The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0 were buzzwords long before they presented real advantages or opportunities to most companies. Though they took some time to come of age, the many interconnected devices and the sophisticated networks and software connecting them are now real considerations for businesses large and small, worldwide, in 2019. As we enter the last stretch of the 2000’s second decade, the futuristic promises of the Industrial Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 have become realities. However, with these opportunities comes a number of risks.
Industry 4.0 & The Industrial Internet of Things in 2019
IIoT Cybersecurity Cannot be Avoided
Eminent manufacturers have built up IIoT technology for big industry customers, while smaller companies have filled industry-specific niches. While implementing Industrial Internet of Things technology in 2019 can expand visibility across the plant and supply chain, and improve safety and efficiency, it also presents big cybersecurity threats.
The WannaCry malware infection beginning in 2017 revealed only a small piece of industrial cybersecurity vulnerabilities and resulted in million-dollar losses. In 2018, WannaCry continued to be a problem, despite an available patch. If criminals holding businesses captive with ransomware wasn’t bad enough, cyber warfare designs grew much larger in 2018 with indications of government involvement around the world. In 2019 the need for IIoT cybersecurity will no longer be optional, though finding skilled applicants with overlapping experience in industrial automation and cybersecurity will be a serious challenge for Industry 4.0 suppliers and customers alike.
Though IIoT will bring down operating costs and improve efficiency, it will come with an unknown and unspoken price. As cybersecurity investment and training lags behind the international investment in criminal malware and organized espionage, more cyber attacks, greater losses, and shocking software vulnerabilities will grow in 2019. Intellectual property, competitive advantage, identities, reputations, and revenue will all be at stake.
Industrial Data Must be Harnessed Effectively
Big Data is another buzzword that took hold years ago in experiments and tests, and is now coming of age in practical settings. With the means to now measure and monitor nearly any aspect of logistics, production, maintenance, and even human capital, manufacturers will have to decide how best to use the data.
Though the data aspect of the Industrial Internet of Things presents enormous opportunities in 2019, they can only be realized with proper planning. As more sensors and other devices become available, businesses will need to prioritize data gathering and build an effective system for using it. Right now, less than 1% of data is used in decision-making. Often, the questions are real and the answers are in the numbers, but the system to use them isn’t in place.
Using data to solve either the most common or catastrophic problems—like reducing machine wear-and-tear by maintaining optimal operating conditions, or eliminating machine breakdowns and plant shutdowns by anticipating maintenance needs—will most likely come first. However, system updates may be required to effectively harness the data. This means system upgrades and adjusting to new software may become a more commonplace chore for manufacturing staff, though the benefits will far outweigh the initial annoyance.
Data Storage Will Become a Challenge
About 3.8 billion people (around half of the world) use the internet now, with about 38 million new users getting online every year. For Q4 of 2016, this amounted to about 8 exabytes of data on mobile phones alone (about 3,000GB every second). IoT devices bring these astronomical numbers even higher; Cisco predicts there will be 30 billion connected devices by 2020. Though this accounts for much more than Industrial Internet of Things devices, the question remains, where does all this data go?
As all of these new connected devices gather and send data throughout the plant, business, or even, in some cases, across continents or oceans, data storage will become a concern for the development of Industry 4.0. Three main options exist; cloud computing, edge computing and fog computing. Most businesses will likely choose cloud computing storage provided by IIoT suites, like Siemen’s MindSphere, or partners like Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure, though suite packaged fees and cybersecurity may become issues. With edge computing, businesses may store data themselves or with partners in secure systems like that which Rittal recently presented, minimizing security risks but further complicating storage costs. Fog computing, like that presented by Chaos Prime, uses blockchain technology to share and encrypt data across a network. This presents the most promising data storage and security solution yet, but will remain mostly in the background for 2019 as blockchain has yet to gain mainstream resonance.
The development and use of IIoT technology in 2019 will be shaped largely by security, storage and implementation. As the technology grows, other challenges and opportunities are likely to arise as well, such as the data sharing between businesses, ethical use, and data resale. If your businesses has already delved into IIoT tech, or is about to do so, consider these aspects carefully in 2019.