Industrial information technology (IIT) systems are typically robust and resilient to ensure availability of support for safety and production. However, industries can now leverage cloud services and systems to glean greater detail in near real-time from the data generated by their IIT systems, says communications services and solutions company BT’s Asia, Middle East and Africa energy and natural resources head Steve du Preez.
Using cloud services, typically initially adopted by the administrative sections of a business, enables industrial companies to unify their operations and manage their data and IIT security consistently. This sharing of data then enables firms to make data-driven decisions and provides ways to cost effectively deploy analytics solutions to support the commercial and industrial aspects of the business.
Owing to the critical nature of industrial systems to maintain safety and production, most of the I IT systems are hosted on site, as are most of the data and disaster recovery systems.
On-site systems include the robust, rugged and always available industrial-grade IT required by industries, including manufacturing, mining and mineral processing, says Du Preez, a process control engineer with 20 years’ experience in the industrial and mining industries.
IIT systems must function in difficult environmental conditions, such as extreme heat and humidity, and their architecture must be designed so that there are no single points of failure, he details.
Given the maturity of ruggedised IIT systems and their proven resilience, it is possible to securely use the new functionalities afforded by unified cloud systems, explains Du Preez.
“For example, unified, secure cloud connectivity in a factory or at a mine enables on-site personnel to get direct, real-time input from off-site experts and engineers through video streaming and information sharing. Such capabilities enable industries to ensure and improve their uptime and productivity, as well as use external personnel to oversee operations and automate various functions.”
Additionally, data from connected wearable safety devices and connected equipment, which is currently analysed by various on-site systems, can be shared and analysed in greater detail by high-end analytics engines – which are typically resource-intensive and, thus, off-site – to allow for improved predictive maintenance and forecasting to improve scheduling and optimise utilisation rates.
The Internet of Things is not a new concept to industry and process control engineers, as the synchronisation and coherent management of process flows using connected equipment have been done for decades, says Du Preez.
“The new capabilities come from leveraging the cloud-based systems to support and improve the existing industrial systems and provide new capabilities not previously deployed in production environments,” he highlights.
BT has significant experience of industry-specific best practices and regulatory requirements, as well as IIT systems. These best practices and standards have been applied to BT’s Cloud of Clouds vision to provide an industrialised cloud platform that companies can use. Additional standards can be applied if required by a company or different industries.
Further, companies do not have to change any of the systems they have in place to use cloud systems, and BT’s cloud platform interfaces with most IIT systems. The correct resilience and performance for the various critical systems can also be set on BT’s Cloud of Clouds platform.
“We are ready to roll out our cloud service in any industry and enable industrial companies to realise the opportunities presented by cloud systems,” concludes Du Preez.