The IIoT Has Arrived

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a term of growing importance in our industry. Originating from the term "IoT" or, Internet of Things, the IIoT focuses on the interconnectivity and harnessing of powerful data in a manufacturing environment. It conveys a want and need for better access to data and remote connectivity in every device we can get our hands on, including machines in our factories. Machines which possess important and critical information we can benefit from, both financially and operationally.

Let's try an everyday example: Picture yourself in a factory. You're on site and your machine suddenly goes down. You have no idea what happened and production is now at a standstill. Your boss is irate! Of course you have a technician for situations like this, but he's currently in Texas and you are in Chicago. Now what? You have two options: wait for your technician to catch the next flight home to fix your issue onsite, or try to save money by troubleshooting with him over the phone, even though he can't see what's going on inside your plant or your machine.

Now imagine you've implemented an IIoT strategy. Your technician immediately receives an alert from the machine notifying him that it's down. Your technician remotes into the plant on a secure network, connects with the machine, and fixes your problem.

No plane ticket. No outrageous tech support bill.
Minimum down time. No irate boss. Problem solved.

The IIoT is changing the way manufacturers think about business and Maple Systems is excited to be an integral part of that change. Our operator interface products provide customers with solutions that allow remote connection to existing machines, enabling access to valuable data that can be used to drive business decisions, streamline troubleshooting, reduce downtime, and save money. With an IIoT strategy, everybody wins.

Real Data Delivers Real Value

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) goes by many names: the Industrial Internet, the Smart or Connected Factory, and Europe's Industry 4.0, due to its reference as the fourth industrial revolution. Whichever you prefer, all mean the same thing: The evolution of automation where operational technologies (OT) of the factory floor (machines) integrate with information technologies (IT) onsite and on the cloud, enabling better access to data and better sharing of data across safe and secure networks. The payback is more informed decision making, improved efficiency, productivity, and profitability.

Information is power. Using tools of the IIoT we have the opportunity to take automation intelligence to the next level, guaranteeing we will change the way business is done. Instead of smart machines, we're now in the age of smart factories, smart supply chains, and even smarter organizations.

Decision makers and production managers live in the real world where costs need justification and solutions need to work today. Critical questions for most businesses are: how much will it cost and what's the ROI? How can your organization profit from what is possible with the IIoT today?

Maple Systems products offer an actionable IIoT path, delivering results with hardware and software solutions that can help increase your bottom line. Are you ready to join the IIoT today? Or would you rather your competition do it first? As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm.

Automation History Deconstructed

Before explaining how the IIoT changes our current generation of controls, let's review the four Industrial Revolutions that got us where
we are today.
First Industrial Revolution: We replaced human and animal labor with external energy sources such as water wheels, windmills and, eventually, steam power. Doing so enabled us to carry out tasks that were previously impossible. We could now design machines to do work for us. Amazing!
Second Industrial Revolution: This revolution began with the introduction of electricity, giving us the ability to run a factory 24 hours a day. This enabled human resources to cover multiple shifts per day. Doing so led to the widespread adoption of using interchangeable components and mass production, allowing for the division of labor and rapid, large-scale production. This revolution also coincided with the widespread availability of steel and the birth of the auto industry. People now manually controlled machines at every step of the production line, but didn't personally do every step of the process.
Third Industrial Revolution: Enter the arrival of the transistor, computing, and the ability of machines to make their own decisions following a pre-defined sequence of operations. Tasks could be programmed into a computer and repeated endlessly by machines, freeing us from performing repetitive tasks. The operator's role became one of optimizing processes and building better, more efficient machines, stepping in only when things went wrong.
Fourth Industrial Revolution: The technology of this revolution encompasses a widespread global network of machines, people, the Internet, and cloud: Enter the IIoT. This current revolution enables us to take data from systems built in the third industrial revolution and incorporate it with the ever-present technologies used in our daily lives to work faster, smarter, and achieve greater gains than ever before. It's truly an exciting time.

The HMIs Role in the IIoT

In a nutshell, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) takes data from your factory floor and shares it with a server (local or a cloud service), offering greater efficiency for network use and enabling better access to and better sharing of data for your entire organization. This data can then be analyzed and used to boost profits, improve processes, reduce downtime, and much more. This is accomplished with three distinct features of an IIoT network, though some hardware or software are dual-purpose, serving more than one function.
Publisher: Sensors, PLCs—anything creating data. Sometimes also called a "Client" or "Edge Device."
Broker – The middleman device that manages incoming and outgoing data, which can live on a local device or a managed cloud service. The broker is also referred to as a "Server."
Subscriber – The end user of the data. This can range from a high-end ERP management program that tracks information for control and data analytics to a website that simply displays real-time operational facility data and anything in between. Also called a "Client."
In systems of the past, only the clients were present. The new team player is the broker, and it is this function that separates the IIoT from traditional SCADA systems. The broker is a great number of users to:
Publish data to the broker
Subscribe to data in the broker
The Maple Systems human machine interface (HMIs) is the perfect device for the edge of network gateway as both a publisher and broker. MQTT protocol, an emerging IIoT protocol with established cloud compatibility and a lightweight, efficient nature for transporting large amounts of data, is one of many IIoT protocols used to convert factory floor data into an IIoT-friendly format. Nearly all Maple Systems HMIs (excluding special legacy offer models) support MQTT protocol, enabling them to communicate with a wide array of PLCs, sensors, and more, regardless of the machine's protocol. With support for over 200+ North American protocols, Maple HMIs convert that data into the universally accepted MQTT protocol, then send it to the broker (hosted locally or on the cloud) for use by IIoT applications. This makes Maple Systems HMIs the perfect edge of network gateway to the IIoT.

Traditional Data Transfer

Pre-IIoT | Locked

This image represents the classic 'island of automation' concept common seen in first generation control systems. The data on this machine is locked up with no way to get out. No other systems can access or benefit from the good data (valuable information) this machine is creating.
In traditional SCADA systems, when a manager sitting in front of a PC needed to know how many units came off the line that day it went a little something like this:
The manager's PC required a SCADA program, which was usually expensive with a highly technical configuration.
The PC program sends a request for data through the entire network to the end device possessing the needed data.
In order to receive the request, the end device is required to run the same expensive SCADA software.
The end device hopefully receives the request and sends back a response with the requested data.
Using this classic configuration, the request and response travel the entire network from office PC through many routers and switches to the end device, not once, but twice, to move a single piece of data. Expand the example to multiple executives or a regional office with a few locations and network traffic quickly becomes unmanageable. And what about the cost to purchase and configure expensive software on every piece of the system?

SCADA Info Transfer | Unlocked, but Unmanaged

This image exemplifies the problem with SCADA systems. Machine data has been unlocked but it is not being effectively managed. This reduces the value of the good data (valuable information) coming from the machine because network administrators and operators have to spend time fighting bad data (unnecessary data clogging the network and distracting the operator).

IIoT Data Transfer

Now let's look at the exact same scenario utilizing tools of the IIoT. The same transfer of information looks more like this:
A critical data point changes and automatically updates the broker with its current state.
The manager's software is configured to subscribe to the data point so when the broker receives an updated value, it automatically sends the new data to programs subscribed to it.
The manager checks their PC to see how many units came off the line. The information is already there.
There are no further transmissions because the analytic software already has real-time information about the data points important to its purpose. The end device in the factory does not need expensive SCADA software, it simply needs to speak to an edge gateway such as a Maple Systems HMI, which will translate local data into an IIoT protocol. The manager's PC does not need SCADA software since it only needs to subscribe to the broker on data topics it wants information about. The software automatically takes in the data it needs and produces actionable results.

As you can see, a system utilizing tools of the IIoT achieves many benefits including:
Faster transfer of information
Automatically receive data updates
Reduced costs
Increased amount of open communication
Easier system set up and management
A system that is more responsive to change
Reduced network traffic due to eliminating the back and forth compared to traditional systems.
IIoT Optimized | Unlocked and Optimized

This image represents the beauty of the IIoT. The data is unlocked and optimized so only good data (valuable information) goes where it is needed. Communication networks are protected from excess traffic and the operator can focus on information critical to their task at hand because bad data (unnecessary data clogging the network and distracting the operator) is kept out of the system. The managed data flow fulfills the promise of the IIoT delivering more informed and more profitable decisions.

What Can the IIoT Deliver Today?

The Internet did not turn into one of the greatest inventions of mankind overnight. It grew from simple networked computers in scientific and academic labs in the 1950s and 60s before it exploded into a global system of connected networks linking billions of devices worldwide. Arguments can be made about the first company to make money utilizing these networks but history remembers it as the first ATM put into service by Barclay's Bank (1967). Barclay's was profiting from networked data before the rest of us could even conceive the possibility. The company could never have imagined the billions of dollars that would one day flow into mega corporations like YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others some 50 years later. This next evolution of data will follow a similar course.

Much can be accomplished with IIoT tools already available today. Many Maple Systems devices have MQTT protocol built-in allowing you to publish data to a broker. Our MQTT products can host the broker right in the device, saving the user additional hardware and configuration costs. In addition, Maple Systems EZwarePlus (v. allows users to quickly and easily configure data they wish to publish to the broker. There are numerous off-the-shelf ERP and SCADA programs that can subscribe to an MQTT topic, pulling live data from a broker, and putting that data to work for you.

Results promised by IIoT visionaries are possible even without full IIoT implementation utilizing out-of-the-box features from Maple Systems products. Features such as:

Email notifications for alarms and data backups
Remote access/monitoring/control functionality
Data logging for more informed operation and decision making
Enhanced network security thanks to physically separate dual Ethernet ports.
What is possible with the IIoT fifty years from now is beyond our current imagination. But this allows us to leverage excellent opportunities that exist today. You can enjoy a connected factory today, reaping great benefits and rewards that will literally touch every corner of your business. And as for the future? We invite you to dream big.

Achieve better access to data and increase your company's bottom line. Join the IIoT with Maple Systems today.