IIC and NIST Present IIoT Energy Forum

The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) has been busy over the past few months. I receive a steady stream of interesting news. This one concerns a joint Forum (which I cannot make) with  National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) presenting the IIoT Energy Forum on February 9 in McLean, Virginia.

This one-day forum hosted by the MITRE Corp. will focus on the impact of IIoT on the energy industry.

This public event will showcase industrial internet technologies and IIC and NIST activities in the energy sector. It will feature experts from both the IIC and NIST and shine a spotlight on smart grids, industrial analytics, cybersecurity and standards.

“The Global Event Series is a crucial part of IIC’s industry outreach program bringing industry stakeholders and end users together,” said Wael William Diab, Chair of the IIC Global Event Series and Senior Director at Huawei. “Many industries are turning to IIoT to monitor the efficiency of their assets and the energy and utility sector is no exception.”

“IIoT-enabled assets present new vectors of vulnerability across connected systems and distributed devices in the energy and utility industry,” said Bob Martin, Senior Principal Engineer, Trust & Assurance Cyber Technologies, The MITRE Corporation. “Trustworthy IIoT will have an impact not only on cost optimization but also on energy regulations, policy and standards.”

The agenda includes:

  • Guest speakers from The Department of Energy, MITRE and NIST who will discuss requirements, gaps and opportunities for leveraging the data that is building up within and around energy systems, and how to use that data to increase production and decrease costs.
  • A panel of testbed experts from Xilinx, Wipro Digital, NIST and InterDigital Communications, Inc. who will discuss emerging technologies and applications based on testbed examples, including smart grids.
  • Panels on Standards & Architecture and Security, moderated by IBM and Intel respectively, both with a focus on energy.

MITRE is a secure facility and pre-registration is required. Registration for non-US citizens closes on January 24 at 5pm EST and registration for US citizens closes January 31 at 5pm EST.

More on Industrial Protocols and Standards

More on Industrial Protocols and Standards

John Bernadin (retired Rockwell Automation executive) posted a comment on my LinkedIn post of my blog post on Protocol Wars–Vendors versus Standards.

“From the PLC side, the Auto industry began major efforts to drive standards in the 1990’s like GM’s MAP mfg automation protocol. However, after a decade they realized that even with their leadership and size, the Big Three and their top tier suppliers couldn’t get PLC vendors to agree on a standard. So in 2000, they decided it would literally take an “Act of Congress” to get vendors to agree. Two years later, a bipartisan Congress passed the Manufacturing Enterprise Integration Act of 2002 giving NIST over $150 million to develop and drive Interoperability protocols and standards. What happened next? President Bush never approved the budget for NIST to do it because he philosophically didn’t believe that the federal government should be creating standards. Thus, 25 years later we still have nothing — because this problem is like solving world hunger or world peace. It’s too big. “

Good recap, John.

Then there were PC standards

In those days, there was a PC standard. Actually, there were a few. There was an “XT” bus that standardized PCs on what became known as the PC platform. In the late 80s, IBM thought it would get fancy and recapture some proprietary technology it lost with the XT platform. Anyone remember Microchannel?But then PCI came along driven more by chip makers, I believe, to take the backplane to another level without being vendor specific.

I actually took classes and may still have a certificate around the house having passed tests on IBM’s proprietary, or sort-of proprietary, technologies. Remember also Token Ring? Yep, that was another. The third test had something to do with finance applications on the PC.

In those days you could build cards to plug into the bus. Only Apples were locked down.

There was an “embedded” PC world dominated by VMEbus and in the mid-late 90s PCI and then CompactPCI. PLCs were generally built on a modified VME but nothing was standard.

None of these things I’m talking about were driven by government. IBM allowed its first PC bus to become an industry standard that other companies could build to–and the PC industry took off.

Allen-Bradley CompactLogix I/O

Allen-Bradley CompactLogix I/O

In the 90s the big automakers grew frustrated with what was essentially a single PLC source and tried a bunch of things. Maybe the government. Maybe they were big enough to drive a CompactPCI standard. All PLC manufacturers would build on a single CompactPCI standard. Anyone’s cards would fit in the backplane–just like the PC industry. You could load anyone’s operating system and programming software on the platform.

By driving hardware and then software to commodity, then the automakers could drive the cost dramatically down.


Since the 80s and 90s saw tremendous innovation around the standards driven PC platform, it was logical (to users) that similar innovation advances would be seen in the industrial “PC” market.

Many things were tried. Many things failed.

Trouble is–the industrial market is much smaller than the PC market. A commodity industrial market would drive incumbents to seek other markets. Innovation would dry up. Suppliers drove to protect their turf.

And innovation exploded.

We saw many things added to the PLC platform driven by competition (although reducing interoperability):

  • PC technologies–memory, processing
  • Networking
  • Integrated motion control
  • Reduced footprint
  • Innovative development studios

But, alas, if you bought Rockwell, you were stuck with Rockwell. Same with Siemens, and everyone else.

Users did reap some price concessions. Better, they reaped technology advances because the suppliers could afford to invest in new technology.

New technology cycle

Theses curves always run their cycle.

Where are we now? Is there any reason to need a standard platform PLC? Or has that technology curve been passed?

Do we need a single protocol for moving data in this brave new IoT world? Or, will suppliers build gateways that foster inter-communication–or a bus such as the ws-ISBM? And render the argument moot?

Industry of Things Forum-Internet of Things Everywhere

Industry of Things Forum-Internet of Things Everywhere

Kumar Krishnamurthy of PwCI just attended an amazing conference, Industry of Things World USA, in San Diego. Internet of Things was discussed from many angles. The nonstop pace is the reason for no posts for two days. The 400 attendees, about 10% women, gathered from 28 countries and 234 companies. 21 companies sponsored the event, and I was one of the media sponsors. The high profile speakers, ranging from an Undersecretary of the Dept. of Commerce to Harvard Business School professor and author Michael Porter.

Check out the Twitter feed at #IoTClan.

The conference was organized from Berlin, Germany. So, how did they attract such an outstanding attendee list without running ads in major media sites–even major considered from the industry point of view. I heard about the conference from an email. Several people I talked with also heard about it from an email. The organizers, in fact, sent 1.5 million emails in the course of bringing the conference together.

They told me that it was emails and networking. A few people I talked with had been contacted by colleagues in Germany where the organizers have a track record.

Here are a few notes:

Willie May, Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology (NIST) called the IoT a new paradigm, “It’s going to be big.” NIST is working with industry and academia on standards and testbeds.

Jeff Jaffe W3CJeff Jaffe, president of W3C–the worldwide web consortium, discovered the importance of metadata and interoperability of data among apps. RESTful interfaces lie on the standards roadmap. Everyone seems to want to rename the IoT in their own way. For Jaffe, it is the Web of Things. “The Web is fueling a transition from costly monolithic software to an open market of apps. Check out the diagram showing his idea that Web technologies can enable vertical & horizontal integration. These go vertically field level to business level (low to high levels of abstraction) and horizontally as integration along supply chain to integration along the value chain.

SAP, EVP for IoT Tanja Rueckert, said, “What will really be impacted by IoT are the business processes, disruptive business models, efficiency models.”

Tom Burke, president of the OPC Foundation, discussed the value of data in his presentation to a packed room during a breakout. That showed the amount of interest in the manufacturing side of things

Lead of PwC IoT practice, Kumar Krishnamurthy, in one of the better presentations I heard “IoT from Strategy to Execution”, calld for the right focus–creating value rather than technology. He noted, “Evolution of products, integrate digital with operations, reevaluate go-to-market, manage shifts in revenue model.” Continuing a conference theme, he proclaimed, “Digital transformation is not about technology…but about creating value using an enhanced set of asset base. Technology enabled devices do not make the machines smarter…rather they enable businesses to evolve their model to serve differently. Success is not all about data and analytics…but leveraging the information with judgement and expertise.”

Michael Porter predicted that IoT (or smart products) will expand industry boundaries as well as change organizational structure.

Finally, in a presentation “IoT, Fact or Fiction, Timothy Chou,  a lecturer at Stanford and author, suggested that young students learn machine learning-static and dynamic-for the future. “Lots of sensors generate too much data. We must learn to deal with it–with machine learning a key.

He said, “Asset management was developed when things were very dumb. Now I can put a full computer in   almost everything. Why not have the machine issue the work order? It is time to rethink middleware.”