What is the Unified Namespace in Industrial IoT?

With the increasing complexity of industrial systems, the Unified Namespace (UNS) is one of today’s top trends in manufacturing technology.

Industry 4.0 Complexities

Modern factories are more complex than ever, incorporating a wide range of:

  • Hardware such as sensors, actuators, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), robots, CNC machines, and radio-frequency identification tags
  • Machinery like conveyor belts, assembly lines, packaging equipment, pumps, and HVAC systems
  • Software like SCADA, MES, ERP, CRM, PLM, digital twin applications, data analytics platforms, and custom apps
  • Networking components like gateways, routers, and switches
  • And protocols like MQTT, OPC UA, AMQP, and REST APIs

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

The Unified Namespace, or UNS, is what ties all those components together. The concept has gained steam in the last few years with the rapid growth of the Industrial Internet of Things.

Globally, the number of Industrial IoT connections is expected to reach nearly 37 billion by 2025.

In IIoT World, Jessica Wachtel of Influx Data calls the Unified Namespace the next iteration of the Industrial Internet of Things.

Simply put, the Unified Namespace makes smart manufacturing smarter.

It blends the ISA 95 model for integrating manufacturing tech with other systems with cloud-based technology. UNS drifts from the traditional layered approach.

SSOT vs UNS

In an interview with United Manufacturing Hub co-founder Jeremy Theocharis, Jacques Engländer from the Industrie 4.0 Maturity Center said the UNS concept is subject to “various interpretations.”

At its core, he said, “it fundamentally addresses the issue of data accessibility and the changes of siloed systems.”

While some consider a Unified Namespace the single source of truth, Engländer likens it to an address book.

The focus isn’t centrally storing data but rather understanding where it resides and how to efficiently access it.

The UNS acts like an organized directory that maps all the data points across an industrial system. Every piece of data is assigned a unique identifier.

Single Source of Truth vs Unified Namespace in IIot

Push/Subscribe

A key differentiator is its publish/subscribe mechanism used for system interaction. Whenever a device generates data, it publishes it to the namespace. Systems or applications that need this data subscribe to the updates.

Whenever there’s new data published, the subscribing systems automatically receive it.
Operating in real-time, the UNS ensures changes and updates from one part of a system are immediately available to other components that need it.

So tasks like adjusting a machine setting in response to sensor data can happen quicker and automatically.

Open and Flexible

The UNS uses open and flexible architectures and protocols that allow for easier integrations within a common platform regardless of technology or vendor. In modern protocols like MQTT, everything is communicated through a common language rather than hard-coded connections.

The flexibility enables system engineers to add, remove, or change components without disrupting the greater system.

Acting as a universal translator, the UNS enhances interoperability and scalability. It unlocks the ability for different types of devices and systems to work together. Though the UNS is for centrally processing and sharing data, it also ensures only authorized users and system can access certain info.

What’s Driving Adoption?

A convergence of factors are driving Unified Namespace adoption, including:

  • The demand for real-time data and analytics as businesses increasingly rely on the insights for decision support
  • The ongoing push toward digital transformation introducing interoperability challenges as organizations adopt technologies from various vendors
  • The rise of edge computing, which is enhanced by the UNS enabling faster and more reliable data accessible across industrial systems
  • Unprecedented and sophisticated cyber threats that require superior security models and governance practices to avoid compromising sensitive data
  • And the focus on efficiency and cost reduction, key objectives of any industrial operation

In Automation World, Sergey Koreshkov of Nukon said the UNS is becoming an essential element of Industry 4.0.

“Implementation of UNS architecture has become a prerequisite for integration of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, IoT, and Big Data analytics into industrial processes” he wrote.