The Internet of Things has spawned a lot of hype in the last couple of years. Lately there have been a number of themes around specific segments and how the Internet can be applied as a solution. The Industrial Internet as coined by General Electric may be one of the biggest segments and one of the most important.
Industry, or manufacturing, is the source of most goods in most economies. As the cost of automation technology has dropped, manufacturing has been transformed. In this process the suppliers of automation technology have promoted a range of proprietary networks in order to support the growing demand for interoperability. These networks generally come at a premium due to the reliability required to guarantee message transactions within systems.
The network wars in the industrial market spawned lots of variations with suppliers attempting to win market share through installed base. Each supplier has come to the market with a unique solution that was intended to solve all the customer’s problems and keep factories running with information flow from executive level information systems to individual sensors on the factory floor. Attempting to mix information systems provided by key technology suppliers proved to be a road block to customers success forcing the industrial network to narrower down to fewer suppliers.
This has been a relatively slow process since the automation technology suppliers have a vested interest in maintaining their proprietary solutions. But as with most things in the digital age, open solutions are ultimately in everyone’s best interest. Customers will ultimately apply more technology as the cost of networks declines, and suppliers will sell more products as a result.
Ethernet and Ethernet Precision Time Protocol are inexpensive and reliable solutions that extremely inexpensive. Connectors are standardized and modified versions for harsh environments are readily available. Precision Time Protocol guarantees message delivery and schedule. And many manufacturers are moving forward with compatible product offerings.
The notion of proprietary networks is obsolete. The Internet has accidentally provided a solution that, due to the expansion of bandwidth, offers an alternative platform that meets everyone’s needs without significant cost or development of new technology.
This should leave more time for creating more useful applications of the technology instead of inventing, and re-inventing the same things over and over.