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Specifying for Standards of the Future

Systems designers must keep up with ever-evolving next-generation device standards, as well as with standards not yet set.

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compliance-300Systems design engineers need to keep several considerations in mind when designing to meet codes and standards. But what about when design or product standards don’t yet exist, are in flux, or when technology convergence blurs the line between industry sectors?

Those who design for connected devices and next-generation technologies will have a harder time staying on top of their industries’ quick-changing or not-yet-set codes and standards. But even in the future, systems designers responsible for, say, elevators and lamps will need to keep apprised of codes and standards that may today fall outside their purview.

Presently, the IEEE Standards Association is working to assume a proactive stance in reaching out to and engaging “next-generation” technologists, innovators, designers, developers, architects, and engineers, according to the association.

That’s because IEEE standards come into play for those working on the Internet of Things (IoT), its close relative the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and on smart grid applications, all of which cover a range of disciplines, technologies, and devices, the association says.

All three applications promise sensors on all manner of machines – from the industrial turbine to the smart meter that monitors home electricity use to the common coffee maker. But devices on these networks cannot function properly without the capability of the systems and sensors to talk to each other using a common, standard language, says Noah Harlan, president of the AllSeen Alliance, one of the contenders to set the IoT and IIoT standards.

Several potential standards and standards-setting bodies are now competing with each other to set IoT and IIoT standards, and more may be joining the competition soon. How the race to set standards will shake out is far from clear at this point, Harlan says.

The stakes are high. Management consulting firm Accenture predicts the global Industrial IoT landscape will be worth $14.2 trillion by 2022.

Many organizational bodies that provide existing standards or methodologies would like to see those applied as the IoT or IIoT standard.

For instance, some of the standards set by the Object Management Group are integral to and can be used for the IIoT, says Richard Soley, OMG chairman and chief executive officer. He spoke at the Industrial Internet Consortium’s meeting in June 2015. The Object Management Group is an international technology-standards consortium.

The pertinent OMG standards play a role in the security, dependability, and efficiency for the IIoT and include OMG’s data distribution service, system assurance, and systems modeling language.

The AllSeen Alliance also has its hat in the standards-setting ring. The alliance boasts such powerful players as LG Electronics, Qualcomm, Panasonic, Sony, Cisco, and Microsoft, among others, Harlan says. Participating alliance members use the AllJoyn framework to create their own custom apps that bring devices onto a wifi network. The AllSeen Alliance’s aim isn’t to establish AllJoyn as the IoT network protocol, but that could happen. With nearly 250 members, the platform would apply to many devices. Members are committed to working together so their devices can interoperate across both the IIoT and the IoT.

For connector suppliers, the good news is that the IIoT and the IoT can resemble SCADA and remote maintenance applications, and that many different technologies can help existing network systems increase performance even before official standards are set, says Andres Suazo, product marketing specialist at Phoenix Contact USA.

Wired and wireless Ethernet systems are always improving to provide end users with better technologies. Routers and firewalls, which provide additional security benefits, will likely become a requirement by end users and facility owners connected via the IoT and the IIoT, adds Suazo.

While simple IoT and IIoT nodes will use the memory available on the microcontroller, more complex nodes may require additional flash memory, either mounted on the circuit board or by a memory module inserted into an expansion slot, according to a Mouser statement. Flash memory components will be of use here.

Those who design cloud-based storage and control systems should know that some IoT or IIoT nodes may directly upload and download from cloud storage or even get code updates from cloud storage. Networking and computer-on modules as well as development boards, kits, and tools will be of use to those designers.

Systems designers who work with power delivery find themselves with changing standards as new technologies and delivery methods come on board.

In May, for instance, Michael Hyland, American Public Power Association senior vice president of engineering services, as well as senior vice president of IEEE, called for electrical engineers to “go through a rigorous review” of the National Electrical Safety Code to keep the code, which is updated every five years, useful for the “protection of public, electrical professionals, equipment, and property.”

Though the 2017 edition of the NESC is set for release in August, engineers should be continually reviewing the code and making suggestions for updates, as methods of electricity delivery change quickly, Hyland says. “As electricity is deployed in new ways and in every reach throughout the world, there are serious risks that need to be tackled.”

And system designers who do work on devices or equipment connected to the smart grid should know that in June, the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) voted to make MultiSpeak the official standard for distribution facilities. The smart grid is an electrical supply network that uses digital communications technology to detect and react to usage changes.

SGIP approved MultiSpeak’s security standard, too, says Dave Mohre, the director of energy and power at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which launched the MultiSpeak Initiative more than a decade ago. Mohre called Multispeak the first interoperability standard designed to improve the cybersecurity of smart grid applications.

NIST started SGIP, which became an independent entity in 2012. Members include utilities, regulators, vendors, and system integrators working to improve communications for utilities deploying smart grid technologies, according to an SGIP statement.

So systems designers who feel like they’re bathing in acronyms should take heart. All those at work on connected technologies of the future are in the same tub.

Jean Thilmany is a freelance writer and contributor to Connector+Cable Assembly Supplier.

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