The digitization of industrial companies is becoming an increasingly urgent problem today, as it solves the problem of increasing efficiency and competitiveness. In this case, we can talk about connecting machines to obtain information about their status, and configuring systems that control entire groups of devices. And there is a lot of work to be done here. So, according to Pavel Rastopshin, CEO of the Ultimatek integrator, today only 20% of machine tools in the country are connected to any network. And most of the time these networks are scattered, largely isolated.
“Many aspects of work in companies today are associated with digitization. For example, informing staff. Posters and brochures about safe work have been replaced by corporate portals, the corresponding mobile applications. Personal protective equipment is becoming digitizing, with the help of special sensors and video analytics, you can monitor compliance with safety rules by employees”, – says Evgeny Rybakov, director of the sales department for corporate clients of PJSC Rostelecom.
At the same time, it is necessary to separate automation, for example, automated process control systems (APCS) and the introduction of classic IoT in companies, Rastopshin notes. “Automation has always been there, as well as automated process control systems. And if you look from the position of 2023, then pure IoT, which appeared somewhere in 2016, is not so much.”
In this context, the exit from the market of large foreign companies engaged in digitalization, equipment supply and ready-to-use solutions for companies had almost no impact on the industrial Internet of Things market.
“Yes, there are automation systems, some have become “smart”, they work on top of the automated process control system and control the facilities, there are autopilots, RTO systems that control several facilities at once, but there was no Western-style. IoT in Russia. How many implementations of Siemens Mindsphere were there in Russia, and this is the most typical IoT, then in Russia they were not, and they are not. The same applies to other major players. There were one or two deployments, but they scaled back a lot before February 24,” Rastopshin said.
According to him, Russia has its own market for solutions of this type. “There were platforms that were developed for 5-6 years, and some even up to 10 years, including Tsifra, Alpha platform, Tibbo, etc. So there was no chaos here,” he says.
At the same time, the arrival of the classic IoT is inevitable in any case, Valery Cherepanov, Deputy Director of Digitalization at EuroChem, is convinced. “This is inevitable both from the point of view of increasing our efficiency and competitiveness, and from the point of view of improving the security of companies. Consumption is growing, people are not growing as fast as we would like, so we will not have enough people for the volume of production that is needed, so robotization and automation are inevitable, and IoT is one of the ways to close this niche”, says Cherepanov.
According to studies carried out by MegaFon, 62% of respondents believe that IoT plays an important role in the transformation of companies and becomes an integral part of it while increasing efficiency. And 84% said those not currently using IoT will soon start to lag behind their competitors.
Against the background of a large number of companies where conventional automation has not yet reached, the market is in a state of searching for the most effective solutions, since even the partial implementation of the elements of the Internet of Things provides a noticeable increase in production efficiency, says Sergey Markov, head of the department of advanced industrial automation developments, the Avtomatika service company, part of Gazpromneft.
“Over the past year, the situation has escalated, many things that we did in R&D suddenly turned out to be in demand. And in general, today we are in a state of superheated liquid, when any large enough implemented project immediately becomes the subject attention of all market participants, because whoever is the first to be able to fully perform the task will succeed increasing the efficiency of industrial automation This is largely due to why these solutions are trying to apply everywhere, even where this does not seem vital at first glance,” Markov believes.
However, the introduction of IoT solutions will only have an effect on those companies where there is medium-term planning, says Sergey Meshkov, head of implementation of digital solutions at MegaFon. “We conducted research at the beginning of 2023, we collected data showing that the average payback period of IoT projects was more than two years. The maximum effect is achieved in the third year after implementation,” says the expert.
All participants in the discussion noted the need for a large number of pilot projects that allow them to gain practical experience and develop missing expertise.
“We need more pilots. The more we launch such projects, the faster we will collect all possible potholes, the more experience we will have, the more horizons will open up for us,” says Cherepanov.
“However, the downside of a significant part of these pilots is that IoT should increase efficiency, but often pilot projects allow launching in such insignificant installations, where it is very difficult to see and evaluate the increase in efficiency,” he adds. Markov.
Another problem to be solved in the near future is the proprietary nature of the protocols. For many years, vendors have been creating their own solutions, forming a vendor lock-in to retain customers and make money from their hardware. This addiction now needs to be overcome, experts say.
The problem of providing communication as the infrastructure foundation for IoT solutions is closely related to security issues. And here the opinions of experts differ.
So, on the one hand, one cannot ignore today’s realities, when very often problems can be found in the operation of wireless communications for security reasons. There are also risks of outright sabotage. And in such a situation, connecting systems that manage companies to wireless networks is quite a big risk. And on the other hand, today there are quite a few security tools, notes Andrey Dukhvalov, head of the department of advanced technologies at Kaspersky Lab. “There are standard schemes when studying likely threats, assessing risks, as well as the number of necessary costs to prevent them. And if there is a risk of a conditional” blocker “appearing near or on the perimeter of the company, then it is necessary to assess this risk in money and take it into account when developing the project,” he says.
Do not forget that, for example, NB-IoT technology, based on LTE frequencies, does not directly depend on the signal health of the LTE network. “For one reason or another, you may not have an LTE network on your smartphone, but the infrastructure in NB-IoT will be operational,” noted Pavel Bakhteyarov from MTS’s Digital Solutions Department.
“It’s important to consider the risks, but nobody took away the emergency protection system from us. We need to be more careful with the technologies we have. Somewhere to adapt them if necessary. I don’t see any technical restrictions.” for the introduction of wireless systems today”, agrees Cherepanov
However, it is important to understand that IoT technology does not always mean connecting to the “external” Internet. And even this is not always wireless technology, notes Alexei Maykov, deputy general director of the Chepetsk Mechanical Plant, which is part of Rosatom.
“It is important for us to ensure the interconnection of physical objects – equipment, people, robots – with information systems. And the way we provide this interaction is not so important. It is clear that if it is some kind of field, then it would be great to use satellite communications, not even LTE or 5G. But few of the big companies in terms of information security are ready to give data to an external cloud. No matter how convinced we are of its security, and no matter what FSTEC certificates they are. And even more so, to provide data or control automated process control systems,” says Maykov.
Regulation continues to be one of the factors hindering the development and deployment of IoT in enterprises, and all the participants in the discussion spoke about this. So, according to Valery Cherepanov, there are demands from regulators in the field of industrial safety, for example, with regard to decision-making systems in the production circuit, and especially wireless technologies. “This area is not regulated in any way in terms of legislation, and we have to work on that,” he says. The development of wireless technologies is hampered by the fact that the frequencies of private LTE networks that need to be deployed in companies for IoT systems belong to the operators and need to be licensed.
Vladimir Dozhdev, Head of the Department of Digital Technologies at the Ministry of Industry and Trade, commented on IoT regulatory issues. According to him, the most important thing here is to find a balance between development and security issues, especially in companies related to critical information infrastructure.
“Yes, indeed, the regulations that exist in the field of information security impose a series of restrictions. This balance is very important. And, of course, the regulatory documentation must accompany the high pace of implementation. These standards, both national and harmonized with the tasks of companies. The main challenges in the field of regulatory work, we see today in the field of industry standards. We cannot say that the legislation restricts companies, but technical regulation documents are a permanent task for us, which we are constantly working on in various technical committees. And we call on all colleagues to participate in this work,” Dozhdev told RG.
According to the IDC report “Russian Internet of Things Market Forecast, 2020-2025”, the total amount of spending on the Internet of Things in the field of Russian business in 2020 amounted to $3.93 billion. Experts predicted that by 2025 this market in the country would grow to $8,570 million.