TechHub: Digital Disruption, IoT Expanding Digital Footprints and More

Digital Disruption Transcending Industry Borders

With the first quarter of 2017 coming to a close, it’s clear that the exponential growth within the technology industry is not slowing down.

25,000 new information-related jobs were created in February this year alone, according to Forbes.

As this tech push continues, we’re seeing more and more of the Digital Twin emerge as physical and digital worlds blend together.

The Digital Twin is the computerized companion of physical assets, using data sensors to show real-time data analytics.

The adoption of this trend is becoming increasingly popular as companies realize the countless benefits that the Industrial Internet of Things provides, and Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence become mainstream.

The biggest mistake companies are making right now is assuming these technologies won’t influence their business or impact their industry.

Industry 4.0 is real, and it’s here.

Smart technology is becoming integrated into every facet of life, resulting in customers having the ability to buy anything, anytime, anywhere.

“The convergence of cloud, mobile, social and data have ushered in a new wave of business models that will present unique challenges for various industries,” said Bob Weiler in Forbes.

With this new technology comes new challenges and questions emerging for industry leaders.

To stay ahead of the competition— and win— organizations will need partners who can provide a new level of knowledge and experience within the industry, according to Forbes.

Rethinking business models within critical industry operations is necessary to maximize performance.

The pace of change is accelerating fast. Organizations need to jump on board and embrace emerging digital technologies.

To learn the first three questions to ask in your digital transformation, join our webinar on Thursday, April 6, at 2:30 PM EST: Transform Your Operation: Vision Before Action.

Gray Matter Director of Professional Services John Benitz will demystify the beginning of the digital journey for you using his expertise on various transformations like the GE Brilliant Manufacturing process.

Reserve My Spot

Digital Transformation: Solving Big Manufacturing Problems

The top problems manufacturers are struggling with are visibility into operations, sharing information across one or multiple plants and allowing the right people to access the necessary data.

The solution? Digital transformation of plant operations.

“Digitizing production processes is more about running an efficient business than it is about jumping onto the next technology bandwagon,” said Industry Week.

Automating processes and storing big data on the cloud allows for a single connected platform with production visibility. It allows for a single-set of accurate data and increases the control plant operators need, according to Industry Week.

Instead of having information documented on manual paper processes like Excel spreadsheets, it can be accessed in real-time across one or multiple plants.

Access to product information, inventory, quality data and more increases the productivity and decreases downtime throughout the plant.

Automating the plant is also automating the communication, in turn freeing up people and resources. Instead of having to track down the necessary information and data, workers have instant access to it at a moment’s notice.

Going paperless and automating processes is a critical step within the industry, and lays the groundwork for future innovations.

Gray Matter has a new solution to help transform manual data entry processes into digital insights for manufacturers, utilities and energy companies.

Mobility@Work digitizes information that would have been buried in stacks of paper and puts data in a format that can be used for big picture analysis.

Hauling manifests, inspections, scheduling, incidents, inventory and time sheets are all transformed from piles on someone’s desk to an easy to read digital presentation.

“There are a lot of correlations you can make if you have the data working for you instead of in a stack of paper.” – Kemell Kassim, Gray Matter VP

Download the free white paper to learn how Gray Matter solved the manual data entry problem and helped save a leading energy company nearly $1 million in just the first year.

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IoT Devices Expanding Digital Footprints & Vulnerabilities

Security Week defines IoT devices as convenient.

They allow us to have access to data remotely and process it faster than ever.

However, with the convenience comes risk, and most people aren’t locking down their systems like they should be.

There are more avenues now than ever for cybercriminals to breach systems as more devices are connected and the digital footprint of plants are expanded.

The reality of IoT hacks is eminent. Recent research highlights how PLC controllers can be hacked and potentially taint water supply, according to Security Week. Not enough devices are accounted for, and too much personal and business data is intermingled.

The top recommendations to fix this are to get a clear policy in place, designate accountability and segment your network.

By having clear rules, placing risk and responsibility on people or teams and designating sections of your network help block the threat of cybercriminals. It makes finding an easy path into the network nonexistent.

IoT devices have a lot to offer in the world of operational technology and plant management, the risk just needs to be mitigated and vulnerabilities need to be tracked.

Gray Matter offers a vulnerability assessment for OT networks that creates a security baseline for each asset with an IP address.

In a recent interview with ARC Advisory Group, Gray Matter VP Kemell Kassim detailed recent cyber initiatives and ROI case studies.

Download the Q&A Here

Solving the Data Integration Problem with Bit Stew Systems

This guest blog post by Mike Varney originally appeared on Bit Stew Systems’ blog page, Bit View. 

Data integration is proving to be the Achilles heel of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and is blocking progress on
the transformations and ROI that industrial enterprises had originally envisioned.

Typical Big Data analytics projects that employ traditional ETL or Business Intelligence tools often falter under the complexity and scale of industrial environments. The rigid architecture and manual process associated with these solutions make them less than ideal for an industrial customer.

So why are so many industrial customers still using these clunky, brittle, and slow solutions?

ETL: Compounding Your Data Problem?
ETL or Extract, Transform, and Load is a traditional IT methodology whereby data systems architects tasked with Machine Intelligenceproviding data intelligence from multiple systems will first extract the data and place it all into a common location, then apply transformations to normalize or cleanse the data and then place it back in this common container for analysis. It may not seem laborious to the untrained eye but ask any data wrangler, enterprise architect, or IT manager and they will tell you that ETL can take several professionals months.

So why do it? ETL is attractive to IT departments because it usually leverages existing software investments and does not require teams to come up to speed on any new technology. In fact, it has been a tried and true method for decades.

IIoT Amplifies the Data Integration Challenge
Those who opt for traditional ETL are forgetting that the Industrial IoT is set to connect billions of more devices to the Internet by 2020. That explosion of data will most certainly be too rapid, and too large of a change for traditional systems to handle.

The risk for those who lag behind the curve on Industrial IoT is that they will cease to be competitive in the global industrial markets. Almost all industries will be affected by this change, from oil and gas to manufacturing and all those in between.

The technologies behind IIoT have brought significant advancements to industries such as Manufacturing, Transportation, Oil & Gas, Aviation, Energy, Automotive and others.  These technologies have allowed industry to remotely monitor and control assets to optimize production and improve yields.

However, these same technologies have exacerbated a long standing data integration problem by massively increasing the volume, velocity and diversity of data required by the business.

A New Way of ThinkingMachine Intelligence
Solving the data integration challenge requires a new way of thinking and traditional data architectures must be reimagined to support the rapid proliferation of data from an exponentially expanding set of data types. So what’s the solution? The key to solving the data integration challenge is semantics.

Bit Stew’s integration technology is designed to rapidly ingest and integrate data to provide a semantic understanding of information across disparate systems. Deeper analytics can then be applied intelligently through analysis methods and workbenches.

Download the infographic to get a deeper understanding of the steps required to create a semantic model.

Download the White Paper

How’s the Weather: A Test-Bed for Technology

Let’s talk weather. It might be one of the most basic exchanges of small talk, but recently it’s become even more.

According to Jamie Carter of TechRadar, it’s becoming a test-bed for modern technology such as big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), and even cloud storage.

The data mostly comes from “weather stations, observation systems at airports, meteorological satellites, ocean buoys, ships, aircraft and – most recently – personal weather stations in people’s homes that are connected to the internet.”

Carter said  that if crowd-sourcing weather data is on the rise, (as are sensor-packed smartphones) this can help meet the demand for hyper-local weather data.

With mobile devices and other IoT devices, even the average smartphone owner might be able to give the weather industry more real-time data that can be used to create more sophisticated weather prediction models.Weather-Data

Who doesn’t want a more accurate look into the weather? You can’t predict the nastiest of extreme weather patterns, but we might be getting closer.

The IoT even offers different, cheaper ways to collect weather observations.

“Existing observation networks are limited in number but highly calibrated, because they’re expensive to run and operate,” said Charles Ewen, chief information officer at the Met Office in the TechRadar article. “However, the IoT offers a high density of observations of an unknown quality.”

And analyzing weather data isn’t just convenient for knowing when to wear raincoat. Per Nyberg of InformationWeek said that “early, granular, and accurate” weather reports could benefit everyone from healthcare providers to retailers.

“Granular and early forecasts can create business opportunities — for example, alerting a brewery to supply distributors and points-of-sale greater inventory in anticipation of an unusually warm spring weekend in the Northeast,” said Nyberg. “Or suppose a blizzard is due to hit Atlanta on Black Friday — with enough notice, retailers could adjust their plans.” 

Per Nyberg, InformationWeek

Of course, Carter notes that while predicting weather has always been about clouds, it’s now also about the cloud. He said the cable TV company, The Weather Channel, used about 13 data centers and generated a whopping four terabytes of data an hour. But by using the cloud, The Weather Channel is now processing a predictions “in milliseconds, and every 15 minutes rather than once per hour.”

Here’s a few other stories from this week worth noting. 

Should Banks Prepare for the IoT?

A recent report from Deloitte has shown some major potential for the IoT in both the retail banking and capital markets. According to Christopher O. Hernaes of TechCrunch, because banks rely on data for risk management and credit analysis.

“In addition to adding new data sources to credit scores, sensor technology could revolutionize loan collateral tracking and balance sheet reporting for both SMEs and corporate clients,” said Hernaes. “Imagine the possibilities for real-time monitoring of inventory or livestock for manufacturing and agriculture segments. This would potentially enable banks to perform automated and near real-time balance sheet reporting.” 

In addition to banking, we’re already seeing “smart” payments like with Apple Pay. MasterCard is apparently even allowing payments through the fitness wearable, Jawbone.

Continue reading this post from TechCrunch.

4 Network Requirements for the IoT

According to Ben Rossi of Information Age, the hype over the Internet of Things is full-speed and not going to slow down any time soon.

Rossi said there are four important network requirements for enabling the IoT before taking advantage of the transformations it has to offer:

  • Broadening the horizons of the network’s visibility
  • Determining your IoT fit
  • Smarter feedback for smarter decisions
  • Defending “dumb devices”

Read more about these here.

Know Thy Enemy

A recent article by Edward Jones of Entrepreneur suggested a new kind of cyber security strategy– hire a hacker.

If this sounds unconventional, you’re not alone. If hackers cause so much damage, why would anyone want to hire them?

Jones said there are multiple reasons, however, to consider hiring ethical hackers:

  • Everyone’s under cyber-attack
  • Ethical hackers spot vulnerabilities
  • Can be worth the money in the end

Read more about ethical hackers.

Media We Link To:

“Cloud on Clouds: How Weather Data is a Test-Bed For New Tech” – TechRadar

“3 Ways Big Data Supercomputing Change Weather Forecasting” – InformationWeek

“Banks Should Prepare For the Internet of Things” – TechCrunch 

“4 network requirements to enable the Internet of Things” – Information Age

“Know Thy Enemy, Hire a Hacker” – Entrepreneur

3 Lessons from the Unsung Hero: HMI/SCADA

Unsung hero (noun). One who does great deeds but receives little or no recognition for them.

While in the midst of a changing industry, data revolution, and shift to focusing on operational efficiency, it’s no surprise that something like the HMI/SCADA landscape could be overlooked as the driving force behind efficiency.

In fact, in a recent guest post for ISA Interchange, Matt Wells, general manager of Automation Software Solutions at GE Digital declared HMI/SCADA as the unsung hero of eliminating unplanned downtime.

“Some engineers have an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude, without realizing that continuing to use obsolete systems to collect, connect, and act upon vast amounts of production data from anywhere will inevitably lead to higher, hidden costs associated with big repairs and unplanned downtime,”  said Wells.

Take Microsoft’s Windows XP that was launched in 2001. A large amount of control systems were launched with the platform because it was secure and stable. But as with many forms of technology, it became outdated and is no longer supported– making it extremely vulnerable to malware.

But Wells said this vulnerability and others can be avoided, as long as organizations reap the benefits from new technologies. Unplanned downtime can be avoided with HMI/SCADA.

Here are three important lessons from Wells’ post:

HMI/SCADA: The Gateway to the Industrial Internet

According to Wells, many HMI/SCADA developers have embraced OPC Unified Architecture, meaning their software can communicate with hundreds of different devices. With the strengthened security and multi-platform support, leveraging the Industrial Internet is made possible.

In other words, using the data that’s being collected by your SCADA allows you to identify more areas for efficiency improvement– whether that’s faster troubleshooting, lower operational costs, or increased energy savings. It’s the pathway to successfully leveraging the Industrial Internet.

Test Now, Save Later

No one is immune from security threats. And running through risk assessments once a year just isn’t going to cut it.

Wells urges the importance of regular risk assessments incorporated into schedule. Of course, the frequency of assessments might differ based on industry and plant apps. However, by starting small with a conservative goal, this can be accomplished.

According to Wells, there are a few things to remember when making strides toward more regular risk assessments.

  • Update your software with the latest patches
  • Employ secure technologies and methodologies
  • Follow the guidelines for maximizing security provided by your software partners

Don’t Forget to Upgrade Your HMI/SCADA

We couldn’t discuss avoiding unplanned downtime in a plant without acknowledging the importance of upgrading a SCADA.

“This can be addressed in a step-by-step approach that will not only increase uptime, but provide a range of benefits for your processing facility while preparing your plant for the future, a future where the Industrial Internet of Things is a reality,” said Wells.

If your software is more outdated than it should be, make a plan now to upgrade securely. Wells assures there are many benefits for modernizing your system.

  • Enhancing the security of your systems
  • Avoiding obsolescence
  • Leveraging the Industrial Internet and Real-time Operational Intelligence
  • Benefiting from new functionalities
  • Being able to mobilize your application – quickly and easily

And here’s a few other notable stories from the week:

Mapping the Road to 5G: The Network for the Internet of ThingsSONY DSC

Information Age said this week that the move from 4G to 5G is inevitable– especially in an age fueled by data, video, and mobile browsing.

According to the article, 5G is being defined by new radio access technology, multi-layered networks that can handle high throughputs and data volumes at very low latency.

“5G was born not only because of the user applications demanding high throughputs and high bandwidth, but also the increasingly popular trends of connected smart devices that will flood global markets in the near future,” said Ben Rossi of Information Age. “With the increase in wearable technology, motion-based sensors, voice command and eye movement sensors, 5G use cases are being driven by low latency and high-reliability requirements of these sensor-connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices.” 

Reliability will be vital in the 5G/IoT network, and “insights-driven, customer-centric service level assurance will play a big part in ensuring reliability and the promise of 5G networks.”

Cars, Trains, and the IoT

According to Hannah Augur of Dataconomy, the public transit in London made various strides toward the Internet of Things about a year ago, and other major cities are exploring new ways to use technology in this area as well.Unsung-Hero-HMI/SCADA

While driverless cars are exciting and often talked about, there are many other examples of connectivity in modern travel. But Augur suggests three specific areas where we might actually see this change take shape:

  • Usage-based insurance
  • Micronavigation
  • Connectivity

Read the full article for more insight on future “smart transit”.

HMI Interfaces: A Renaissance

The human-machine interface (HMI) is in the midst of a “rejuvenation,” thanks to touch-screen technology seen in smartphones and tablets, according to Al Presher of Design News.

By throwing powerful microprocessors and connectivity options into the mix, there are more possibilities than ever.

“The emergence of mobile devices, smartphones, and tablets is having a greater impact on HMI development,” said Jen Vacendak, product support engineer and trainer for B&R Industrial Automation. “As new engineers enter the picture, they are accustomed to using those types of devices and we’ll be seeing more of a merger between the two technologies.”

Presher predicts a key trend in the HMI renaissance to be remote monitoring, and the ability to view screens on mobile devices–providing valuable insight into any issues, any where, any time.

“Other interesting developments are the continuing miniaturization and improved power efficiency of electronics,” said Presher. “We may see the HMI mounted on the surface of the enclosure or the machine with just small hole(s) in the panel for power and communications instead of having to cut a rectangular opening in a panel to mount the HMI device.”

 

Media We Link To:

“The Unsung Hero of Eliminating Unplanned Downtime: HMI/SCADA” – Matt Wells, ISA Interchange 

“The rise of 5G: the network for the Internet of Things” –  Information Age

“Cars, Trains, and the Internet of Things” – Dataconomy 

“Human-Machine Interfaces Are Undergoing a Renaissance” – Design News

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