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The digital ecosystem known as the Industrial Internet of Things has resulted in an explosion of available information in the industrial environment, resulting in the ability for smarter decision making. Servelec Technologies is developing platforms to securely harness, channel and utilise IIoT data as part of a smart network.

What is the IIoT?

More than a buzz phrase, the Industrial Internet of Things is reshaping automation, engineering and infrastructure. Many low cost and previously dumb devices are now capable of capturing and publishing information about their operation in real time. By harnessing and distributing the wealth of data created by previously unconnected, non-automated processes and equipment, companies can collect and analyse operational data from all areas of their business, which drives efficiencies and reduces costs.

How Servelec Technologies is enabling the IIoT

Servelec Technologies, a market-leading global provider of end-to-end hardware and software products and systems, is building IIoT capabilities into its industry leading RTU products. Traditionally RTUs have been ‘edge’ devices capable of monitoring, marshalling and transferring data from the operational technology (OT) environment. Therefore an RTU is the perfect vehicle to marshal and collect all the additional data available through IIoT devices and securely transfer it to the information technology (IT) environment for analysis.

How IIoT data is collected and distributed

IIoT data is commonly made available using a publish / subscribe model.  A device publishes the information type that it provides and then a consumer subscribes to the data.  One common publish / subscribe data communications transfer protocol is MQTT. MQTT is a machine-to-machine (M2M) data transfer protocol that has cemented its position as the de facto messaging protocol for IIoT applications. MQTT has many advantages including:

  • It is lightweight
  • Uses report-by-exception (RBE)
  • Works on a publish/subscribe model
  • Has bi-directional capabilities
  • Has minimal bandwidth requirements for remote monitoring
  • Is suitable for industrial control systems
  • Is product independent

The advantages of MQTT as a data transfer protocol over protocols that operate a poll / response model, which tend to saturate data connections with unchanging data are clear and make it ideal for IIoT devices.  MQTT can be encrypted with TLS (Transport Layer Security) / SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) to provide secure lightweight communications for IIoT devices.

Using a remote telemetry unit (RTU) as an ‘edge’ OT IIoT gateway device

Servelec Technologies' TBox LT2 all-in-one Remote Telemetry Unit (RTU) is being developed as an MQTT-based edge/gateway device for marshalling and transferring data securely from remote OT devices to a company’s IT infrastructure.   For remote networks with IIoT devices that are not easily accessible over traditional networks the TBox LT2’s 3G / 4G capabilities will be utilised. Additionally using the TBox LT2 as an MQTT gateway device would allow:

  • Logic processing to be performed in the RTU
  • The control of field-based devices
  • Data to be locally timestamped and stored, guaranteeing delivery into the IT environment
  • Secure data transfer using TLS / SSL encryption and authentication of the MQTT data

Other LT2 features:

SCADA as an IIoT gateway

For larger remote networks, organisations may benefit from using a SCADA system as an ‘edge’ device to marshal and securely transfer data to the IT environment.  Using a SCADA system as an OT / IT gateway utilising the MQTT IIoT data transfer protocol would be a highly scalable data gateway, which would scale from marshalling 100 to 10,000 IIoT devices.