In many situations the Internet of Things is concerned with connecting devices that were previously unconnected.
For example level sensors on an LPG tank previously indicated the tank level via a visually read gauge on the tank but increasingly mobile enabled ‘things’ read the tank level sensor and periodically transmit the reading to remote servers. The LPG distributor is then able to schedule deliveries to avoid runouts whilst minimising their distribution costs.
In an industrial context however, whilst there are still sensors that are unconnected (e.g. gauges on tanks, utility meters, etc.), many are already connected to PLCs and SCADA systems for control purposes but that’s often where the connectivity ends. In an industrial situation the IoT is also concerned with extending this connectivity to other systems which may be hosted remotely.
For example remotely located plant, operated locally by a PLC system, may be monitored and controlled from a central operations centre if the PLC systems are in turn connected via the IoT. For a given fleet of assets however it’s likely that these PLC systems will vary in age, make and model, hence the importance of interoperability.
Obviously one of the key concerns of this extended connectivity is security. Whilst it might be highly advantageous providing this connectivity from a commercial perspective, clearly the security risks and their mitigation need to be evaluated and planned with sufficient care.
Mitigating security risks associated with IoT implementations will be the subject of another blog.