The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) is “ground zero” for the Industrial Internet of Things. It’s the largest of the Internet of Things (IoT) consortia with over 250 members. No other organization approaches its respect or potential to drive the next industrial revolution.
The IIC has three broad initiatives. First, it provides the first venue for cross-industry interaction, thus launching the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) market. Second, it has a technical mission to develop and test an architecture that can securely connect devices to fog & cloud, interoperate across vendors, and span industries. Finally, it has a unique program to build and operate both horizontal and vertical industry testbeds. The IIC’s unique and powerful combination of industry leaders, economic focus, and dynamic technology gives it the necessary stage to make a huge impact.
My topic today is testbeds. The IIC testbed program is an amazing resource for the industry, for the IIC, and for its members. Its key goals are to make a real impact, to ensure the IIC’s guidance is practical, and to span the breadth of the IIoT.
At the highest level, the testbed program exists to substantially impact the IIoT market. Testbeds serve as demonstration proof points of interoperability, architectural patterns, and technologies. This lets the IIC establish best practice examples for IIoT system implementers. The IIC does not seek testbeds that address minor applications; testbeds must deliver real technical acceleration with significant economic impact on success.
Testbeds must answer real questions. They investigate or test technology, methods, or processes. Testbeds results are public within the IIC, thus feeding real experience back to the guidance and market efforts. Testbeds ensure that the IIC’s technical designs and guidance really work. This enables the IIC to extend and prove thought and technology leadership across the IIoT.
The IIC testbed program is by far the industry’s most comprehensive. As of this writing, the IIC has 21 public testbeds and many others in formation. These span verticals including factory automation, agriculture, power grids, healthcare, and smart cities. We also have testbeds addressing horizontal issues like security, edge intelligence, machine learning, cloud-field infrastructure, and real-time networking.
Of course, the IIC members are not investing in testbeds without cause. The testbed program directly improves the business of IIC members. The IIC technical teams actively guide testbeds, so members benefit from the IIC’s amazing technical and market expertise. Cooperating on testbeds encourages teaming and ecosystem development. Testbeds let members develop real-world proof points and exposure for nascent technologies. And last but not least, testbeds provide market visibility to member companies, leveraging the IIC brand.
Developing and executing an IIC testbed is not trivial. Testbed teams first work with the Testbed Working Group (TBWG) to flesh out a clear proposal. The testbed must pass architectural review consistent with the Technical Working Group’s reference architecture and present a security plan acceptable to the Security Working Group. The TBWG then evaluates the testbed against its alignment and quality metrics. If it passes these hurdles, it goes to the Steering Committee Testbed Subcommittee (TBSC) (which I chair). If the TBSC recommends approval, it goes to the full Steering Committee for final acceptance. After approval, we expect testbeds to report results quarterly and contribute to the management and review of future testbeds. This process enforces quality and direction of testbeds. Because testbeds are well managed, the industry can rely on the IIC for clear guidance, proven in practical applications.
Of course, this entire program requires the cooperation of the IIC members to succeed. Towards that end, my company (RTI) will provide our full connectivity framework product line without license fees to all IIC-approved testbeds. Of course, this is not wholly altruistic; we hope to encourage future IIoT industries to incorporate the “databus” pattern and the DDS standard into their designs. These technologies are important components of the delivered and developing IIC guidance. We want to see them tested. We also want the community to benefit from our experience and technology.
This is hardly just RTI’s goal. I encourage other IIC companies to make similar offers. The IIC is an amazing organization, well-placed to drive perhaps the greatest technological theme of our time. We have a unique opportunity, stage, and even obligation to develop a common architecture for the IIoT. That architecture must be forged by the diverse IIC ecosystem, vetted by the world’s best experts, tempered in the kiln of the real world, and exposed to all. Only that will result in credible, practical leadership. Free access to technology and sharing of ideas through testbeds helps make this vision real.
In the end, the IIC testbed program intentionally takes risk. We fully expect some efforts to fail. That’s OK; these are not “projects” with business results as deliverables. Testbeds exist to test something. The main outputs should be learning and feedback. With ambitious goals, clear process, and community involvement, the testbed program can be a driver of the IIC’s success. As the saying goes, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Venture boldly.