Internet of Things Industrial automation industry exploring and implementing IoT


By Bill Lydon

The idea of the Internet of Things (IoT) has been creating a great deal of excitement in the computing and communications industry for some time. Currently, the industrial automation industry is starting to explore and implement IoT concepts and technology. Other terms related to these concepts are machine to machine (M2M), Internet of Everything, Internet of Things, and IP (Internet protocol) to the Edge. Kevin Ashton, a British technology pioneer, is generally attributed with inventing the term “the Internet of Things” in 1999; although the concept has been discussed in literature since at least 1991 ( Commercially, in 2008 IBM launched its Smart Planet initiative. The same year, the nonprofit IP for Smart Objects (IPSO) Alliance was started with more than 50 members from technology, communications, and energy companies to promote the IP for “smart object” communications.

cover-interchangeThe IoT vision is of a massively instrumented world of intelligent sensors (analog and digital) and actuators (analog and digital) communicating using IP to improve performance and efficiency. Internet protocol is the primary protocol in the Internet layer of the Internet protocol suite, delivering packets from source hosts to destination hosts solely based on the IP addresses in packet headers. There are a broad range of IoT applications that can be improved with sensing and control, including health care, traffic control, vehicle safety, energy use, agriculture, and manufacturing. This vision includes coupling massive sensing and control with big data and analytics to accomplish advanced levels of optimization and efficiency.

Industrial automation has a history of adopting commercial technology as it becomes mainstream, and applying IoT technologies to improve performance and enable better integration with business systems is a logical step.

Industrial automation

IoT applied to automation uses this technology to streamline, collapse, and create system architectures that are more affordable, responsive, and effective. The goal is frictionless communications and interaction from manufacturing field input/output (I/O), including sensors, actuators, analyzers, drives, vision, video, and robotics, for increased manufacturing performance and flexibility. This revolution will drive intelligence to the edge of the system with the ultimate goal of all industrial devices supporting IP, including field I/O. Wireless IP devices, including smartphones, tablets, and sensors, are already being used in manufacturing. The wireless sensor I/O open standards WirelessHART, ISA100, and WIA-PA are all IP devices supporting the latest IPv6 standards, which leverage larger address spaces and improved cybersecurity standards.

The IP-enabled manufacturing automation architecture will distribute more functions into new breeds of powerful industrial controllers and sensors/actuators with embedded processors, eliminating the need for middle-level software that is cumbersome, expensive, and difficult to maintain.

IPSO Alliance

 Cover IPSO Logo

The IPSO is a global collaborative forum, including many Fortune 500 high-tech companies. Founded in 2008, the nonprofit organization focuses on providing a foundation for industry growth through building stronger relationships, fostering awareness, offering education, promoting the industry, generating research, and creating a better understanding of IP and its role in the Internet of Things. I  asked IPSO a couple of questions about the IoT.

What is your functional definition of the Internet of Things?

“Connecting the unconnected. This means identification of the device, a communication infrastructure able to securely deploy billions of devices, and open standards to sustain innovation in manned and unmanned environments. The IoT benefits from decades of innovation and the benefits of experience from large deployments [on a worldwide scale] using Internet protocol technologies and associated security protocols,” says IPSO president Patrick Wetterwald.

What standards does your organization believe are fundamental to the success of the Internet of Things?

“IPv6 up to the end device is the common basis for the IoT. International standard organizations in all domains [industrial, smart grid, transportation, home] have already published standards based on IP [IPv6] communications and will continue to work on endorsing IP technologies on their respective domains. Internet protocol technologies are the responsibility of the IETF [Internet Engineering Task Force]. A close relationship with the IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] ensures that all the communication layers work perfectly together. ISA and IEC are examples of organizations that have published standards based on IP [IPv6],” says Wetterwald.

Pascal Thubert, technical leader at Cisco, IPSO member, and IETF 6TiSCH co-chair, also commented on the IoT, “Wireless sensor networks offer the capability to extend the reach of monitoring and control beyond what is physically and economically possible with wires. The next step of process optimization will be gained by leveraging the collection of currently unused measurements by widely distributed sensing devices and analytic capabilities. This will require the combination of the best of IT and OT [operational technology] together, forming the IT/OT convergence, aka the Industrial Internet. This evolution is perfectly illustrated by the emergence of time-sensitive networking, on both wired networks with deterministic Ethernet and wireless networks with 802.15.4e TSCH, that are initially driven by automation applications and generalized to multiple industries, such as audio video and finances.”

The alliance recently announced IPSO CHALLENGE 2014, a global IoT competition where IPSO and its sponsors award monetary prizes for the most innovative use of IP tech in the IoT. There are prizes and incentives worth more than $50,000 USD, and 10 semifinalists will be given the opportunity to demonstrate working prototypes to industry experts and investors at Sensors Expo 2014 (

Big data/analytics

Powerful industrial controllers and sensors/actuators with embedded processors can locally control, optimize, perform analytics, and refine data. IP-enabled smart sensors, actuators, and output devices will perform control communicating horizontally and vertically in automation system architectures. These devices are also becoming big data sources, accessible using IP communications and federated using big data software that runs on a large number of processors that do not share memory.

Hadoop, formally called Apache Hadoop, is an Apache Software Foundation project and open source software platform for scalable, distributed computing. (Note: “Hadopp” is a name project creator Doug Cutting made up and is not an acronym.) Hadoop analyzes both structured and unstructured data. The Apache Hadoop software library is essentially a framework that allows for the distributed processing of large data sets across clusters of computers using a simple programming model. Hadoop can scale up from single servers to thousands of processors, each offering local computation and storage.


cover-interchangeOPC UA supports the Internet of Things with an efficient and secure infrastructure for communications from sensors and controllers to business enterprise for automation systems in manufacturing and process control. It uses Web services, which are becoming the preferred method for system communications and interaction for all networked devices. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web, defines a Web service as “a software system designed to support interoperable machine-to-machine interaction over a network.”

I asked Thomas Burke, OPC Foundation president and executive director for his thoughts about the Internet of Things:

Thomas Burke 

OPC UA fits into the Internet of Things paradigm to serve a range of applications, including industrial automation. OPC UA provides secure communications using established computer industry standards, including IP and Web services, to allow the multitudes of devices to gather and convert remote data into useful information to make intelligent decisions. OPC UA by definition and by design is all about being the technology and specifications that provide an infrastructure for multivendor, multiplatform secure, reliable interoperability for industrial automation and related domains.

OPC UA is about collaborating with a multitude of information model providers. OPC becomes the transport and discovery mechanism for generic client applications to discover and be able to exchange data and information with servers that understand the intricate details of the lower-level device applications and their corresponding information models.

One of the most exciting things is OPC UA has been demonstrated and proven to be scalable into a chip and very small-level embedded devices. I have been carrying around the Raspberry Pi, demonstrating the power of OPC UA in such a small device. This is perfect for the Internet of Things if you imagine all the devices to be connected and how OPC UA provides an open standard for communications and integration of devices and applications.

Protection is a high priority to ensure that communications and the exchange of data and information is highly secure. OPC UA provides a scalable, secure architecture that allows you to configure security down to the lowest level object in the OPC UA server-enabled device. With this you have secure, encrypted communication and can provide the necessary access controls for reading and writing the data and metadata associated with that lowest level object.

The Internet of Things with OPC UA provides a unique opportunity to leverage volumes of sensor data in applications to improve operations and efficiency in a wide range of applications.

My vision of OPC is all about collaboration and the importance of developing standards that are successfully adopted by the vendor community into real products and services.

PLCopen integrated Web services

cover-interchangePLCopen and the OPC Foundation have been collaborating for a few years, and together developed IEC 61131-3 PLCopen function blocks that incorporate OPC UA. These OPC UA function blocks make it easy for programmable logic controller (PLC) programmers to seamlessly link information directly from controllers to other systems and business enterprise systems transparently using Web services. The new function blocks allow users of PLCopen certified controllers (PLCs) to expose information in a semantic, standardized way to transparently exchange data between supervisory control and data acquisition, manufacturing execution systems (MES), and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and from PLC to PLC.

Eelco van der Wal, managing director at PLCopen, described it this way, “Communication is not about data. Communication is about information and access to that in an easy and secure way. In order to communicate in Industry 4.0 or the Internet of Things, there are open standards needed that are implemented on a broad scale. To provide these standards, the organizations PLCopen and OPC Foundation cooperated. The OPC UA technology creates the possibility for safe and transparent communication independent of the network, which is the foundation for a new communication age in industrial control. PLCopen provides the technology to make the information in the controller accessible in a harmonized way. This means that communication on the factory floor is becoming possible “out-of-the-box.” PLCopen even provides machine-to-machine communication, as well as machine-to-cloud communication, connecting the controller to the world and the world to the controller.”

Manufacturing integration

Companies have been grappling with the integration of manufacturing and business systems to increase efficiency for a number of years. Enterprise IT has been evolving for years from ERP, material requirements planning, manufacturing resource planning, and MES to integrated suites encompassing business functions, supply chain management, asset management, production scheduling, and optimization. These systems are becoming real time, aided by the growing availability and adoption of IP-based technologies, making it practical to improve manufacturing performance and return on assets. The task of manufacturing and IT people is to orchestrate the application of new technologies to achieve performance goals. There are now XML standards for ISA95/IEC/ISO 62264 (B2MML) and ISA88/IEC 61512 (BatchML) to work well in this new environment. The IoT may well be the catalyst for tightly integrated business and automation systems.

Cybersecurity issue

The IoT leverages IP communications standards, technology, and infrastructure, but this also broadens the cyberattack surface for all applications, including industrial automation systems that use IP-based networks. The industry acknowledges the risks of cyberattacks on production environments have increased dramatically, including unintentional breaches, industrial espionage, and state-sponsored attacks. These attacks can result in unscheduled downtime, interruptions in equipment availability, and production disruptions. This is a real dilemma. The advantage of implementing IoT technology to improve efficiency and productivity is in opposition with cybersecurity goals to keep predators out. The ISA-99 Industrial Automation and Control Systems Security standard and the ISASecure certification Embedded Device Security Assurance (EDSA) are two important elements supporting the securing of systems. EDSA focuses on the security of embedded devices and addresses device characteristics and supplier development practices for those devices. An embedded device that meets the requirements of the ISASecure EDSA specification earns the ISASecure EDSA certification, a trademarked designation that provides instant recognition of product security characteristics and capabilities, and provides an independent industry stamp of approval similar to a “safety integrity level” certification (ISO/IEC 61508). The ISASecure EDSA certification offers three levels of recognition for a device, reflecting increasing levels of device security assurance (

Industry 4.0

The Internet of Things is a key technology in the Industry 4.0 project conceived under the German federal government’s High-Tech Strategy focusing on information and communication technology (informatics). The High-Tech Strategy was adopted in 2006, reaffirmed by the federal government in 2009, and expanded in 2010 as the High-Tech Strategy 2020 initiative. Participants include private industry, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, and the Federal Ministry of the Interior. In late 2011, the KOMMUNIKATION Promoters’ Group of the German Industry-Science Research Alliance initiated the initial working group with the purpose of drafting comprehensive strategic recommendations for implementing Industry 4.0. The goal is the intelligent factory (smart factory), which is characterized by adaptability, resource efficiency, and ergonomics, as well as the integration of customers and business partners in business and value processes.

Professor Detlef Zuhlke, Ph.D. 

Professor Detlef Zühlke, Ph.D., scientific director at Innovative Factory Systems at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence discussed the Smart Factory initiative at the Hannover Messe 2014 preview event. It is an association to develop new ideas with partners and to put these ideas into practice in common projects. Contributors to this effort include 28 partners and sponsors, including Siemens, Harting, Cisco, Phoenix Contact, Festo, Belden, Rexroth, Beckhoff Automation, Emerson Process Management, and Weidmueller. Zühlke discussed the need for standards, including physical, mechanical, pneumatic, and communication, to accomplish more efficiency and functionality to achieve Industry 4.0. He cited standards that support these concepts, including OPC UA, WSDL, EDDL, and IEC 61499. He also discussed the need for flexible horizontal and vertical communications between controllers, field devices, and enterprise systems. Professor Zühlke explained:

Each element of everything, from the factory down to machines and their sensors and actuators, will become smart [i.e., have a built-in Web server capability]. This makes everything addressable and accessible in the connecting network. As the network will follow the Ethernet/IP standards, every object is part of the Internet. Each object can communicate with every other object regardless of application level or function.

Manufacturing implications

The strength of the Internet of Things is that everything down to end devices, including sensors, actuators, and controls (i.e., contactors, relays, circuit breakers), can be accessed using the Internet infrastructure. This access opens the possibilities for holistic and adaptive automation with the goal of increasing efficiency. This is a logical evolution in step with the Internet of Things trend and will lead to more responsive and efficient production, along with better integration with business systems.

Competitive risk

As these architectures evolve, users have two big risks. The first risk is adopting these technologies before they are proven and suffering through growing pains. The second risk is not adopting them when they are stable and before competitors use the technologies to outperform them in the marketplace.

What are suppliers doing?

The Internet of Things is being forecast as a catalyst for major growth in monitoring and control that most industrial automation suppliers are exploring. There are a wide range of applications and thoughts on the topic. I posed questions to a number of suppliers to get their views:

  • What is your functional definition of the Internet of Things?

  • How will industrial automation systems change to achieve the goals of the Internet of Things?

  • What products (hardware/software) do you deliver today that are components for users to deploy the Internet of Things?

  • What products (hardware/software) will you be delivering in the next twelve months that are components for users to deploy the Internet of Things?

Internet of Things (IoT)

Industrial automation industry exploring and implementing IoT 

The InTech article on the Internet of Things (IoT) ( explores how IoT is affecting industrial automation. As with many emerging concepts, there are various views and thoughts. The author posed questions to a number of companies about how they define IoT and its impact on industrial automation. Their answers are below.

ABB – Marc Leroux, Chief Technology Evangelist, Collaborative Production Management

We hear IoT being referred to many different ways, sometimes with prefixes to make it more relevant-like Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Manufacturing Internet of Things (MIoT). However, there are a core set of characteristics to consider:

  • Devices need to be intelligent. That is the starting point. Fortunately, this is an area that ABB, along with other automation vendors, has focused on for more than 10 years. By intelligent we mean that the devices must to be able to run, collect data, understand their current status or health, communicate with other systems and devices, and react to configuration or operational changes securely. Devices need to be able to run autonomously or as part of a larger system.
  • There needs to be an infrastructure that supports the devices. The infrastructure is more than plugging in a TCP/IP cable. It contains built-in security and can be adapted for different environments. It has communications, localized storage, remote storage, and data access. A key element of this is the contextual understanding of the data obtained from devices. Without context, the data is just . . . data. The infrastructure uses models to transform the data into actionable information.
  • Analytics and optimization are the third component. Analytics drive the optimization. The optimization can be either localized or systematic, and it can be manual or automated. The analytics are dependent on the implementation and can run the gamut from using the information to make better, faster decisions all the way to self-healing devices, effectively transforming the information to knowledge. Everything on the IoT must first be capable of operating safely and securely, and then adding business value.
  • The distribution of information is another key element. Having actionable information available is not helpful unless it can be acted on in a timely fashion. This could mean distributing it to individuals inside the organization, other systems in the network, other devices, or back to the device itself.
  • There needs to be an organization to consume the information produced. Too often we focus on the device functionality without understanding the business context. Having information available is, again, meaningless without a purpose. The organization sets the objectives or desired behavior and is responsible for maintaining and validating the status. Too often there are business changes made without realizing the impact on the manufacturing systems. Also, all of the above points need to be achieved cost effectively, or they will not be accepted as required by an organization.

The above can be summarized as intelligent devices with seamless interoperability capable of acting in a collaborative fashion to achieve business benefit in a cost-effective way. If you think about this, the IoT is really pulling together the major buzzwords and trends used today:

  • devices produce data
  • which needs to be stored (big data)
  • on some type of infrastructure (cloud computing)
  • with analytics using the data (analytics)
  • and distributing the information (mobility) 

The keys to making the IoT successful in the long run are the intelligent assets, contextual data, security, and a business problem to solve (we often forget the last one). Contextual data is often trivialized, but it is a key component. No context to the data means that we end up with a big mess (instead of big data), and the analytics can deliver the wrong result (that may look right). With mobility we can put wrong information in front of many people, quickly. All of the items listed above need to operate in concert with each other.

The good news is that ABB has been addressing these issues for years, and we have really been at the forefront of the IoT wave. 

Industrial automation impact

Because I strive to make myself unpopular with my colleagues in our automation business, I would say that the major impact will be on the connections of currently unconnected devices (OK, maybe that isn’t the best wording). In a lot of ways, having intelligent devices can be seen as diminishing the role of programmable logic controllers (certainly) and distributed control systems (other than safety or regulatory conditions). It will propagate the concept of stand-alone subsystems as part of a larger mesh. In many cases today, there is reluctance to add devices to a control system unless they are needed for control, due to the cost factor. The promise of IoT is to remove this barrier and make any information available to anyone, anytime. Over the next 10 years we are going to see control systems reimagined and transformed to play a different role in manufacturing. They will still exist, but they will certainly be different, with more emphasis on information.