How? By capturing previously untapped information, and then drawing together those disparate data sources and analysing them to drive tangible business insights – insights on anything from the organisation and logistics of a warehouse to the performance efficiency of individual machines.
That drawing together is a key point. One of the crucial characteristics of the IIoT is the integrationof multiple data sources – which, ultimately, is why systems integrators (SIs) can play an important role in enhancing IIoT projects.
In this Insight Guide, we’re delving a little deeper into this role, exploring how SIs can make the difference between failure and success of an IIoT project – and turn small successes into big ones.
What is the role of the Systems Integrator in the Industrial Internet of Things?
Fundamentally, systems integrators in the IIoT have the same brief that they have in any other context. Their role is to is join together multiple subsystems as cleanly and smoothly as possible, to create interoperability between disparate hardware and software and ensure that information and instructions can be passed and harnessed effectively between them. Wider wraparound responsibilities include ensuring data security and compliance throughout these integration processes, and collaborating with multiple vendors, manufacturers and other third parties to ensure a seamless approach.
Imagine, then, an industrial or manufacturing business deploying IIoT technology for the first time. They understand the basic principles – they need to install connected sensors and devices throughout their environment, and deploy an analytics platform to manage the data collected – but the practicalities of these installations can be extremely complex. This is where SIs come in. But let’s take a closer look at the ways in which they can make a critical difference.
Industrial environments are complex
An obvious point, perhaps. But it is important to consider precisely why they are so complex. The typical manufacturing unit or factory contains a multitude of machines from different suppliers, many of which were never intended to touch each other. They rely on different control systems and different protocols. Any data they do harness may be required in different formats. In other words, an enormous degree of compatibility and interoperability is required in order to enable these different elements to plug into the same centralised IIoT platform and applications. No IIoT supplier can offer a single end-to-end solution to deal with this complexity in every context, because industrial and manufacturing environments are so diverse. SIs can make the critical difference.
Industrial environments contain legacy hardware
More than many other enterprise environments, manufacturing and industrial organisations tend to deploy hardware that is years or even decades old, because the cost and complexity of replacement is so high. This, of course, is why the proactive maintenance enabled by the IIoT is so valuable, because it extends the useful lifespan of valuable assets. However, it also means that deploying an IIoT ecosystem in the first place often requires an ability to work with legacy, unsupported and discontinued hardware. Systems integrators are experts at working with equipment from different suppliers and different eras.