For years, industrial control systems have been characterized by proprietary devices, protocols, communications, and applications. However, at the Hannover Fair last spring, virtually every exhibitor showed products that support IP, Ethernet, or Wi-Fi interfaces—something that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago.
The Internet of Everything (IoE) is driving this change, with an exponentially growing number of connections among people, process, data, and things. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a key enabler of this evolution. By 2020, according to Cisco’s analysis, there will be 50 billion connected devices—all needing a common way to work together.
As I discussed in my last blog, the worlds of Information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) are converging—and they are converging around standards. The good news is that the industry is recognizing that a fragmented, proprietary model does not scale, and inhibits the value of IoT deployments. The IoT standardization efforts are focused on four different areas:
- Evolving existing IP and Ethernet standards: As has been the case with many previous technology transitions, the robust standards of the IT world are now evolving to include the requirements coming from OT and IoT. There are dozens of interest groups in IEEE, IETF, and other standards bodies working on requirements for IoT, including deterministic Ethernet for industrial control systems and high-speed mobile communications among diverse things such as cars, trains, and other vehicles.
- Aligning industry standards with IP and Ethernet: Historically, major industry players in manufacturing, transportation, and other verticals have established standards bodies around their own protocols and technologies, often creating conflicting standards and thus inhibiting interoperability and adoption. The IoT industry is working with the major industry standards bodies such as ODVA to migrate existing standards to IP and Ethernet while ensuring interoperability with legacy protocols.
- Creating horizontal architectural frameworks: The IoT World Forum has been working on a common model to drive interoperability across all IoT components: devices and controllers, networks, edge computing, data storage, applications, and analytics. The IoT World Forum Reference Model organizes these components into layers and provides a graphical representation of IoT and all that it entails.
The IoT World Forum Reference Model opens the door to an “Open IoT” system, with guaranteed interoperability.
4. Creating consortia to address key pain points: Major industry players are joining forces in new consortia, such as Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC) and Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC). OIC’s main focus is on IoT interoperability for device-to-device, device-to-infrastructure, and device-to-cloud communication by defining specifications, creating open source code and a certification program—a must-do to integrate billions of devices and sensors and the data they generate into IoT solutions in a scalable way. IIC is leading integration of the physical and digital worlds, helping to drive adoption of industrial Internet applications. IIC has created reference architectures, established a range of innovation test beds, and is now identifying core standards, as well as gaps and requirements for future work.
As interoperability increases, IoT will enable powerful new capabilities and business models that will define winners and losers across industries. Our customers are asking for open, IP-based IoT architectures, and we are working with an increasing number of partners who have made the strategic decision to embrace open standards, Ethernet, and IP. Plan to attend the next IoT World Forum in Dubai to become part of the circle of winners.