When Being Onsite Isn’t an Option: IIoT for Remote Sites

The recent Covid pandemic highlighted the need to be able to manage devices, equipment, and operational environments from remote locations. With the ability to travel greatly hindered, many organizations discovered the benefits of using industrial internet of things (IIoT) devices at the edge to communicate business critical information and situational awareness about everything from cell towers to office building HVAC systems.

However, it does not take a global catastrophe to understand that there are a growing number of applications where IIoT devices can replace expensive on-site visits. As organizations increasingly utilize unmanned sites – or sites with no IT or technical expertise – devices that can be remote eyes and ears play an important and growing role.

In today’s increasingly dispersed business environment, organizations are looking for ways to support remote sites without the need to deploy technicians for every alert. Fortunately, IIoT technology – both hardware and AI software – has emerged that can ‘be there’ when actual field visits are either too expensive or too dangerous. Here are some use cases that are rapidly growing the market for IIoT devices and the networks that connect them to the enterprise.

  • Telecommunications. The growing adoption of 5G cellular technology is fueling a spike in the number of both base stations and towers across the globe. These remote site locations are crucial parts of modern telecommunications infrastructure that must be monitored to ensure they have power, that they are connected to the backbone, that their radios are operating properly, and that vandalism has not affected their performance. Managing all this intelligence at the edge are IIoT devices which collect sensor and performance data and relay it in real-time back to the network operator. This proactive approach to endpoint management can help prevent a small problem from cascading into a major outage and ensure that promised service levels are being met.

  • Smart Buildings. As both commercial and residential buildings incorporate an increasing number of smart devices and sensors, real estate firms and facility management companies are utilizing IIoT devices to collect field data including environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity, CO2 l levels, and air quality, as well as situational awareness from devices such as perimeter security, HVAC, power generators, water leakage sensors , and structural health The collection of data from these sensors enable the analysis of real-time data that can be used to improve building energy efficiency and sustainability, reduce maintenance costs with predictive maintenance, and enhance tenant security, comfort and safety.
  • Utilities. Power, Water, Oil & Gas companies utilize remote sites such as substations, water treatment plants, oil well pads and remote offices that can span borders or continents. IIoT sensors and devices help ensure the optimization and efficiency of many operational technology (OT) systems by tracking anomalies in production or generation facilities as well as provide conditional and stateful reporting on the various elements that comprise an Industrial Control Systems (ICS) network. Combined with AI, sensor data can be part of a predictive maintenance plan that reduces both the cost of preventative maintenance and the need to constantly have technical staff supporting remote sites.

The Enterprise View

Why is remote IIoT so important now? The cost of inaction, while waiting for catastrophe to happen, is too great. Enterprises that neglect this approach to remote site management will incur more field visits and more costs overall when compared to IIoT adopters. Additionally, having access to more frequent and regular data from remote sites enables the implementation of predictive maintenance rather than having to wait for an outage – and it always is less expensive to fix something proactively during a service window, before it fails, than having to deal with it as an emergency.

From a competitive perspective, enterprises and utilities that use IIoT can turn remote site information into action to improve the reliability and operations of their entire network.

Service Provider Benefits

CSPs and other service providers can use IIoT to take preventative steps to help ensure they can deliver ‘always-on’ services. Many CSPs view IIoT as an opportunity to upgrade their services and add new offerings that leverage IIoT sensors across their customer network and enabling critical infrastructure operators to remotely configure, control, and manage physical assets and peripheral equipment inside and surrounding the base stations in real time, which can be a real growth area for service providers.

Keys to IIoT Success

There are several factors to consider when planning to deploy IIoT across a dispersed network including:

    - The ability to share information in real-time across a global network
    - Always-on network devices that deliver information 24/7
    - Secure connectivity for devices and those accessing them
    - A broad range of protocol support for both modern and legacy sensors
    - Automation and orchestration tools such as zero-touch provisioning (ZTP)
    - Device ruggedization for harsh environments
    - The ability to scale rapidly as needs evolve

The RAD difference

To meet these challenges, RAD offers an ‘all of the above’ approach, including the ability to host mission-critical applications and IIoT software on built in Edge Computing infrastructure, eliminating the need to stack boxes of all kinds for network and IIoT connectivity. RAD’s ‘software enabled architecture from core to edge translates to more flexible and scalable connectivity for IIoT, modern containerized IT, and legacy environments, all aggregated over a reliable, always on network.

Although many vendors offer great products for point solutions, only RAD provides a comprehensive, end-to-end approach and solution for modern IIoT deployments across a widely dispersed network environment. Want to learn more? Click here to see a demo video on IIoT for remote site monitoring.

— Michael Krieger, Light Reading Contributor for RAD

This content is sponsored by RAD.

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