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Gap in industrial IoT stack presents edge challenges

John Younes
By John Younes Co-Founder and COO, Litmus Automation

Many people want to implement IoT in their factories, and with the abundance of IoT platform technologies out there, they think it’s a breeze. But many challenges await those who don’t think things through carefully—challenges for which traditional IoT platforms do not have effective solutions.

The first main challenge they will find is trying to figure out how the solution will communicate with all different legacy controllers and devices found on the factory floor. They all utilize one protocol or another for communication, and data formats will not be standard across all these different pieces of equipment.

The second main challenge, and quite possibly the most important, is security. There are many vulnerabilities in an IoT implementation’s security that can be overlooked at times. The six main levels of security that need to be implemented are:

  • Connecting to devices,
  • Transporting data,
  • Isolating devices,
  • Handling data-at-rest,
  • Sending commands & controlling devices, and
  • Updating systems.

Without properly addressing all these vulnerabilities, any IoT implementation is at risk. It is dangerous to implement an IoT platform without properly vetting its security features, as many do not have ways to securely address each one of these issues.

The third main challenge is management and deployment of an IoT solution and how to scale distributed solutions. Without a centralized portal or management interface, it is extremely difficult to manage devices, security and data collection for the many different types of industrial devices out in the field. There must be a complete management UI that encompasses the ability to host drivers for connectivity via edge gateways, with the ability to manage devices and deploy applications and analytics at the edge.

The fourth main challenge is figuring out how to make sense out of the data by running various applications at the edge. You need to figure out a mechanism to install, update and manage applications for a large number of nodes at once. Having the ability to run applications like complex analytics, anomaly detection and machine learning tools at the edge is extremely beneficial for saving cloud and bandwidth costs for an IoT implementation. Without having a mechanism to control and manage this process for a large amount of gateways at once, it becomes nearly impossible to do this kind of analysis.

Litmus Automation’s answer to these issues is software called LoopEdge. It can be installed on most types of gateways or industrial PCs on the factory floor level. With LoopEdge, manufacturers have one software that can collect data via gateways by using the drivers that we have created for communication to legacy systems. From there, we provide various applications that can be installed on the gateway to utilize this data, including a local datastore, complex event processing engine, analytics, data filtering and cloud connectivity.

With this extension of our cloud platform, manufacturers have one software to manage a marketplace of applications and industrial drivers to enable their gateways to interact easily with machines and legacy equipment. We have brought our data cleansing and standardization to the gateway level. With LoopEdge, we seek to fill a gap in the IIoT stack, including enabling communication with a variety of legacy machines and devices, security for connected devices and managing edge applications.

Our platform can reduce bandwidth costs because it helps clients perform analytics and processing at the edge, which reduces the level of data sent to the cloud. Our early tests have shown bandwidth costs can be cut by as much as 40%.

With a secure edge-level solution to connect to nearly all industrial devices and systems, manufacturers can liberate, process and integrate the data from the factory floor into the cloud or on-premises enterprise systems in a new way.

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