Preparing IIoT Environments for the Intersection of Edge, cloud Fog and 5G
Today’s cloud computing providers will play a major role in the effective use of edge computing, the cloud and the coming 5G in the age of the industrial internet of things (IIoT). Manufacturers will need to prepare their IIoT environments to take advantage of the operational and cost efficiencies that these technologies can provide in the era of Industry 4.0.
That preparation starts with a comprehensive cloud strategy that is likely a hybrid and multicloud mix that only cloud computing service providers can deliver. This continual optimization of cost and performance via IIoT and cloud services will deliver the following:
- Transmitting of operational information to OEMs and field engineers from IoT enabled machinery
- Facility management via the use of IoT sensors for condition-based maintenance alerts when equipment deviates from its prescribed parameters to reduce costs, eliminate machine downtime, and increase operational efficiency
- Production flow monitoring via sensor connected Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) software to enable the monitoring of machines, production lines, and whole plants in real time for better management of operational cost, QA, reduced downtime, and scrap.
- Inventory management via IoT applications to monitor supply chain events, globally track inventory, and provide cross-channel visibility for meeting changing production and supply needs in real time
- Improved plant safety and security via IoT combined with big data analysis
- Product lifecycle monitoring from raw materials to finished product for quality control
- Packaging Optimization via IoT sensors embedded in products to deliver end-user usage patterns, smart tracking for transit deterioration monitoring, and insights for product engineering, QA and R&D
- Connection of OEE software, IIoT sensor data, and ERP, PLM and other systems across an enterprise, multiple plants, and varied locations across the globe
Meeting these needs and possibilities for improved IT and OT in the manufacturing enterprise will rely on varied cloud computing solutions such as SaaS, PaaS and even IaaS. These compute scenarios will need broad cloud provider interconnectivity with an eye to determining factors such as costs, latency, and security among others.
The Varied Roles of Cloud Computing Solutions in IIoT Preparedness
The ability to gain real-time insights for controlling, tracking, and customizing production continues to advance with the advent of digital twin technology. Sensors are placed on real world equipment and machines, which are connected to digital replicas of these physical devices or machines.
By feeding the data to the digital twin operators, engineers, R&D, maintenance and other key personnel can drill down into the operational profile of specific assets. This enables improved root cause analysis and a host of new use cases for improved manufacturing operations.
The enhanced visual interaction possible with digital twins improves the ability to formulate actionable insights based upon the presented data to impact performance and costs of a single machine to multiple plants across the globe by providing:
- Low latency communication between machines
- Real time monitoring across great distances
- Real-time process control and virtualization
- Meeting the more complex bandwidth needs of IIoT data
The cloud will continue to be an important tool in hybrid and multicloud strategies because it can be cheaper, more powerful. It can also be easier to implement, integrate, and scale while shifting the cost burden from capital to operational expenditure.
But this is not an either/or proposition as processing will occur wherever it is best placed for any given application. Cloud computing solutions and cloud services from strategically placed colocation provider networks are what will make this intersection of IIoT, Edge, Fog and 5G possible as the foundation of industry 4.0.
- Maintenance efficiency and improved OEE
- Professional Training (operational, repair and installation procedures, safety protocols) via visual interface and its ability to mirror real-life scenarios from the production floor
- Communication of production issues across the enterprise and even globally
- Automatic alerts about predicted failures or quality deviations
- Testing new concepts for optimization without needing to disrupt production
- Implementation of major operational changes without going into downtime
While IIoT sensors are at the heart of these and other possibilities, only cloud computing providers can deliver the cloud connectivity that makes it viable. This can range from SaaS-based OEE software connected to Enterprise Risk Management (ERM), Partner Relationship Management (PRM), and Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) software to the digital twin Platform as a Service (PaaS) and beyond. But as these IIoT needs move far beyond the network edge in fields like mining, oil and gas, energy and more, they can also play a part in delivering fog and edge computing solutions.
Cloud Computing Providers Making Edge and Fog Computing Viable
According to a Cisco Brief, edge computing is about storing IoT data compute and storage systems closer to where it is produced by sensors in the field so it doesn’t need to be sent to the cloud. The term fog computing, which was coined by Cisco, is basically the means for making edge computing models repeatable. Here again, edge computing and colocation are linked as a means to realizing the potential cost and operational efficiency/agility gains.
As 5G becomes viable, transport of massive amounts of data whether it be through Edge, Fog or cloud platforms will enable: