How IIoT Standards Can Make Smart Cities Even Smarter

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How IIoT Standards Can Make Smart Cities Even Smarter

During the last 25 years or so, the internet has revolutionized how people communicate, what they do and how they work together. The next wave of the internet—the industrial internet of things (IIoT)—connects machines and devices into distributed, intelligent systems. These interconnected systems work together with speed, scale and capabilities and comprise everything from health care to transportation to building automation. But as our world becomes more connected, there is a growing requirement for standardized technology to enable interoperability between the systems and devices we rely on. This eWEEK slide show, based in industry information from Sunnyvale, Calif.-based RTI (Real-Time Innovations), explores standardization in the context of smart cities and explains how to evaluate and implement IIoT standards in an increasingly connected world.

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Why Are Standards Important?

World Standards Day is an annual event celebrated around the world to increase awareness of the role standards play in the global economy. Standards are of particular interest and focus in the IIoT due to the inherent need for commonality and connectivity in increasingly complex systems across diverse industries. As a result, numerous standard groups and consortia have emerged to help define these standards with the shared objective of interoperability. 

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System Integration Is the Key to Finding Value in IIoT

Traditionally, systems in key IIoT industries, including health care, transportation, energy and smart cities, were completely independent—procured and operated by different entities, and reliant on hardware and software from different vendors. Any information sharing across systems required complex and expensive integration software. However, as we move forward with IIoT implementations, much of the benefit will come from integrating systems across domains.

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A Smart City Integration Challenge

The value of integration is best illustrated by smart cities, which can consist of dozens of normally siloed departments. For example: A public hospital wants to use solar and wind energy sources to augment its diesel generators to provide uninterrupted power when the main power grid is unavailable. The hospital will use an IIoT system to manage power generators, but to do this, the system needs to integrate with the building automation system. To know whether it is safe to shut off the power to various locations or devices in the hospital, it needs to integrate with the distributed patient monitoring system. Integrating all three systems is a challenge with current proprietary power management, building automation and medical monitoring systems.

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Where to Start

To integrate systems in different industries and deliver on the promise of the IIoT, we need two things: interoperability across IIoT systems and integrated security. The Industrial Internet Consortium, a governing IIoT standards body, published the Industrial Internet Security Framework (IISF) and the Industrial Internet Connectivity Framework (IICF) to address these requirements and provide a reference architecture for real-world implementations. At the center of the reference architecture is a standards-based, core connectivity framework or bus. By bridging all devices, applications and subsystems to a core connectivity standard, interoperability is ensured, security is simplified and integration streamlined.

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Evaluating Standards

The IICF uses core connectivity standards criteria to evaluate several commonly used IIoT protocols. It identifies four standards that most closely meet the core connectivity criteria, and it also provides guidance for which types of IIoT systems they apply best. To ensure interoperation between systems, even from different industries, standard gateways between the core connectivity standards bridge two or more IIoT systems together.

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A Smart City Use Case

Let’s consider a potential smart city system use case. A heart disease patient at home develops an arrhythmia that sets off his/her connected pulse monitor, which sends an emergency alert to an ambulance service. As the ambulance makes its way through the city streets, the intelligent traffic system synchronizes the traffic lights along its path. In transit, real-time medical monitoring data is transmitted to the hospital emergency team prepping for the arrival of the patient. Once in the hospital, the patient’s monitoring devices automatically integrate into the hospital’s patient monitoring system.

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Standards and Smart Cities

For use case like the one in the previous slide, we have IIoT systems integrating across smart home, smart transportation and smart health care. Without the interoperability provided by a core connectivity architecture and core connectivity standards, integration will be expensive and brittle at best.

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Connecting and Standardizing the Future

Many IoT systems will be far-reaching and complex, requiring integration across myriad devices or things, functional subsystems and whole systems. Through the IIoT, we envision a more intelligent world—a world where our cars will talk to our street lights to decrease traffic, where our electricity will be optimized through smart power grids to enhance energy efficiency and where our loved ones will have smooth hospital visits due to connected medical systems. With standards, technical frameworks and innovation, we can work together to make cities smarter.

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