The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a reality. It is possible now, as Rexroth has shown in Industry 4.0 factories, to create a smart factory where machines, products, and people communicate directly, gather information, and make decisions based on collected and analyzed data.
Now it’s time for standards.
The focus in work on IIoT is on capabilities. As engineers extend their ideas of what smart machines can do, the emphasis is on building new kinds of sensors, robots, and actuators. But the needs for IIoT are not the same as for the consumer market. Add virtual reality capability to a phone, and it has a competitive advantage. Consumers may choose that new phone, or they may go with another system.
Add VR capability to a machine and it may not work with any other machine in the facility. It may pose security risks. It may threaten the integrity of the supply chain. It may pose new safety risks.
At present, none of those problems will show up until the new, augmented machine is in the factory.
People developing exciting new industrial technologies may be more familiar with office dynamics than with the factory floor. Make sure that all the valves in the factory are functioning at all times and alert engineers if one is nearing the end of its useful life? That’s clearly a good thing. A designer may go ahead and figure out how to accomplish this. But there are currently no industry standards to follow. The solution may not fit with existing industrial standards or with any of the several different sets of IIoT standards being developed by different organizations.
But that new solution — and all IIoT solutions — must be used in an interconnected system. Rexroth is currently working with open-source technologies using the most familiar programming languages. This is a good start. Shared standards will be an important step.