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7 Myths about Monitoring Remote Assets that Will Ensure you make this your top IoT Project for 2020

by Jason Sprayberry | 4 27, 2020

 

reaching out to the remote asset

 

Monitoring of remote equipment in dark, dirty, dangerous and dull locations is nothing new, but many changes in the world of industrial communications have enabled easy, secure, and cost effective connectivity like never before.

Smart manufacturing companies are realizing that orphaned assets represent a huge blind spot to a comprehensive digitization strategy. OT is more closely following the lead of IT by ensuring that there is ‘no data left behind’. By leveraging modern communication infrastructures and IoT strategies – virtually any organization can now more effectively centralize these islands of information. This is then enabling transparency and a high level of reactivity to problems before they occur (and without having to send valuable personnel onsite). Read through the myths and advantages of remote access, and for more information contact us today for free Digital Transformation consultation:

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Myth 1: Technology is not mature, difficult to integrate into Automation Systems

It is true that initial efforts to create stable connectivity to remote assets were fraught with challenges. Original solutions often attempted to extend existing automation systems to the devices with remote I/O using ‘converter’ or ‘extender’ technologies, in order to preserve the compatibility. Unfortunately, many proprietary industrial networks are not tolerant to high latency and unpredictable connection availability. Fortunately, Automation systems have evolved to more inter-operable approach to remote devices, especially as the systems are typically just used for ‘monitoring’ vs ‘control’.

Most modern solutions rely on standard internet protocols designed to withstand erratic connectivity including smarter ‘edge’ gateways, which ensure data is not lost when the network is down. And in many cases, protocol converters are available to enable two different systems to talk to each other seamlessly.

 

Myth 2: Wireless requires too much infrastructure

While many reliable wired network options have become mainstream for remote equipment, wireless networks are often the only option for truly remote assets. High maintenance proprietary systems with specialized towers and repeaters are quickly being phased out today in favor of satellite and cellular technologies (3G, 4G, and 5G). Also, coverage areas are growing rapidly with an impressive footprint across the globe. Carriers are even providing options for dedicated private network for especially sensitive applications, thus completely allowing customers to leverage existing infrastructure vs maintaining their own.

 

Myth 3: Too Expensive

It is true that older remote data systems were very expensive. This was due to high costing dedicated wired networks (fiber, T1, etc) and super high end proprietary wireless systems with specialized equipment and sky-high monthly fees.

Today many companies rely on low cost wired networks (like DSL or cable) or wireless data connections (like cellular or satellite). These come in a variety of data plans that allow them to find the right match for their application, at a fraction of what the cost was – even 10 years ago. Of course, pricing varies by carrier, by data volume, etc – but the spectrum of possibilities range from unlimited data for extremely intensive volumes (like video streaming) to ‘sub 1 MB dribbler’ plans as low as a few dollars per month.

The communications hardware has not only become much smarter and more rugged they have also decreased in price; gateways, routers, modems, etc are usually under $1000 and some approaching $500 and below (in volumes).

Some solution providers are even providing packaged solutions with little or no upfront Capex costs. Companies looking to preserve cash may opt into a bundle of hardware, data connection and value add applications or services – via an Opex "X as a Service" (XaaS) model.

 

Myth 4: Remote data connections are not secure

Just as with any other data solution, comprehensive security policies are required to ensure remote data is just as safe as data onsite. Fortunately, most modern remote data access and data monitoring systems support VPN connections enabling end to end secure communications. However, not all remote connectivity solutions are created equal. When choosing a solution, equipment manufacturers need to follow best practices regarding cybersecurity. Taking guidance from common standards like ISO27002, IEC 62443-2-4 and NIST Cybersecurity Framework 1.1 is strongly recommended. This means choosing a solution that employs a defense-in-depth approach, so that no single point of failure will cause the solution to become compromised. Additionally, the way in which remote connectivity is achieved should be considered. Does the solution have crucial cybersecurity certifications like ISO27001? Has the solution undergone penetration testing? Is there an audit trail of connections? Is there control over when the solution is active and who can access it? The answer to all these questions needs to be yes. Fortunately, HMS makes the selection process easy with a variety of secure IoT solutions.

 

Myth 5: Too much data noise, no actionable information

Sure, information overload is real on any system – and poorly designed monitoring systems may create false positives and annoying alerts that simply cannot be trusted. Although there are many ‘basic’ connectivity solutions available, which act as a simple communication pipe, advances have been made to provide more than just a ‘dumb modem’.  New technologies at the industrial edge have enabled smart gateway to provide a variety of additional services. Examples include protocol conversion, data logging, tag mirroring and historization, basic visualization and KPI dashboards, alarm notification/acknowledgment, and even local development sandboxes for custom edge pre-processing for smarter communications.

Overall, smart gateways are able to filter data into business ready decisions, delivered to the right person at the right time – and even integrate into existing OT and IT applications for seamless migration of data into current workflows.

Myth 6: Only seasoned technicians can diagnose problems in the field

If you are still sending critical personnel to dirty, dangerous, distant and dull places – you may want to rethink how you are utilizing your most value asset – your people! Even if you have capable staff, aging industrial workforce is a key challenge that is driving companies to think differently about how to ensure key workers are empowered to multitask on several critical issues at once. Not only can remote assets be expensive for service calls – they can also be dangerous. Machines will never be as valuable as people – but a key value of Digital Transformation is putting people where they can be most effective at solving problems, avoiding the real and opportunity cost of unnecessary travel. 

 

Myth 7: Remote Monitoring is a cost center vs profit center

Remote monitoring was born out of a need to increase visibility to machines outside the four walls of the factory, in order to reduce unplanned downtime and allow virtual service calls to maintain healthy equipment. However, some companies are now packaging additional services into an “outcome” based solution to create new monthly recurring revenue streams. Machine as a service, Virtual Technician as a Service, Reliability as a Service, or Remote Access as a service are examples of new approaches companies are using to separate themselves from the competition by creating customized solutions to drive happier customers.

 

 

Examples of HMS Remote Asset Monitoring 

Check out our Digital Transformation home page for more HMS IoT and Industry 4.0 Solutions

 

Wireless Connectivity for Remote Asset Monitoring

HMS IoT gateways provide easy secure connectivity to assets beyond the four walls of the plant. Isolated equipment is traditionally too difficult or too expensive to access. Leveraging wired or wireless (WiFi or Cellular) connectivity to remote assets liberates the data from these remote islands of information. Columbia has expanded their business offering by enabling remote monitoring to their machines, allowing them to access machines and solve problems from their home office. Learn more in the Remote Access eBook and also check out the video below:

 

Easy, Secure Remote Access for Virtual Service Techs

Drastically reduce trips to customer sites by enabling service technicians to easily VPN into machines through award winning Remote Access technologies which provide transparent access to a device, like a PLC, for troubleshooting and programming – as if directly connected – and IT approved! For more information on remote access, download our ebook below:

Secure Remote Access Ebook

 

XaaS / Machine as a Service

As hardware margins continue to erode, the burden is on the service organization to innovate with new outcome-based solutions. Disruptive Pay as You Go and “X” (your value) as a service models are certain to rapidly change the landscape of how customers value suppliers. End users are also starting to shift to Opex vs Capex buying to reduce risks and remain nimbler to ever-changing market conditions.

 

HMS Networks Enable Predictive Maintenance / OEE through Solutions Partners 

Smart Reliability programs are founded on the premise that historical routine-based maintenance does not detect most failures and are often too early or too late. Condition based monitoring enables early warning indicators which are an essential component of an overall equipment effectiveness program. Moving beyond “seeing” to "predicting" is entirely possible once the basic data insights and failure modes are enabled and understood.

 

IT/OT Integration and Analytics

Break down functional silos and deliver actionable insights by transparently connecting traditionally proprietary equipment into IT/Enterprise/Cloud systems through industry standard technologies like MQTT, OPCUA and Rest Web Services APIs. HMS takes the guesswork out of integration with standard connectors to our Ecosystem partners like OSIsoft PI System, Microsoft Azure IoT, AWS IoT, Rockwell Automation’s PTC Thingworks, Siemens Mindsphere, Inductive Automation’s Ignition, and more. Powered by Scante and HMS Networks, the Elsner IoT app enables their customers to view their machine's productivity, diagnostics, and any maintenance. Learn more in the video below:

 

 

With over 30 years in the industry, HMS provides the experience and stability to take the risk out of your Digital Transformation journey.

Enabling Digital Transformation from the Industrial Edge

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