Practical Advice For Building Industrial Internet of Things

Practical Advice For Building Industrial Internet of Things

Much is written about the Industrial Internet of Things, but is anyone really doing anything with it?

Well, yes, it is real and solving business problems for manufacturers. But too few are taking advantage of leveraging the technology for achieving business benefit. I have been in sessions with managers and engineers seeking a plan of implementation.

So last week I welcomed in the New Year with a conversation with Maciej (Mah-chek) Kranz, author of “Building the Internet of Things: Implement New Business Models, Disrupt Competitors, Transform Your Industry.”

Kranz, Vice President of the Corporate Strategic Innovation Group at Cisco Systems, leads the team focused on incubating new businesses, accelerating internal innovation, and driving co—innovation with customers, partners, and startups. Prior to this he was General Manager of Cisco’s Connected Industries Group, where he drove IoT businesses for key industrial markets.

He told me that he wants people to understand the changes coming due to the IIoT and make the book practical and helpful. He succeeded in that goal. The book contains many examples of Industrial Internet of Things in practice along with practical leadership and implementation advice. While there is some technical discussion, this is not a book for engineering rather it is targeted to line of business leaders, people who solve business problems, and IT leaders as well as engineering leadership.

As I read the book, though, I got the impression that much of what Kranz is calling IIoT was once called “manufacturing IT.” Such is the morphing of terminology.

I have talked with leaders who are trying to build business cases and implement an Industrial Internet of Things strategy. Their experiences merge with Kranz’ observations that the biggest barrier to implementation is cultural. Any of us who are change agents and have tried implementing new technologies and new ways of working can show the scars earned from learning that barrier the hard way.

But the potential benefits are huge. For example, this quote from an executive of Harley Davidson, “What used to take a painfully long time to triage and troubleshoot now can be accomplished in a single morning,” the manager said, “An order of magnitude improvement.”

Kranz is not bashful about proclaiming why you should implement IIoT—“Like it of not, the Internet of Things (IoT) will change your organization unlike anything before. It isn’t just the next big thing. IoT is the future.”

He continues, “The real payoff from IoT comes down to automating existing processes that have a large labor or time component and streamlining the related process in one way or another.”

Here is another quote from the book, “You belong to Generation IoT if you embrace open standards, open collaboration, open communications, and open, flexible business models and you’re willing to assemble a comprehensive partner ecosystem to build and deploy agile, flexible business solutions.”

On the practical side, here are his eight elements of success

  • Start with strategy, planning, and preparation.
  • Secure C-suite sponsorship
  • Build a diverse team
  • Communicate and drive IT/OT convergence
  • Rethink operations from the ground up
  • Design for flexibility
  • Educate and train
  • Revisit repeatedly-it’s not a one-and-done effort

Kranz concludes with words that echo my belief in Lean—that it isn’t a strategy but more of a way of life. He says, “Most importantly, my hope is that IoT will change the way you think about your business, and how you’ll design, plan, develop, and deliver products and services, go to market, and interact with customers.”

Connected World Powered by the Cloud

Connected World Powered by the Cloud

The famous Internet of Things would be just so many useless streams of bits without a place to store them before analysis can be done. Therefore, the importance of the Cloud. Microsoft has jumped in big time with its Azure Cloud.

Early last month, Microsoft held AzureCon and announced new solutions spanning containers, security, infrastructure and the Internet of Things (IoT) that enable organizations of all sizes to transform their business in today’s mobile-first, cloud-first world.

“We live in a connected world, and the intelligent cloud is powering it all,” said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud + Enterprise Division. “As data and devices continue to proliferate, there is vast opportunity for businesses to tap into their data to make their applications more intelligent. Through our offerings across applications, data and IoT, and cloud infrastructure, we are enabling companies to innovate more easily and rapidly, using the tools and platforms they know and love.”

Innovation through choice and simplicity

Applications are at the heart of business growth and transformation, and containerization is an increasingly popular way to maximize application value. Furthering its commitment to container technology and extending customer choice, Microsoft announced a new Azure Container Service that will combine the openness of Apache Mesos and Docker with the hyper-scale of Azure for container orchestration and management. With the service, organizations using Azure will now be able to easily deploy and configure Mesos to cluster and schedule Dockerized applications across multiple virtual hosts. Unlike many other container services in market today, this offering is based on open source to enable customer choice across the ecosystem and will support Windows Server containers in the future. The service will be available for preview by the end of the year.

Internet of Things and big data

The intelligent cloud is powered by data. Microsoft announced that its Azure IoT Suite is now available for customers to purchase. The Azure IoT Suite integrates with a company’s existing processes, devices and systems to build and scale IoT projects across their business using preconfigured solutions. In addition, Microsoft announced the new Microsoft Azure Certified for IoT program, an ecosystem of partners whose offerings have been tested and certified so businesses can take their next IoT project from testing to production, more quickly. Current partners include BeagleBone, Freescale Intel Corporation, Raspberry Pi,, Seeed Technology Inc., and Texas Instruments Inc.

Microsoft also announced the expansion of Azure Data Lake. This includes Azure Data Lake Analytics, Azure Data Lake Store, a new programming language U-SQL, and Azure HDInsight general availability on Linux.

Intelligent infrastructure

Security is often cited as a top concern when moving to the cloud. Microsoft announced Azure Security Center, a new integrated experience that gives customers visibility and control of the security of their Azure resources without impeding agility, and helps customers stay ahead of threats even as they evolve.

This service integrates with security solutions from companies such as Barracuda, Checkpoint, Cisco Systems Inc., CloudFlare, F5 Networks, Imperva, Incapsula and Trend Micro Inc. In addition to enabling integrated security, monitoring and policy management, Azure Security Center also provides recommendations. By analyzing information gathered from customers’ deployments and comparing with global threat intelligence aggregated by Microsoft, the service introduces ability to detect threats while taking the guesswork out of cloud security. Azure Security Center will be broadly available for Azure customers by the end of the year.

Finally, continuing investments to deliver industry-leading compute capacity, Microsoft is announcing the N-series, a new family of Azure Virtual Machines (VMs) powered by NVIDIA GPUs. GPUs have long been used for compute and graphics-intensive workloads. Microsoft is the first hyper-scale provider to announce VMs featuring NVIDIA Grid 2.0 technology and the industry-leading Tesla Accelerated Computing Platform for professional graphics applications, deep learning, high-performance computing and more. A preview will be available in a few months.

Microsoft announced the Azure Compute Pre-Purchase Plan, a new pricing program designed for customers with steady state, predictable workloads on Azure. With this new offer, customers who pre-purchase Azure compute for one year can realize cost savings of up to 63 percent. This plan will be available globally starting Dec. 1.

Connected World Powered by the Cloud

Yokogawa and Cisco Deliver Cyber security Solutions for Shell

In years past there were as many as 10-12 companies presenting at the hours-long press conference “marathon” preceding the official beginning of the annual ARC Industry Forum in Orlando. This year, there were only five companies presenting. I’ve already written about the Honeywell announcement.

Yokogawa devoted most of its 30 minutes discussing the 100th anniversary of the company. This announcement follows along with one of the main themes of the overall conference—cyber security.

Yokogawa Electric Corp. ( announced its collaboration with Cisco Systems Inc. to deliver Shell’s SecurePlant initiative. SecurePlant is a comprehensive security management solution for plant control systems that was jointly developed as an initiative between Cisco, a leader in the IT industry, Yokogawa, a leader in mission-critical plant automation systems, and Shell. The three companies have agreed to proceed over the next three years with the implementation of SecurePlant at around fifty Shell plants globally.

Industrial producers around the world face a wide range of operational challenges in areas such as cyber security that pose a pervasive threat to safety and availability. Most companies with global operations, however, still take a relatively simplistic plant-by-plant approach, such as implementing operating system security patches and anti-virus pattern file updates. As a result, security levels tend to vary at each plant.

In the general practice of control system security management, individual control system vendors extensively validate security patches and anti-virus pattern files to confirm that they do not interfere with system operation and then report the results to their customers for implementation. Since plants tend to use a variety of control systems and equipment from different vendors, occasionally with multi-generation platforms from a single vendor, this process is often complicated. For this reason, plants increasingly have the need for plant-wide integrated services that take a more holistic and efficient approach to the management of system security.

With the aim of standardizing security practices at Shell plants around the world and minimizing control system vulnerability, Yokogawa and Cisco collaborated on the design of the SecurePlant service and will jointly provide deployment and operational services.

The SecurePlant solution is designed as a standard solution that consists of the delivery of OS patches and anti-virus pattern files for control systems and the provision of real time and proactive monitoring of solution delivery, as well as a help desk operation to manage this solution.

Supplier-certified Windows security patches and virus signature files are distributed from a SecureCenter to the SecureSite at each plant via Shell’s existing global network. The real time and proactive monitoring capabilities enable the centralized management of plant security. A customer help desk operated jointly by Yokogawa and Cisco is available 24/7/365 to manage solution related incidents.

Moving forward, Yokogawa and Cisco will continue to offer comprehensive security solutions involving the deployment, operation, and monitoring of control system environments. These services are applicable to plants of all sizes in a wide variety of industries, including facilities spread out over a large geographic area. In addition, both companies will leverage their technologies and experience to develop deep industrial automation (IA) solutions such as remote system maintenance, remote plant asset management and Big Data on the top of a secure remote access platform to help companies in making faster decisions, reducing total cost of ownership (TCO), and achieving operational excellence.

Manufacturing Lack of Cyber Security

Manufacturing Lack of Cyber Security

During media interviews (more accurately mini-presentations) in November at Rockwell Automation’s media/analyst day “Automation Perspectives,” Sr. VP and CTO Sujeet Chand met with us individually along with several managers from Cisco Systems to discuss cyber security. This marks at least the third year where Chand’s role was to explain the Cisco/Rockwell relationship.

I’ve been thinking about the presentation for the past couple of weeks (OK, except for during Christmas). When they broached the idea of cyber security, I jumped to a conclusion about how thinking about security would lead engineers to more thoroughly thinking about their overall network leading to overall improvement in manufacturing.

What they seemed to be actually saying was much less than that. The message seems to have been about engineers should actually begin thinking about their network architecture.

Suddenly it dawned on me what the problem was that they were trying to solve. Automation engineers are evidently just cobbling together Ethernet networks in their processes and factories with no thought of network cyber security. But they will start—and buy some Cisco/Rockwell managed switches and security services. (Sorry, I don’t mean for that sound cynical. What they do is sell products and services to help their customers succeed.)

There has been NO thought to cyber security!?

They evidently thought that even with the several years of intense media coverage of security holes in SCADA and other processes engineers were still not taking security into account.

If that is true, then we truly need the new generation of computer/networking/security-savvy engineers (millennials?) now.

Thinking ahead

I know that one of my problems is jumping ahead. Companies will show me a new product, and I’ll immediately start thinking of all the uses and potential additions.

Any engineer who has not been building in some defense in depth and getting help from IT about security policies needs to be trained or replaced. We’ve known about this for at least five years.

Going back to re-engineer (or engineer intentionally for the first time) the factory network, should lead to significant improvements in the automation system, information flow, and ultimately manufacturing profits.

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