Industry 4.0 & Internet of Things (IoT): How can Developers handle the Lack of Standards?

With Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things looming at the horizon, the industry is confronted with a new game. IT becomes even more important and there is a huge need for new standards that combine industry and IT needs – as organizations like Acatech and DFKI (German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence) are claiming. In a recent discussion held by Kenton Williston, experts from McAfee, Wind River and Kontron – all members of the Intel® IoT Solutions Alliance – tried to figure out how developers can deal with today’s situation of proprietary protocols and “stovepiped” solutions.


Industry 4.0 needs Investments, Standards and Security

Just recently BITKOM published a study on Industry 4.0: According to the inter-trade organization the key benefits of Industry 4.0 for the economy will derive from five technology domains: embedded systems, smart factory, robust networks, cloud computing and IT security. The study expects an added value of 78 billion euro (1.7 Percent Growth per annum) until 2025 from the industries plant engineering and construction, electrical engineering, automotive, chemical, agriculture and ITC alone. Consulting Company Roland Berger says with an annual investment of 90 billion Euro for the next 15 years Europe could achieve the leading role of the new integrated industry. The significance of Industry 4.0 is pretty clear, but there still are quite a lot of obstacles that need to be addressed.


Connectivity for Predictive Maintenance and Big Data Analytics

Kontron CTO Jens Wiegand points out, that IoT and Industry 4.0 concepts like predictive maintenance, big data, and analytics require a holistic approach. Yet the problem is a lack of cooperation between the members in the market, like hardware and software suppliers, service providers and communication infrastructure vendors. The fragmentation of the market and incompatibility of products is a serious hurdle on the road to the IoT. For Ido Sarig, Vice President and General of IoT Solutions Group at Wind River, another serious problem is connecting “legacy or “brownfield” devices that were not designed to be connected and even designed to make connectivity difficult – in order to protect them from network-borne threats. The result is a broad variety of proprietary protocols. “Developers will need to be able to build gateways that support virtually any communication protocol”, states Sarig.


Industry Standards reduce Risk and Complexity

Wiegand recommends that Developers should take care of industry standards on all levels, from communications protocols to cloud connectors, while planning their solutions. It might especially be helpful to use standards that are supported by multiple industry leaders in form of application-ready concepts to reduce complexity and risk. To solve these problems, standard bodies like the new Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) are important to gather knowledge and the needs of the players in the market to define the necessary standards. Ecosystems like the Intel® IoT Solutions Alliance further the process with fast deployment of pre-integrated and verified IoT solutions.


End-to-End Security is essential

In even more connected environments security will be a lot harder to achieve. “The major problem we see is the security of these devices. These devices tend to be not manned but often handle personally identifiable information. The question is how you protect the data both while it’s on the system and while it’s being transmitted between devices”, says Tony Magallanez, OEM Systems Engineer at McAfee. One of the biggest problems is how to keep a transparent view on all devices in an IoT communication process – because security issues have to be dealt with on every level. In Sarig’s point of view delivering secure and reliable IoT solutions requires an end-to-end view that encompasses the endpoint device, the connectivity layer, the gateway, and the application running in the cloud.

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