Industrial Internet of Things

Part 1: OT versus IT

At a recent Peplink Summit, Josh Varghese of Traceroute gave a presentation on IIoT, the Industrial Internet of Things. His talk included a basic description of Industrial IoT, a simple but essential clarification of Operational Technology—the core of IIoT, and an important glossary of terms. For the sake of this blog, I will split Mr. Varghese’s detailed talk into two parts. This first part will focus on the difference between IT (Information Technology) and OT (Operational Technology.) Part 2, next week, will be the glossary of terms that are essential for anyone stepping into IIoT. What follows is a summary of his explanation. Any oversimplifications, misinformation or plain old errors are in this retelling.

OT Versus ITHome and office IoT require new sensors and controllers for functions that previously did not exist. In the industrial world, Sensors and remote controls are nothing new. Since before the new millennium, industry has used the sorts of process controllers that are just now finding their way into the IoT world. However, industrial sensors have their own communications protocols and networks. The challenge for IIoT is the Internet part, moving all of those sensors from a closed, sometimes proprietary system to the common, more open protocols of the Internet. Security was rarely an issue for industrial control systems because they were closed, wired systems. If you couldn’t get into the room, or plant, or complex, you couldn’t touch the systems. The core of IIoT is Operational Technology, which is different in many ways from the Information Technology many communications engineers know.

OT – Operational Technology

IT is about data, its storage, and manipulation. OT does things, controls things, and runs things. Operational technology has different priorities than traditional IT. Primary IT concerns like security and bandwidth have been secondary to OT’s primary needs of 100% reliability and redundancy. IT worries about data security. OT worries about human and property safety. OT is a different world and IT professionals heading into the OT world need to make some readjustment in their thinking. The chart above explains more than several paragraphs.

To approach the Industrial Internet of Things, engineers must understand how the primary goals of Operational Technology have to be merged with the inherent risks of Information Technology. None of the security concerns or performance goals of either discipline can be abandoned.

In Part 2 we will define and clarify the alphabet soup of new protocols and connections of the Industrial Internet of Things.

Frontier Computer provides IT hardware, enterprise computing support. As the World’s largest Distributor for Peplink and Pepwave, Frontier has solutions for M2M Data, IoT, and IIoT.

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