Innovations in Comfort, Efficiency, and Safety Solutions.
EMAIL INTERVIEW – Sohrab Modi and Ken Sinclair
Modi, Chief Technology Officer, is responsible for leading Industrial
Internet of Things (IIoT) technical strategy at Echelon Corp.
An experienced technical executive, he holds a bachelor’s degree in
physics from the University of Mumbai and a master’s degree in computer
science from the Rochester (N.Y.) Institute of Technology.
Jumping on the Industrial
Internet of Things Bandwagon
Spurring greater convergence of existing and new building automation systems is a crucial step toward realizing the full potential of the IIoT.
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
is the next big wave in
commercial building automation. Accenture recently released research
forecasting that the IIoT could drive many trillions of dollars in
economic growth worldwide in the next 15 years.
We asked Sohrab Modi, Chief Technology Officer of Echelon Corp., a leader in IIoT device connectivity, about some of the challenges and opportunities in commercial building automation and the IIoT.
Sinclair: How is the Industrial IoT different from the consumer IoT?
Sinclair: How would you characterize the higher-level promise of the IIoT in building automation? Put another way, why is the IIoT even worth pursuing?
Sinclair: Are there any historical models for this kind of convergence?
The computer networking world of the 1980s and 1990s saw
the convergence of previously siloed systems when mainframes,
minicomputers and personal computers converged with the beginnings of
the Internet and the World Wide Web. We all know the impact that the
web has had.
But the impact of the IoT and IIoT is expected to be even greater. In an October 2014 article in the Harvard Business Review, Simona Jankowski of Goldman Sachs provided the following context:
Sinclair: What are some of the practical challenges in integrating older technology with the new?
within buildings is still very fragmented. Lighting,
security, HVAC, elevator and other systems each have their own
networks, their own protocols, and their own sets of data they collect
When you talk about the IIoT, you’re adding other layers of activities and technologies that include sensing, computing, communications, analytics and automated actions. When each of these technologies remains separate from the others, it’s not possible to have a fully functioning IIoT.
Melding the worlds of OT and IT presents significant challenges, largely because so many OT devices were put in place before IP was implemented broadly, or at all. Additionally, many of these existing devices, such as sensors, are very small. IP-enabling these small devices—adding the IP stack, security and other technologies—can be impossible or prohibitively expensive.
Unfortunately, many of the things that are easy to interconnect with IP have already been connected. In general, the easy interconnections include anything to which a cellular connection or Wi-Fi radio can be attached. Connecting things that can’t support these interfaces—which includes a long list of building automation devices—is much harder.
Sinclair: For those interested in jumping on the IIoT bandwagon, where should they start, and what should they keep in mind?
It‘s important to keep in mind that the structural changes
represented by the IIoT are on a par with the industrial revolution.
What’s happening is nothing less than the creation of entirely new
ecosystems, based on networks being established peer-to-peer among
industrial and commercial devices; between humans and industrial
devices; and with the Internet. On a technical level, what allows these
networks to coalesce is IP.
But as I mentioned earlier, it’s not enough to stick Wi-Fi and cellular radios onto various devices, collect data and call it an IIoT solution.
It’s premature to lay out step-by-step instructions for turning building automation solutions into IIoT solutions, but here are some things to consider.
Following the model of previous convergence examples, the IIoT convergence building blocks are expected to be:
When evaluating potential IIoT solutions, parameters to consider include:
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