What is the Industrial Internet of Things?
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is comprised of a vast network of interconnected machines and devices that work alongside an industry’s communication technologies to provide greater efficiency and optimized processes.
Everything from lighting to HVAC, to assemblage equipment, is properly analyzed and controlled by smart technologies operating within the IIoT. This level of connectivity allows for a more coherent and efficient work environment for everybody involved.
The Industrial Internet of Things vs. The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things is made up of every single device that is connected to the Internet. These devices could be computers, laptops, cellphones, tablets, or video game consoles. While that list goes on, the IIoT can be thought of as a little more finite, and a little more specific.
Rather, the IIoT exists to improve an individual industry. Therefore, the IIoT is comprised of any device within an industry that is connected to the Internet. All the devices in the industry are then connected to a central server in which all data can be read and interpreted by employees.
The evolution of the IIoT is disrupting the manufacturing industry as we know it, making for more connected and ubiquitous work environments. Here are a few examples:
Much like the 1999 movie Smart House, smart buildings offer a similar array of tools, but without an overbearing-digitized mother. By utilizing automated processes, smart buildings control the entirety of a building’s applications.
This includes, but is not limited to lighting, heating, air conditioning, and security. For instance, a manufacturing facility may have equipment that is sensitive to moisture. A smart building technology could detect an increase in humidity and issue an automated response to cool down the building.
Imagine if you could know a device was going to break ahead of time. No unplanned downtime, no safety hazards, and no unnecessary stock of replacement parts. Predictive maintenance technology provides a plethora of industrial advantages in this way.
Not only can the technology communicate when a machine will break down, but it can also communicate how. By monitoring the wear and tear of every individual machine and tool used in the industrial process, maintenance crews can replace parts and fix problems before they arise.
This means little to no downtime, smooth and consistent production, and no hit to a company’s bottom line.
Remote Asset Control
In massive industries like oil and gas, operations never take place in a single location. Assets more often than not are spread across a vast geographical location, including off-shore platforms. The centralized nature of IIoT technologies allows for operators to have a real-time overview of all of the industry’s assets, despite their varying and remote locations.
While the IIoT can collect data for analysis, the amount of information compiled is oftentimes vast, and impossible for a human to sort through alone.
Artificial intelligence, or machine learning, on the other hand, can process this data quickly, singling out anomalies or dips in efficiency that a human eye could never have caught. Upon reviewing this data, processes can be tweaked to optimize a facility’s energy efficiency and resource consumption, for example.
Automation and Digital Transformation
Revamping business models is necessary for industries to keep up in this technological era. Automation is just about the best way to revamp any business. By investing in automation, industries become more efficient and more capable of meeting today’s demands.
With improved worker safety and lower operating costs, manufacturers have gained the ability to more successfully compete in the market.
Benefits and Challenges of the IIoT
IIoT has its own benefits and challenges alike; here are a few:
The benefits of the IIoT are found far and wide, improving industrial processes and facilities in terms of safety, energy efficiency, onsite security, and more.
With predictive maintenance, safety hazards can be diminished because the technology can report when a piece of equipment is likely to fail. Therefore, a worker will know preemptively whether or not the equipment is safe to operate, and maintenance can rectify failures before they even happen.
While there are plenty of ways for businesses of all sizes to manually maximize energy efficiency, such as by selecting the best source of lighting for a warehouse or distribution center, connecting a facility to the IIoT can help take energy efficiency efforts one step further — for example, by connecting all electrical appliances and lighting via an app that allows for centralized control and monitoring.
All in all, the IIoT offers an improved method of internal collaboration by allowing each device to be connected, measured, and controlled to cut costs and increase efficiency.
Similar to any technological advancement, the IIoT comes with its own challenges. Conceivably the most pressing challenge the IIoT faces is its lack of interoperability.
“The inability of today’s IoT systems to communicate with each other means that most of the IoT data collected today is not used efficiently and this prevents the IoT from reaching its full potential.”Iconectiv
All IIoT systems currently operate on their own individual infrastructures. Not until a common infrastructure exists, will issues such as isolated data and costly distributions really begin to go away. With the emergence of Smart Cities, like Greenville, SC, this limitation should begin to diminish.
Another issue of significance is data security. The more devices an industry adds onto their server, the more possible entry-points there are for hackers. Challenges such as malware attacks and employee sabotage are understandable reasons to be wary of when investing in the IIoT. The good news is that most of today’s IIoT smart platforms have strategically built in multiple layers of security to combat external intrusion.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution
Completely augmenting the Third Industrial Revolution’s breakthrough in computing, the IIoT has created a revolution of its own. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has dramatically changed the way in which people live by providing us with a mechanism of hyper-connectivity.
“The building blocks of 4IR, including the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, 3D printing and artificial intelligence (AI), continue to unlock new business models, products and, in turn, new customer experiences and relationships.”Pricewaterhouse Coopers
By embracing the evolution of technology, industries can be successfully revamped and optimized for their customers’ safety and efficiency in production.