I am sure the first thing you ask yourself when you hear about the Industrial Internet of Things is are you ready, right? It makes sense; the reality in the field is different to the reality on the vendor's side.
Most of the technology will take some time after rollout until before it has widespread implementation in the real world, that’s normal. How many of you are still using the excellent but old 4-20 mA technology in your plant? Why not change to a new digital protocol? Wait - I think I know the answer to this one.
The reason is simple, 4-20 mA works and everybody knows how to deal with it - am I right?
However, I am sure when an opportunity pops up to implement a new technology, everyone is open to seeing this new stuff running. Actually working with it helps you to better understand how digital communication works and how to deal with everyday running.
I’ve seen many customers doing exactly this. For instance, they implemented wireless communication in small applications in order to have a better feeling about the technology and then went on to extend it into new opportunities.
Yes, you won't wake up and find your plant went digital overnight, but you can start to make changes, try out these new services and learn how it can improve your daily life.
Today, let's find out if we are ready to try these IIoT services out in small or big applications. Stick around, and let's look together how you can try them out and the benefits of their implementation.
What's the reality in my plant right now?
First off, it's essential to understand what's the reality in your plant and whether you have the basic requirements to apply Industrial Internet of Things solutions. In this scenario, the minimum requirement is to have at least HART devices in the field.
When you have pneumatic or straight analog devices, you can't have IIoT services because they don’t talk to you - it makes sense, right? However, I believe I’ve seen IIoT solutions on social media which connected to straight 4-20 mA devices. You don't have any smart information, so why is it called an IIoT solution? Who knows!?
In our scenario, you need to have at least HART devices or any other digital protocol network, such as PROFIBUS. How do you implement it without changing your entire network architecture? The answer is simple, just keep in mind that you only have to enable it.
This means, you don't need to implement a big solution; you can start with 5 devices or less and then integrate them into an IIoT cloud solution. This allows you to get familiar with all the insights you will get for your efforts. To do it, you only need devices using the WirelessHART or Bluetooth protocol.
Alternatively, you could use a HART gateway to acquire this information from the field or if you have a PROFIBUS network, for example, use a PROFIBUS gateway that collects all the diagnostics from the field devices.
In these scenarios, all information is fed to an edge device that creates a safe connection between the field and the cloud solution. There, you're going to have the digital twins of your field devices connected to the IIoT service you choose to work with.
How can Industrial Internet of Things help me today?
In many ways, you have tons of possibilities with IIoT today. For instance, you can start to improve your operations by moving from corrective to predictive maintenance. Here, you can begin by using your IIoT network for monitoring the health of the critical devices in your plant.
The IIoT Health service will give you an overview of the health conditions of your field devices. It will help you to understand what's going on with your field device, avoiding an unscheduled downtime in your plant.
Furthermore, you have access to the history of your field devices where you can see when the problem happened. This gives you insights into how it happened – was it because of a change in the process or an external condition?
When your device shows a message, such as maintenance required, you can quickly check with the Health service, what the problem is and how it can be remedied. The Health service is one of the many IIoT possibilities that will bring real benefits to your application.
How quickly can I implement IIoT at my plant?
IIoT solutions can be implemented in any plant with at least HART devices in the field. Furthermore, you can go wireless, which is easier than using cabled solutions. In this case, a wireless adapter using the loop-powered energy, external energy or even a battery is installed on the field device.
You can pick the best wireless adapter for your application and then integrate any device into the wireless network. Besides that, you have the possibility of choosing between WirelessHART and Bluetooth adapters. Both protocols will deliver the same level of information, and you can also integrate into an edge device or send directly to the cloud.
As I said, wireless is the more comfortable and cheaper way to add new IIoT solution on top of your current application. It won't change your architecture and will not affect the measuring signal going to the control system.
However, if you want to use cabled solutions, there are both HART and PROFIBUS gateways that will collect all the diagnostic from the field and pass it on to an edge device.
It's essential to check how many devices you have and how far apart they are, then you can figure out which integration brings you the best benefits with the lowest investment: wireless or a cabled solution.
Should I implement an IIoT at all in my plant?
Yes, but you can start small and then grow it slowly. One of the benefits of IIoT solutions is how scalable they are. This means you can have a small network with 5 critical or new devices and then add more devices at a later date.
At the same time, today, if you are working on a new project it makes more sense that you already go digital and add an IIoT solution as a standard part of the project. Each of the IIoT services you decide to go with will bring plenty of benefits for your application.
One good example is the Analytics service, where you can have digital twins for all your devices into the cloud. The information collected from the field devices will give you many insights into you plant such as criticality, asset distribution by manufacturer and asset obsolescence.
I don't know who said it, but it makes sense with all the new technology coming up today: think big but start small! You should start small in order to figure out how the technology can serve you and make your life in the field easier than ever.
What is the cost of applying an IIoT solution?
If I say that the cost will depend on your application, will you be mad with me? The reality is that the cost depends on your existing network, how many devices you want to implement the type of IIoT service and the technology you want to use.
So, on the downside, I can't give you an exact cost because it depends on many tags your application has. On the upside, though, IIoT services work as a “solution as a service”. This means you sign up to a service with a monthly leasing fee and can immediately integrate your devices into the cloud.
If you want to get the idea of the cost, check Netilion Health and have a look at the price and the differences between the options there. Moreover, you can sign up to some services for free, so that you can try them out get more familiar with how the tools work and the see the benefits of their implementation.
Can I use all my field devices in an IIoT cloud solution?
In short, yes! You can use any device that has the basic requirements in your IIoT cloud solution. The Industrial Internet of Things cloud solution was developed to support all brands and devices from different vendors that comply with the main specification.
At the same time, don’t forget that there are different IIoT services and it's essential to take a look at each service to make sure it can be deployed for any brand. Most of these services were developing to include any device you have in the field, but some services are dedicated to a particular type of device or model.
To make a long-story-short, IIoT services can normally be integrated into any device, not just the devices from the IIoT solution provider, but check the service you need just in case!
The big idea is to have an open platform for any vendor and device, but it can take time until it happens. Some solutions may first be limited to specific devices until they work perfectly with any device, after which they will become completely open.
Can I try it for free before I implement it?
Of course, you can try it out for free before you sign up for a service. One of the significant advantages of the IIoT services is the possibility of trying them out before you decide to sign up. The free version gives you all the features of the service for a limited number of devices and other small stuff, but you will have the full experience.
It's always good to try out a new solution and see all the features offered and understand how it can fit into your reality, right? We shouldn’t forget that digitalization is a reality and we need to adapt to it.
Trying out an IIoT service for free is a good start. Start small with a couple of devices in your IIoT cloud. The next step is the big goal - to have your entire plant monitored and connected. Sounds great, huh?
Now, I would like to hear from you! Are you ready to IIoT?
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See ya soon!