Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS) is strengthening its participation in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) market by creating a new business unit dedicated to the IIoT. The new Honeywell Digital Transformation business will be headed by Andrew Hird, a 13-year Honeywell veteran, as VP and GM. The intent of the new business unit is to bring together the existing expertise and products that HPS has developed for network-enabled process control to help customers address the challenges of connecting individual sites into wider networks.

The move to create the new business unit reflects growing interest on the part of industry to gain the increased efficiency and productivity that the IIoT promises. "More and more customers are feeling the pain of a sluggish economy," said Hird, "and have a need to become more productive and efficient." As a result, Hird added, the resistance to the IIoT that industry was expressing over the last two to three years has faded. "The IIoT is now at a tipping point. Customers need it to solve the problems of coordinating geographically disparate resources to make gains in productivity and quality. Their resistance is gone. Now they're dragging us into this."

Andrew Hird Figure 1: Hird: The IIoT is now at a tipping point.

Hird noted that for industry to get value out of the IIoT it needs to do several things. First, it needs to consolidate data from multiple sources into one place using the OPC-UA (open platform communications unified architecture) protocol. Next it needs to move that data from the plant to the enterprise and apply smart data analytics to extract information from the data. Then it needs to apply domain knowledge to understanding the data, leveraging in-house expertise or third-party knowledge vendors. The only way to do this, Hird added, is to connect the plants to the cloud, either private or hosted.

Honeywell has a long history of helping customers apply network technology to their plants and processing facilities, Hird noted, and is leveraging those products and experience to expand to the wide area networking. "We've been doing software-based solutions to business problems for 40 years," said Hird, "and the customer problems haven't changed so we can use the same software. But the big difference now is the need to solve those problems at the enterprise level. We used to do it at individual sites. Now we do it end-to-end."

Some of the HPS products that the new business unit will be leveraging include DynAMo alarm and operations management; Industrial Cyber Security Risk Manager, which proactively monitors and manages cyber risk for industrial environments; Assurance 360, a multi-year cooperative service arrangement to maintain, support, and optimise the performance of Honeywell control systems; and most recently, Honeywell Pulse, a mobility app that allows plant managers to monitor real-time operations from a smartphone.

There are compelling business cases for the kind of interconnection the IIoT provides, Hird said. He gave as an example the use of predictive analytics on the operation of pumps in petrochemical production. Analytics on individual pumps can provide warning of pump failure. But by having the ability to correlate the analytics for thousands of pumps along with environmental data such as ambient temperature and process data such as the type of fluid the pump is handling, a company can see trends and identify design improvements that would otherwise be hidden.

Such benefits, along with growing understanding on how to address issues of security and data privacy and growing comfort in using cloud-based data, is fueling the interest in the IIoT, which the new Honeywell business unit is poised to help its customers adopt. "They're all trying to understand how to use the IIoT to their advantage," Hird said. "They can't afford not to do it."