Author: wang yuan, senior researcher of iot lab, suning institute of finance
Recently, the ministry of industry and information technology, the ministry of finance and other ministries and commissions have issued the industrial Internet development action plan (2018-2020), the industrial Internet special working group’s work plan for 2018 and the industrial transformation and upgrading fund work guide for 2018, and many other industrial support policies aimed at promoting the development of industrial Internet, which have attracted wide attention from the market.
The industry generally believes that with the rise of industrial Internet as China’s “manufacturing power” national strategic height, as well as the continuous implementation of industrial support policies, the industrial Internet will enter a period of rapid development.
Here, the author needs to point out that although the development of industrial Internet will add wings to the “curve overtaking” of China’s manufacturing industry, how far it can fly depends on the support of the three major industrial Internet technology standards.
Let’s start with what the industrial Internet is, and learn about its past, present and future.
What is industrial Internet?
There are many expressions about the industrial Internet and the official definition is —
Industrial Internet is the key infrastructure linking the whole industrial system, the whole industrial chain and the whole value chain, supporting the development of industrial intelligence. It is a new type of industry and application mode formed by the deep integration of the new generation of information technology and manufacturing industry. It is the expansion of Internet from the consumption field to the production field, from the virtual economy to the core carrier of real economy.
Essentially, the essence of industrial Internet is based on the network interconnection among machines, raw materials, control systems, information systems, products and people. Through comprehensive depth perception of industrial data, real-time transmission and exchange, rapid computing processing and advanced modeling analysis, the change of production organization modes such as intelligent control and operation optimization is realized.
How is the industrial Internet different from the Internet?
As shown in fig.1, compared with the Internet architecture, the industrial Internet has an additional layer of edge layer involved in the access of devices such as sensors, that is, the process of mapping the physical world to the electronic world is more conceptually. Compared with the Internet, the essence of it is the interaction and sharing of electronic information completely online. Therefore, the industrial Internet is different from the Internet in terms of access standards, business model, network topology and data characteristics. The following is a brief analysis:
- Degree of standardization
In terms of Internet applications, HTTP and HTTPS protocols have become the unified application layer access protocol. With the help of the underlying TCP/IP protocol family, users access to the Internet using a browser and use DNS identity resolution services, which can effectively search and locate to the designated website, and then complete information acquisition.
The development of mobile Internet makes mobile App form another kind of access entrance, but its essence still follows the principle of MVC, the design architecture of Internet web application, and the industry is highly standardized.
Compared with the Internet, the fragmentation of industrial Internet standards is more prominent. First of all, compared with the Internet which is a pure IT network, the industrial Internet involves the integration of IT network and OT network, so IT naturally needs to integrate multiple communication protocols and standards. Secondly, the IP degree of industrial Internet cannot be the same as that of the Internet, and multiple application protocols coexist, such as MQTT, CoAP, Modbus, PROFIBUS, private TCP/UDP, etc. Most edge devices cannot support the HTTP protocol family, which is also a reflection of the differentiation of computing power of edge devices. Finally, there is no unified identification resolution service like DNS in terms of devices and service addressing in the industrial Internet. The resolution service is similarly standard fragmentation. For example, Handle, OID, Ecode, etc. are respectively initiated by different organizations.
- Business model
The Internet industry belongs to the asset-light industry, while the industrial Internet involves equipment investment, that is, fixed assets and inventory management, which belongs to the asset-heavy industry.
Compared with the high-frequency updating of Internet technology which iterates every three years on average, the industrial Internet technology iteration needs to occur at both the side-end devices and servers. It involves not only the upgrade of upper-level application software, but also the upgrade of firmware and even hardware, the cost of technology upgrade and the security and stability. Qualitative is double high threshold, many enterprises have to compromise on the advanced technology.
Due to the high cost and high risk of technology upgrading, enterprises are more cautious in pre-research and selection of industrial Internet technology. After all, compared with Internet technology, the design cycle of industrial Internet (IIOT) is generally longer.
- Network topology and system composition
Since the traditional Internet adopts the HTTP communication mechanism built on TCP/IP and USES B/S or C/S mode, it has low sensitivity and dependence on network topology. Most of its communication transformation is port forwarding, which basically does not involve protocol transformation.
Gateway based multi-protocol transformation of industrial Internet is gaining universal application, such as the data acquisition and transformation module Predix Machine introduced by GE. Because the communication of the upper and lower layers of the system depends on the gateway, the industrial Internet is more sensitive to the network topology than the Internet. At the same time, due to the access of many devices, the data grows exponentially, but the transmission bandwidth is limited. Therefore, edge computing nodes are more necessary in industrial Internet deployment than the Internet.
- Data characteristics
Compared with the Internet, industrial Internet has completely different data characteristics. As an example, table 1 below illustrates the comparison of data characteristics between industrial Internet and Internet.
As shown in table 1, different data characteristics directly lead to different emphasis on system architecture design, which is one of the reasons why Internet architecture cannot be directly applied to IIOT (industrial Internet). The following examples are listed here:
(1) Concurrent connections. Because the IIOT has more concurrent access, it means that the industrial Internet access design needs to adopt asynchronous communication access. Compared with Web access, many mature architectures focus on synchronous communication.
(2) Data timing. The data accessed by IIOT has a very strong chronological order. The data generation frequency is fast, the number of measurement points is large, and the amount of data is huge. Traditional relational database cannot satisfy the effective storage and processing of time series data, so special time series database such as InfluxDB should be used.
(3) Data correlation. Compared with the Internet, IIOT has a wide range of data dimensions and types. Since it is time series data, there is a strong correlation between data for emergencies. This requires the system architecture to support data fusion in order to deeply explore the correlation between data and better support the upper business system decision making.
(4) Delay tolerance. The delay of industrial Internet is much higher than that of Internet because it involves OT network and real-time control. Therefore, system delay often requires planning and design from the side end equipment. For example, Linux, a soft real-time operating system, sometimes fails to meet the requirements.
By understanding the differences between the above industrial Internet and the Internet and thinking about the future of the industrial Internet, we may be able to deeply understand its significance to the development of industrial manufacturing and even the country.
The future of the industrial Internet
At present, with the continuous deep integration of network information technology and industry and the continuous drive of new industrial forms of digitalization, networking and intellectualization, the industrial Internet has become an important sector of the world’s major industrial countries to seize international manufacturing competition, and also become a common choice for countries to seek new economic growth points.
The current global industrial Internet pattern, led by the United States, Germany and Japan, has led the advance of industrial Internet by leading enterprises and rapidly promoted the development of global industrial Internet.
In China, industrial Internet platform provides excellent historical opportunity of “curve overtaking” for China’s manufacturing industry. At present, industrial Internet has become a national strategy of China’s “manufacturing power” and gradually covers various fields, such as medical treatment, factories, infrastructure and so on.
At the same time, the industrial Internet has also brought many new changes to the financial field. For example, it can provide basic information services for the industry supply chain finance, effectively solve the problem of information opacity, directly facilitate the credit granting and risk assessment of financial institutions to enterprises, and then solve the financing problems of enterprises.
The forerunner of industrial Internet
At present, more than 150 industrial Internet platforms have provided e-works statistics. According to different manufacturers’ backgrounds, industrial Internet platforms can be divided into three categories: ICT, industry and entrepreneurship. According to platform positioning, they can also be divided into three categories: asset optimization, resource allocation and general enabling
enterprises, such as Siemens and San Yi Gen Yun, focus on asset optimization. Enterprises like Haier or Meidi focus on the allocation of resources positioning; ICT enterprises such as Alibaba, Amazon and Huawei generally attach importance to the positioning of general enablement. In addition, most entrepreneurial teams are emerging from ICT and industrial enterprises, covering all three types of platforms.
To be sure, from industrial companies such as Siemens, trinity root cloud industry with the help of the Internet platform for the industry, with a better understanding of the fusion of the IT network and OT network level has certain advantages, general can make positioning of industrial Internet platform because of its in cloud computing, big data and software services has accumulated more experience, more competitive in its industry foreign data network.
However, with the cross-border cooperation between ICT enterprises and industrial enterprises, the demarcation of industrial Internet platforms is beginning to blur. For example, schneider’s EcoStruxure industrial Internet platform is based on Microsoft Azure and MindSphere is based on SAP’s Cloud Foundry open source architecture.
Further, to be more specific, we can also classify and compare more carefully according to the differences between domestic and foreign industrial Internet platforms in deployment mode, operation mode, main functions and application scenarios, as shown in table 3 and table 4, from which we can see the different emphasis of each platform on functions.
Key technology of industrial Internet
From now on, China’s industrial Internet construction is in line with manufacturing powers in Europe, America and Japan. Our country also attaches great importance to the “China made 2025”, “Internet +” and “13th Five-Year plan”, “deepening the guidance of the integration of manufacturing and the Internet”, and deepening the “Internet + advanced system”. In the “Guiding Opinions on the Development of Industrial Internet” and other strategies, it is clearly proposed to strengthen the construction of industrial Internet.
However, it needs to be pointed out that the industrial Internet (IIOT), different from the Internet and also from the traditional Internet of things (IOT), is a special application of the Internet of things in the industrial field. It is a platform product, and the platform product is born with high adhesion and high migration cost, so choosing the appropriate industrial Internet platform is crucial for enterprise technology upgrading.
As far as I am concerned, an excellent industrial Internet platform supports the following three key industrial Internet technology standards, so as to be technologically advanced and expansible in the future:
- OPC Unified Architecture standard
The OPC UA standard is the communication standard protocol and data semantic definition standard of the industrial Internet OT network. Using OPC UA technology, data conversion between different protocols from different sources, such as industrial Ethernet, industrial bus and other physical connected devices, sensors, PLC, control system and management software can be realized. At the same time, support for the OPC UA standard will facilitate the integration of the OT and IT networks.
- IEEE Time Sensitive Network (TSN)
Any network, as long as it processes multi-source time series data, needs to have unified time cognition, namely unified global time. The traditional Internet and consuming-level Internet of things (iot) use the GPS based reference clock in the network and use the NTP clock synchronization algorithm to synchronize the time of the whole network. The accuracy is generally in seconds. However, due to the need for real-time control of the industrial Internet, the required time accuracy is often in microseconds, which requires more accurate synchronization algorithms. For example, the TSN network proposed by the IEEE is an industrial Internet standard with universal precision timing synchronization (gPTP) algorithm, which solves two problems:
(1) Fragmentation of industrial communication standards. The standard defines Ethernet as the unified physical layer wired links connecting OT network and IT network, and integrates IT and OT in the wired network access layer combined with the aforementioned OPC UA.
(2) General time synchronization algorithm gPTP based on Mac layer. The 802.1as time synchronization standard defined by STN can be applied to both wired and wireless networks, and the synchronization accuracy reaches the level of microseconds, which well meets the demand of industrial Internet for time control accuracy. As shown in the green box in figure 2, embedded real-time operating systems have begun to support PTP/gPTP time synchronization algorithms.
The natural matching between the massive addressing space of IPv6 protocol and the massive base of IOT equipment is the future standard agreement of industrial Internet IP layer.
It is worth mentioning that most of the new generation of embedded real-time operating systems have native ipv6-compatible RPL routing protocol (see figure 3), which provides operating system level support for IP layer communication between underlying heterogeneous protocols.
The above briefly introduces the core technology of the future development of industrial Internet. As the country further promotes industrial upgrading, innovation and new economic drivers, and with the continuous input of major technology manufacturers into the industrial Internet, the industrial Internet, as the basic platform for intelligent manufacturing, will play an increasingly crucial role in the development of the whole manufacturing industry.
When everything is interconnected and enterprises are IIOT, will new business models and financial financing methods emerge in society? Let’s wait and see!