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I recently had the opportunity to tour a metals factory in the industrial city of Evansville, Indiana. The chief metallurgist was showing me how connected their manufacturing systems have become, as well as how much “industrial IoT (IIoT)” has grown in the last few years.

I watched the factory floor buzzing with activity and full of internet-connected devices used to collect and analyze data. The data being collected ranged from autonomous vehicles pulling molten steel, to temperature reading sensors in hot vats to valves measuring air-pressure in specialized tanks. The floor manager said that IIoT can be used to improve a wide range of industrial processes, including manufacturing, energy, transportation, and logistics.

Interconnected sensors are collecting more and more industrial data on a variety of factors, such as temperature, pressure, vibration, and flow rate. This data can then be analyzed to identify trends and patterns that can be used to improve efficiency, productivity, and safety.

Benefits of IIoT are far-reaching

This metals factory, however, is only the beginning. Industrial IoT is starting to take off in industries ranging from mining operations to manufacturing. The introduction of IIoT is helping to optimize production schedules, reduce waste, and improve energy efficiency. IIoT is also helping to increase productivity by providing real-time insights into industrial processes. This information can be used to make more informed decisions about how to operate equipment and resources.

A recent report from McKinsey describes the growing, but fragmented IIoT landscape, and advocates a seamless holistic approach for IIoT cybersecurity that could create opportunities for MSPs. According to the report:

Across industry verticals, applications of the IoT continue to expand, and a shift has occurred from clusters of siloed IoT devices to interconnected IoT environments. This is especially apparent in settings such as factory floors and automotive vehicles. However, the IoT hasn’t yet scaled as quickly as expected, and the IoT industry hasn’t achieved a genuinely seamless experience in which devices pass into and out of physical environments and are identified, trusted, and managed without a need for separate (and at times manual) authentication steps.

“We need to get to an industrial IoT environment where, as the McKinsey report recommends, everything is seamless, a turnkey security experience with authentication at every step,” says Jack Richards, an industrial IoT specialist in Atlanta.

IIoT creates opportunity for MSPs

Richards went on to share that IIoT is still a relatively new technology, but it is already revolutionizing the way that industrial processes are managed. As IIoT devices become more affordable and sophisticated, it is likely that their use will become even more widespread in the coming years.

“And MSPs are in a great position to provide value and top-flight security for businesses in the industrial IoT vertical. Let’s face, usually a metals specialist will be interested in how IIoT can help improve efficiency, security vulnerability probably is an afterthought that is where MSPs come in,” explains Richards.

As factories and industries adopt IIoT, though, the vulnerability increases, and security needs to be stepped up. “One bad actor could already do a lot of damage to our nation’s industry with a well-targeted industrial attack,” Richards warns.

As such, cybersecurity is the biggest opportunity for MSPs in IIoT, but there are many more, he says. Opportunities for MSPs in this industry, according to Richards, include:

  • Consulting: MSPs can provide consulting services to help industrial organizations adopt IIoT. This includes helping them to identify the right IIoT devices and solutions, as well as to develop and implement IIoT strategies.
  • Deployment: MSPs can deploy IIoT devices and solutions for industrial organizations. This includes installing and configuring the devices, as well as providing training on how to use them.
  • Support: MSPs can provide support for IIoT devices and solutions. This includes troubleshooting problems, providing updates, and managing security.
  • Security: MSPs can help industrial organizations to secure their IIoT devices and solutions. This includes implementing security measures such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and data encryption.

As IIoT continues to grow, the demand for MSP services will also increase. MSPs that can provide these services will be well-positioned to capitalize on this growing market. Richards says there are other additional benefits of MSPs providing IIoT services. “MSPs can provide a single point of contact for all IIoT needs, which can save industrial organizations time and money,” he explains, adding that MSPs have the expertise and experience to help industrial organizations get the most out of IIoT.

“A good MSP can also help industrial organizations to stay up to date with the latest IIoT technologies,” Richards points out. Overall, there are many opportunities for MSPs in IIoT. By providing consulting, deployment, support, and security services, MSPs can help industrial organizations to adopt IIoT and get the most out of it.

Photo: metamorworks / Shutterstock

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Kevin Williams

Posted by Kevin Williams

Kevin Williams is a journalist based in Ohio. Williams has written for a variety of publications including the Washington Post, New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, National Geographic and others. He first wrote about the online world in its nascent stages for the now defunct “Online Access” Magazine in the mid-90s.

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