The opportunities that IIoT and Industry 4.0 solutions offer for businesses are manifold. However, there are a number of IoT challenges involved when it comes to making the most of them. From data security and master data management to the interoperability of machines and systems, a number of things need to be taken into account to ensure that nothing goes wrong.
What is IIoT and Industry 4.0 – Would you like to start by learning about the basics? Then read our introduction to the theme section about the (Industrial) Internet of Things. In another article we have compiled practical examples that illustrate how production and business processes can be optimized by IIoT and Industry 4.0. In this article we look at the challenges companies face when implementing IIoT and Industry 4.0.
IoT Challenges and Industry 4.0 – Data Security
The connection of technical systems with the company network and the Internet in order to be able to optimize resources, offer new business models or to better respond to customer wishes for example, offers a number of challenges in addition to all of the opportunities and possibilities. The biggest one is certainly to guarantee the security of the transported data and data streams on all levels. What happens if third parties gain unauthorized access to the data? Think for example, of industrial espionage, manipulation of systems and machines or even a violation of data protection regulations and the respective consequences. The reasons for lack of security can be found on many levels:
- insecure physical systems such as components on machines
- insecure software
- insecure mobile devices
- insecure interfaces to connected systems
- insecure encryption of data during transmission
- insecure network services
- inadequate password security, authorization and authentication
All of these security gaps provide entry points for cyber-attacks from various directions. As far as the interfaces or APIs to connected systems are concerned, for example, thorough API management is important in order to keep track of access to one’s own systems. In addition, API gateways act as buffers between external and internal systems to protect your data and applications from unauthorized access.
Another example are components implemented on machines that allow external service companies access for maintenance work. If the security is insufficient, the external service provider can have access to the entire customer network. In addition, machines and systems can be manipulated from the outside via inadequately protected components and thus cause serious damage and high costs. In logistics too, unauthorized access from outside, for example via tracking sensors on mobile systems, can not only lead to information being tapped but can also paralyze entire supply chains. The integration of all production resources into business processes via a central platform protects against unauthorized data access via gateways and guarantees the confidentiality and integrity of your data, processes and communication at all times.
Once IoT security challenges have been mastered at all levels, the next challenge for IIoT and Industry 4.0 is to keep the quality of the data processed by the systems involved constantly high and up-to-date.
IoT Challenges and Industry 4.0 – Master Data Management
What about your master data? High-quality data is the basis for reliable and efficient IoT systems. The increasing amount of data and the heterogeneity of the sources from which the data is obtained and delivered make controlling it a task for experts. Just think for example, of duplicates, incompatible data models, unreadable data, etc. Only if the existing data is correct can an IoT system function reliably and generate the desired results, such as reliable and valid analysis reports and the like. Further advantages of efficient master data management are time and cost savings, as less effort is required for error correction, production downtime or complaint management.
Special cloud services facilitate the maintenance of master data such as addresses, or identifying features such as GLN or tax numbers and industry-specific features by providing access to a central database with always up-to-date data. Other cloud services provide secure transmission of business-critical engineering and product data in product development. API integration of sensitive employee and customer data automates the management of sensitive personal master data and also ensures GDPR-readiness.
The higher the data quality, the greater the benefits that arise from IoT applications and the more reliable the results and processes. Another factor that favours the industrial added value of IIoT and Industry 4.0 is the interoperability of systems.
IoT Challenges and Industry 4.0 – Interoperability
In order for business-critical decisions to be made based on data-driven services at all, they must also be able to communicate with each other, i.e. speak a common language. This connection between existing data and its transformation into added value is a central topic in Industry 4.0 implementations. It is essential to standardize data so that systems can understand the data correctly and use it for subsequent processes. For example, OPC UA is a standard for IIoT applications that is becoming increasingly important. All elements involved in the production process, from individual assemblies to entire system elements, are described by characteristics that are translated into a standardised format, a ‘language’. For this purpose, however, it is necessary to find a structure according to which the individual elements can be arranged. The VDMA guidelines provide valuable recommendations and assistance in this respect.
An experienced partner will support you in mastering the challenges of IIoT and Industry 4.0 with confidence. For over 30 years, the consulting specialists at SEEBURGER have been supporting companies in the implementation of digitalization projects along the entire value chain – from the optimization of processes to the integration and networking of business processes and applications. With the experience gained from more than 10,000 customer projects, we can provide you with competent support.
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Written by: Frank StegmuellerFrank Stegmueller is VP Services and Marketing and has been with SEEBURGER since 2008. During this time he has supported and managed many different campaigns and projects. He has more than 22 years of experience with service, support and marketing around EDI, B2B, MFT, API, IoT, ITSM, GDPR and Digital Transformation with on-premises systems as well as in the cloud.