8 IIoT Trends in Petrochem for 2020

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By Thomas P. Ventulett, CEO, Aegex Technologies LLC

The networking of interconnected sensors and other devices with manufacturing, energy management, and industrial applications is known as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Distinct, yet related to the general Internet of Things (IoT), the IIoT will have profound implications for various industries in the coming year. During a recent OSIsoft webinar, "Everything you Need to Know about IIoT in 2020," Scott Raynovich of Futuriom and Michael Kanellos of OSIsoft discussed the top trends in IIoT technologies for 2020. I would like to elaborate on a few of these trends as they apply to customers that operate volatile or explosive environments and add a few of our own predictions about digital transformation in 2020 in the petrochemical industries.

Top Trends in Hazardous Area IIoT for 2020:

1. Edge vs. Cloud – There is a growing need for data that can be collected and analyzed closer to the “edge” of a network rather than waiting for data to be processed in a central server. Edge-enabled devices can collect and process data in real time for faster and more effective response, which is especially crucial for any application that requires low latency. Multi-Access Edge Computing or Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) is expected to become more common, enabling cloud computing and IT services at the edge of the cellular network. MEC is also expected to soon support 5G-enabled apps and services, even further reducing latency. Such edge computing will require data centers closer to operations – at the “edge” – so hybrid architectures are going to become more commonplace (Kanellos predicted in the webinar that some 90% of people will rely on hybrid architectures by 2021), with organizations relying on both plant-level data functions and cloud-level functions as well as device storage analytics. This hybrid structure will be necessary in a broad range of operations in the petrochem industries, from offshore rigs to downstream operations. Variables include backhaul latency and costs, plus existing on-premises IT infrastructure that can exploit operational efficiencies by pushing digital workflows to the edge.

2. More Networking Options – In the coming year and beyond, options will abound for short-range and long-range communications. From close-range networking with Bluetooth or Zigbee wireless mesh networks for low-cost/low-power wireless IoT networks, to longer range LoRa (Long Range low-power wireless communications technology) and RPMA (Random Phase Multiple Access) low-data rate/high-capacity network developed for IoT and M2M applications, better and varied networking solutions are rapidly coming online. Key factors that will impact the choice of wireless technologies in hazardous areas are the complexity and diversity of operating environments. The best solution inside a refinery will not be the same as the best solution for connecting a remote land-based rig. Companies will need to consider bandwidth, speed, and signal integrity when migrating to pervasive wireless solutions. The choice between the two most likely winners - 5G and LoRa - will soon be an option, depending on what is needed for your application. New tools are also being developed to better analyze video data in IoT – so the 90% of video data currently not being analyzed will soon become more useful for various industrial applications.

3. New Satellite Services – Satellite technologies are becoming smaller and cheaper to launch, so 2020 will bring more opportunities for using “LEO” (Low Earth Orbit), “MEO” (Medium Earth Orbit) and “GEO”(Geosynchronous Earth Orbit) satellites for IIoT communications. LEO satellites, which can orbit Earth in 90-120 minutes, are the most common type of satellites (55% of all operational satellites are in LEO) and provide lower latency, higher bandwidth remote sensing. These will run on 5G someday, so IIoT operations will be able to connect to satellite just like they can connect to broadband today. Satellites will be "sensors in the sky," monitoring leaks in pipelines, environmental conditions, volumes of oil held in reserve silos, and more. Ideally suited for remote locations, local installations can rely on private terrestrial networks while utilizing satellite for remote data backhaul.

4. More Security Options - Petrochemical operations in particular are highly sensitive industries requiring mission-critical security to protect them from cyberattack. Protecting legacy systems and integrating new modern IoT systems in a unified fashion is critical. While Gartner estimates that more than 25% of cyberattacks will involve IoT devices in 2020, technology developers will rise to the occasion. Using various methods of securing data, such as microsegmentation (creating secure zones in data centers and cloud deployments in order to isolate workloads and secure them individually) or zero-trust models (sending a code to double authenticate when attempting to log in to a site), encryption is getting better and will be more “baked in” to IIoT technologies. With more software-defined technologies will come better security.

5. Digital Twins - Organizations are using more 3D model digital twins and adding time-series data to measure past, present and future performance, with the goal of using data to help people understand what’s happening in an operation and act on it. “Equipment-level” digital twins include complex models of large operations such as offshore oil platforms that can run millions of data streams to test various scenarios and make operations more efficient. The advancements in digital twin tools are highly dependent upon volumes of quality data in order to model complex scenarios. The generation and communication of time series data will enable refined modeling systems that will greatly impact safety and operational efficiency.

6. Growth in Data Governance – While many organizations have looked at digital transformation as a way to increase output, new laws are forcing companies to have more digital integrity around their operations, thus boosting interest in IIoT to help with compliance. For example, a new maritime regulation, Sulphur 2020, went into effect on January 1, requiring ships to use fuel with much less sulphur (.5% content). So, companies are expected to invest in IoT technologies to help improve the gas mileage of their existing ships (and refineries will have to make higher quality petroleum). Utilities are also going to be required to better monitor their assets with new distribution system planning schemes, grid modernization, and moves to renewable energy. Across industries, data governance ensures that information can be trusted by developing processes to properly manage data throughout an enterprise via a system of decision rights and accountability for information, all of which become even more crucial with advancements in IIoT. Moving from paper rounds to digitally captured data that is time- and location-validated is the first step in data governance and assured compliance.

7. Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning Flexibility – AI and machine learning will be possible in the cloud or at the edge, depending on where it's needed. Organizations can plug into AI in the cloud and then decide where it's going to run - in the cloud or at the edge close to the operation. Cloud AI is more appropriate for large latency, higher power consumption, large workload capacity needs. Edge AI is for small latency, low power, and low workload. In 2020, AI in edge computing will be at the forefront of organizational goals. Experts agree that, while we are actually not very close to achieving true AI (we still need humans to make complex decisions), more and more opportunities are developing as data continues to proliferate. AI in Petrochem will mean systems that identify and report potential issues before they become problems to help predict and prevent disasters.

8. IoT Optimism – The previous notion that IoT has failed for many organizations is now being replaced by a more optimistic outlook for IIoT based on more success stories. Gartner has reported that 57% of companies are getting better results from IoT than they anticipated. And 451 Research found that only 7% of IoT deployments are failing. Why are perceptions becoming more positive? Possibly because now, IIoT projects have been in place long enough to actually see results. Problems with configuration, security, KPIs and other issues need time to be figured out. Even if expectations for IoT in 2020 are not as glowing as previously anticipated, long-term hope remains high. Regardless, the IIoT in 2020 will have to manage more than 150 million devices – and the IoT some 20 billion connected devices – all of which are helping to improve efficiency, safety and productivity for industries worldwide. Traditionally a laggard in technology deployments, incremental changes to the petrochem industries will have a massive economic impact. According research conducted by Oxford Economics and Accenture, IoT APPLICATIONS IN O&G COULD INCREASE GLOBAL GDP BY AS MUCH AS $816 BILLION DURING THE NEXT DECADE.

We at Aegex Technologies believe the Industrial Internet of Things will have positive effects for real-time communications and predictive analysis in industries with hazardous areas in particular in 2020. Process manufacturing environments, including oil and gas, chemical manufacturing and others with Class I Division 1 or ATEX/IECEx hazardous areas, restrict the use of connected devices, so all equipment deployed in these areas must be designed and certified “intrinsically safe” for safe operation in these environments. When grappling with the top IIoT trends in 2020, organizations with hazardous locations must additionally consider the types of devices, networks and applications they need to operate safely and efficiently under strictly regulated conditions.

Aegex is enthusiastic about sharing our expertise in hazardous area IIoT equipment, such as intrinsically safe tablets and IoT sensors, with our growing community of hazardous area operators around the world.

Contact us at https://aegex.com/contact/contact-aegex.

Looking forward to the exciting year and decade ahead!