Time to Speak a Common Language in the IIoT
2017-08-31 Marcellus Buchheit
In our daily lives, how frequently have we heard someone say “let’s make sure we are on the same page”, whether it be during a personal interaction or a business communication? Pretty often I would say, because it is very easy to get caught up in our comfortable jargon and buzzwords that are prevalent in our particular environments, but not be so readily understandable by people outside of our close circles.
With the rapid growth of the Industrial IIoT and the wide diversity of stakeholders and industries involved, “getting on the same page” has become more difficult, yet more important than ever. For example, do we all share a common understanding of terms and concepts like authentication, operational technology, root of trust, vulnerability and other similar terms that are frequently mentioned in articles, technical documents, and other presentations and publications? Most likely not, and that’s why the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) continues to update its IIoT Vocabulary Report.
The second version of the report (v2.0) was developed by members of the IIC Vocabulary Task Group which is comprised of software architects, business experts, and security experts and released on July 24. The report contains vocabulary terms and definitions considered relevant to the IIoT. The goal of the document is to enable all stakeholders in the IIoT ecosystem – system architects, IT managers, plant managers, and business decision makers – to communicate with each other effectively. Many of the terms were updated from the first report originally released in 2016 and new terms introduced to keep pace with the rapidly evolving IIoT nomenclature.
Anish Karmarkar, IIC Vocabulary Task Group Chair, and Director, Standards Strategy & Architecture at Oracle, said in an IIC news release: “The Industrial Internet comprises a diverse set of industries and people with various skill sets and expertise. Often, concepts and terminology in one field will have different meanings in another, leading to confusion. Industrial Internet projects succeed when participants can communicate using common vocabulary terms and definitions. The IIC Industrial Internet Vocabulary Technical Report v2.0 ensures all IIoT stakeholders are speaking the same language, avoiding what would otherwise be an IIoT ‘Tower of Babel.’”
Many people think that working on a vocabulary document would be quite boring. In actuality, the opposite is true. The weekly meetings are more emotionally driven than any other industrial internet meetings that I have attended. By contrast, other meetings may have 20 attendees, but the moderator is content to generate just a few responses from the attendees. At a vocabulary meeting, however, we may sometimes have just five attendees but the moderator needs to queue the speakers because people get excited and respond to a comment at the same time! As a result, the meeting requires one’s full attention (unwise to attempt to read your unrelated emails during the discussion, for example). And the content is intellectually challenging. Sometimes people will spend a long time discussing a simple phrase or even a single word, but in the end most decisions are agreed upon unanimously.
Working on the industrial internet vocabulary report is also quite stimulating. IoT continues to be over hyped in the information and industrial world and many words and phrases are “misused”. By presenting a modern vocabulary with a strong logical model behind different words and combinations of words gives the Industrial Internet Consortium a more structured approach to leading the IoT world down the proper path, at least in the communication about IoT.
In all, the report provides a standard definition for more than 140 terms commonly used in IIC reference and architectural documents. The full report, including terms, definitions and sources, can be downloaded here on the IIC website.
Co-founder of WIBU-SYSTEMS AG, President and CEO of WIBU-SYSTEMS USA
Marcellus Buchheit earned his Master of Science degree in computing science at the University of Karlsruhe, Germany in 1989, the same year in which he co-founded Wibu-Systems. He is well known for designing innovative techniques to protect software against reverse-engineering, tampering, and debugging. He speaks frequently at industry events and is an active member of the Industrial Internet Consortium. He currently serves as the President and CEO of Wibu-Systems USA Inc.