Converging Information and Operational Technology Objectives

For brownfield sites, how do you bring in some of the capabilities that the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) introduce? At the ARC Industry Forum, ARC’s Craig Resnick led a session, IT/OT Convergence: Linking Legacy to an Industrial Internet of Things World. Emerson’s Phil Niccolls participated on the panel. Here was the description of the session:

We have been hearing a lot about the convergence of information technology and operations technology (IT/OT). This has led to a rapid learning curve for both groups, such as IT learning about what is actually “real time” and OT learning that to leverage the latest technology, 30 year old control systems may need to be upgraded. Connectivity between OT to IT is essential for any business to compete today with the increasing demand for tighter integration and more information and analytics, along with leveraging the Industrial Internet of Things, cloud, and big data. However, the reality is most factories contain multiple generations of systems where 30 year old products need to somehow be part of the convergence story. This session will explore how companies have successfully linked their OT legacy systems to their state-of-the-art OT and IT systems, covering the hurdles and challenges that need to be overcome. Persons wanting to learn about IT/OT convergence, as well as those involved with control systems and/or production management software should attend to gain insight into real world examples of OT and IT convergence success stories involving legacy systems, what lessons were learned, and what were the derived business benefits.​​

Craig opened noting many of the commonalities of requirements between IT and OT. Some of these include: cybersecurity, standards-based solutions, scalable and upgradable, no unscheduled downtime, secure & energy efficient, future proof, measurable ROI, ROA and KPI increases and IIoT deployment. There are of course many unique requirements to each domain that are often a source of friction between organizations.

The path to a digital transformation starts with early engagement and alignment of cross-functional stakeholders, let the use cases define the data requirements, architecture, tools and solutions, and consider the legacy assets to be part of the digital transformation.

Phil described the technologies and services that are bridging the divide between IT and OT organizations. Not all the problems being solved, such as reliability and energy efficiency improvements, need to flow through the control system. One example is wireless instrumentation connected to edge network devices which are collecting historical information. 

This data can flow securely through network devices such as data diodes out to cloud-based analytics applications that provide insights into ways to optimize energy usage and spot problems with mechanical equipment before it fails. The path of the flow of information requires alignment and collaboration between organizations as well as supplier collaboration if remote expertise required.

Phil also highlighted two other types of data–missing data and stranded data. This is data that is valuable to solve business challenges, but is not necessarily a part of the control strategy. Wireless devices can fill in the missing data required to solve business problems. 

Stranded data is the smart information such as diagnostics that is not flowing into the control system. Technologies like WirelessHART THUMs enable this smart information be brought in to help solve business problems that are typically outside the control domain.

Phil shared that the ISA-95 data model is still important but the emerging model that IIoT enables is a more direct path between sensor and expert to solve business problems.

Posted Thursday, February 9th, 2017 under Event.