considering manufacturing technologies that include embedded intelligence and IoT, according to the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT), orders for 2014 are showing growth of >5%.

Are YOU planning end-of-the-year investments in IoT? Let us know what you think in the comment block below. Thanks for reading.

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Industrial IP Advantage at Automation Fair 2014

Last week, I joined my colleagues from Rockwell Automation and Panduit at the Industrial IP Advantage (IIPA) booth at Automation Fair in Anaheim.  This is the largest gathering of Rockwell Automation users where IIPA can do outreach directly to the community of controls engineers, automation managers and industrial IT professionals.

Since IIPA has a vision of putting forth an educational community where best practices, successes and failures can be shared and learned from, I was definitely struck that training will continue to be pivotal.   As we work together on thought leadership and the promotion of standard, unmodified Ethernet and Internet Protocol, together with the leading open industrial Ethernet standard, EtherNet/IP™,  skill sets need to grow to keep up with the market.

Training is Definitely a Hot Button

The workforce shortage issue for industrial markets is real.  Discussing and explaining the training and certification offerings from Cisco and IIPA resonated with the attendees.  The IIPA e-learning beta launch got great initial reviews.  Customers are looking for a portable and scalable learning option to complement the instructor lead Industrial CCNA offering.  Attendees were happy that Cisco and Rockwell Automation were investing in the various IT-OT training initiatives. Take a look at this video that summarizes this:

Business Outcomes are Key

Another thing that struck me this year was the theme of my conversations at this show matured from a technical discussion about why, what and how to deploy a Converged Plantwide Ethernet Architecture to what’s possible with a full Connected Factory.  So, the bits/bytes, speeds and feeds around product functionality, for example PoE, NAT, 802.11ad functionality and support, although still important were replaced with business outcome conversations.  For example, “I have a mandate around energy sustainability in my plant.  How can I leverage a wireless mesh deployment to lower my energy and resource consumption costs”  or…. “I have 6 months to provision 5 new packaging lines in my plant with 5 machine cells per line, and over 8 automation vendors to manage.  Can your solution provide a scalable path to cost and efficiency improvements.”   What are your thoughts on this and what manufacturing challenges is your company facing?  Thanks for reading.

Compelling Use Cases for Wireless in the Factory

tony shakib connected factory banner pic

At  Automation Fair this week, we are announcing major enhancements to our Cisco Connected Factory solution with new wireless and mobility capabilities.  This solution, called Factory Wireless, builds on the joint Cisco/Rockwell Automation architecture, known as Converged Plantwide Ethernet (CPwE), as well as Cisco’s networking expertise with wireless and wired technologies and creates new flexible communication opportunities between things, machines, databases, and people throughout the plant.

Interestingly, many manufacturers have been reticent to adopt wireless broadly in their production floor or have been reticent to understand the many exciting use cases that are possible with wireless.  Despite this, the growth will still be steady, as analyst firm IHS predicts, “wireless network connections in industrial automation components in global factories will rise from 2.4 million in 2014 to 3.4 million by 2017.”

Savvy industrial companies who implement a new validated factory wireless infrastructure find that it is the key foundation for many use cases such as asset tracking to mobile visibility of automation controls and HMIs to wirelessly connecting plant floor equipment. In fact, we are seeing the demand for wireless in factories explode due to the potential to cut cabling costs by 95% and speed decision making by 80%.  One customer saw a 7% output boost as well by applying wireless to the production process.

Here are some of the most compelling use cases that automotive, process, discrete, consumer packaged goods and other types of manufacturers where wireless can truly be a game-changer:

  • RFID asset tags for wireless tracking of critical production tools resulting in significant productivity gains.
  • Quality control and assembly line monitoring reducing warranty returns and improving labor utilization such as the gains in the Reynosa, Mexico factory of Stanley Black and Decker.
  • Remote monitoring and real-time visibility of production line equipment for faster response time and better decision-making
  • Mobile video HD cameras for trouble-shooting and collaboration which means significant downtime reduction and faster new product introductions.  Check out the Sub-Zero/Wolf example.
  • Assembly line changeovers or reconfigurations (typical in automotive for example)—with wireless, the plant can be more flexible and adapt faster to new product lines or model changes.

Our design guides  bring together  wireless best practice designs, and tested and validated architectures integrating both IT and OT perspectives.   In addition, Cisco provides support for both unified or autonomous mode.The biggest problem I have seen is when customers fall into the trap of deploying multiple ad hoc wireless networks that ends up causing interference that reduces the effectiveness of those networks.  We can help you deploy a unified plant-wide wireless environment across IT and OT use cases where you can manage and secure end to end – increasing reliability and lowering cost.  Watch for future blogs on tips and considerations as you plan your wireless deployment.

What do you see as your killer use case for industrial wireless in your factory?  Let us know and visit here for more information.  Thanks for reading.