The convergence of IT and OT is happening right now. In the last decade, since Gartner suggested their convergence, the lines between IT and OT have become blurrier. And modern technologies, such as IoT, have overlapped IT and OT to help organisations optimise their business processes and performance.
IoT is firmly in the sights of CIOs and CTOs as they explore ways to extend their organisations’ capabilities. Looking at the convergence of IT and OT with IoT, there are numerous potential use cases for improving organisational efficiency and decreasing costs. As businesses look to bring IoT from a hype-cycle phase into the reality of the workplace, it will be important to consider how IoT can help organisations bridge their IT/OT divide.
Since you are reading this, you likely want to learn how the convergence of IT and OT can help your organisation. This article will explain what you need to know about how IoT can power the convergence of your IT and OT systems and its benefits. But before we dive in, let’s first look at the meaning of the key terms.
IT (information technology) is the technology that uses networked systems such as computers, servers, and operating systems to process, store and share electronic data and information.
OT (operational technology) is the technology that manages and controls the operations of physical devices. To put it simply, it is the tech that runs devices, equipment and machinery.
IoT (Internet of Things) is a system that utilises processors, sensors and communication tools embedded in mechanical, digital, and computing devices to enable them to collect, send, receive and process acquired data over the internet — without human intervention.
IoT devices can not only help a business to learn what’s happening, but also exercise control over what’s happening. – IoTAgenda
IT/OT convergence links or joins information technology (IT) systems and operational technology (OT) systems. It involves connecting IT systems to OT systems to enable them to transmit data and influence and enhance equipment and machinery’s physical operations.
On their own, IT systems and OT systems cannot converge because they are made of different technologies. Moreover, traditional OT systems are non-internet systems and cannot transmit data over wireless networks to IT systems for analysis.
IoT is an integral part of the technology ecosystem that facilitates the convergence of IT/OT and helps drive new levels of business value. It powers this convergence by bridging IT and OT, enabling them to communicate by collecting, processing, and transmitting information/data between both systems.
IoT systems extract data from OT systems in equipment, process it, and send it to cloud-based IT systems over wireless networks for monitoring, analysis, and decision-making. But this data sharing is not just one way.
An IoT-based system also receive information and instructions from IT systems, which are then passed to OT systems to influence their processes and operations. Furthermore, IoT applications can predict the future conditions or needs of OT-embedded devices. For a clearer picture, let us look at a simple example of how IoT can power the convergence of IT and OT in an irrigation system.
A traditional irrigation machine can be timed to turn off and on to spray water at specific times. By leveraging IoT, the OT system in the machine can converge with IT to adjust the amount of water to be sprayed based on weather conditions.
The IoT system sensors pick up the current weather condition and send the data to cloud servers for analysis. Then, the information on whether to increase or decrease the spraying time is relayed to the OT system in the irrigation machine. All of these communications are made over wireless connections.
Say your irrigation machine’s default timer is to spray your plants for two hours daily. When your plants do not need much water in freezing weather, the IoT system can automatically power the convergence of IT and OT to adjust the timer to 30 minutes.
Moreover, the IoT system can collect and transmit data on how the irrigation machine operates from the OT systems to cloud servers (IT systems), predicting when the machine might need maintenance — what the industry calls predictive maintenance.
IoT provides a unified architecture for bridging the traditional IT-OT divide by powering the convergence of both technologies, in addition to the following benefits:
A major drawback of IT/OT convergence is the possible security loopholes and the potential for data breaches. Sensitive data is often transmitted between IT and OT systems, which, if hijacked, can cause tragic consequences such as equipment or product hijack, identity thefts, and corporate sabotage.
Unfortunately, converging IT and OT systems increases the number of possible ways in which your network system and devices can be attacked. What’s more, there is a lack of adequate data protection protocols to protect the system from hacking.
That is why at iotblue, we make it a priority to secure our Cervello IoT platform. Furthermore, our IoT solutions are designed, built, and deployed in a way that ensures no weak spots in the system.
Other IT/OT convergence shortcomings include technical complexities that make errors challenging to fix. Also, the dependence of IT/OT convergence on power and wireless connection can disrupt operations during an outage.
IT/OT convergence best practices, such as building trusted data layers, tearing down IT-OT silos, reviewing vulnerabilities in your OT systems, and making security a priority, are crucial to a successful integration.
Nevertheless, whatever strategy or industry practices your IoT expert wants to implement in converging your IT/OT systems, the best of the best practices is to first identify the value of an IT/OT convergence to your company.
Some companies dive into integrating their IT and OT systems without identifying how it specifically applies to their companies, hoping to see the value after the convergence. It makes sense considering the numerous benefits of IT/OT convergence.
However, to maximize the benefits of IT/OT convergence to improve your business operations and prevent its shortcomings, you must first determine the outcome you want to achieve with the convergence.
IoT is truly the convergence of IT and OT. It powers the convergence of IT and OT by serving as a communication bridge between both technologies and enables the OT in non-internet physical devices to interact over the internet with IT systems.
As a convergence enabler that can be implemented across your entire IT/OT infrastructure, IoT can improve your organisation’s processes and enable you to make smarter decisions. Even better, we can realise tremendous business benefits such as automation, efficiency, waste reduction, safety, and security when connecting our technology systems.
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