By the year 2020, it’s estimated that there will be approximately 50 billion connected devices throughout the world. As the concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) emerged some time between 2008 and 2009, it took less than 10 years for IoT devices to outnumber human beings on the planet. The effects of such widespread connectivity have found their way into every industry, including manufacturing and process control within the focused subset known as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
Some organizations are able to take the fast route to IoT connectivity by purchasing equipment with native IoT integration built in. Others are left to consider alternative options to connect existing assets to the cloud to achieve its related benefits like virtually unlimited scalability and IT/firewall-friendly communication. For such applications where entirely new IoT-integrated production equipment cannot be installed, one solution is the use of add-on IoT gateway hardware devices.
IoT devices alone are initially useful for cloud connectivity but can also be paired with intelligent IoT software solutions designed for Industry 4.0 for added benefits. ICONICS IoTWorX™, for instance, securely connects equipment data to the cloud, directly from existing automation systems, so that users can enable cloud historian, web visualization, analytics, alarm management, fault detection/diagnostics, and bi-directional control for complete contextualization of data. Streaming information to the cloud enables manufacturers to better understand their data and find innovative ways to deliver value. Advanced analytics make it possible to give customers what they want, sometimes before they even have to ask for it.
IoTWorX combines new IoT software technology with affordable IoT devices to create secure cloud-ready solutions for energy, building automation, manufacturing, and industrial applications. Based on ICONICS’ proven HMI/SCADA, analytics, and mobile products, a new generation of Software as a Service (SaaS) and IoT applications are now possible. The convergence of these powerful technologies provides simple yet highly secure real-time, site-to-cloud communications, truly leveraging the benefit of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0 standards. ICONICS’ IoT software solution takes maximum advantage of cloud solutions, such as Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing platform and services, to provide global visibility, scalability, and reliability.
A Must Have: OPC UA Integration
An IoT gateway can handle “Northbound” communication, providing data connectivity between itself and the cloud. It can also handle “Southbound” data connectivity to end devices, completely on-premises, and usually involving an industry standard communications protocol. In building automation applications, that protocol would typically be BACnet. For office machinery, it would be SNMP. For others, it could be Modbus or web services. Thanks to its long history working with the OPC Foundation, ICONICS made sure that IoTWorX would integrate with OPC UA in order to allow for a standard publish/subscribe (pub/sub) model of integrating the plant floor with the enterprise. In addition, ICONICS adopted the most popular IIoT messaging protocols, which are also recommended by the OPC Foundation: Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP) and Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT). AMQP offers efficient design and optimization of messaging between devices, and is primarily used for communications to the Microsoft Azure IoT Hub, while MQTT is useful for its extended reach to third party business systems and other cloud platforms.
Note: ICONICS is a charter member of the OPC Foundation and has assisted the Foundation over the years by providing source code and hosting Interop events, as well as serving on the Board of Directors for the Foundation. ICONICS also quickly adopted the OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA) specification upon its initial release, integrating it with its software solutions.