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Operational Technology, the Often Overlooked Technology in the Industrial IoT




Operational Technology.pngMuch of the discourse around the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) focuses on Information Technology (IT) aspects. That is, bringing data center-level compute closer to the edge (Edge Computing1), controlling and securing the data from devices, implementing real-time analytics via machine learning –in a system that manages networks, devices, data and applications.

It’s clear that IT is critical for any type of organization. IT provides the tools and infrastructure necessary to produce what I see as three types of insights from the IoT: business insights, engineering insights, and scientific insights, each promoting innovation and efficiencies. However, for industries such as manufacturing, utilities, oil & gas, transportation or automotive, there is an equally important technology that is many times overlooked in the IT-centric community: Operational Technology2 (OT).

Simply put, OT includes any hardware and software used to sense and capture data, and control the behavior of “things” and devices or an entire industrial control system. OT is responsible for not only acquiring the analog sources of data from sensors, but also in charge of digitizing it so it can be processed by IT. OT is also responsible for monitoring and communicating with other devices, with the goal of taking programmable actions and automatically controlling machinery that maximize efficient use.

Many things in the Industrial IoT must be controlled and actuated to optimize their performance, direct their activity, or quiesce in emergency situations. As an example, a jet turbine has several embedded sensors that capture troves of analog data from engine performance, such as fuel usage, thrust, aerodynamic resistance, etc. These sensors also collect analog data surrounding the turbine such as temperature, humidity, and elevation. OT equipment can collect Terabytes of this analog data from all of these sensors and converts into digital data for analysis.

To process and analyze massive volumes of data in real time, IT systems must efficiently complement and interface with OT. This is where IT at the IoT edge becomes essential. Instead of storing the data for after-flight analysis, IT at the IoT edge affords heavy compute power that is required to process, analyze and produce insights in real time, during flight, where the jet engine is. This, in turn, enables the navigation system to automatically control and make adjustments in order to maximize engine and fuel efficiency during flight.

The convergence of IT & OT is driving the digital transformation of industries

ying yang.jpgIn today’s world, industrial companies have external economic, social, market and technology trends compelling them to evolve into digital companies. GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt captured3 the essence of this deep digital transformation facing manufacturing today: “If you went to bed last night as an industrial company, you’re going to wake up today as a software and analytics company.”

This digital transformation of industries (referred to as the 4th industrial revolution4, or Industrie 4.0 in Europe) is a force behind the convergence of the worlds of Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT). This is a potent combination that will change the world:

OT’s power to capture and publish things’ data and control industrial devices and systems, combined with IT’s power to turn digital data into business, engineering, or scientific insights in real time.

There are multiple examples of industrial systems and processes where the tight convergence of IT & OT provide superior outcomes, such as:

  • Connected Manufacturing: Production equipment can be controlled for efficient production and adjusted upon detection of defects
  • Monitoring: Turbines, pumps, and values must be adjusted to minimize potentially damaging failure states
  • Preventive maintenance: Industrial equipment with embedded sensors are monitored with the goal of anticipating when there is a need for maintenance, reducing huge costs in downtime
  • Connected Cars: Real-time control is critical – autonomous vehicles must be tightly controlled to maneuver in unpredictable traffic situations.
  • Smart Energy: Electricity flow can be controlled when connected to a smart power grid to reduce distribution costs and power outages.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise brings the integration of IT and OT to the IoT

it-vs-ot_1.jpgIndustrial companies are seeing the value of bringing together IT and OT: real-time, automated control of their operational environment, backed up with actionable data insights. This is where HPE’s edge computing true value takes shape – creating the new Converged IoT Systems product category in the industry and launching the first two new products in this category, the HPE Edgeline EL1000 and EL4000.

The EL1000 and EL4000 Converged IoT Systems5 integrate 4 major functions that are separate today: high performance x86 compute, enterprise-class systems/device management, precision data capture, and control systems. All this in a hardened package for bearing temperature, shock, and vibrations, and built on open industry standards such as PXI technology6 to enable analog data capture and systems control.

Check out this candid and fast paced video on how we are pioneering the convergence of IT and OT, with our partner and leader in OT National Instruments7.

Also, I recently launched the new Edgeline Systems on stage at National Instruments’ annual event, NIWeek. Check this one out too:



  1. Edge Computing:
  2. Operational Technology (OT):
  3. GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt captured the essence on digital transformation of industries:
  4. 4th industrial revolution, or Industrie 4.0
  5. HPE Edgeline Converged IoT Systems
  6. PXI technology:
  7. National Instruments:
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About the Author


Dr. Tom Bradicich is Global Head of Edge and IoT CoE & Labs,s at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. He and his HPE Labs team develop and commercialize advanced connectivity, compute, and controls software and technologies. Tom directs the HPE Edge and IoT Center of Excellence, which lead company-wide strategies, venture and M&A business and technical assessments, and the Channel-to-Edge Institute channel partner program.