Will the Internet of Things Displace Historian Technology?

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Tony_PaineIn this special guest feature, Tony Paine, CEO of Kepware Technologies, discusses the rise of Industrial Internet of Things technologies and how it could displace enterprise historian technology. As CEO of Kepware Technologies, a software development company focused on communications solutions for industrial control systems, Tony’s main focus is on the company’s vision and long-term strategy around products and technology. He has had a passion for integrating software and hardware since his early childhood, when he developed an application that turned a rudimentary text editor into a word processor with generic print capabilities. He focused his education around this interest and earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Electrical Engineering, with a concentration in Computer Software and Hardware Design, from the University of Maine at Orono.

We’re at a tipping point with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). A recent report from LNS Research shows that 34 percent of companies are either currently adopting or planning to adopt IIoT technology in the next year. Although adoption of IIoT technology is still in its early stages, these steadily increasing adoption rates indicate the entrance of new, disruptive vendors and technologies vying for a place in Operations. This competition is a win for end users looking to stay competitive and maximize ROI on their business systems.

Yet with competition comes disruption. So that has us wondering: What long-standing vendors and technologies will be upset by the entrance of new players in the market? Could IIoT displace enterprise historian technology?

Put simply, historians are large systems that aggregate data for an entire facility across multiple lines, processes, and equipment. They store years of data that require compression, and they have collectors to reliably gather data in the face of network outages. Enterprise historians are business and IT-focused. They aggregate data across multiple plant historians, and are tightly coupled with IT systems like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), asset management, auditing, and more. Enterprise historians use operational data to fuel strategic initiatives, like lowering power consumption or monitoring resource usage across plants.

A key concept of IoT and Big Data is to provide insights into internal processes that can help leaders make meaningful decisions across the business. Both historians and IIoT solutions are capable of gleaning actionable insights, but they have different routes for doing so. And while we believe there is still value in the enterprise historian, there are a few clear reasons why IIoT has the potential to shake up the market.

First of all, data from historians comes without context unless the end user does the heavy lifting of adding binding metadata via data mapping or manual annotation. This can be clunky. End users need to have a clear vision for how the data will be used from the onset of the implementation, which makes scalability a challenge. Conversely, IIoT environments offer a more streamlined and scalable approach. IIoT technologies enable organizations to collect much more data today and analyze it in a variety of new, potentially unexpected ways in the future. This provides greater flexibility for data analysis by different users, roles, applications, and purposes over time.

While both technologies are able to present meaningful data, historians require more up-front time and investment before being able to extract the same value as an IIoT solution. In fact, we see the pricing model associated with enterprise historian solutions quickly becoming an obstacle for our customers.

While the cost of enterprise historians is typically tied to the number of data sources with a large up-front price tag for a perpetual license, most IIoT solutions are built on a data-volume, subscription-based model that spreads recognized costs out over time. As organizations become more distributed and sensors continue to become more affordable, data volumes will continue to increase, which makes a pricing model based on volume and not the number of sources more cost-efficient. Furthermore, a subscription model enables organizations to correlate the operational expense to the value received. Businesses have the option to start small and incrementally add value as needed¾paying for that value only when used. With historians, end users must gamble to some degree¾ betting on their future success and value derived while paying for everything up front.

Finally, historians as we know them have traditionally been designed by automation vendors who frankly lag behind the degree and speed of innovation found in the IT space. IT vendors are taking a new look at how to best visualize operational and business data—on any platform or device—and quickly bringing technology to market that will be expected and required by tomorrow’s workforce. IT vendors with IIoT solutions are eager to make their way into the Operations space and use the value their solutions offer to break down walls between historically siloed Operations and IT departments.

Today’s new IIoT solutions provide increased scalability and the ability to gather meaningful business insights—without breaking the bank. They are introducing operational data and insights to the boardroom, giving organizations more visibility into their data than ever before.

End users and the automation industry as a whole should benefit from the disruption of the enterprise historian market. Cost savings may take the form of decreased capital expenditures on technology deployments and smarter manufacturing from applied insights. The disruption may also push the hand of traditional historian vendors to take a fresh look at their products, processes, and and licensing models in order to stay in the game and maintain their customer base.

While it’s unlikely that IIoT will displace enterprise historians in the near future, now is the time for organizations to reimagine what new insights might be possible with the data they’re already collecting, and then determine how to weave low-risk IIoT technology into their existing architecture.


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