Author: Daniel Ehrenreich, SCCE, Consultant and Lecturer on OT Cybersecurity
Nowadays we see huge number of smart devices spread across city operations, which are designated as Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial IIoT (IIoT). But what are IoT or IIoT? Are they simply devices, or computers …? This question was not clearly answered and due to that, many people still believe that all connected devices via Ethernet are IoT, and this is obviously an incorrect statement. Furthermore, we shall not say neither IoT nor IIoT, but say IoT Ecosystem and IIoT Ecosystem. Many endpoint devices which are simply controlled, are not part of an IoT/IIoT Ecosystem.
IoT and IIoT Ecosystems may handle monitoring and managing of public assets, transportation systems, power plants, water supplies, information systems, supply chain, banking, schools, private services and other community services. In order creating an Ecosystem there must be always a cloud-based service provider which add unique operating and cost benefits.
Mandatory conditions for being part of an “Ecosystem”
Prior to diving into a list of smart city examples, it is critical to explain what are the mandatory preconditions for creating an IoT and/or IIoT Ecosystem. Obviously, there must be a sensor that delivers data to a cloud-based service provider, which process this data along with additional (sometimes proprietary data). The output of this process is sent to a designated device or the entity which requested that service.
If there is no cloud-based process and the device is reporting to an Industrial Control System (ICS) or standalone system without additional process, this is NOT and Ecosystem. The difference between IoT and IIoT are, that IoT end point devices transmit their data directly to service provider, while IIoT are reporting to an ICS, which may decide to upload a data file to the service provider.
It is important to mention that IoT device management (DM) shall be an integral part of that process. It can be done by the operator or a 3rd party service provider which is not involved with the IoT process but just assures a reliable operation and keeps IoT endpoint devices updated.
A few examples of IoT/IIoT applications
Let’s review some broadly recognized smart city operations which may utilize IoT or IIoT Ecosystems:
- Smart street Lighting:Operators using IIoT ecosystems can ensure optimized illumination and deliver demand-based lighting. It helps saving energy by dimming out sectors with no occupancies and other considerations set by the operator and instantly detect faulty devices.
- Connected Streets: Utilizing IoT devices capable of acquiring data and performing controls orchestrated by a designated service provider. This helps in efficient management of available resources and generate huge benefits by optimizing public transportation and private traffic.
- Smart Parking Management: Help to find the vacant location for a vehicle at different public places. Wireless IoT end point devices are embedded into all parking spaces, transmitting data to cloud-based service provider with goal to reduce congestion in the parking site and save time for people.
- Car Charging Stations: Electronic vehicle (EV) charging platforms are installed in parking sites, city fleets, shopping malls, buildings, airports across the city. These end-point devices are part of IoT Ecosystem with goal to optimize the loading of the power distribution grid.
- Smart Sprinkler System: These devices integrated into IoT Ecosystem provide the assurance that all plants (different types) get the optimal amount of water, monitoring soil moisture and levels of fertilizer. This helps reducing water usage, reduce cost of the water bill and achieve enhanced results.
- Forest Fire Detection: These IoT devices helps in monitoring of combustion gases and preemptive fire conditions to define alert zones. Passing this information to the designated service provider will help reducing the time for dispatching fire teams, due to more accurate prediction of the risk.
- Air Pollution reduction: These IoT Ecosystems help controlling of CO2 emissions of factories, pollution emitted by cars and toxic gases generated on farms. The information from these sensors is delivered to the cloud-based operator with other data, and it allows smart alerting to public.
- Snow Level Monitoring: Helps identifying the real-time condition of ski tracks, allowing corporations with safety teams for avalanche prevention. The collected information is coordinated with the weather forecast and other data, and it allows releasing accurate information to the public.
- Earthquake, Landslide and Avalanche Early Detection: IoT devices helps utilizing distributed controls at specific places of quakes. The collected information from sensors is coordinated by the cloud-based operator with other (proprietary or public) data, and it allows smart alerting to public.
- Public Safety: IoT sensors can be installed at public buildings and houses to protect citizens and provide real-time information to fire and police departments when it detects a risk. While such service is not innovative, IoT ecosystems may help faster dispatching of emergency services.
- Automatic Health-Care Dispatch: Smart healthcare devices can be implemented at public places to provide 24/7 health care for patients like dispensing medicines and drugs to patients. These IoT devices assist in reducing the response time in cases of emergencies.
- Smart Grid: Smart grid IIoT solutions can be installed across industrial, residential as well as along the power distribution grid, and it help to achieve minimal energy losses along the grid based on the consumption patterns and available resources, which can deliver the demand.
Summary and Conclusions
The IoT and the IIoT ecosystems have become the mostly debated topics, as they serve a broad range of consumer, commercial and industrial applications. But, according to what I have mentioned above, we must first categorize each device and to figure out if it can be considered part of an IoT or IIoT ecosystem. Correctly deployed IoT/IIoT ecosystems require a careful cloud-based service provider which generate critical operation and cost benefits.
While both IoT and IIoT sounds similar, it is important to realize that IIoT endpoint devices do not communicate directly with the service provider, but always through the same ICS which manages the entire control process. However temporarily deployed industrial devices (temperature, vibration, etc.) which are not wired to the ICS may communicate directly with the service provider and therefore designated as IoT. Obtaining support offered by cyber experts will help you achieving enhanced performance, user convenience and cost saving, without creating undesired IoT/IIoT cybersecurity risks, which might threaten your organization.