First in a series on IIoT, Industrial Internet and Industrie 4.0.

I attended the ARC Forum last month in Orlando, and the theme was what ARC has coined as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Theme does not accurately describe the emphasis. Every session was described in terms of the IIoT, and if the speaker did not bring up IIoT, the moderator from ARC did. Even a classic SCADA or DCS implementation that had been running for 5+ years was described as IIoT.

I’ve read the ARC white papers on the IIoT, talked with a few ARC Analysts, and reflected on my ARC experience, and my conclusion is that IIoT is a vacuous term of no value to the ICS community.

  1. The term IIoT has no value to traditional SCADA, DCS and ICS. The fact that ICS continues a decade long trend to move to digital communication and monitoring more data is important. Calling it IIoT does not help us understand, architect, deploy or secure it better.
  2. IIoT as a general term does not help us understand the benefits and requirements for the variety of use cases.

    This is probably the most important point. At the ARC Forum, IIoT was used as a generic term for anything control system or control system data related, and the importance of securing IIoT was almost always included generically in the discussion. Beyond saying that IIoT implementations should be “secure by design”, little guidance was provided or specifics discussed.

    In fact it is very hard to identify the security requirements for a general term that involves different confidentiality, integrity and availability requirements, involves a variety of trusted zone scenarios, different user scenarios, different physical environments, …In order for IIoT to be useful, it would need to be divided into use cases or a taxonomy developed. Good practice security controls could then be specified for a well defined use case. The problem with this approach is …
  3. Many of the more important use cases have a developing lexicon that IIoT makes less specific and more confusing.

    The example getting the most attention in the ARC documents is sending ICS data out so it can be analyzed for preventive maintenance and process efficiencies. There are tremendous opportunities in this growing field, but a set of terms are already developed around “the cloud” and “big data”. It is actually a step back to roll this up into a new general term that encompasses many other use cases with very different requirements.

The one area that IIoT might be an apt term for is vendor communication and interaction to consumer devices, but this is the Internet of Things (IoT).