The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is an exciting new phase of the IoT era and it’s already rapidly growing and evolving.Whether it’s on the factory floor, in the warehouse, at the register or beyond, solutions are needed by small and large companies everywhere to attain new efficiencies and enable new revenue streams.
But when it comes to deployment, even very sophisticated businesses quickly come to realise that they lack the deep IoT domain knowledge necessary for success. To track, monitor, optimise or secure fixed or mobile hard-assets on this scale is a monumental task for any company, regardless of its technical sophistication, says Jeff O. Smith of Numerex.
There are many competencies required for developing and deploying typical IIoT solutions, but at the very least they must include these five major capabilities:
• Connecting and managing hundreds – or even thousands of devices
• Transporting and processing data on cellular or satellite networks
• Normalising the data from those devices to facilitate efficient processing
• Performing analytics and providing visualisation capabilities
• Delivering the information via a robust application
Dangers of going it alone
Companies attempting Industrial IoT implementations themselves often face long deployment times, system instability, high operating costs and end up with a solution that does not properly scale to meet their organisation’s long-term needs. That’s why many businesses seek an end-to-end IoT solution provider partner who can build on an existing robust platform. Recently, Numerex announced an extended, endto-end Industrial IoT platform, nxFAST™, specifically designed for building and deploying secure, flexible, and scalable Industrial IoT solutions for enterprise-class industrial and commercial businesses. The nxFAST platform is the latest addition to the Numerex solution set, enabling widespread, rapid deployment of IoT solutions in manufacturing, materials and chemical processing settings, or in nearly any other industrial or commercial area of business. The nxFAST Industrial IoT platform quickly yields new insights by providing ‘smart data,’ allowing the user to make significantly better business operating decisions, and through that, to increase profitability. The nxFAST platform provides the building blocks for large-scale implementations focused on increasing productivity, efficiency and operational effectiveness.
The role of smart devices and sensors
The capture point for the critical data from all IIoT deployments begins at the sensor. nxLINK™, is a compact, industrial-grade, ‘intelligent sensor interface’ which harvests data from sensors and wirelessly transmits it either to a cellular or satellite communicator or to a local, smart control-panel. The nxLINK offers a simple GUI interface for users to configure data collection triggers based on threshold attainment, by time of day, or upon detected motion. Designed to operate in temperatures ranging from -10 to 70 degrees Celsius, nxLINK weighs less than six ounces with two user-replaceable Lithium 3.6V batteries installed. nxLOCATE™ is an intelligent device which provides trouble-free asset ID and tracking of fixed and mobile assets. It includes tilt-andtamper sensors which makes it significantly more sophisticated than the average ‘dots on a map’ asset tracking devices currently available. nxLOCATE incorporates FOTA (Firmware over The Air) capabilities for remote configuration, and can report information over a cellular network requiring only 2 AA lithium batteries for twice a day reporting. The nxDIRECTOR™ is a ruggedised, cloud-ready, industrial cellular-enabled router/gateway that provides intelligent data routing and processing at the edge of the network. The nxDIRECTOR features flexible plug-in cellular radios (LTE or HSPA+, HSPA), a Linux operating system for local processing, dual Ethernet connection with separate MAC addresses, dual USB 2 host, HDMI video capability, expansion ports for Beagle Bone Capes, and multiple short range radio communication capabilities (for instance, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy BLE, Z-Wave and Zigbee). nxDIRECTOR ‘s flexible hardware architecture and operating system provide a solid and intelligent platform for enterprise-grade, userspecific applications while supporting multiple carriers and bandwidths, including 3G, 4G and LTE networks. The wide capabilities of this workhorse device mean it can be deployed in many different environments and serve a multitude of needs.
The On-Ramp to the Industrial IoT
Another key component of the nxFAST platform is nxCLOUDCONNECT™ Data Routing and Normalisation Service. The amount of data generated by IoT deployments can easily create a fatal bottleneck for the solution as the variety, velocity, and volume of data from thousands or even hundreds of thousands of connected devices transmit their data simultaneously. nxCLOUDCONNECT ensures that all collected data is aggregated and translated to a common format, through a single and seamless connection, using a standard interface, removing the data choke points. It also supports various communication protocols including the Numerexdeveloped open-source Pistachio protocol as well as MQTT and COAP, a burgeoning standard in the EU. This capability allows data from many sources to be received and normalised in such a way that the data can be easily consumed by other services, dashboards, or applications. In addition, nxCLOUDCONNECT serves as a plug-and-play subscription management centre for services such as geofencing, reverse geocoding, cell ID, weather, thresholding, pattern matching, blacklisting, two-way voice, tamper detection and more.
Once all of that data is aggregated, companies face the issue of how to best analyse it in order to extract maximum business value. The nxFAST solution uses the ‘industry standard’ tools of ‘Big Data’ analytics, including Apache Hadoop, Apache Hive, and Amazon Web Services. This allows companies very efficiently to store and to find value from large data sets and, in turn, to make real-time decisions that increase revenues, maximise efficiencies, and reduce costs— ultimately increasing their bottom lines.
Security Is Paramount
Finally, companies require data security in the era of Industrial IoT. For years, Numerex has been an industry leader in protecting the data assets of its customers. Using authentication, encryption, and virtual private network (VPN) technologies to protect customer data, Numerex remains committed to designing, building and implementing highly secure Industrial IoT solutions. Numerex addresses security at every stage of the solution, with full security integration across all five layers of the technology stack including the application, platform and web services, network connectivity, data transport, and the data centre or ecosystem layers, ensuring that all security measures work together. Numerex is certified under the U.S.-E.U. Safe Harbor Framework and has also undergone scrutiny for ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certification, an internationally recognised information security standard, and is one of very few companies in the IoT industry to have earned and retained the designation.
Deploying an Industrial IoT Solution
Companies considering deploying their own solution would be wise to investigate providers who have the scope, scale and expertise to implement a full, end-to-end approach in delivering an Industrial IoT business solution. Solutions that are built on the Numerex nxFAST Industrial IoT platform are based upon a set of proven, time-tested building blocks. As a result, the customisation required to meet a company’s specific needs is minimised and paves the way for rapid deployment, saving time and money. Whether a company needs an end-to-end solution or assistance with a portion of an Industrial IoT deployment, Numerex stands ready to enable them to achieve their goals.
Jeff O. Smith, chief innovation and technology officer, Numerex