The future of organizations that provide and maintain critical infrastructure will increasingly rely on data. Specifically, the power and potential of the Industrial Internet of Things (Industrial IoT) allows these organizations a near instantaneous view into their operations, and the ability to become more efficient, improve productivity, and keep personnel and the communities they serve safe.
As data consumption grows, so will the need for a secure, reliable and practical wireless communications “pipe” that provides the necessary coverage and capacity for seamless data transmission. Data usage is expected to grow 40% per year into the next decade, and that includes consumer, public, and private users--all of whom expect unhindered access and constant functionality of applications and services. Unfortunately, broadband spectrum is akin to a finite resource.
To try and meet this demand, commercial network carriers want a shot at bidding for spectrum to increase their service area and their ability to increase capacity. Unfortunately there are few good spectrum bands to be had, and refining users and reorganizing some of the current bands will take many years and billions of dollars to come to fruition. Like commercial carriers, public safety is also a serious contender for broadband spectrum with backing by the government for mandated spectrum allocations. They can use this data to prevent and respond to emergencies quicker and more effectively.
This unfortunately leaves almost all critical infrastructure organizations seemingly stuck in no man’s land. They are also increasingly relying on data for greater efficiencies in order to operate safer and more productively, and they typically can’t afford to outbid commercial carriers like Verizon, nor do they necessarily garner the same recognition as public safety agencies for addressing life-or-death situations. Recently FirstNet--the independent authority within the National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA) tasked to provide emergency responders with the first nationwide, high-speed, broadband network dedicated to public safety--has warmed to the idea of critical infrastructure organizations using a piece of their spectrum, when available. This will be helpful when day-to-day operations are going as planned and bandwidth is not strained, but could prove detrimental when an event arises and public safety requires an excess amount of bandwidth, leaving utilities and others in the dark - literally.
So, how can critical infrastructure organizations ensure the communication of their valuable data?
For some data functions that require broadband bandwidth, like video transmission, the issues above will continue to pose problems for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, many operations-critical data applications don’t require broadband and can run over a low data rate network. Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and other non-latency sensitive machine-to-machine (M2M) applications don’t typically need the speeds and throughput of broadband and can run fine over narrowband wireless two-way radio networks. These IP-based radio systems can even be integrated with other existing systems and networks for a more streamlined flow of information throughout an organization.
Coincidentally, many critical infrastructure organizations have two-way radio networks already in place that they have counted on for secure, reliable and wide-area voice communications. These same system qualities can be applied to the operations-critical data communications that organizations can’t afford to have disconnected in the event of public safety agencies needing higher-than-usual bandwidth. By leveraging a proven system, critical infrastructure organizations are able to increase their return on investment and essentially do more with less. To aid companies with this decision, the Utilities Telecom Council just released a white paper outlining how to best choose and utilize a two-way radio network for M2M communications.
There is certain benefit from critical infrastructure organizations having access to a broadband pipe and it will eventually be necessary as data needs grow. But when it comes down to the operations-critical data communication necessary today, the more practical option could be a private, narrowband two-way radio network.
For more information on connecting machines and automating processes for greater control and monitoring across your operations - all on your two-way radio network - check out motorolasolutions.com/industrialiot.
Brad Janitz is a Product Marketing Specialist at Motorola Solutions.
Technology continued to sweep the world in 2015, and manufacturing practices evolved in tandem. Across the industry, working smarter was on the mind of everyone from the plant floor to the warehouse and front office. This was also prominently displayed at Rockwell’s Automation Fair, which focused on The Connected Enterprise--”a convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) leading to a tighter integration between industrial assets and the rest of the enterprise value-chain”.
This conversation will only accelerate in 2016. Here are the three manufacturing trends to watch in the new year:
1. Lean Manufacturing: Do More With Less
Lean manufacturing developed as a discipline to eliminate waste, and has evolved to encompass the idea of maximizing all input resources. While this gains traction with some factors of production, the labor force is drastically changing as well. Factories are recruiting lower numbers of skilled laborers, which will make production and serving customer needs increasingly difficult moving forward. Fortunately, with the changing landscape and needs, technology is keeping pace. Machines can be monitored to report inefficiencies, radios can communicate both voice and data messages, and technology can multiply the efficacy of each skilled worker to compensate for a modified workforce.
2. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT): Productivity Through Connectivity
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the environment where smart sensors connected to objects give those objects a ‘digital voice’ that allows them to autonomously connect and share data with one another – and the front office – over an IP connection. By 2020, an estimated 50 billion things will be connected in this way. This will enable machines to automate many of the processes that used to be slowed down by human interaction. As was discussed at Rockwell Automation Fair 2015, smarter machines can be be better controlled thereby increasing efficiency. These lead to faster time to market, lower total cost of ownership, improved asset utilization and better enterprise risk management.
3. Cybersecurity: Keep Data Safe
While an increased reliance on technology has incredible benefits for organizations, there is also a dark side to connectivity. By automating processes, many companies put themselves at risk of cyber attacks if they do not put the proper safeguards in place. Nearly nine out of every ten companies were breached in the past year, and critical manufacturing was in the top sixteen targeted sectors. Threats can come from anywhere, ranging from disgruntled insiders and criminals, to industry competitors, or simply careless employees. However, there are clear processes, like patching known vulnerabilities, and vigilant monitoring, that can significantly reduce the likelihood of a data breach.
Technology is bringing manufacturing to new levels of efficiency and enabling it to adapt to the increasingly connected world. Throughout 2016 and beyond, manufacturers around the globe will follow these trends as they look to work smarter than ever before.
Aleksandra Ikanowicz is the Manufacturing Vertical Lead for Motorola Solutions.