For decades, the worlds of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) have existed separately. The IT team works primarily in data computing and managing the protection of sensitive applications and confidential data. In contrast, the OT team works with the industrial equipment, focusing on device performance and production output. With IT surrounding data and OT concentrating on the physical space, these teams have grown apart. Recently this has changed: the connection of industrial devices through IIoT has created a momentum to change how factories previously worked with IT/OT. Instead of separate entities, the rise in internet technology and the need for data is driving IT/OT Convergence. The rise in IIoT is part of a more significant movement known as industry 4.0, where companies use technologies such as AI, ML, and the cloud to boost production efficiency. Understanding how these forces work is essential for building more responsive customer relationships and developing new business models. All in all, this change is necessary to achieve a tech-based future.
IT/OT Convergence closes operational gaps and provides complete views of every operation and how it’s performing. This convergence often happens in manufacturing, utility and energy, and military and law enforcement industries. The benefits of IT/OT converging relate to cost, performance, and productivity.
Converging the two systems saves money because it allows the company to eliminate any duplicate costs. In fact, with less siloed groups, there are fewer systems to maintain once machines start to share infrastructure and older legacy systems are replaced with newer, more efficient ones. These system reductions can lead to a decreased cost in real estate with added space.
In addition to reducing costs, converging IT and OT allows for better performance and more accurate and meaningful key performance indicators (KPI). Accurate KPIs are vital to ensure the company’s objectives are met. A third advantage is security. Right now, it is difficult for the IT and OT teams to work separately successfully because they have different security needs and capabilities that usually can’t be met with one strategy or tool. For example, OT devices are often a target for criminals, but with IT involved, it can detect and eliminate anomalous packets that may indicate an attack.
Similarly, IT/OT convergence results in less unplanned downtime because of its ability to predict potential equipment failures and collect data in real-time from the assets affected. This protection allows for better asset management and lower repair costs. The above benefits are just a few of the many that come with converging IT and OT systems.
With the advantages comes challenges – converting IT and OT is not easy. Because IT and OT are traditionally managed separately, converging requires the two to work together despite the difference in technology. Another challenge is that IT is developing much faster than OT. With innovation driving IT, and edge devices (between two networks) being less complex, they cannot meet the demand for IT systems. Another challenge comes from device communication when edge devices are only capable of one-way communication, making them incompatible with existing networks.
As digital transformation drives the OT and IT worlds towards convergence, APERIO DataWise is the only solution that can find anomalies in both worlds. It can keep your validated data secure, accessible, and actionable; guaranteeing operational resilience across the enterprise. Whether it’s a faulty sensor that drifts or a replay attack on a sensor of critical infrastructure, APERIO DataWise can detect these plant interruptions. Or consider APERIO’s DataWise for PI offering where system administrators, end users, and application developers, like data scientists, need differing access to the same data to conduct their daily activities and drive business forward. The data needs to be accurate, complete, and valid. It needs to be superior.
Jacob Albert is a sophmore at the University of Michigan pursuing his bachelor’s degree in Finance at Stephen M. Ross School of Business. As a marketing intern with APERIO in 2022, he spent his time researching data-driven sustainability and risks in converging IT and OT, and then combining it with the advantages of APERIO’s machine learning algorithms to correlate to its predictability and profits.