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Two technology giants helping to bridge the OT-IT divide

EIC_IoT_Blog

Eric Feagler
US Head of Sales, GE Digital

Tripp Partain
CTO to GE Account, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

 

To understand what’s possible with Industrial IoT solutions on the edge, you’ve got to understand some of the challenges that line-of-business staff face every day, on the plant floor or out in the field.

First, staff responsible for operations technology (OT) have to grapple with the enemies of efficiency: Manual processes and inaccessible data.

GettyImages-603706901_800_0_72_RGB.jpgConsider the engineer responsible for instrumentation. He or she may have to do a regular walk-through to check or test gauges, sensors, and controllers on individual pieces of equipment. Manual checks are time-consuming and prone to error. Some pieces of equipment at remote sites or in inaccessible locations may be especially hard to evaluate or calibrate.

It’s not much different for the operators overseeing maintenance. Their role--to keep equipment running at optimal performance levels--is crucial to any industrial operation. When there’s an equipment failure somewhere on the line or out in the field, it may have a cascading effect that shuts down all downstream activity. Yet oftentimes, they are working in a reactive mode, responding to problems, rather than anticipating them. Preventative maintenance might take place on a scheduled basis, but it too is a manual and inefficient process, hampered by a lack of easily accessible data that might otherwise point to potential failure points and their root causes.

The second broad challenge: How to better align OT and IT. OT may be able to appreciate certain capabilities of Industrial IoT and edge computing, and IT will have ideas about how the technologies should be implemented. But at the same time, these groups have different priorities. The idea of IT coming in to implement new systems in OT’s traditional domain, and taking operations offline to do, will generate a great deal of anxiety and pushback. From OT’s point of view, an assembly line that’s not making product can impact the entire supply chain, not to mention the company’s bottom line.

GettyImages-603706051_800_0_72_RGB.jpgAnother source of friction between the two groups relates to replacing equipment before the end of its useful life. The rip and replace mentality has been standard operating procedure for IT, but in the OT world it’s a different story. In some plants, operators are used to working with a piece of equipment for 20 or 30 years, and not ever updating the control systems or other components. Line-of-business managers may be so focused on operational costs and profitability without seeing the big picture of how new technologies can provide insights into operations, new opportunities for automation, and even new business opportunities and a competitive advantage.

 

But OT and IT attitudes are changing–and two technology giants are help making it happen.

First, attitudes in the OT world are shifting about the value that IoT and edge solutions can bring, in terms of opening up visibility into operations and deriving new insights. Why should the engineer responsible for instrumentation take a trip out to the wind farm or oil rig to make sure equipment and sensors are meeting performance benchmarks? What about the millwright, responsible for keeping industrial systems in working order--should he or she have to shut down a production line or take a vehicle offline to conduct scheduled maintenance? Edge sensors, compute and storage resources, and analytical tools can address both scenarios, not only alerting OT staff to potential anomalies, but opening up the possibility of predictive analytics, automated processes, and a boost to efficiency.

There’s also an attitude shift in IT, in terms of realizing that the digital wave washing over industry isn’t like earlier transitions for finance or sales. OT groups have a long-term investment in metal that requires a different approach than integrating a financial application or customer database. IT knows this, and is more able to align with OT priorities.

OT and IT vendors leading the way

And industrial technology is itself evolving, with key OT vendors taking a new approach to providing technology solutions. GE is at the forefront of this, with its Predix platform for industrial applications and analytics. Predix is designed to take industrial data—whether generated by a robot, controller, or IoT sensor—and turn it into actionable insights. It can support analytics, machine learning, industrial applications, and modeling in ways that were not possible before.

Meanwhile, HPE is bringing advanced IT technologies and expertise to OT environments. HPE Edgeline Converged Edge IoT systems include a control system for OT, right inside the same box that contains compute, storage, and management features. Systems that once had to be managed separately can now be managed together. In addition, the Edgeline series has a reduced footprint that’s designed for use in constrained settings, whether it’s an assembly line, offshore oil rig, or power plant. There’s nothing else like it on the market.

 

shutterstock_134125940_800_0_72_RGB.jpgOne place to see HPE + GE in action is in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Electric Company is building out a new IoT-enabled infrastructure that will modernize many aspects of the kingdom’s electric grid, from power generation and distribution down to individual home and business customers. It chose GE as its solution provider to help the company boost generation while increasing reliability and efficiency. The system, powered by Predix as well as traditional client-server architectures, will respond dynamically to peaks in electricity demand, and help the kingdom reduce outages and fuel consumption. Predix and other software components will leverage HPE hardware and management tools for increased storage, network, compute, and graphics options.

If you are attending GE’s Minds + Machines 2017 conference at Moscone West in San Francisco, you can see how HPE and GE are working to bridge the OT/IT gap. There are two HPE demos you can see across the show floor, in Level 1:

  1. At booth #16, HPE will show the Edge Video Analytics solution, including an HPE Edgeline EL1000 powered by Intel Xeon, loaded with GE Predix, showcasing a machine-learning visual recognition application for industries.
  1. At Intel’s booth #1, HPE, Intel and GE Digital will be showcasing the Smart Factory Solution, including HPE Edgeline 1000 powered by Intel Xeon and loaded with GE Predix. This demo using a robotic arm enabled to optically analyz and sort components, while keeping control of the production line – all of this at the edge.

 

Hope to see you in San Francisco!HPE at GE MM.png

1024px-Intel-logo.svg.png

HPE Edgeline Converged Edge Systems are powered by Intel Xeon.

 

 

Empowering the Digital Enterprise to be more efficient and innovative through data-driven insights from the Internet of Things (IoT)
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