IoT Platforms From the Top 10 Industrial Automation Vendors
Here's a breakdown 10 top industrial internet platforms and how they fit into the ecosystem. See which verticals they support.
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The phrase ‘software is eating the world’ reflects the increasing importance of software in almost everything we build, purchase, and socialize with. This rising importance of software has resulted in many traditional companies trying to become software companies.
This is especially true for companies targeting the Industrial Internet of Things. Large industrial automation vendors, like Siemens, ABB, Rockwell Automation, sell equipment to companies that manufacture goods. They are also introducing IoT software platforms to help connect the equipment they manufacture and support. If you are selling process control equipment to the oil and gas or aerospace industry, the ability to provide predictive maintenance or asset optimization drives significant value to the manufacturer and automation vendor.
I thought it would be interesting to look at the IoT platforms being offered by some of the top industrial automation vendors. The following is a review of each vendors web site. I was interested in 3 questions:
- What are the key industries for their platform?
- What are the key features?
- How open is the platform to allow other developers to integrate?
Siemens is one of the largest global industrial companies. They have invested heavily in their Mindsphere IoT cloud platform. The Mindsphere website is light on technical details but they do have a comprehensive white paper (registration required) and a decent Q&A section.
It would appear Mindsphere can run on-premise or a hosted cloud environment. Siemens recently announced AWS support but also appear to run on MS Azure and SAP Cloud Platform
Mindsphere appears to be fairly open to developers and has a defined API. You do need to register to get access. The platform does not seem to be tied to just Siemens physical hardware and goods. However, Siemens does offer a line of hardware devices, called MindConnect, that can act as gateways to feed data into Mindsphere.
ABB sells process control equipment to mines, oil and gas refineries, paper mills, etc. The ABB IoT platform is called ABB Ability. The platform appears to be very specific to ABB solutions. They do offer a partner SDK but it is not clear how a developer would get access.
ABB Ability does appear to have the concept of a digital twin, which they call Aspect Objects. There is an interesting white paper but not a lot of details on how a developer would use it.
Emerson sells value, actuators, pressure gauges used in processing plants plus a lot more. Emerson announced an IoT offering called PlanetWeb digital ecosystem. PlanetWeb appears to be less an IoT platform but a collection of applications and services that support different Emerson products through connectivity services, analytics, and asset management.
Schneider Electric specializes in energy management and automation solutions. The Schneider Electric IoT platform is called EcoStruxure Platform. It appears to be a set of software services running on MS Azure IoT Suite. There are industry-specific versions of EcoStruxure for Building, Plant & Machine, Grid, IT and Power.
It is not clear EcoStruxure is really open to developers. There is mention of SDKs but I couldn’t find any details on the website.
Rockwell Software, a subsidary of Rockwell, has a product line FactoryTalk. It is not clear that FactoryTalk is an actual platform but just a number of different products with the same brand name. There is no mention of any developer program.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any mention of an IoT platform from Mitsubishi.
Fortive is a large conglomerate of industrial automation companies. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any overall IoT platform offering.
Yokagawa has IoT solutions focus on Efficiency, Safety & Security, Availability & Reliability, and Operations & Maintenance. It is not clear if they have a core IoT software platform or a number of different applications for specific IoT use cases. In 2017, they did announce a partnership with MS Azure IoT, Foghorn, Bayshore and Tellit to implement an IIoT architecture.
FWIW, Yokagawa’s web site was one of the easiest to read and understand.
GE Predix is probably one of the best known Industrial IoT software platform in the industry. GE Digital has spent billions to implement and market Predix and have embraced becoming a software vendor. Unfortunately, in the last year, they have cut back on Predix investment but I think it is clear they are still the leader in this space.
Some of the key features of the Predix platform include: Edge-to-Cloud connectivity, analytics and machine learning, digital twin, data management and application development tools. GE does a nice job reaching out to developers and enabling them on the Predix platform.
Honeywell has a suite of IIoT solutions under the Connected Plant banner. Connected Planet appears to be a marketing term that brings together different Honeywell software applications. Honeywell does seem to be working on an integrated IoT platform, called Honeywell Sentience, but I could not find any details besides a few press releases and a case study on Microsoft Azure IoT web site.
- Overall, most of the industrial automation vendors seem to be creating IoT platforms and solutions that connect with their own equipment and target existing customers. This makes perfect sense since more and more I think we will see IoT solutions that focus on a particular industry vertical and these solutions will include integrated hardware and software.
- Most of these vendors are not opening their platforms to other ISVs or developers to enable third-party integration. This seems to be a significant weakness and will likely limit the innovation on these platforms.
- Microsoft Azure IoT seems to be well-positioned in the industrial automation industry. Many of these vendors are using Azure IoT to host their IoT platforms. Microsoft is providing the cloud hosting and IoT infrastructure expertise and the industrial vendor providing the domain expertise. I would expect this pattern will repeat in other industries.
- Most of these vendors do a poor job marketing their IoT solutions. Lots of videos, talking heads and buzzword bingo but very little detail on the capability and technology. My guess is they are not really trying to market or sell an IoT software platform; they are selling complete solutions that include hardware and software. The marketing is a corporate branding campaign to capitalize on the IoT hype.
Feel free to add a comment if I have missed some information or if something is not correct.
Published at DZone with permission of Ian Skerrett, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
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