During the Transforming Manufacturing for Growth: Gaining a Competitive Advantage with IoT webinar, Industrial IoT (IIoT) experts from PwC shared insights on three obstacles that have made it more difficult for manufacturing companies to implement IIoT initiatives. What struck us about these insights is that they are all about obstacles – moving beyond the IoT exploration stage, the architectural complexity associated with connecting Information Technology (IT) with Operations Technology (OT) and strengthening IoT security – that can be addressed by new technologies that make IoT infrastructure simpler and more flexible in the same way that cloud services simplified and made IT infrastructure more flexible. These device-to-cloud (D2C) data orchestration solutions and other technologies enable the Amazonification of the IoT, helping manufacturers to overcome these obstacles and accelerate the movement of their IIoT initiatives from the drawing board to the factory floor.
In a survey of US-based manufacturers, PwC asked companies how much they have transformed their manufacturing and distribution capabilities to take advantage of digital/IoT enhancements. In this survey, a small percent of respondents (14 percent) said they had not yet explored how to adopt IoT technology to enhance their operations. A greater percent of respondents (31 percent) said they were either adopting IoT technology to enhance their operations or led their industry in the adoption of IoT to cut costs, gain efficiencies or otherwise enhance their operations. However, the vast majority of companies (56 percent) said they were still in the IIoT application exploration stage – exploring how to adopt IoT technology to enhance their operations.
Why do so many manufacturers find themselves still in the exploration stage of IIoT application deployment, despite its tremendous potential to help them enhance their operations? One key reason is that in exploring the deployment of new IoT applications, many manufacturers quickly find that an essential requirement for these applications – extracting, orchestrating and acting upon data as it is generated by their equipment and securely transmitted to the cloud – is a complex undertaking. It requires expertise in a wide variety of diverse topics, including IoT hardware, embedded software, wireless connectivity, back-end cloud software, IoT protocols and cybersecurity. Without this expertise, manufacturers cannot build the infrastructure needed to securely and reliably collect and use this data for a proof-of-concept (POC) IIoT application, let alone one that can be commercialized and globally scaled.
However, Sierra Wireless’ recently previewed Octave D2C data orchestration solution delivers manufacturers all the infrastructure they need for an IIoT application – including edge devices, wireless network connectivity, cloud APIs and security – in a single package. Rather than assembling all the expertise needed to build this infrastructure themselves, they can focus on developing and testing new IIoT applications that deliver them value from day one. And when it comes time to scale the application beyond a POC, there is no need to start from scratch and rebuild the application – with Octave they have the infrastructure they need to take the POC and scale it to support global deployments on thousands of different edge devices.
In addition, Octave makes it possible for manufacturers to “tweak” their evolving data models, allowing them to adjust the way they extract, orchestrate and act on data as they move forward in the IoT application discovery and exploration process. Changes can be deployed dynamically, without recompiling and redeploying edge applications. This speeds time to market for IoT applications and increases their ROI — while also delivering significant benefits down the road, when manufacturers want to add new capabilities, features and services that allow them to better monetize their IoT applications. Octave enables manufacturers to bring a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application approach (where one continuously updates, refines and improves applications as they are designed, tested, commercialized and deployed) to the IIoT.
Another insight PwC discussed in the webinar was that IIoT application architecture is much different than traditional web application architecture. In particular, unlike web applications, which are mostly just about IT, IIoT applications have to integrate industrial equipment and other OT systems into the application, using OT communications protocols, such as Modbus and CANopen.
This speaks to one of most important benefits of the Octave D2C data orchestration solution – its ability to build a bridge between IT and OT. Manufacturers no longer have to figure out for themselves how to connect various OT sensors, user interfaces, computing systems and networking technologies to gateways and thus to the IoT application. Rather than build the infrastructure needed to connect IT with OT from scratch, all of the infrastructure needed for this connectivity is delivered to them in a single, comprehensive solution.
A third insight that PwC shared during the webinar was how concerned manufacturers are about ensuring the security of their IoT applications. In a survey cited in the webinar, 55 percent of respondents from two types of manufacturing companies – automotive companies and industrial product companies – said their companies were planning to invest in IoT security over the coming year.
The high percentage of manufacturing companies investing in IoT security shows that these companies are extremely concerned about the costs of a successful cyberattack on their IIoT application. Such an attack could threaten their supply chain relationships, the safety of their workers or the privacy of their customers’ data. Even though IIoT applications will help them streamline their supply chains, improve the productivity of their factories and enhance the experiences they deliver to their customers, without robust security in place, they are wary of moving forward in deploying these applications.
Octave addresses manufacturers’ security concerns, with an end-to-end solution that secures data as it moves from edge devices to networks to the cloud, making sure no data is accepted from or sent to unauthenticated sources or destinations along the way. Octave facilitates upgrades to edge device firmware, continuously rotates security keys and constantly monitors the network for threats. With a D2C data orchestration solution that has been built to be secure by default, manufacturers can focus on implementing strong security policies, rather than building the IoT security infrastructure needed to support these policies.
Manufacturers understand that, by building connectivity into their assets and products, IIoT applications can help them optimize their operations, improve their products and launch new services. However, as the insights identified by PwC demonstrate, the complexities of IIoT have slowed manufacturers’ efforts to move beyond the IoT exploration phase to deployment, to use the IIoT to bridge the gap between IT to OT and to build robust security into their IIoT applications. By integrating devices, connectivity and cloud services into a single end-to-end solution, Octave simplifies IIoT application development, deployment and security for manufacturers. With Octave they are empowered to use familiar software toolsets to build and enhance sophisticated IIoT applications that can securely extract, orchestrate and act on data as it moves from their edge devices to the cloud – and put themselves on the fast track to use the IIoT to transform the way they do business.
Start with Sierra to learn more about how Sierra’s Octave D2C data orchestration solution can help you reimagine your future with IoT applications and accelerate the time to market for making that future a reality.
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