Harnessing the power of the Industrial Internet for government


Harnessing the power of the Industrial Internet for government

Cisco calls it the Internet of Everything. IBM calls it the Internet of Things, and GE calls it the Industrial Internet.  By any name, the network of connected IT and operational technology  has the power to enable perimeter defense, smart factories, supply chains, asset tracking systems, power grids, intelligent transportation systems and smart cities. These Industrial Internet Systems (IIS) use connected sensors, intelligent data transport and big data analytics to deliver improvements in decision-making, situational awareness, efficiency, productivity, versatility and the creation of new capabilities.

IIS have three essentials components:

1. Connected sensors

Connected sensors and industrial control systems generate 24/7 data streams from manufacturing equipment, machinery, vehicles, health monitoring systems, alarms, buildings, military installations, power grids, drones, camera and video feeds, among others.  The possible interface points include industrial control systems protocols, such as supervisory control and data acquisitions (SCADA) systems, Building Automation and Control Network (BACnet) systems, distributed control systems and programmable logic controllers that are used in operations technology.

2. Intelligent data transporters

The data transport system connects these data sources, collects IP and non-IP protocol data from them and securely transports the data to its destination, which can be big data analytics engines, data warehouses or other applications.  The intelligent data transporter system will most likely be a software defined network that uses existing network transmission infrastructure (local- and wide-area networks, Wi-Fi, leased line, satellite links and even the Internet). 

3. Big data analytics

The data streams can be immediately analyzed by big data analytics engines or stored in data warehouses for longer term analysis.  Big data analytics can process single events, multiple related events or comprehensive data histories, showing relationships among different sets of data, predictive data patterns and other insights.

However, for effective and efficient deployments, the following additional capabilities are needed to increase the value, use and timeliness of the data generated.

Intelligence at the edge. An effective IIS deployment must provide intelligence at the network’s edge to contextualize, analyze, filter, compute and encrypt raw data from various devices and sensors. Backhauling all the raw data generated by vast numbers of sensors will bury organizations with such a high volume of data that they cannot analyze or act upon it within a useful time frame. 

Agile and dynamic data filter reconfiguration. The data transport system must also have the agility to change its data filter or change the data gathering requirements at the network’s edge based on mission support requirements.  It should not just be a static filter.

Security of data in motion. Data must be protected and secured from cyberattacks that can read, intercept or change the data as it  moves across the network to other connected devices, cloud or non-cloud storage repositories, analytics engines or directly to the command center.

Network resiliency. For an IIS to operate properly, the data must reach its designated destination in a timely manner.  An IIS network must be configured with redundant connections (a mesh network, for example) with automatic fail-over functionalities to ensure that critical data flow is not interrupted or delayed.

With the current state of Industrial Internet technology, government agencies can already deploy numerous applications.  

Integrated local, national or international perimeter defense networks can be developed for military bases or physical security for civilian agency buildings consisting of networked sensors, actuators, cameras and other surveillance devices. 

Power grid networks can be connected to networks that are smart, integrated, resilient and self-healing to provide optimal command and control without employing numerous mobile technicians.  Large battery backup systems, needed by military and civilian infrastructure if the central utility power grid becomes disabled, can be networked with sensors that can locally and remotely manage and monitor large banks of energy storage systems.

Healthcare facilities can manage numerous patients’ monitoring or testing systems, which can be connected to data analytics systems programmed to provide appropriate autonomous responses, alerts or alarms. 

By using connected sensors communicating across diverse communications protocols to track high value assets transported over water and land, theft and loss can be reduced or eliminated.

Government agencies must start initiating IIS proof-of-concept programs and initial deployments now take advantage of the currently available benefits and to shorten their learning curve of this transformational technology.  More important, because of national security and global competitiveness implications, a close partnership between industry and government is absolutely essential to ensure that our country will remain a dominant leader in this next evolution of the Internet. 

About the Author

Dennis Defensor is the president of Distrix Networks Ltd.


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