For the Industrial Internet and Industry 4.0 to reach its full potential, there needs to a transformational shift in how industrial information networks are designed, managed, and secured. Security in particular needs to be baked at all levels into the new frameworks that ultimately become the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
Encouragingly, major technology providers are working together to find the gaps in current technology, and to work toward the new reference architectures and security measures that will be required. Beyond technological hurdles, there is also a need for a common vocabulary, cooperation, and collaboration among a diverse set of technology, software, networking, and device suppliers.
A Consortium Pushes Groundwork
The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) is an IIoT industry group founded last March with five founding members -- GE, AT&T, IBM, Intel, and Cisco. The membership has since grown to more than 130 companies covering the entire stack from industrial applications at the top to chips and servers at the bottom.
"The consortium is focused on Industrial Internet of Things, and applications that require industrial-strength solutions for industrial processes," Stephen Mellor, chief technology officer for the IIC, told Design News . "That includes applications such as aircraft engines, healthcare, and connected cars. Our goal is to ensure that everything we make happen will fit together with other technology developments, and we want to have maximum feasible commonality between the consumer Internet and the Industrial Internet."
MORE FROM DESIGN NEWS: IIoT Top of Mind at Manufacturing Show
The IIC is not a standards organization, and does not create standards. But, examining the scope of technologies the IIC is involved with, which is very deep and very wide, it's easy to understand why. Instead the goal is to construct the requirements for standards, and understand how all of the pieces fit together.
"We are focused on the technical work, and becoming a liaison to standards bodies, open-source communities, and alliances of interested parties," Mellor said. "Basically, our big thing is cooperation and collaboration. We don't want to compete because there's too much to do. What we want to do is to grow the pie as much as we possibly can. And the best way to do that is to grow and not focus on which bit is yours and which bit is mine."
Gaps in Technology Solutions
To achieve its goals, the IIC has a series of working committees that include legal, marketing, and membership, but the real focus is the engineering working groups: technology, security and testbeds.
The technology group is a central committee, chartered with determining the gaps in current technology solutions and developing written requirements and reference architectures that lay out how a particular industrial Internet solution can be integrated.
One team is establishing use cases and trying to understand exactly what kind of systems people would be building. The purpose is to ensure that the architecture is able to implement the Industrial Internet use cases that have been identified. The framework team's very first job, for example, was to define a framework and, over time, their work has migrated into