Introduction to PICMG IIoT Specifications

Doug Sandy

Imagine a factory in the near future, where front-end operations are seamlessly integrated with back-end purchasing and accounting using standard IT technologies. Artificial intelligence and machine learning provide actionable business insights, and new custom equipment is deployed using off-the-shelf smart sensors and motors with the same ease as you might install a new mouse with your laptop.  This is the vision of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) “Smart Factory”.  

While many of the technologies to implement this vision exist today, standardization – particularly at the sensor domain – remains an impediment to wide-scale deployment.  This is where PICMG comes in.

PICMG is currently working on a series of specifications that are targeted at interoperability at the sensor domain.  The first of these specifications defines the Micro Sensor Adapter Module (MicroSAM™).  MicroSAM is a new hardware form-factor that is about the size of a postage stamp and answers the need for scalable, industrial-grade interface and data acquisition.  Other specification work includes requirements for common firmware features, common data model, network architecture, and integration with the Distributed Management Task Force’s (DMTF) Redfish management API.  Together, these form the backbone of plug-and-play for industrial sensors and actuators.  In a series of forthcoming blogs, more details will be given on each of these works.

We believe that PICMG IIoT compliant solutions will accelerate the uptake of smart-sensor technology by creating new, standards-driven engagement models that are based on interoperability.  These are just a few examples:

  1. Traditional sensor vendors will be able to quickly create smart sensors by integrating their products with off-the-shelf sensor adapter modules and firmware.
  2. Traditional microcontroller vendors will be able to produce hardware and firmware that interoperates with higher levels of the network with plug-and-play ease.
  3. Facility operators will be able to deploy a wide range of sensors and actuators using PICMG extensions to the DMTF Redfish API without having to worry about the hardware device-specific behaviors.

Whether you are a computer hardware vendor, sensor vendor, integrator, or operator, these specifications have something to offer.  Before my next blog on MicroSAM™ and hardware at the sensor node, I would love to hear from you.  What challenges are you facing in Industrial IoT?  How can we work together to make your vision a reality?