HomeConnectivityIIC releases AI contract tool, IIoT security guides and IIoT maturity gauge

IIC releases AI contract tool, IIoT security guides and IIoT maturity gauge

The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) is piloting a contract automation tool that uses artificial intelligence to negotiate between industrial companies, without human involvement, to arrive at contract terms both sides can settle on.

In recent weeks, the organisation has also issued comprehensive and constructive guides on trust and security in industrial IoT (IIoT) systems, and a new maturity gauge for enterprises to review and rate their progress with digital change. The consortium is working in support of the broader Industrie 4.0 movement.

A new testbed to trial the contract negotiation facility – going by the name IIC Negotiation Automation Platform Testbed – is being led by NEC, with support from Japanese industrial IoT provider Kabuku, the Germany based Fraunhofer Institute, and the Korea Electronics Technology Institute (KETI). All are IIC members.

The idea is to make it quicker and easier for both parties to a find agreeable terms, and to make the manufacturing and logistics value chain more efficient and flexible.

Companies that make or receive an order on the platform are provided with an AI-based ‘negotiation agent’, which automatically searches for terms and conditions that can be agreed upon by both parties by using “standardised protocols, data formats, and lexical definitions”. Work is contracted when agreeable terms are settled. Final terms are signed off by humans, instead. 

Satoshi Morinaga, IIC testbed lead for the IIC and research fellow at NEC, said: “In a manufacturing use case, automatic negotiation on conditions for the trading of products benefits both buyers and sellers. It enables buyers to be flexible with their demands by expressing their procurement requirements within a range and sellers can expand opportunities for orders and profits by making full use of their assets.

“In a logistics use case, automatic negotiation can facilitate on-demand shared transport services. This can help factories minimize their transport systems in situations when logistics costs are high and redundant traffic will increase the total vehicle traffic.”

The IIC said the testbed aims to promote “standardisation activities that support the growth of AI throughout society”. Other participants include Oki Electric Industry, Toyota Tsusho Corporation, and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST).

Meanwhile, the IIC has published a flurry of white papers and guides for industrial IoT activities, including two about establishing ‘trust’ in industrial IoT systems.

Its recent publication, Managing and Assessing Trustworthiness for IIoT in Practice, describes the intricate technical balance enterprises must strike between their information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) systems to have ‘confidence’ in conjoined industrial IoT (IIoT) setups. The ‘office floor’ and ‘shop floor’ have to be reconciled, it says.

Jim Morrish, co-chair of the IIC business strategy and working group, said: “The fact is it is possible to have ‘too much’ trustworthiness. Trustworthiness costs, in terms devices and software, and also often in terms of user experience and functionality. A trustworthiness solution for a nuclear processing plant would be an unnecessary hindrance to a peanut butter manufacturer.”

The white paper discusses a live example of an IIoT system analysed from a trustworthiness perspective. Fujitsu’s so-called Factory Operation Visibility and Intelligence’ (FOVI) system, also an IIC testbed, aims to bring closer visibility of operations to plant managers in near-real time.

Jacques Durand, director of engineering and standards at Fujitsu, and co-chair of the IIC business strategy working group, said: “Different aspects of trustworthiness impact business performance. For instance, slowing down a production line can reduce costs associated with stress on machinery and machine operators, but such a course of action may also impact productivity or lead time.”

Another white paper from the IIC, Data Protection Best Practices, describes best practices that can be applied to protect various types of IIoT data and systems. It covers multiple adjacent and overlapping data protection domains, including data security, data integrity, data privacy, and data residency.

Data protection in IIoT systems encompasses operational data, system and configuration data, personal data, and audit data. Different mechanisms and approaches may be needed for data at rest, data in motion, and data in use, the paper explains.

Bassam Zarkout, executive vice president at IGnPower, and one of the paper’s authors, commented: “To be trustworthy, security, safety, reliability, resiliency, and privacy must operate in conformance with business and legal requirements. Data protection is a key enabler for compliance with these requirements, especially when facing environmental disturbances, human errors, system faults and attacks.”

As well, the IIC has launched a web-based IIoT Maturity Assessment tool (and survey) for enterprises the gauge the maturity of their digital change programmes. The assessment mechanism covers four aspects of business change: strategy, solution lifecycle, technology, and security.

It assesses 63 individual capabilities, each with five levels of maturity within the above framework. The facility is available in three levels of analysis: quick, standard, and detailed, with the full analysis only for IIC members.

Morrish commented: “The IIoT market has grown quickly and many businesses planned strategy while in the midst of execution and need to step back and assess their true IIoT maturity. This [tool] will help companies get a baseline for their maturity right now and assess it in regular intervals to track their progress.”

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