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DDI for IIoT (Part 1)

Timothy Rooney

Timothy Rooney

Feb 12, 2024

DDI for IIoT (Part 1)

The Internet of Things or “IoT” refers to the evolution of the Internet beyond connectivity and interaction among traditional user-operated devices like PCs, tablets, phones and similar types of devices into the realm of connectivity and interaction with non-user operated devices such as sensors, monitors and remotely controllable devices. Internet-enabling such “unmanned” devices allows them to autonomously report events, updates, status changes, or to perform remote actions commanded by users or other devices via the Internet. The popularity of home assistants, security systems, video doorbells, thermostats, door locks, etc. evinces the continuing expansion of IoT devices within residences.

What is IIoT?

IoT also boasts exceptional growth prospects for all types of industries such as utilities, energy, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, educational institutions, municipalities, and others. This enterprise realm of IoT is referred to as the industrial IoT, or IIoT, where sensors, monitors, and controllers can be deployed indoors or out, often in ruggedized form factors. IIoT applications range from those broadly applicable across vertical industries including remote surveillance and security monitoring systems to provide expanded “eyes and ears” on buildings, factory floors, remote assets, etc., to specialized forms such as programmable logic controllers (PLCs) or actuators that can enact operational controls such as adjusting flow controls for production lines or pipelines. Remotely accessible sensors or controls can increase the breadth and depth of an organization’s visibility and control to achieve organizational objectives including automation, cost savings, timeliness, and improved customer satisfaction.

IIoT devices need IP too

IIoT devices by definition require Internet Protocol (IP) accessibility. Note that some types of remote sensors or “things” do not use IP protocols natively but can interface with an IP network through a border translation router. Wired IIoT devices can generally use native IPv4 or IPv6 protocols but certain wireless IIoT devices require optimization, particularly those deployed in remote areas, to enable them to conserve power (sleep often) and minimize bandwidth requirements (send small messages). The IETF has published several RFCs defining an IPv6 adaptation layer to facilitate Internet Protocol communications among IoT and non-IoT devices, termed IPv6 over Low -Power Wireless Personal Area Network (6LoWPAN). The adaptation layer serves to optimize native IIoT device traffic on IEEE 802.15.4 (2.4GHz), Bluetooth and low power Wifi networks for example to interface with native IPv6 routers and application servers. From a network topology perspective, IIoT devices could be considered general IP hosts sprinkled across existing subnets as is the case with most residential deployments. Alternatively, one could allocate an independent IP block(s) to facilitate IIoT application-specific capacity, security and manageability practices. Such “air gapping” separation of IIoT devices from the enterprise network adheres with judicious network security practice and is actually one of the core principles defined in the International Engineering Consortium IEC 62443 standard, entitled Industrial communication networks - IT security for networks and systems.

DDI for IIoT

Please check out part 2 of this post for more discussion of network topology options and associated IP addressing and DNS considerations.