The necessity of IT/OT convergence

First time mentioned by the term “Industry 4.0” at Hannover Messe 2011, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) became better known at the end of 2015 at the World Economic Forum. The breakthrough technologies of 4IR, led by digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), self-driving vehicles, robots and the Internet of Things (IoT), are changing the world entirely by starting a paradigm shift. This change is often called the digital transformation even when it involves other advanced technologies. Its speed, scale, and impacts have gained more significance than ever, blurring the boundaries between the biological, digital and physical worlds.

Over the past decades, the industry has moved from analog control systems to digital technologies like PLC, DSC, ICS, and SCADA. Operational technology provides factory managing systems and production sites with a growing amount of data to monitor, optimize and control the industrial processes. Yet, these data are often not used outside of the OT units, despite information becoming an increasingly valuable resource. Companies often separate their IT and OT units due to distinctions in technologies, targets, culture, people, standards,… However, at the moment, the convergence of IT and OT is not only a big opportunity for businesses but also a strategic goal that they should aim for to maintain the competitiveness and to join the new value chain and ecosystems.

Opportunities and challenges in IT/OT convergence

The IT/OT convergence enables an overview, information unification, and business-wide process management, ensuring that every personnel, equipment, machinery and asset receives correct information in the right format, at the right moment. To a business, IT/OT convergence in its entire organization serves as a platform to connect it to the 4IR ecosystem, as discussed above.

The benefits of IT/OT convergence include process optimization, enhanced information enabling better real-time decisions, cost reduction, risk reduction, and process time reduction. IT/OT convergence is also promoted and facilitated by the growth, availability, and price of next-generation technologies, solutions and autonomous products like Industrial Internet or IoT, and the integration of other 4IR technologies into production sites and the industry. The convergence lays the groundwork for IoT deployment, which will affect many traditional business systems and applications in the Information System Platform.

Overall, the biggest obstacle is still the collaboration between the IT and OT units. In OT, by utilizing new technologies from IoT and automation, many formerly complex, siloed and inefficient OT systems have converged into a single operating platform. However, this has created the need to use computing, storage, and data analysis systems, AI, cloud model, etc., which IT could make use of its specialties and capabilities to bring benefits and solve problems. Simultaneously, through this collaboration IT could expand its visibility, control, and management to OT units in order for IT to better satisfy the long-term strategy of the business.

The Convergence of IT/OT.

Looking forward

IT/OT convergence becoming real and essential is a topic being raised and discussed by IT and OT from several businesses to set up their digital transformation. Following are a few recommendations to facilitate and promote IT/OT convergence:

  • Preparing commands from upper management including CIOs and unit management, especially OT supervisors, for the integration of processes, technologies, and data between IT and OT throughout the business. Business units must be the ones to support and initiate the issue for any action to be taken because IT could only raise awareness about the subject.
  • Form a model for integration and synchronization of IT and OT that the business should follow. This depends on the level at which IT is responsible for OT computing infrastructure, as well as the amount of information sharing requested from the infrastructure.
  • The IT sector needs to adjust to the most suitable IT/OT convergence model to the demand for information sharing and connecting and the business’s process.

Catch up with the challenges and opportunities of enterprises in the Industrial 4.0 and in the convergence of IT and OT, FPT has been taking pioneering and strategic steps:

  • Establish strategic partnerships with leading industrial conglomerates in OT and leading in industrial digital conversion such as GE, Siemens, Airbus, Boeing, Toshiba, etc.
  • Build up the IoT approaching team, converge IT/OT with the strength of youth, the ability to acquire new high technology quickly for carrying out the industrial digital transformation projects, converge IT/OT in developed markets. Thereby, they can gain more experience, enhance the reputation, partner level and position in the value chain in this new field.
  • Extend the capacity from the traditional IT systems for domestic enterprises such as EPR, HRM, etc to solving problems of digital conversion, production modernization, IT/OT convergence by solutions, PLM technology, MES/MOM, IoT, Advanced Automation in combination with AI, BigData, Analytics, Cloud, Mobilitiy, etc with a view to creating an enterprise’s technology convergence platform
  • Define a pioneering role in deploying new technologies and solutions for the OT region with rich IT experience oriented towards building open ecosystems on open platforms so that they can gather Vietnam’s innovative partners to meet the domestic demand as well as the globalization market’s need of FPT.

The near future contains many great opportunities but equally challenging. With a pioneering mission, FPT has been step by step in the development of IT/OT platforms, along with the development of automatized technology in particular and technology in general, contributing to the prosperity of our home country.

About the author:

Phan Thanh Son – Chief Technology Officer, FPT IS

Mr. Phan Thanh Son has over 25 years’ experience in ICT sales/channel/technical/general management, business development and consulting. Joining FPT Information System since 2017 as the CTO, he is expected to promote R&D of new technologies, smart solutions, open platforms for digital transformations and bring technological inspiration to the activities of the FPT IS, increasing values for customers. Prior to FPT, Son worked for Simitri, Cisco, Equant, Vietsovpetro, Tradivico-IBC in various roles including Country Manager, CTO, Partner Director.

(Published on the FPT Technology Magazine, FPT TechInsight No.2)

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