How to preserve network bandwidth with IIoT edge IPCs
The industrial internet of things (IIoT) and edge PCs are the
buzzwords in industrial automation. Discussions about IIoT,
however, often overlook the sheer amount of data that is potentially
being generated by all those devices. In addition, all this data
needs to be securely transmitted to and from the millions of devices
already deployed today.
It’s all about the data
In traditional automation systems, all the data is usually transmitted
to a centralized data processing location, such as a central server
or larger industrial computer (IPC). This requires a wired or wireless
network connection. For distributed IIoT systems in remote
areas, such as water pumping stations, oil fields, or similar assets,
this might be an issue.
Providing you pass this first hurdle, the second one may be available
bandwidth. If large amounts of data are being transmitted, it will
reduce available network bandwidth and cause associated data
delays or latency; or in the case of a network issue, it may prevent
communication altogether. Lastly all this data needs to be
protected from unauthorized access.
With compact IIoT-ready industrialized computers, you can
distribute the processing power to the edge of the internet, also
known as “the edge” for short. More importantly, you can reduce,
or possibly eliminate, the transmission of large amounts of data
via the cloud with the help of edge PCs that reside in remote
Save the data
With an intelligent edge device, such as an edge IPC, you will no
longer exclusively rely on a network connection to initiate crucial
action remotely. The edge IPC will process and control the data
locally, which also increases the speed of execution for critical
processes by eliminating network latency.
Obviously, having a network connection via the cloud to and
from these remote edge devices can be beneficial. It is no longer
mandatory to be ultra-high speed, as any mission-critical tasks can
be performed locally. This reduces the amount of data transmitted
over the cloud, so it can help reduce the data volume, keep it more
secure, and ultimately, lower the cost of data transmission itself. It
also frees up the available bandwidth for other critical processes.
Combine that with the potential for a lower-cost data plan, and
you can achieve significant cost savings over the life span of the
Energy-efficient, rugged and secure
Edge devices are often deployed in remote locations such as
water/wastewater plants, pump stations in oil and gas applications,
or in kiosks providing services to consumers. While the edge
device is not directly exposed to the elements, it needs to be
capable of handling the environmental conditions and provide
24/7 operation. Passively cooled, ruggedized “fanless” IPC
systems featuring solid-state drives also eliminate any rotating
parts, increasing uptime. Lastly a wide input voltage range and
energy-efficient operation help in applications where the power
is limited or comes from renewable energy sources.
Wired or wireless network connections can help to connect
these remote devices to a central server for heartbeat or other
diagnostics functions. While there is technically no need to
transmit large amounts of data to a central location, it helps to
monitor the remote assets for proper operation or predictive
maintenance. If a network connection is needed, it needs to be
secure. Features like integrated hardware encryption such as
Trusted Platform Module support (TPM 2.0) and secure boot
mechanisms should be part of an edge IPC’s capabilities to prevent
unauthorized data access. While these features do not replace
antivirus/anti-malware software and dedicated hardware firewalls,
they do provide an additional layer of security.
An example of such an edge IPC is the new, ultra-compact
embedded BL2 BPC 1500 box IPC series from Phoenix Contact.
It is the perfect fit for IIoT edge applications, small machine control,
or decentralized data collection/processing in remote assets.
The future is here
With IIoT in full swing, the deployment of edge IPCs has already
started. Companies need to meet stricter regulations for monitoring
and collecting data in the future, so the number of such devices
will grow even further as more edge applications are deployed.
Preserving bandwidth by using remote IIoT edge devices like the
BL2 BPC 1500 is crucial. Keeping the network connection secure is
existential. Now is the time to review your edge automation needs
and to future-proof them. This will ensure that your distributed
assets will operate reliably and securely for their intended service