Success Path
Everything you need to implement Industrial IoT in your manufacturing plants

Document your Integration and Connectivity Strategy

The real power of ThingWorx comes from its ability to pull data from disparate sources into a single application to gain new insights and drive new actions. Plan how you will integrate with the systems and connect to the machines necessary to achieve your use case.

Gather data requirements

The first step: collect a list of requirements. These items are the must-haves in your integration and connectivity strategy and should be specific to helping you support your identified Industrial IoT use case. Having an initial wireframe design of your application will help you understand and identify the information you’ll need to access.

Your requirements should include:

  • The data you need: Note the specific pieces of data or metrics you need to build the application for your use case. Also note what format the data needs to be in.
  • How often that data needs to be updated: Does the data being used in your application change frequently and need to be updated in order to be useful? Keep in mind that the higher the frequency of updates, the more transactions your infrastructure will need to support.
  • Where that data lives: Whether in a third-party system, an in-house solution, a .csv file, a machine, or something else—you’ll need to identify where this information is currently housed.
  • Whether the connection needs to be unidirectional or bidirectional: Is it enough for the data to simply be passed to ThingWorx to be used in the application, or does ThingWorx need to be able to pass information back?
  • Why you need the data: Continually ask yourself what the data is being used for to decide whether it’s truly necessary. Avoid gathering data that isn’t crucial for your IIoT use case.


ThingWorx customers commonly connect to a variety of tools, including:

  • Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)
  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
  • Manufacturing Execution System (MES)
  • Data historian
  • Enterprise Asset Management (EAM)
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs)
  • Custom SQL databases
  • Enterprise data lake
  • And more

Determine integration connectors

Now that you have a clear picture of what data you’ll need to access for your application, you need to determine how to create the connections to that data. ThingWorx collects data in two ways:

  1. Integrations: You integrate to systems that house data.
  2. Connectivity: You connect to machines or physical assets.

When it comes to integration, ThingWorx has a number of integration connectors built in and ready to use. But depending on what kind of integrations are required, some custom-built options might be needed as well.

To decide on the best approach for your organization and selected use case, we recommend having a detailed conversation with your solution architect (with strong ThingWorx knowledge), controls engineer, IT and OT experts, and any others who have the deep understanding of the specific data and systems to which you’re trying to connect.

Recommended Resources

Determine edge connectivity requirements

Your use case may require you to connect to machines or physical assets. In the IoT industry, the devices and things that connect to the cloud are often called the edge: The things connect from outside the ThingWorx platform and send data into the platform. There are a variety of edge devices, like programmable logic controllers (PLCs), Raspberry Pis, routers, and more.

If you must connect to edge devices, determine your requirements. The data requirements you established are a great place to start. In addition, your edge device requirements should address:

How to communicate with the device:

  • What kind of data transfer/application protocol does the device use?
  • Does it have a physical user interface?
  • Will you need to convert from analog to digital?
  • Is it wireless or hardwired to a network?

How to retrieve the data:

  • Where does the data live on the device?
  • How will the data travel from the edge device to ThingWorx?
  • Are there any security barriers you need to address?

 

Depending on the device, there are numerous ways to connect. For manufacturing use cases, we recommend you use Kepware to communicate with edge devices. Choose the technology that will meet your requirements.

A systems integrator will help answer these questions. If possible, determine who programmed the device you’re connecting to. It may be a control engineer or programmer within your organization, a third-party vendor, or machine builder. This person can provide invaluable expertise as you connect to edge devices.

Recommended Resources

Design your ThingWorx data model

The power of ThingWorx comes from its ability to aggregate disparate data into a single place. You must structure that data in a way that your ThingWorx applications can use it. Your data model architecture will be a digital representation of everything that provides data in ThingWorx and the relationships between those things.

Your ThingWorx data model is comprised of these entities:

  • Things are digital representations of all of your assets, devices, systems, people, or processes that provide data.
  • Thing Templates store core functionality (properties, services, events, and subscriptions). All Things need to be associated with a Thing Template, inheriting its identified functionality.
  • Thing Shapes also store functionality but can be applied to single or multiple Thing Templates or Things. We recommend using Thing Shapes when there are properties, services, events, or subscriptions that span across multiple Thing Templates or Things across several Thing Templates.

While ThingWorx allows your data model to evolve over time, it’s important to spend time determining how to structure your data early in the project. The best place to start: compile a list of Things required for your use case. From there, start to understand the relationships between those Things.

This is just a brief introduction to the ThingWorx Data Model. Use the recommended resources below to learn more and prepare to design your data model. We recommend working with a system integrator, programmer, or developer with object-oriented programming experience to design your data model.

Recommended Resources

Document your integration and connectivity strategy

Now that you know which data sources you need to connect to and how you plan to connect to them, it’s important to compile this information in a documented integration and connectivity strategy. This document will help inform other decisions that need to be made, including any changes to your infrastructure and detailing a timeline for your ThingWorx project.

Your documented integration strategy should include:

  • Requirement of each integration connector that will be used
  • A list of all transactions that need to occur, including the frequency
  • All of the data fields you will be collecting
  • Decisions on what will act as the main system(s) of record (the source of truth for your data)
  • Any security considerations that need to be addressed

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