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How product safety will define the success of Industry 4.0/IIoT

26 June 2017

As Industry shifts go, it’s hard to think of one as exciting or defining as Industry 4.0 and IIoT. Yet with any advancement in technology it’s important to ensure that product safety remains a cornerstone. What will the landscape for product safety in a disruptive technology look like, and how far will product safety go in defining the success of Industry 4.0?

As Industry shifts go, it’s hard to think of one as exciting or defining as Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).  

With digitization of equipment affecting all industries, from automation and process control to upstream oil and gas and every sector in between, IIoT is a rapidly growing movement that’s set to see the number of connected devices rise to 22 billion by 2021. 

Forecasts suggest that IIoT investment will make up as much as 40% of some organisations’ capex budgets as businesses embrace the opportunities of digitization. 

You only have to visit industry events such as the recent Hannover Messe fair in Germany to see that Industrial companies large and small are designing products and solutions under IIoT for the benefit of business efficiencies. The challenge now is how Industry will collaborate to ensure the continued benefit of IIoT, and how product safety is maintained. 

Collaboration is the key to Industry 4.0 
Industry 4.0 can be characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical and digital spheres, building on the so-called 3rd revolution and the use of electronics and information technology to automate production. As such, it’s seen as a ‘disruptive technology’ - but with disruption comes the opportunity for solutions and collaboration for the benefit of industry. 

The opportunity for collaboration is perhaps one of the most single important aspects of IIoT. Rather than developing solutions in isolation, IIoT has seen industrial automation companies come together to collaborate. GE’s collaborations with the likes of Bosch Software, and merger with Baker Hughes, or Rockwell Automation’s collaboration with Cisco, are examples of organisations partnering to share ideas and advancements for the benefit of IIoT. 

The real value of IIoT
Looking specifically at the automation industry it’s clear to see that the possibilities for the sector driven by advanced digital capabilities are monumental: with a combination of advanced sensors, predictive analytics on real-time and historical data, and expertise from diagnostics engineers. Digitization truly is the single largest step change for the industry and the foundation for its future.
Virtual manufacturing is one such example. This technology helps bridge the gap between engineering and manufacturing by way of digital tools. It brings efficiencies in terms of reducing manufacturer cycles and costs.
Sensor enabled technology is also a boom – adding sensors to equipment provides real time data back to a remote source, which can then be analyzed in a way that wasn’t possible before. This creates the possibility to detect issues before they happen, reducing downtime as a result.  

How Safety will define the success of IIoT
With any advancement in technology it’s important to ensure that product safety remains a cornerstone in any development process.

Whilst safety protocols for IIoT equipment already exist within the Industrial Ethernet, from a product safety standardization perceptive, the challenges come when product advances outpace safety standards development. Then there’s the potential risk of fitting sensors to existing ‘redundant’ equipment to make these machines IIoT capable. In this scenario, the certified-design and safety parameters of the machine may be invalidated by making the device IIoT ready. 

Functional Safety for both hardware and software (to standard IEC 61508 and its associated standards) and Cybersecurity (e.g. vulnerability and penetration testing) are also now defining factors when it comes to building in safety of an IIoT device. 
These aspects (and more) need to be carefully considered as early on in the design phase as possible.  

Understanding these factors, building them into the development process, and giving them the same investment and consideration as all other aspects of Industry 4.0 design, will allow product safety to help define the success of Industry 4.0.

CSA Group in the Digital Age
We’ve recognized that the world is changing at an unprecedented rate, driven by, amongst other things, the reality of the Internet of Things. It brings change and complex new challenges that were not part of our lives of yesterday. At CSA Group’s core is public safety, which is now more critical than ever when you factor in disruptive technologies and the accelerated rate of change. 

We’ve built on our 100 year heritage and are a forward looking organization that can deliver excellence in the new world, embracing disruption and the opportunities for collaboration.  Our Cybersecurity and Functional Safety services, for example, are designed to provide the solutions needed to support our customers in the digitized world.  

This focus on ensuring CSA Group is able to support manufacturers to bring innovation into the world is based on becoming strategic partners with our customers – collaborating and advising early on in the process and looking for efficiency and cost gains in the safety certification cycle. 

At CSA Group, we look forward to providing solutions that will take us all on the journey successfully.

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