The biggest shift in information technology (IT) the last several years has been the consumerization of IT driven by rapid adoption of smart phones and social media. And while the impact of billions of connected consumers is huge, there is another tech megatrend we’ve only begun to come to grips with: the Internet of Things comprised of smart, connected machines.
Cisco Systems is among the leading companies which have heralded the potential of the Internet of Things. According to Cisco, sometime between 2008 and 2009, the number of smart devices and machines hooked into the Internet exceeded the number of people using the Internet.
The biggest potential, Cisco believes, comes not just from connecting more machines or other “things” to the Internet, but the cumulative benefits of bringing together people, processes, data, and things to make networked connections more valuable. Cisco calls this concept “The Internet of Everything.”
Under the Internet of Everything, Cisco estimates that by 2020, 37 billion intelligent things will be connected to the Internet, spanning everything from smart machines and sensors in industrial settings, to micro-sensors in packaging or in clothing.
There are significant challenges involved in realizing the Internet of Everything’s potential. As Joseph Bradley, COO for Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group points out in this blog post, the hurdle goes beyond connectivity to getting “relevant data to the right people at the correct time.” To meet this challenge, Bradley believes industry will need to move toward “event-based intelligence” that is predictive.
Other observers of the Internet of Things say similar things—yes, we need smart machines and connectivity, but also need software for orchestration, event-processing, and Big Data analytics to make sense of it all. But there is another supporting requirement for the Internet of Things: having reliable power availability for these connected devices, and by virtue of that, a reliable, real-time information flow.
With the Internet of Things, we’re moving past an era when intelligence and computing is something that happens primarily in data centers and on client-side computing devices. Increasingly, intelligence will live “on the edge” in machines and objects. As a result, this “edge” needs to be protected.
This is where providers such as Schneider Electric are stepping in to offer Secure Power solutions that ensure high availability, efficient cooling for digitized equipment, and a reliable power infrastructure—all the way from the data center racks to the smart machines and digitized assets in the field. This involves expertise on several fronts: data center technology and monitoring systems, power protection and cooling equipment, knowledge of reliable electrical architecture, and integration with IT systems, building controls, and security systems.
This need to protect intelligence on the edge isn’t limited to only manufacturing verticals, it also extends to verticals such as healthcare, transportation, the marine industry, distribution facilities, or other sectors such as airports and rail systems. In these sectors and others, digitized equipment is generating a constant stream of information that should not be interrupted, lost or compromised.
Data security, of course, also is a concern as we enter this new era. According to a recent survey from Control Engineering, 46 percent of respondents reported the level of control system cyber security threat as high or severe, while 58 percent have performed a vulnerability assessment within the past year. But as the Internet of Everything takes hold, the key prerequisite is reliability. That stream of data flowing from machines to analytics is going to need to be always on, which raises the bar on power protection and availability infrastructure.