As automation and IT come together, industrial operations must meet special needs for real-time control as well as data requirements of execution and enterprise systems. To design, build, and maintain a more operationally-simple performance, as well as a secure computing architecture, one must understand application-architecture relations. Below are examples of the strengths and challenges within 4 application-architectures.

In the typical 3-Layer IoT architecture, the bottom layer, or On-Machine layer, accommodates a mixture of simple and complex sensors. These sensors collect data, sending it to a gateway system located in the middle – the On-Property layer. The data is then processed and travels to the top layer at the Cloud to be stored and analyzed.

Use Case 1: Oil and Gas

On-Machine: At this layer within oil and gas, the sensors are placed in a harsh environment. Sensors such as values and pumps might be remote or out in the field, where they must run on battery and have limited connectivity.

On-Property: On this layer, there are often many different legacy systems and long-lived equipment. As a result, since it is unlikely that such equipment will need to be replaced, how new IoT systems will be retrofitted must be taken into consideration.

Cloud: Up at the top layer, the focus is efficiency and safety. Getting visibility on the entire distribution system is vital to to keep the system at peak utilization.

Use Case 2: Life Sciences

On-Machine: This is a clean-lab-condition with plenty of power available to sensors. Depending on the location of environment, there can be a combination of off-the-shelf and custom-made sensors. Furthermore, it’s not as likely that the sensors will be battery powered.

On-Property: At this layer, it’s all about custom process control. It is critical that at this stage that things are kept at exact temperatures, correct times, and precise measurements.

Cloud: Up at the cloud it is very similar to what’s happening at the gateway. There must be regulatory compliance and traceability of all the process controls. At this stage, it’s less likely you’ll have communication or power level difficulties like you would in an oil and gas situation.

Use Case 3: Utilities  

On-Machine: In this harsh environment there is a mixture of new and old technology, such as smart meters and highly fault-tolerant occupancy/demand sensors to measure use and reduce waste.

On-Property: At this level, newer technology, such as micro grids or substation management come into play. This will help with load balancing and bringing in alternative generation.

Cloud: Within a utility project, there is a focus on improving efficiency for proper load balancing, lowering environmental impact, and monitoring entire health of a network for the cloud level.

Use Case 4: Transportation

On-Machine: Because this area consists of century-old technology such as auto, rail, and air, sensors must be developed to pull information for each unique instance. This adds to the preexisting difficulties of this layer – namely, being within a very large, harsh environment. These sensors could be cameras, smart roads, GPS, LIDAR and more. However, similarly to life science projects, transportation environments have plenty of power available to sensors.

On-Property: This gateway are the vehicles themselves such as trains, cars, trucks, airplanes, etc. Unlike the previous use cases, at this level the unit, or vehicle, must remain fully capable of operation without connection to a cloud.

Cloud: Within transportation, the cloud is responsible for asset tracking, weather and traffic monitoring, vehicle health, as well as preventative maintenance.

The various tasks that can be done within the On-Property layer will affect how it’s processed to the cloud, and each use case has mission critical requirements. However, the way they manifest themselves turns into requirements for your IoT systems. For example, the type of environment in which the sensor is stored can affect the type of pressure, processing, etc. you’ll need. To understand how to determine the best edge computing infrastructure for your needs, watch the webinar IIoT & Edge Computing Architectures based on Application – Use Cases & Lessons from the Field.