all access blog
February 18, 2020  |  by Ken Halprin

What’s Trending in Industrial Data Communications for 2020

As a company established in 1987, AUTOSOL has been witness to many changes in industrial automation and data communications over time. While some trends and catchphrases have quickly come and gone, there are many that have made a lasting impact on the way industrial enterprises collect, deliver and distribute data across their mission-critical infrastructures – with new innovations driving step-change improvements in their operational efficiency.

Looking ahead into 2020, we see several trends occurring now that we believe have the staying power to shape the future of industrial data delivery for years to come.

  1. Edge Computing

Edge computing adoption rates are continuing to steadily rise across industrial markets, particularly in those with distributed operations like oil & gas pipelines and water & wastewater facilities managing numerous remote stations. The edge computing architecture enables data processing and storage to take place locally, alongside the devices that are deployed in the field. It offers a number of advantages because it makes better use of bandwidth – a particularly important benefit in low capacity SCADA networks – and allows for more data, at higher resolution, to be delivered with low latency.

Traditional SCADA architectures use a poll-response approach, retrieving all data at every poll, even if values have not changed. This creates an excess of overhead messages that bogs down bandwidth. Edge computing, on the other hand, uses a highly efficient publish-subscribe message format. A software like eACM for example is used to poll end devices and identify any changes of value for tags that are being monitored. As soon as the value changes, eACM sends the new value to an MQTT broker which then pushes it to any application subscribed to the broker. Unlike poll-response, eACM publishes only if the value changes rather than at every pre-set polling interval, significantly reducing overhead and bandwidth consumption by as much as 98.99%.

Why does this trend have staying power? With smart sensors continuing to become more cost-effective, industrial enterprises are able to deploy many more field devices and need a way to effectively manage the increased amounts of data being generated on their operations. Edge computing is a distributed paradigm for today’s distributed world, and allows industrial enterprises to modernize data collection within their existing network architecture. More information can be captured from the field more efficiently, and used to identify areas for immediate gains.

2. OT/IT Convergence

Operational technology (OT), the infrastructure for monitoring and controlling field-based devices, has long been separated from back-office IT systems used to conduct business-level activities. Until recently. In fact, IDC predicts that by 2021, 80% of industrial companies will have merged operational data streams with enterprise data streams to support broader and more rapid operational innovation.

OT devices are now equipped with more sensing, processing, and control capabilities that can feed IT applications data for analytics, compliance reporting, Business Intelligence and more. Industrial organizations are realizing that enterprise-wide visibility into what’s happening in the field, with real-time coordination across departments, can elevate business performance in a significant and sustainable way.

One example is using data from automation and SCADA systems in combination with IT systems for workforce management to improve maintenance efficiency. The OT infrastructure can alert the IT application to a field device outage, and provide real-time information on the location and status of the device. The workforce management tool then automatically alerts maintenance crews, providing this information to support fast restoration with downtime minimized.

Why does this trend have staying power? Data is the new currency and industrial enterprises that are able to leverage it in full will have the competitive edge. Complete convergence will certainly not happen overnight, but data silos must be broken down to realize long-term cost savings and efficiency gains. And your data delivery solution needs support this integration by bridging the gap: between the field devices themselves and between the SCADA systems, databases, validation and accounting systems used across the enterprise. A multi-protocol polling engine like ACM creates a common information stream of both real-time and historical data from a diverse range of field devices, becoming the single source for data access across departments, applications and devices old and new.

3. Mission-Critical Data Delivery

As more, higher-resolution data is able to be collected from the field, more discrete analytics can be run to evaluate and even predict everything from demand forecasts to equipment failures to optimal automation sequences. But, these models require constant input to generate accurate output. It will be more vital than ever for industrial enterprises to ensure their data stream isn’t interrupted by issues – which can be difficult when relying on legacy telemetry solutions that are prone to failure. At AUTOSOL, we have built communication redundancy into our data delivery platform, giving you the ability to leverage multiple communication paths with concurrent polling through multiple types of telemetry.

Why does this trend have staying power? The application of next-gen AI and machine learning (ML) models will allow industrial enterprises to efficiently derive insights and value from their massive troves of information. In fact, it is estimated that investments by the oil & gas industry in AI and ML technologies will reach $3 billion by 2022 – but ROI can only be maximized if they have the right data to work with.

Approaching 2020 with AUTOSOL

What are your objectives related to industrial data communications in 2020? Tell us about your challenges here, or let us know any trends you are seeing that will impact your industry’s data delivery technologies and strategies. We’d love to hear your perspectives!

Tags: , ,