The Implication of the Internet of Things for Manufacturing

  • December 14, 2014
  • Feature

By Bill Lydon, Editor Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of PULSE.  Click here to download PULSE. The goal of the Internet of Things (IoT) is to massively instrument the world with intelligent sensors and actuators (analog/digital) that communicate over both wired and wireless networks and leverage the Internet Protocol (IP). The boundless applications being pursued include energy metering, smart grid, health, automotive, agriculture, home automation, security, surveillance, transportation, retail, building automation, and industrial automation. As you might expect, the Internet of Things was a hot topic at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, NV. Exhibitors showed various types of connected devices, including connected cars, smart watches, heart monitors, fitness bands, and wireless home devices. One great example is the BodyGuardian (, developed in collaboration with Mayo Clinic, which uses sophisticated algorithms to support remote monitoring of individuals with cardiac arrhythmias. BodyGuardian allows physicians to remotely monitor key biometrics while patients go about their daily lives. A small body sensor that is attached to the patient’s chest collects important data, including the patient’s ECG, heart rate, respiration rate and activity level. Patient data can then be transmitted to physicians via mobile phone technology. ndustrial controllers and smart sensors are starting to follow this trend by providing data refinement, local historians, analytics, and advanced control. In step with this trend, virtually all mainstream industrial controllers incorporate Ethernet connections that support industry-standard Internet Protocol (IP) communications, including TCP/IP. A wide range of industrial Ethernet protocols communicate over standard IP, including Modbus/TCP, PROFINET, EtherNet/IP, IEC 61850, BacNet/IP, and others. Internet Protocol (IP) The Internet Protocol is the primary protocol in the Internet protocol suite for delivering packets from source hosts to destination hosts, based solely on the IP addresses in packet headers. The first major version of the Internet Protocol was Version 4 (IPv4), and its successor is Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6). Using IP communications provides frictionless communications across established Intranet and Internet networks using COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) hardware and software. Because of its widespread, high-volume use in broader applications, the cost is driven down while functionality increases. Smartphones are an obvious, high-volume example of low-cost devices with a dramatic increase of computing power coupled with IP-based communications. Processing Power The dramatic semiconductor technological innovations and refinements coupled with cost reductions over the past ten years make smart devices practical. These devices incorporate powerful new CPU chips, which simplify automation architectures. The rapid increase in the power, memory, and communication capabilities that are integrated on CPU chips is driven by high-volume, lower-cost production of devices like smartphones and tablet computers. The evolution of cell phones reflects this dramatic change. In 1983, Motorola introduced the first hand-held cell phone, the DynaTAC 8000X, which was 13 x 1.75 x 3.5 inches, weighed 1.75 pounds, and offered 30 minutes of talk time and 8 hours of standby time. At the time, it sold for $3,995.00, which is equivalent to $9,281.84 in 2012 dollars. Today, smartphones are a fraction of the cost and offer significantly more power. The worldwide smartphone market grew 38.8% year over year in the third quarter of 2013 (3Q13), according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker ( These smartphone, tablet, and other high volume markets spawn the low-cost communications and processor chips that will be used for developing new IoT solutions. New breeds of industrial controllers and embedded, industrial end devices incorporate this power and add features that include embedded web servers, email clients, and web services. These capabilities enable these devices to communicate directly with operations and business systems. Today, it is common to see dual-core CPU’s in controllers, and a number of companies have announced quad-core-based controllers. These more powerful industrial controllers are becoming computing engines that are starting to collapse the typical 5-level automation architecture model and are making automation systems more flexible and responsive. Driving intelligence into sensors, motor controls, actuators, and other devices coupled with integrated IP communications are trends that will bring the Internet of Things concept to the industrial automation and manufacturing world. Systems on a Chip (SoC) is a big enabler that integrates all components of a computer and IP wired/wireless communications on a single integrated circuit. The System-On-a-Chip (SoC) industry is growing dramatically. Global Industry Analysts Inc. forecasts the market to be US$48.8 billion by 2017. Embedded Analytics IoT will change the architecture of manufacturing systems and create huge amounts of data. Intelligent sensors, motor controls, actuators, and other devices with embedded processors can perform local analytics, predictive maintenance analysis, and data quality refinement at the source. This analysis at the source will be crucial, because sending all that raw data into host computers will create unmanageable software and systems. Today, many motor drive controllers use embedded controllers to incorporate complete PLC controllers, operational analytics, power information, and maintenance analytics. Collapsing Architecture With increased intelligence and cloud computing at the top level of systems coupled with powerful controllers and intelligent sensors, the middleware of today’s automation systems will diminish. Powerful industrial controllers and intelligent sensors/actuators with embedded processors will become big data sources. These data sources will be accessible using IP communications and federated using big data software designed to run on a large number of processors that don’t share memory. The system architectures that we have used for decades are already starting to collapse, because modern controllers can communicate with all levels of the architecture using the “IP plumbing.” The IP plumbing is pervasive in many manufacturing plants and includes the capabilities to send e-mail and FTP files and serve up web pages. Open communication is supported using industry standards like XML, SOAP, SNMP, and OPC UA. These standards create direct lines of communication with operations, business, warehouse, and supply chain systems without interposing software layers that create cost, complexity, throughput latency, and ongoing maintenance burdens. IP-enabled smart sensors, actuators, and output devices perform control functions and communicate horizontally and vertically in automation system architectures. Cyber Security One of the biggest threats to the Internet of Things is cyber security attacks. By design, the knowledge of how to access IP devices is widely standardized and publically available. Unfortunately, this openness gives predators a big head start. The IoT concept broadens the cyber-attack surface by introducing more IP-based devices. Fundamental for the IoT address space, IP-based protocols are natively designed to be IPv6, which offers superior routing and built-in cyber security protection. WirelessHART, ISA100, and WIA-PA wireless sensors protocols are all based on IPv6. At this point, none of the current industrial Ethernet IP-based protocols are designed for IPv6. Industry acknowledges that cyber-attack risks on production environments have increased dramatically, resulting in unscheduled downtime and production disruptions. The big questions are: When will the IoT infrastructure be safe? What is the best industrial automation architecture in the IoT environment? I suggest it’s possible that only the traditional industrial automation protocols, like Modbus, Profibus, DeviceNet, etc., should be used within industrial plants until cyber security risks are completely sorted out. Communications from sensors and controllers for energy, operations, maintenance, and business can be achieved today with OPC UA, which is designed to meet computer industry cybersecurity and web services standards. Big Data & Analytics The overall goal of closing the entire business operations loop through manufacturing that is enabled by the Internet of Things will finally bring industrial automation into mainstream business management. Big data and analytic software offerings are introduced at a rapid pace, creating a range of off-the-shelf software that allows manufacturers to optimize entire business operations and processes, including manufacturing. These tools and methods have the potential to knit together the traditionally isolated silos of data to improve visibility and, ultimately, decision-making capabilities. Disruption The IoT, big data, analytics, and cloud computing will create disruptions in a number of industries and applications. Here are a couple of examples. In October of 2013, at the Cloud Connect Conference in Chicago (, David Giambruno, Revlon’s Senior Vice President and CTO, described how they created an in-house cloud service to remotely run 531 applications at plants globally. The service resulted in more than $70 million in cost avoidance and savings. More than 1,000 servers were replaced with 72 servers. This change resulted in a number of operational benefits, including a 70% reduction in time to deploy applications and a 72% reduction of data center power consumption. At the Embedded World 2014 Show in Nürnberg, Germany, Lantronix demonstrated embedded products that connect Internet of Things applications to Google Universal Analytics. ( The solution uses Google’s new Measurement Protocol, a defined syntax that can be used by any connected device to send data to Google Universal Analytics. Google’s powerful web analytics infrastructure can now be leveraged to collect and analyze all types of data. ( Universal Analytics provides a full suite of customizable analytics, modeling, and reporting features. This service leverages cloud services for data archiving, analysis, and hosting dashboards. Industry 4.0 Industry 4.0 is a high tech strategy of the German government to promote the use of advanced technologies in manufacturing. The technological basis of the strategy includes cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things.  Industry 4.0 is clearly gaining momentum in Europe. The Industry 4.0 term was first introduced at Hannover Messe in 2011 by Professor Wolfgang Wahlster, Director and CEO of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence. Prof. Wahlster addressed the opening ceremony audience and suggested that Industry 4.0 is the 4th Industrial Revolution, driven by the Internet. The SmartFactoryKL initiative has been established as an association of companies to develop new ideas and put Industry 4.0 concepts into practice. Contributors to this effort include 28 partners and sponsors, including Siemens, HARTING, Cisco, Phoenix Contact, FESTO, Belden, Rexroth, Beckhoff Automation, Emerson Process Management. A few standards that are incorporated into SmartFactoryKL include OPC UA, WSDL, EDDL, and IEC 61499. The 2014 Hannover Fair central exhibit of the Forum Industrial IT in Hall 8 at stand D20 featured a SmartFactoryKL production line that produces a high tech business card case. Participating companies include Lapp, Phoenix Contact, HARTING, Rexroth, FESTO, Belden, Cisco, proALPHA, and Siemens. The devices and controllers included in the production line will communicate over standard TCP/IP Ethernet. The modularly-built production line shows the flexible production of a product whose components (case cover, case base, printed circuit board) are handled, mechanically machined and assembled. Bottom Line The IoT started a few years ago with a great deal of marketing hype and just a small amount of reality. This is typical of emerging technologies, and in this case, emerging new system architectures. The IoT visions are now starting to become reality.

Did you enjoy this great article?

Check out our free e-newsletters to read more great articles..