Big data has evolved a lot in the last decade. The growth of AI and machine learning has created numerous applications and a fresh perspective on process optimization. If we focus on the manufacturing industry during this evolution, there is a massive change in the IT infrastructure. Manufacturers are now favoring edge computing over data centers for data-related operations.
The convergence of IT (information technology) and OT (operational technology) has resulted in three things:
- Firstly, there is organizational convergence in which the staffs of OT and IT collaborate.
- Secondly, there is software convergence, which includes consolidation and virtualization at the edge.
- Thirdly, there is hardware convergence between the IT and OT.
In the manufacturing sector, a lot of data cannot be modified. Companies are not able to extract data properly to process it for modern data mining and warehousing. At present, in smart manufacturing, IT and OT hardware are integrated to offer a wide range of applications to consumers where an industry-standard ecosystem serves as its backbone. This convergence is integral because it allows companies to enhance their workload management, thus bringing several crucial benefits for smart factories.
IoT devices like robots, video, cameras, and sensors generate voluminous amounts of data. Previously, cloud-based analytics helped manufacturers extract useful insights from these data sets. However, companies are now taking these intensive data analysis operations over to edge devices. In this way, manufacturers can benefit from:
Having broader access to and control of data.
Taking timely decisions on the insights obtained.
Using Edge to Transform IIoT Gateways
In a modern-day smart factory, the computing infrastructure includes several “heterogeneous” devices – consisting of the latest software and hardware that are used along with legacy IT systems. An IIoT gateway is used to link up all of these devices and make them communicate via the IP domain to support edge computing.
Such a gateway must be equipped to offer support for Controller Area Network, standard Ethernet, and other common protocols. Similarly, LPWAN, ZigBee, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi are some wireless protocols that it must support. These gateways are built to be reliable enough for resisting abrasive conditions. As gateways play the role of intermediary to connect the internal computing infrastructure of the factory to the external world, one must contemplate the strategy of cybersecurity as well. Previously these gateways were restricted.
However, the edge has revolutionized these gateways. Gateways are now also serving as an integrated edge server solution. This has signalled the rise of a new trend; OT and IT managers are increasingly making two critical decisions:
Choose a standalone server and gateway that is powered by the edge infrastructure.
Opt for a more sophisticated edge gateway that is supported by an integrated server.
As a result, the following changes have been observed.
- IoT gateways are now powerful enough to translate protocols and enhance communication within the factory’s ecosystem of devices.
- Edge servers are used to transfer processing tasks from connected devices by storing and caching data and operating as a private cloud – one that can be accessed remotely.
- Gateways can reduce the number of bottlenecks that congest various endpoints. At the same time, they have leveraged the efficacy of bandwidth.
- Since storage is performed at the edge, significant savings have been noted in terms of transmission costs where only the pertinent information is moved to the cloud.
Consolidated IIoT gateways, edge servers, and standalone systems – all of these are going to change the face of smart factories. It will be especially interesting to see how much of the cloud operations are going to be replaced by the “edges.”
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