The Key to Leveraging Industrial IoT Data? First Do No Harm
Dave Shuman, Cloudera’s industry leader for retail and manufacturing, had his first real exposure to technology when growing up on the Caribbean island of St. Croix. “I started at the age of 13 in radio. I still had a high squeaky voice,” recalled Shuman, whose speaking voice is now on the other end of the spectrum. Working in small-market broadcasting for about a decade forced Shuman to do a little bit of everything, including a variety of technical tasks such as working on the radio transmitter tower to maintaining databases for music collections. After grad school, he landed leadership roles at enews.com, a web-based magazine retailer founded in the mid-1990s scooped up by Barnes & Noble in the early 2000s, and senior roles at Vision Chain, a retail-focused data analytics company.
Shuman says the current state of IoT adoption reminds him of the early days of the web. “When we started to pioneer the internet, we focused on technological challenges. You couldn’t find people to build web pages.” In those early days of the internet, web developers were more focused on which version of HTML they were using or the types of browsers than they were about the business opportunities the internet could unlock. “I feel that is where we are with IoT right now. We are still talking about the technology: bandwidth and connectivity and the protocols,” Shuman said. “We haven’t reached that pivot where we are thinking about this in terms of microservices and applications versus the technology to connect it.”
And while the technological hurdles tied to business-focused IoT projects are real, Shuman believes it shouldn’t necessarily be difficult for enterprise and industrial organizations to leverage IoT data to begin to fundamentally change their operations. “We as an industry are overcomplicating things. If you break it down into its component pieces, this is relatively simple. We have things. We need to collect data from those things in a way that is not going to interfere with operations,” he said.
In the following Q&A, Shuman shares his perspective on how organizations should leverage the power of IoT data, some of the most common stumbling blocks he sees in the IIoT sector and his thoughts on why the mining sector is a trailblazer when it comes to tapping IoT data.
What is your view of the how industrial companies, in general, of the main challenges of integrating IoT and data analytics into industrial environments?
Shuman: The first challenge you might encounter when you are getting into industrial areas is that they are typically air-gapped. You don’t just go in and put your IoT technology in the middle of that network because you would interfere with the entire timing of how the network is configured.
Within industrial environments, our first rule of thumb is: do no harm. You need to be able to [integrate your new technology] in the environment without impacting the performance and availability of that environment. Once you prove you can do that, you can move beyond the level where you are just connecting an IoT-oriented architecture into a protected network. That takes time. In recent factory environments I’ve had to go into, punching a single port opening to take MQTT messaging out of an OT network, we had to prove in fact that you could not talk to the device externally. The device itself has to initiate all communications northbound to a hub. We also had to prove that southbound communications were not breachable. Once we showed that, then we can start collecting kinds of data. But in certain instances, it took twelve months of work to show you can integrate a new IT-oriented device into the OT architecture in a way that does no harm.