Power Management

How to Provide Power Protection in an Industrial Internet of Things Environment

When we look at the Internet of Things as it relates to industrial environments we are, in most cases, making use of the same types of devices and controllers – the “things” – that have existed for years. What is changing is the way we are connecting to these “things” and the amount of data and intelligence we are extracting from them. As we truly begin to leverage the Industrial IoT (IIoT), that data becomes more and more critical to productivity and competitiveness. This means we need to ensure it is protected from a power delivery perspective.

It is rarely practical to provide complete backup power – meaning a UPS – for an entire process or operation in an IIoT environment. What is reasonable, however, is to provide backup power for the elements – the “things” as well as the network that connects to the “things” – that are responsible for collecting the intelligence that gives the IIoT its value. That job is not as difficult as you might think.

In an industrial environment, you generally have main power to the various machines and systems as well as segregated feeds for control power. That segregated feed delivers power for controllers (PLCs, DCS systems and such), networks, sensors and other input devices. The intent is to keep that power available if you ever lose or need to shut down the main power.

This dual power system is intended to enable control power to remain in place when the main power is disconnected, in order to provide more orderly shut-down and efficient system restarts. In a modern IIoT environment that control power path provides for the additional benefits of continuous access to data from web-enabled devices. It is often during events where the upstream main power is disabled – whether intentionally or not – that this data is most important.

With respect to the IIoT, it is that control network and associated intelligent data gathering elements that we are really concerned about protecting. The good news is that this constitutes a much lower level of power compared to the main process power, which makes protecting it with UPS systems far more feasible and worthwhile from a return on investment perspective.

Ensuring you back up the most critical elements in the IIoT environment requires examining the control power distribution scheme. In some cases, the control power can only be segregated at a local element of the process, such as in a control panel. In such a case, size a single small UPS to the power requirements of the various control systems, along with the network devices that support data transmission. Use manufacturer data on power requirements for each component in terms of watts or volt amps, then determine how long you need to back up the systems.

Other cases will allow for a centralized UPS, which is easier to manage and service, and allows for a higher degree of reliability. In the case of such a system, sizing UPS power requires you sum up the loads and come up with a figure for their total power draw. You should also try to create a power schedule, as well, considering loads that come in at different times and at varying levels.

Often, the most practical approach is to combine small local UPSs for control power to cover the intelligent devices – the “things” – with a more centralized system to provide for the IIoT network infrastructure. Most often this means incorporating UPSs into traditional rack-based environments in the form of edge compute and edge network elements. This approach also provides backup for network powered (PoE) devices.

The criticality of the process raises another UPS sizing question: Is the system or the data from the system critical enough that you need to maintain power during an extended outage or do you just need enough time to shut down the system safely, so you can bring it back up in an orderly fashion? The answer will dictate how much battery backup you need.

The same power protection concepts used in an industrial process environment also apply to other areas, such as building management systems (BMS), energy management systems (EMS) and power control systems (PCS) as well as security and access control systems. For a relatively small investment in UPSs, you get a significant return in terms of providing the kind of protection for the intelligence that the industrial IoT is delivering.

To learn more about the kinds of benefits the IIoT promises, and how to implement it in your own environment, check out the free Schneider Electric white paper, “The Industrial Internet of Things: An Evolution to a Smart Manufacturing Enterprise.”

Also, don’t miss out on this free webinar, Critical Power for an IoT Connected Environment, which will overview power protection strategies to ensure important data isn’t permanently lost during an outage.


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