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Although we’re still in the early days of Internet of Things (IoT) technology, it’s becoming clear that in many industries, the data IoT applications generate will be important to businesses, whether for operations and maintenance or actual revenue-generating activities. Ensuring availability of that data will become crucial and will require a rethinking of the way operational technology (OT) groups interact with their information technology (IT) counterparts.
IOT at work – saving millions with predictive maintenance
We’ve all seen examples of IOT applications and the good they can do for businesses. My favorite so far is a customer in the mining, metals, and minerals business that has a predictive analytics application it uses for its preventive maintenance program. The company generates 2.4 terabytes (TB) of data every single minute from its various ports, railways and mines, feeding it all to the analytics engine. The company expects its IoT applications will save it $200 million over 3 years.
With a return like that, I can only imagine the steps the company is taking to ensure the availability of all that data.
While that may be an extreme example of how valuable IoT applications are becoming, the point is the same in any industry: you need to protect that data just as you would any important data on your IT systems, and ensure it is reliably delivered to the systems that will turn it into valuable insights.
IoT data comes from near and far
The issue gets complicated because the data is often being generated far from the data centers and business offices that are the traditional purview of IT groups. Rather, it’s coming from manufacturing plant floors, hospitals, wind turbines and solar arrays, power plants and lots of other places. Sensors can literally be installed on just about any piece of equipment or device, turning it into an IoT data source.
These various facilities are typically managed by OT groups who are skilled in the maintenance of whatever machines and devices are under their responsibility. They are not, however, particularly experienced with the sorts of servers and networks used to collect and store data; that’s IT’s job.
It’s not reasonable to expect IT groups to suddenly have personnel in all these far-flung areas where IoT data is coming from. But it is reasonable to expect the OT and IT groups to collaborate to ensure the proper infrastructure is in place to ensure the reliability of the IoT networks.
Discover best practices for fostering IT/OT collaboration around IoT apps
To ensure collaboration, consider the following:
- Appropriate infrastructure to house IT-related assets such as servers. That means racks, power distribution units, and firewalls, as well as standards around issues such as software deployment and maintenance, including patching.
- A business continuity plan that includes uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) to provide power protection for data reporting, collection and control systems – the “brains” of the environment, as discussed in this previous post on power protection.
- Seamless, high quality wired and wireless network connections between the OT and IT environments to ensure reliable data collection.
- Establishing IT/OT, processes and procedures to determine who is responsible for managing which components
This is by no means an exhaustive list. The point is, IT and OT groups must work together to come up with standards and best practices for how they will manage the IoT environment and ensure its reliability. In many cases, this will likely include edge computing environments with lots of IT gear but few or no IT staff on hand. These IT components will be managed remotely, with OT groups keeping an eye on the physical infrastructure, which can also be remotely monitored.
To learn more about what it takes to ensure reliability in commercial and industrial environments, check out the Schneider Electric industrial business continuity web site. You’ll learn more about power protection approaches for industries including healthcare, oil and gas, and more, along with the variety of available UPS options for commercial and industrial applications. Experts are also available to help guide you on how to ensure the reliability of your IoT environment. It’s too important to leave to chance.