As you watch a Formula 1 car race around a track at speeds of more than 200 mph, have you ever considered who actually makes decisions about things like when to change a tire or pass another car?

You might assume this falls on the driver, but what you might not realize is that the driver’s pit crew—and a team of engineers located hundreds of miles away—are monitoring the car’s every move by analyzing data from dozens of sensors.

With the real-time insights the sensors provide, the support team helps the driver decide on the next pit stop, what adjustments to make and how to enhance performance at future races.

An industrial facility is like a race car in that hundreds of sensors are generating massive amounts of data. Are you using your data as effectively as a Formula 1 team? What lessons can be learned from Formula 1 that you can apply to network infrastructure for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)?

Formula 1 race cars have dozens of sensors fastened to them sending real-time data to teams of up to 90 engineers. The sophisticated use of Big Data is being used as a model for IIoT applications.

How Formula 1 Racing Provides a Real-Life Example of the IIoT

During a Formula 1 race sensors in the car are communicating with the track, the pit crew, a team of engineers at the home facility plus the onsite broadcast crew. The huge volume of real-time data is put into predictive intelligence models and used as inputs for race strategy and car servicing. Data analysis and two-way communication happen simultaneously to create a competitive edge that can turn a losing car into a winner.

In many ways, your factory floor or industrial facility is like a race car. Hundreds of sensors and machines are generating more and more data. If you could feed this data to the right decision-makers in a timely and easily digestible way, how could your business be transformed? Could you improve reliability, efficiency, safety or production?

Some racing car teams are already transferring their knowledge to other industries. For example Conoco Philips is testing this approach on oil rigs with assistance from the British automaker McLaren.

Five Ways to Move Forward on the IIoT

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) enables the connectivity that allows businesses to gather greater insights and make data-driven decisions to achieve better business results. Though we don’t know all the applications that our businesses will build on the IIoT, there are two things we do know for certain:

  • There will be more and more devices connecting to our industrial networks.
  • More and more data will cross the network to feed business applications and provide finer-grained control.

To prepare for this fast-approaching reality, you need to build a network infrastructure that is designed for reliability and growth. It also needs to handle increased data flows and provide end-to-end security. While interconnectivity is increasing, the need for reliable and secure operations is not decreasing.

The following five steps will help you get the most out of your IIoT initiatives:

1. Start by assessing what you have, where it lives, what it does, who owns and manages it and, ultimately, where you want to be.

2. Migrate and/or update your technology to Ethernet and move away from older legacy fieldbus systems or proprietary technologies.

3. Take a look at your network design and ensure you’re following best practices, such as segmenting into zones and conduits or employing wireless solutions.

4. Protect your network through a layered approach, with security measures built into each level of the network.

5. Establish ongoing monitoring and troubleshooting to keep up as technology and security threats evolve.

Security is Essential for the IIoT

As more devices are connected to the network, there will be more interconnectivity with the enterprise side of the business and more users with access to the network. This increase in users, whether they are internal or external partners, means more sources of potential infections. Therefore, it’s critical to address security issues and put measures in place to protect your industrial network.

Get Ready for the IIoT Today

Even if you still feel uncertain about IIoT in general, or how technology or security threats might evolve, that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps today to prepare for the future. A scalable and secure infrastructure is the foundation for enabling whatever network application might be needed years down the road.

The key thing to remember is that data can provide a competitive advantage. But having access to all of that data is only useful if it can be made actionable. The promise of the IIoT is already beginning to allow this.

With an integrated and well-designed network infrastructure in place, your organization will be able to access more real-time data and use it to make more informed business decisions-- just like Formula 1 racing teams do.

Where are you on the IIoT journey? What challenges are you facing? I look forward to hearing from you.

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