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What’s the Difference Between “Brownfield” and “Greenfield” IIoT Scenarios? Thinkstock

What’s the Difference Between “Brownfield” and “Greenfield” IIoT Scenarios?

At the Industrial Design & Engineering Show, Bosch Rexroth’s workshop presented how to get started with the Internet of Things, with most companies falling into either the brownfield or greenfield bucket.

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The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will change the basis of competition, redraw industry boundaries, and create a new wave of disruptive companies. The business will shift from products to outcome-based services that compete on their ability to deliver measurable results to customers.

A fully functional digital ecosystem will require seamless data sharing between machines and other physical systems from different manufacturers. Industrial internet system components must have a big picture view that allows them to reconfigure their operation and maintain mission-level performance when under stress. Convergence will demand a flattened architecture and seamless communication.

Key to Success

The divide between operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) starts with the problems faced by each area. OT professionals are focused on keeping manufacturing, plant, and remote physical equipment in operation for extended periods of time, while IT professionals focus on keeping data flowing and accessible to all facets of an organization.

Because OT and IT have distinctively different requirements, their solutions also differ. OT solutions tend to be restrictive and proprietary, whereas IT solutions are generally more open and cutting-edge.

In addition, OT and IT tend to take different approaches to problem solving. In IT, solutions are implemented using a top-down approach, starting with the big picture, such as an organization’s overall needs. They break the big picture down into sub-components and develop solutions for each sub-component. In the top-down approach, it is important to look beyond the problem itself and understand the method of the solution as well. Professionals in OT approach solutions from the ground up, starting from the individual components to build a more complex system.

Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) environments collect data from different processes on the plant floor, so those who work in OT must figure out how to integrate all of the systems to work together. Since most OT technologies are proprietary, many SCADA solutions can be difficult to integrate. OT professionals work with sensitive, mission-critical, high-risk systems. Therefore, their foremost concern is security, which is why they have avoided internet and wide-area-network (WAN) connectivity.

With the introduction of smart machines, Big Data, and IIoT, both OT and IT have found that they need to solve the same problem: accessing industrial data. However, since OT and IT have existed on separate planes, neither side truly understands the other’s needs from a solutions standpoint. IT professionals may not understand the reasons why OT still uses legacy equipment and deals with proprietary, astronomically priced solutions. OT professionals may not have in-depth knowledge of SQL databases or the breadth of security protocols used in IT today.

The divide presents a great opportunity for OT and IT to come together and leverage each other’s strengths to deliver a truly disruptive technology. To keep OT and IT separate is an outdated, pre-IIoT mindset that will not allow industrial organizations to be competitive going forward. To meet the demands of today’s data-intensive environment, enterprises must work to align OT and IT.

By adding sensors to the Robert Bosch Turn Machine, engineers were able to retrofit the legacy equipment into a modern data-collection device.

Integration Challenges

Software and Hardware

In a customer survey conducted by Bosch Software, 61% of our respondents said software is the greatest pain point, while 21% said hardware, and 18% cited other issues. The main issues cited were software compatibility, limited selection, complexity, training, and support.

Unfortunately, many traditional human-machine-interface (HMI)/SCADA software solutions still operate on a very limited number of operating systems and are based on proprietary technology. This can cause serious compatibility issues, limit the available options, and lock an integrator and their client to one software vendor. The latter issue can become especially serious if a vendor goes out of business or stops supporting a product.

To avoid these issues, integrators can choose a software solution grounded in open, IT-standard technologies from vendors with a history of successful industrial implementations. Opting for open—rather than proprietary—solutions will result in easier connectivity with enterprise systems. It also increases access to a wealth of training and support opportunities from a variety of sources.

Data Integration

As industrial organizations begin to connect their data from the industrial controls side to the enterprise level, integrators will face data-integration challenges, as indicated by 12% of our survey respondents. Traditional SCADA solutions store data in costly, proprietary process historians, which severely hamper their ability to share and analyze data. Solutions that connect controls data to an ERP system, for example, can cost a fortune and may take months to implement. Data is simply too valuable to silo away.

Thanks to open IT standards like SQL databases, the way data is collected, shared, and analyzed has improved tremendously in recent years. Integrators can fulfill a customer’s need for easy data accessibility by using SQL databases to log historical data instead of process historians.

Legacy Systems

Legacy HMI and SCADA systems can be 20 years old or older. While a company can enjoy the reliability of a legacy system, 11% of respondents indicated that legacy systems are a challenge. Some organizations want to maintain their legacy systems in order to save money. Yet, customers also want to connect their legacy systems to modern enterprise systems. This poses a challenge to integrators looking to incorporate new technology into a current system.

It is vitally important that any new technology solution applied by an integrator is flexible enough to bridge legacy HMI/SCADA systems to cutting-edge enterprise-level software. Finding such a solution helps to overcome the challenges of unsupported hardware, proprietary technologies, and unsupported custom code often found in legacy systems.


Security is the most significant challenge in the alignment of OT and IT. The reality is that the proliferation of sensors and other smart, connected devices has brought with it an increase in security vulnerabilities. OT and IT have historically had differing security needs, although they have become more similar over time as data grows in importance.

Operational systems have used proprietary technologies that made them less-likely targets for attacks. In effect, these systems avoided being targets through “security by obscurity.” OT systems have also been self-contained by only having a few connections to other systems. Before IT infrastructures made data sharing possible, there was little need for data to leave the plant and manufacturing floor. Without the need to connect to networks and the internet, security was not of high importance.

Information technology and enterprise systems are well-connected to multiple systems via a LAN and a WAN such as the internet. Because of this connectivity, IT and enterprise systems are frequently under attack. With that said, there is a higher level of an acceptable security risk because IT usually has a higher tolerance for downtime. From an OT perspective, any attack that results in downtime could equate to millions in lost revenue, and thus, its tolerance for downtime is much lower.

Lack of Standardization in OT

Like security, standardization is a great concern for many organizations, especially those in the industrial space. Since proprietary technology is prevalent in OT, standards are hard to come by. For example, most traditional process historians use a proprietary method of storing data. Since process historians do not use standards, they make it challenging to share data easily and quickly to enterprise systems.

Then there is the fact that edge-of-network devices tend to use different protocols for sending and receiving data. On top of that, the issue of interoperability comes into play—namely, how do we make these different kinds of devices all connect to each other? Customers want to achieve a common infrastructure, and doing so requires laying the groundwork to produce standardized communication protocols, which IT has already established. To align OT and IT, the challenge will be to find a solution that uses standards so that systems across an organization, from the plant floor all the way to the top floor, can easily be installed and implemented.

What are “Brownfield” IIoT Scenarios?

The term “brownfield” indicates a type of legacy equipment and legacy software that performs discrete functions in isolation. In most scenarios, nobody is willing to modify existing, well-functioning legacy assets.

Several hurdles often determine why owners of legacy systems do not update to modern standards. The mentality of “if it works, why change it…” drives many decisions on whether or not to upgrade older systems. Investments must be justified by improvements. Much of the equipment built by subcontractors or system integrators is 20+ years old, and supporting documentation like source code, schematics, and CAD designs may not available. Lastly, old hardware or software are not capable of supporting new functionalities needed for IIoT.

A brownfield scenario consists of two main configurations: “retrofitting” and “bridging the gap.” “Retrofitting” deals with older or legacy equipment, while “bridging the gap” is about isolated modern equipment.


One example of retrofitting is the modernizing of Robert Bosch’s Turning Machine. On the machine, all steps are performed manually, which leads to the processing of wrong parts as well as handling errors. Critical parts to monitor for maintenance are belts and a drill bit. The retrofit approach involves adding sensors to the machine. Inductive proximity sensors are added to monitor power unit (slippage and torque) and positioning sensors to assure process quality (recessing depth, chisel position, cutting speed). The customer benefits are early detection of wear on the tool and power units, and improved quality due to process monitoring.

When bridging the gap, the key step is to introduce a gateway device that can connect to the cloud. The gateway device connects to existing devices on the floor and transmits that data to the cloud, which can be accessed by data analysts and engineers. This provides an easy upgrade of legacy equipment with IIoT technologies. The plug-and-run features of the gateway and its operating open standards and open communication protocol support ease of access. The cloud-based access allows for web-based configuration and parametrization over programming.

What are “Greenfield” IIoT Scenarios?

The term “greenfield” indicates a situation where no preexisting equipment or assets are present on the shop floor. This provides a “starting from scratch” scenario: implementing IIoT solutions with no competing legacy systems. This helps plants produce faster, with more flexibility, efficiency, and eventually reducing downtimes. “

Greenfield scenarios allow for the implementation of new and smart “cyber-physical systems.” A cyber-physical system is a set of technologies that bring together virtual and physical worlds to create a network in which intelligent objects can communicate and interact with each other. These scenarios, which allow you to start from scratch, provide new software communication landscapes. Open communication protocols and open standards such as MQTT, Rest APIs, AMQP, OPC-UA, MTConnect, and CodeSys are high-level programming languages used for advanced programming and web-enabled devices.

The implementation of new systems must work with any existing systems. New equipment must be integrated directly within existing manufacturing networks. Different IT systems at different levels will have to be considered, with the goal being to guarantee connectivity across the entire value chain. The result of using modern software solutions and simulation, especially “cyber-physical” systems, is faster prototyping, model-based engineering, software engineering methodology, modularity, scalability, reusability, and maintainability.

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