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September 25, 2018

Why do IoT and the Industry 4.0 need APIs?

Nicholas Gimenes
Growth & Product Marketing Leader

Industry 4.0 is not simply a Smart FactoryIndustry 4.0 is the new wave of Digital Transformation in the industry, driven by recent developments in Cloud, AI + Analytics, IoT and API technologies. Nevertheless, the challenges of this transformation go beyond the mere acquisition and assimilation of new technologies.

The impact is much broader (as are the opportunities) and requires strategic and cultural changes, such as the construction of digital ecosystems and Platform Thinking.

Some analysts describe this transformation as part of a 4th Industrial Revolution, with developments comparable to the emergence of the steam engine, electricity, and information technology. Major industry players are at full steam in the execution of these strategies, such as Caterpillar, GE, and John Deere.

Many factories are already presenting good progress in the adoption of modern operation (OT) and information technologies (IT), with the installation of intelligent and connected machinery, digitalization and automation of processes, and predictive analysis systems. It is common, however, for them to present difficulties in terms of interoperability and adaptability, with isolated and monolithic systems, in an environment with a variety of standards, in addition to complexity in the integration with collaborators.

Part of the vision of Industry 4.0 consists of overcoming these barriers, enabling the flow of information and allowing coordinated actions among employees, systems, machines, and external collaborators.

This is possible with the use of APIs that in a standardized way and applying security mechanisms enable the agile and secure integration between systems and devices.

Gartner, 2015[/caption]In addition to avoiding rework, waste and errors due to lack of information, the capacity for agile integration through APIs reduces the time to market and facilitates the composition of legacy systems with new technologies (e.g. : AI + Analytics, applications in the Cloud) and with other factories or external collaborators.

This use of APIs facilitates the development of an architecture based on microservices, that is, abstraction of features of monolithic systems in smaller services (microservices), which can be consumed and combined as components by other systems (this can be done without impact in the backend).

The microservice-based approach streamlines the delivery of new features and applications, enables the reuse of components (avoiding parallel developments), facilitates the isolation of failures (microservices are treated independently), and favors scalability.

Industry 4.0 is not simply Industrial IoT

Even though the Industrial IoT (IIoT) is a decisive element, without adequate mechanisms for an agile and secure integration with other systems, it will be another layer of information and complex management, covering a variety of technologies and security risks that should be mitigated.

Devices prepared for IoT, including a variety of standards and protocols, can send and receive data via APIs in the REST standard, as it comprises an open, agnostic, lightweight, asynchronous, stateless and globally accepted format – which facilitates the integration with other API-equipped systems.

The use of APIs allows other systems to work with this data and trigger coordinated actions, combining features and creating new workflow possibilities. This integration can be done beyond the factory, from integrations via restricted APIs with external collaborators.

IoT projects can include many devices and a massive volume of data, which increases concerns regarding the management and security of access to this data.

A complete API platform has modern security mechanisms (Oauth2, cryptography, access tokens, and permissions, among others), analysis (call tracing & logging, performance, dashboards, alerts, etc.). In addition, it features tools for government, testing, design, documentation, optimization (caching, composition of calls, etc.) and data processing, to promote the management and control of integrations via APIs.

Industry 4.0 is about Integration, Responsivity and Control

The real transformation consists of combine the power of information technologies with the operational technologies (IT/OT convergence), and the potential of synergic action with a digital ecosystem of collaborators.

This is achievable with a consistent integration strategy through an API platform and facilitated with an architecture based on microservices.

The variety of OT interoperability standards and difficulties can be addressed with the APIs in the REST standard, also related to IT services. Based on the API platform, it is possible to have visibility and control of these integrations, which can be made in an agile, scalable way and with application of security mechanisms (cryptography, OAuth, etc).

The main point is not only the integration, but also the ability to enable integration in an agile, scalable, secure and managed way, to take advantage of opportunities quickly and reduce costs and time to market, in addition to being able to ensure readjustment in the response to challenges imposed by increasingly competitive markets.

The implementation of an agile and integrated architecture promotes greater adaptability, and the API management platform enables a complete, real-time view of the OT/IT services and collaborators.

The interconnection by APIs with AI + Analytics services enables predictive analysis and automation of actions orchestrated with internal and external services.

Industry 4.0 is about ecosystems and Platform Thinking – Caterpillar, John Deere and GE already know it!

To take advantage of the opportunities of this new wave of digital transformation, industries should seek an agile, secure, scalable integration strategy – combining the potential of the great technological drivers (IoT, AI + Analytics, Cloud) and making creative value offer arrangements with its entire ecosystem of collaborators.

Among the possible arrangements of strategies based on digital platforms, Gartner identifies 4 main models:

  • Collaboration platforms enable the joint operation of ecosystem partners in new ways.
  • Orchestration platforms are a business model that enable business processes in ecosystem collaborators.
  • Matching platforms make it easier for customers to find suppliers (e.g. Airbnb).

Creation platforms enable collaborators to create apps, products/services, capabilities, and business models.

Caterpillar, John Deere and GE

are great examples of application of these strategies. Caterpillar participates in the following platform-based businesses:

  • CAT Connect: An IoT platform for dealers to manage their clients’ teams and be closer to them.
  • Uptake: A startup that uses algorithms to analyze mass data on IoT platforms and provide insights to avoid downtime in collaborators.
  • Yard Club: A startup that connects people who own equipment with those who wish to rent their idle equipment.

GE, in turn, has Predix, a platform that collects and analyzes industrial equipment data and PredixDeveloper Network, an open platform on which developers can offer their apps and algorithms for the analysis and optimization of processes in industries.

John Deere offers several APIs in its Dev Portal for independent developers to create applications and integrated businesses that can consume and send data. This data also integrates MyJohnDeere Operations Center, in which its clients can share their data with trusted advisors, collaborate with developers and obtain information for decision making.

John Deere’s API platform has allowed for easy integration with DroneDeploy, a data service for drone fleets used for mapping in agriculture and construction.

To make feasible these strategies based on ecosystems and platforms, an API platform is crucial, and a microservice-based architecture is recommended.

A complete API platform can provide several tools to support the operation of the APIs: API Gateway, Dev Portal, Analytics, Security, and Lifecycle.

The API Gateway Security module enables the processing of calls and application of security mechanisms. The Dev Portal facilitates the use of its APIs by the collaborating developers of your ecosystem, with easy access to documentation, test environment, and issue tracker. The Lifecycle module enables the processing of information such as the lifecycle of the APIs and versioning. In turn, the Analytics module presents aggregated metrics regarding the operation of the APIs.

API Management Platform for IoT and Industry 4.0

Sensedia has the leading API Management platform in Brazil, as well as consulting in Microservices, Government and Design of APIs and Services, to guarantee the success of its Architecture and its Digital Strategies.

Sensedia’s API Platform facilitates the displaying, consumption and management of resources for the creation of apps, integration with collaborators and clients, development of better digital experiences, IoT, and open innovation strategies.

Additionally, Sensedia is the first Brazilian company to be featured in the Gartner Full Lifecycle API-Management Magic Quadrant and in the Forrester Wave API Management Solutions.

Want to learn more about how to implement Microservices and APIs strategies?

Thanks for reading!