Tackling the IoT Big 3: Latency, security and obsolescence in industrial and medtech

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Medical and industrial IoT is an evolving and alluring option for users —one that holds great promise for plans to pull medtech into Industry 4.0. Proponents of the technology say automation and data exchange will transform manufacturing floors into smart factories and help hospitals make the transition to efficiency and economy – without sacrificing care.

With regard to IoT devices, however, there are some challenges in how these devices fit into the overall infrastructure. JC Ramirez, director of engineering and product management at ADL Embedded Solutions, said it’s a mistake to think of industrial and medical in the same terms of IoT that you might think about commercial IoT. For Ramirez, industrial IoT is more about controlling the infrastructure and monitoring remote equipment.

Latency is a big issue, Ramirez said, one that doesn’t translate from commercial use. For example, updates and patches for those applications needs to happen quickly and predictably. “I don’t care if my refrigerator takes 10 hours or 10 minutes to update, but when it comes to manufacturing equipment, the systems must be reliable 24/7.”

ADL, which provides rugged CPU boards for military, industrial and medical industries, treats security as a related concern. In general, Ramirez said experts are seeing both cybersecurity and network security moving to the edge of the network. However, cybersecurity is still a “wait and see” issue for medtech said Ramirez. “Even industrial IoT is only now coming into its own in terms of security for its cloud-based functions.”

All the industries ADL serves require both current and future security enhancements, particularly for edge devices (e.g., devices at the point of care). “We want the devices to have the necessary enhancements to address security at the point of entry.”

ADL supplies lab and manufacturing for medical technologies. Ramirez said in medtech there is even more focus on ensuring products will be viable for the long term. “There is a lot of complexity in developing and installing IoT for these industries — obsolescence is a big topic of conversation.”

One key indicator that IoT developers are taking these needs seriously is Intel’s latest hardware offering, which is guaranteed for 15 years. The long time-frame allows manufacturers some assurance that they purchases they make will stay supported, and justify the cost of 4.0 infrastructure. For medical, there has always been a need to develop electronics that can not only withstand hard environments, but can also provide assurance that end of lifecycle will not be burdensome to patients or caregivers.

“It is a no-brainer for us and it comes with a transition period so we can communicate with customers and help clients figure out a solution that meets their needs, whether it be pre-buying, or upgrading,” said Ramirez.

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