Perspective: INDUSTRIAL INTEROPERABILITY FOR IOT
Digitalization is an important and very attractive growth market. The goal is to foster the integration of IT Technologies with products, systems, solutions and services across the complete value chain stretching from design to the production to maintenance.
Additionally new business opportunities will arise like the digitalization of products and systems, new and enhanced software solutions and new digital services.
IoT defines a series of technologies that have traditionally not been connected and will now be connected to an IP-based network. These technologies are the most important drivers of the digital growth. In the center of the standardization is the so called “Machine-to-Machine” (M2M) communication. Many companies and associations like the OPC Foundation with OPC-UA have been engaged in these standardization efforts for many years.
M2M typically defines the communication between two machines or the data transfer between a more or less intelligent device and a central computer. The communication media is either a cable modem or wireless modem. In more modern devices – in example a vending machine – the communication was using the cell-network and a SIM card was placed in each machine. It then communicated directly via a point-to-point connection with the dedicated computer to send sensor data – for example the fill-level – and other alarm messages to the machine owner. The business models resulting from this are mainly around logistics and maintenance as well as special condition monitoring and preventive maintenance. For example in the industrial environment, airplane turbines are sent to the airports and constantly monitored to send replacement parts in time to reduce the maintenance times.
At the base, the internet of things requires remote device access as well. Therefore M2M is a part of the IoT but is not limited to the exchange of data between intelligent devices. It also includes data from simple sensors and actors (i.e wearables for fitness solutions in the consumer space) that will be first aggregated and processed locally then sent via gateways (a smart phone) to central systems in the cloud. Within IoT very complex networks of intelligent systems are emerging. A similar development can be observed for industrial solutions: Machines and field devices are not just connected to networks and send data. They additionally can process and combine data from other devices due to the increasing computing power of these devices. They can consume and provide information from and to other field devices to create new value for the user. In the end a machine can, by itself, provide a maintenance strategy for the technicians or deliver information about the history of maintenance – instead of just providing data of the oil-pressure and temperature.
The requirement for the communication of things and services inside the IoT is vastly different than today’s established structures: The IoT communication with devices will rarely happen directly. Sensor and device information will be published and consumer can subscribe to this information (Publish/Subscribe). Typically these things and systems will communicate via IP-Networks between each other and with cloud based big-data applications. The customer benefits are created by the combination of these intelligent devices and systems with services that operators provide to their customers.
The vision of IoT can only be realized, if the communication of the central components is based on a global communication standard that can fulfill the complex requirements. Additionally to a publish/subscribe model for the low-resource, one-to-many communication paradigm a secure connection oriented client/server communication model is required to handle the bi-directional communication that allows sending control commands to actors. Furthermore information must be accompanied by a semantic meta-model that describes the data and its purpose to guarantee the best usage of the data. The aggregation of information on many layers adds additional meta-data and therefore it is of critical importance to use a single standard. Scalability and the possibility of integration across all layers is required as well as platform and vendor independence. OPCUA offers a complete solution for all requirements on all vertical layers for remote device access.