If you have an asset base that runs into hundreds, thousands or more and you want to connect them to an Industrial IOT platform as a service there are a few key questions you will need answering. For example:
Does this platform really work? What’s the evidence? What’s the installed user base? What sort of comm’s protocols will it handle? What happens when comm’s are interrupted? Is it multi national [not just language but date stamping events, storage of data, and of course language as well]? What about Cyber security – is it hackable? What’s the evidence? And crucially how easy is it to configure, deploy and scale?
And a host more besides!
We have been providing industrial IOT systems for over a decade now [it wasn’t called IoT back then, but remote monitoring!]. We provide end-to-end IIOT hardware solutions to industrial customers, including many global blue chips. We also provide access to our CDL SmartHub portal for clients who have quantities of already installed hardware – Platform as a Service.
This means you can tap into the know-how we have developed over 10 years as a company and hundreds of man-years experience from our own employed software, firmware, server and support engineers. And the thousands of installed systems with millions of reporting data events every day.
So taking the above questions in turn:
Does this platform as a service really work? Whats the evidence?
Ask your prospective partner to hook up a couple of your units to demonstrate. CDL often get involved in this and it proves really useful to us to understand your needs and your equipment. We like to think it helps you by seeing live [and with minimum fuss] how your product looks on-line. It will quickly become obvious what the evidence and knowledge base is. In CDL’s case this often shows up in the speed with which we can get equipment talking, demonstrate immediate analytics and quickly start specifying your exact needs for refinement of the basic system. If your assets have existing comms output we can take that directly to our SmartHub. If not our NanoULTRA Edge will act as a gateway
Whats the installed user base?
Interrogate your proposed platform supplier about their user base. Talk to some actual users. There are a couple of angles here: firstly the breadth of experience across different hardware and comms options. Secondly, about the user experience in terms of support, UI/UX of the product, on-going relationships with the supplier. In CDL case our declared mission is “to help power our customers businesses through our technology”, and we think intuitively about the lifetime value of our relationship with our customers, and they with their customers – not just the next sale! You can check out some of our client reviews here.
What sort of Comm’s protocols will it handle? And what happens when they are interrupted?
Quiz your prospective partner about this. If your existing hardware already has comms capability it is vital you can use this undiluted without having to add intermediate devices with all the cost and potential for blame sharing when there are problems. We are rather agnostic when it comes to comms protocols. Its one of the reasons we can quickly hook up devices for demo’s and discussions of next stages, regardless of the inbuilt comms protocols. So whether its Modbus, Canbus; serial, digital, analogue or any other flavour of outputs, we’ll probably be able to work with it.
But what happens when the comms get interrupted? With many devices and over time it is going to happen! Ask your proposer what happens to the data, if your devices have on board storage how does it get up loaded at the next report in? What happens when or if it is overwritten? If you have a failure to report or a data corruption how will the platform manage that – and let you know?
Is it multi national?
Check out your proposed partners international experience [if you yourself are international]. Its not just the languages – although that is of course important. So while we’re on it, how are the languages maintained, how easy it to add new ones? How does the system cope with international date and time stamps? Will recipients of analytics automatically get their graphics and alerts in local time zones? And for that matter can you chose between SI and imperial units of measurement? CDL have systems in 15 countries and many of our key accounts that have helped us grow over the years are multinationals, so its in our DNA.
What about Cyber security – is it hackable? Whats the evidence?
A whole topic on its own, but you do need to discuss things like password policies and security. Is Multi factor authentification relevant? Where and how is data stored? For how long and who owns it? In our case it is always the client who owns it, we are the custodians, and use AWS cloud. When did your prospective partner last do a pen test? How good is their operational resilience? How are your assets going to talk to the Platform as a Service? Is this a point of weakness – if we use our NanoULTRA Edge we are sure its not, as the unit has no available ports and no operating system, so nothing to attack, and uses its own microcontroller to manage the outwardly initiated communication process to our servers via a modem.
How easy is it to configure, deploy and scale?
Ask to explore other user sites with numbers of devices/users similar to yours. Quiz the architecture for systems administration functionality – can you mirror your actual operating structure so the information and analytics can really be used in your organisation as is? You may want a variety of dashboards serving different levels from field technicians, through team management up to board level oversight. Where is data actually stored [local servers, AWS, etc] and where does that take you in terms of security/uptime etc.?
As you can see there is a lot to consider. The key message here is not about the technical answers or ways of doing things but about the need to find a partner to work with you who “gets all this” and lives and breathes it. This means you reduce your risks and increase your probabilities of successful implementation via an Industrial Platform as a Service. Take a look at our purpose video for more on how we work with our clients.