The Adaptive Digital Factory: IoT Reference Architectures

The Adaptive Digital Factory: IoT Reference Architectures
"In order to create connections among organizational silos and improve the flow of value to customers, process flows must be digitized and operationalized."

Welcome to Part 7 of the Adaptive Digital Factory series. In Part 1 we covered the Industrial Internet and Industrie 4.0; Part 2 dealt with IoT and Supply Chain Transformation; Part 3 looked at the omni-device customer as well as the impact of these connected devices on manufacturers; and Part 4 focused the OODA loop for manufacturing: Insight to Action. Part 5 explored the digital transformation of Product Lifecycle Management. Part 6 offered a look a Dynamic Case Management and the Internet of Things within the adaptive factory.

In Part 7, we provide a high-level perspective on an important topic that has garnered a lot of attention, especially recently: IoT Reference Architectures (RA). This is not by any means a comprehensive treatment of this complex topic. We will highlight some proposals, provide references, and especially focus on what we believe to be the most important layer or component of the IoT RA that is closest to the business value of connected devices.

IoT – and especially the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) - is complex. Many components and technologies are used to support IoT/IIoT use cases end-to-end: from the Edges to the Enterprise - involving People, Processes, Analytics (from Thing Data) and of course Connected Devices. Functions such as Edge Communications and Security are essential components for IoT. There are multiple tiers from the edge networks, through the cloud, to the enterprise and people using IoT applications typically via mobile devices.

An IoT RA can help articulate the various models and components of IoT solutions promoting understanding, communication and collaboration between various stakeholders. Other advantages include interoperability and benchmarking. There are several proposed IoT RA architectures from a number of organizations: public as well as commercial.  Here are some highlights:

  • IoT-A: The IoT-A project was founded by the European Union and has developed the Architectural Reference Model (ARM) for the Internet of Things (IoT). The following illustrates the functional components of IoT-A:

  • Industrial Internet Consortium RA: We mentioned this important consortium in Part 1 of the ADF blog series. The IIC RA provides guidance covering all functional domains in industries leveraging IoT, including business, operations, applications, and especially controls involving connected devices. The following illustrates the functional domains of IIC RA:

  • The IoT World Forum Reference Model: The multi-layer architecture of the IoT World Forum is quite interesting as it illustrates the various layers from the edge all the way up to the most important layer, involving Business Processes and Collaboration.

Historically, manufacturing has had two different domains: operational and informational.

Operational Technology (OT) concentrates on assets or devices that need to be sensed, monitored, and controlled in real time, whereas Informational technology (IT) focuses on managing the portfolio of applications across the enterprise. In the Adaptive Digital Factory devices are becoming increasingly smart and automated for monitoring, maintenance, and continuous improvement. These devices, which may be human- or computer-controlled, are connected to the full suite of production IT applications. In order to create connections among the organizational silos and improve the flow of value to customers, process flows must be digitized and operationalized. These process flows are typically modeled and automated within Dynamic Case Management systems – which we elaborated on in the previous post.

Part 8 will go even deeper into Business Value of IoT implementations – building upon this RA discussion. For a sneak peek, check out the entire Adaptive Digital Factory eBook.