One-on-One with Dan Isaacs, Director, Connected Systems and IIoT Ecosystem, Xilinx

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  1. What does IIoT mean to you?

The Industrial Internet of Things represents the non-consumer applications that are segmented into focused areas for Xilinx including Smart Factory, Smart Energy, and Smart City.  IIoT takes the traditional closed environment that has existed in Industrial applications for decades, and now enables moving the data to a more open, accessible internet connected environment. IIoT provides new opportunities and improvement in areas of process, implementation and connectivity and communication.  Xilinx All Programmable technology and platform solutions provide unique differentiation to address the developing needs of IIoT.


  1. There is a mixture of “Hypes” and “Real Opportunities” today. Can you help clarify what are some of these real opportunities in IIoT?

There are several areas of opportunity in IIoT.  As stated above, the IIoT is about unlocking the data to gain actionable insight into the connected environment(s). Utilizing the actionable insight from sensor fusion and analytics can minimize the potential of unplanned downtime through predictive maintenance, reduce operational expenses, and improve productivity.  Opportunities include:


  • Smart Factory/Manufacturing – predictive maintenance achieved by accessing and analyzing voluminous amounts of data for early detection of potential operational issues, manufacturing process deficiencies and design flaws, and reduction of unplanned downtime for more efficient, operation and overall cost reduction
  • Smart Grid and Alternative Energy – for more efficient control and management of energy generation, distribution and consumption.
  • Smart City – Transportation management, utilities operation and other related infrastructure with secure communication and safe operation

Other opportunities that are applicable across these (and other) applications, include real-time, deterministic command and control of connected “things” including functional safety and security. Functionality that isn’t as time-critical (e.g. cloud-based analytics, machine learning, and data archival) is also a real opportunity.

  1. What is the formula for success in IIoT? In other words, what are the key ingredients to have a sustainable, long term IIoT business?

There is no one formula for success in IIoT, one must consider the individual application and its corresponding requirements.  Monetization of the IIoT is in its initial stages. One thing is for sure, the IIoT is a disruptive force that is bringing more focus on connected systems including securing endpoint to gateway to cloud, operational and management efficiencies, and new applications and business models.


  1. What does Xilinx offer in the space of IIoT?

Xilinx technology offers key differentiating advantages providing a flexible, standards based solution that combines software programmability, real-time processing, hardware optimization, and any-to-any connectivity with the security and safety needed for Industrial IoT systems. Our portfolio includes FPGAs and Programmable SOCs. These programmable SoCs integrate ARM processors or multi-processor systems and FPGA fabric in a single device. Additionally, on-board A/Ds, hardened peripheral blocks, and high-speed programmable I/O supporting legacy and new protocols and connectivity standards are included, providing a scalable and upgradeable highly differentiated platform.

Xilinx’s Software development environments, SDAccel™, SDSoC™, and Vivado® High-Level Synthesis, enable customers to quickly develop their smarter, connected, and differentiated applications enabling a broad spectrum of solutions to address key IIoT markets including Smart Factory, Smart Grid/Energy and Smart Cities.


  1. Do you need strategic partners? If so, can you name some?

Xilinx has a comprehensive ecosystem – encompassing design enablement, including HW, SW, IP reference designs to design services to platforms and comprehensive solutions, covering a wide range of applications spanning endpoint to gateway to cloud functionality.  The Xilinx Alliance Partner program provides the opportunity for contributors to participate at multiple levels further expanding Xilinx’s extensive ecosystem.


  1. I keep hearing that connected IIoT create risks as hackers can explore the weak points in those connections. Can you share with us about risks and challenges in implementing IIoT? What advices would you offer to overcome them?
    1. Three key areas of challenges that are obstacles to more widespread adoption of IIoT include:
      1. Security (overcoming companies’ concerns about connecting their systems and making them accessible over the internet)
      2. Standardization – considering the infrastructure already in place at a given facility, and costs to change existing connectivity approaches,
  • Data ownership – who owns data once connected.

The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), a highly collaborative 200+ member strong global consortium of companies, is working on several approaches through reference architectures, security frameworks, and proof of concept test beds to identify and bring innovative methodologies and solutions to address these and other IIoT challenges. More recently, the IIC announced collaborative efforts with the Platform Industry 4.0 Initiative to further address these challenges.





About the Author:

Dan is Director of Connected Systems at Xilinx. He is responsible for defining and executing  the ecosystem strategy for the Industrial IoT and is the representative to the Industrial Internet Consortium.  Dan has over 25 years of experience working in mil/aero, automotive, and consumer based companies including Hughes, Ford, NEC and LSI Logic. During his career, Dan has held positions in software design, FPGA design engineer, systems engineer and system verification, applications, other technical related management. He holds degrees in Computer Engineering- EE from Cal State University, B.S. Geophysics from ASU.