IIoT and COVID-19: 5 Steps to Work Remotely in the New Normal

The way we work changed dramatically in the span of a few weeks because of the social distancing practices brought on by COVID-19. Companies that already used the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) adapted quickly to the new normal of working remotely and are better positioned to maintain their operations in the months to come.

Engineers and managers use the IIoT to access their facilities’ data remotely in real time. Solutions involving encrypted protocols free employees to work from any location on any mobile device. They can monitor and even control equipment remotely and securely. Employees with access to technology that utilizes OPC UA, MQTT/Kafka and HTML5 can be as productive at home self-isolating as they are in the office.

Setting up the IIoT for your operation can be done in five steps:

Readiness:

  1. Network: OPC UA is built on the TCP/IP stack. To access your business’ data, your control network will need to be connected via a firewall. Most importantly OPC UA uses a single firewall port. Your firewall administrator can help define the port and bind the client and server IP addresses.
  2. Servers: Check your automation systems for OPC UA capability. Several manufacturers have released this capability in their latest releases. If they do not support OPC UA, there are several solutions that can “wrap” OPC DCOM servers into the OPC UA protocol. This will ensure you are taking advantage of the security aspects of OPC UA.
  3. Clients: IT clients are also being released that support OPC UA. But if your client does not support it there are solutions that “proxy” your clients OPC DCOM into the OPC UA standard.
  4. Security: Select your security method for OPC UA. There are several security options to choose from, such as encryption, name/password and certificates. We recommend using a combination of all three options if both your client and server support it.

Implementation:

  1. If you have the first four items confirmed, then plan your implementation and start securely accessing your data.  

Remote access to systems enables companies to function in the new normal, ensuring less disruption to the economy and a faster economic recovery once the crisis passes. And more importantly the IIoT keeps people healthy and safe when they need to quarantine and practice social distancing.

Jared Goretzky has 18 years of Industrial IT & Automation system experience working with industry leading Oil & Gas, Chemical, Energy & Pharmaceutical companies. His current role is CEO and Principal Consultant at Critical Vector a leading group of ambitious Real Time Data Integration consultants based in Katy, Texas. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or send him an email. – April 29, 2020