Industrial Ethernet

Reader feedback: This IoT thing

A reader writes in to discuss what M2M (or IoT) offers that industrial settings lack today.

By Blaine Bateman

[See "This Internet of Things Thing Not As Simple As It Looks" in "Out of Control" blog]

Hi, Nancy—Thanks for your thoughts. While you're correct there are many possible variations of connectivity and attendant standards, [let's] step back and look at real examples and what M2M (or IoT) offers that industrial settings lack today. For example, consider a large commercial building HVAC system. Such a system already has an integrated building automation system (BAS). It's likely that system is wired into everything it's supposed to monitor and control. The communication protocols are probably industrial, such as HART or proprietary.

Now let's say the existing system doesn't have any direct sensors for motor health. It almost surely keeps track of on-hours, maybe starts and stops, maybe other data. But we now have these sensors that monitor vibration signatures and can give predictive health information for blower motors. We could go to the BAS vendor and request they integrate these things, and they would, and it would cost a lot.

Alternatively, we could connect these sensors to the existing WLAN and use a browser-based system to track all of our motors. Such a system could be set up in perhaps an hour per motor and begin providing baseline data in days. Keeping in mind these are sense-only nodes—no control—the security risk is low. Assuming the WLAN is properly secured, or could be, we could at least have a demonstration system running very quickly to prove the value of adding these monitors.

This is a simple example, and more remote sensing gets into the realm of WWAN, the domain of the telecoms. That does get somewhat more complicated, but can still be done today with off-the-shelf hardware and software.

Blaine Bateman