You may be wondering what on earth “Linking the Cloud with Machines, Devices and Things” means? You may also have heard “Cloud”, “Cloud Computing”, “Hybrid Cloud” and the “Internet of Things”. But what do these terms really mean and how are they relevant to your digital transformation journey?
In order to understand, you need to describe the problem. The problem is that in today’s world it is very complex, costly and time consuming to connect up factory equipment. This because for the last 30 years or more the equipment that runs in factories was never built on technologies that were designed to connect to IT networks and definitely not the internet, therefore we have three choices.
Use IT friendly control technologies in the equipment
Convert the communication protocols to IT friendly ones
Or don’t connect them
Let’s run through these one by one.
IT Friendly control technologies
Surely this is easy… well, no. These technologies don’t really exist. Programable Logic Controllers (PLC), which are the main technology used, were designed to use the principle of relay logic (mechanical devices) and turn them into a programming language.
Though things have advanced the principle of fixed scan times and fixed memory location will remain, and PLCs are trusted and have a proven track record of do a great job of controlling power equipment.
Convert the data protocols to IT friendly ones
This is the state-of-the-art approach when wanting to connect equipment to the network, but it is costly, complex, slow to deploy, even more difficult to maintain and a complex security model needs to handle the wide variety of communication protocols. Many of these communication protocols were not designed for today’s requirements.
To do nothing seems easy, but the problem is that the data is valuable and handling this data manually has its own set of inefficiencies and security problems.
So what is the answer?
The answer is to ask ourselves what if? What if we can connect equipment and devices to the network within minutes or even seconds. Would that change the way business felt about agile manufacturing, reconfigurable devices and actuators where factories could automatically make decisions?
If so, then we need to embrace internet technologies into our industrial settings and we need to invest in innovation to gain trust in those new technologies.