What is Operational Technology (OT), a term now widely used in industry?

Gartner (the leading research and advisory company) defines Operational technology (OT) as ‘hardware and software that detects or causes a change, through the direct monitoring and/or control of industrial equipment, assets, processes and events’.

The terminology has been used to demonstrate the technological and functional differences between traditional IT systems and the Industrial Control Systems environment, let’s say the "IT in the non-office areas". Others say simplistically that IT deals with Information while OT deals with Machinery.

So when we consider a company rolling out an industrial smart glasses project we are right into the concept of OT – we have both hardware and software interacting with and impacting the operations of the enterprise. Smart glasses are very much part of the new world of connected OT.

Industrial Smart glasses and the IT/OT convergence

While IT includes communications as part of its information scope, OT has not traditionally been networked technology. The web is full of advice regarding the convergence of IT and OT systems and the Internet of Things (IoT) is accelerating the need to unify IT and OT systems.

In large organisations IT is generally managed by the CIO, while OT comes under the COO or Divisional Manager. To maximise the benefits and efficiencies of innovation projects such as Smart glasses these two areas must work closely together or converge.

It stands to reason that within a Smart glasses Project both IT and OT systems must be unified and managed together in order to guarantee a successful implementation.

Advantages of converged OT/IT intelligent systems for smart glasses

What are the reasons and the downstream advantages of a well converged OT/IT system in the context of an Industrial Smart glasses project? Why is it so mission critical?

Achieve 100% Availability: System Downtime can have large negative consequences for the business. The risks of lost productivity or poor client service must be mitigated and in the case of more critical applications in the medical, energy, security sectors the consequences can be even greater. A converged OT/IT system must aim to guarantee 100% uptime. The operator in the field or on the factory floor must operate with the knowledge that the system is 99,99% reliable.

Security:OT's modernization through the integration with IT brings with it the question of security. In a smart glasses remote application it may be necessary to use public Internet for connectivity or use cloud-based resources. New security systems and practices must be set-up to protect against data loss or hacker threats. Indeed the web is buzzing about the cybersecurity field of OT. Companies realise that their new IoT systems, are at risk from cyber-attacks. The cyber security air-gap (the physical isolation of a secure network from unsecured networks) is one of the network security measures employed to safeguard companies. Many say it is not however a 100% secure solution. It is critical that Security Protocols are carefully addressed within any new Smartglasses Project.

Scalability: Depending upon the application the smar tglasses project will entail collecting, transmitting, analysing and storing additional data which must be managed by the IT systems. A converged project will allow for efficient management of present and future IT resources, storage capacities and system speed.

Commissioning:Equipment installation and commissioning is a key part of putting any system into service. In the case of smart glasses it is important to define the installation, training and commissioning procedures and sign-offs. These will naturally depend on the nature of the application. It is useful to remember these procedures are an investment in the system’s serviceability and reliability for its forecast useful lifespan.

Bottom Line : IT/OT integration is critical

The bottom line is that it is critically important for industrial companies to plan for an IT/OT integration right from the start of any smart glasses project. Although smart glasses projects use hardware and software that is traditionally part of the "IT"-infrastructure (e.g. smart phones, web/video-servers,...), they require service levels that are frequently found in "OT"-specifications (e.g. 99,99% uptime, increased security-level,...).IT leaders and OT managers must meet early in the process to understand each other’s requirements and objectives. Looking at it from a high level the successful digital transformation of every company depends on these collaborations working effectively.

Guest blog by David Kidd

Published on Nov 21, 2019