The Industrial Internet of Things is the extended use of the IoT and means integrating machines with sensors, software, and communication systems to improve industrial processes. In our article, we’ll take a closer look at this technology, IIoT solutions, and the benefits it offers.
What is IIoT?
The Industrial IoT (IIoT) is one of the largest and fast-growing segments of the Internet of Things (IoT) in terms of the number of connected devices and the degree of usefulness of these services for the production and automation of enterprises. This segment has traditionally served as the operational and technological base and includes hardware/software monitoring of physical devices.
Traditional tasks of information technology are solved differently than operational and technical tasks. Operational Technology (OT) focuses on evaluating performance, uptime, real-time data collection and response, and system security. Information technology focuses on safety, grouping, services, and data provision. As the Internet of Things begins to gain ground in manufacturing and industry, the IT and OT worlds are uniting, especially in the diagnostic service of thousands of manufacturing machines. This merge will be able to provide an unprecedented amount of data to private and public cloud infrastructures.
IIoT vs IoT
IoT and IIoT are concepts with the same technology in their core – connecting devices to the internet and collecting data – and are only different in where they are used. IoT mainly concerns consumer devices and IIoT is for factories, industrial manufacturing, and big supply chains.
Internet of Things is basically the interaction between devices capable of collecting, storing, processing, and sending data. These devices can range from a camera that captures and sends images to a sensor on a wind turbine that collects environmental parameters and turbine performance data. Sensors collect various data, including pressure, humidity, optical readings, the speed of moving parts, sound, and more.
The IoT is a computing network of physical objects equipped with built-in technologies for collecting and transmitting information. They work in conjunction with devices and technologies for storing and intelligent processing of data, as well as machines and algorithms for generating control actions both on parts of the system and global ones.
The term “Internet of Things” (loT) was first used in 1999 by Procter & Gamble employee Kevin Ashton. He suggested using radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to optimize corporate logistics. The explosive growth in the number of devices and software systems connected to the Internet, the expansion of the range of their application in industrial production, and intersectoral interaction are the key challenges of our time. Even though the first mentions of the IoT appeared more than 20 years ago, the active development of this technology started just recently.
However complex IoT technology is, it is being used in multifaceted ways and by ordinary people. People equip their homes with sensors to monitor gas or water leakage, add smart bulbs to their bedrooms and remotely control the locks, and lights. IoT is used in healthcare wearables, security systems, or gadgets like robot vacuum cleaners.
Industrial IoT, on the other hand, refers to connected devices at factories or other industrial enterprises. They collect and transmit data to the cloud server. This way enterprises get the opportunity to analyze the internal operations and make predictions for the future. All data is accessible via one interface (for instance, an app), allowing users to observe, control, and even automate related processes. IIoT technologies transform traditional manufacturing supply chains into more efficient digital ecosystems that are safer for workers.
Technologies behind the Industrial IoT
The Industrial Internet of Things leverages advanced technologies and processes that make the magic happen. Industrial IoT is enabled by big data, machine learning, machine-to-machine communication, cloud computing, wireless communication, mobile technologies, and more.
Let’s cover the major ones here briefly.
Internet of Things capabilities and functionalities are very much dependent on data. Connected devices and sensors generate large amounts of unstructured data which is basically Big Data. It is further analyzed with Big Data processes and this shows that IoT and Big Data are very much interconnected. And in IIoT Big Data capabilities can bloom to the fullest; for example, sensors attached to factory equipment collect large sets of operational data which is later used to help make informed decisions.
All this data collected by IoT devices should be put to good use, right? Machine learning is the technology that helps IIoT reach its full potential. ML automates the analysis of data to generate real-time insights, and as a result, helps eliminate human errors and is used for predictive maintenance. It uses past behavior of devices or equipment to detect abnormal activity or predict future events.
IoT solutions deal with massive amounts of data that have to be stored, processed, and analyzed somewhere. This data also should be accessible from anywhere without lags, and the best way to achieve it is to use cloud storage. With the power of cloud computing, IoT systems can function cost-effectively, supporting real-time data transfer and monitoring.
IoT devices are supposed to know how to communicate with each other, and somehow they should be connected to the cloud to transmit data. In 2021 it is mostly achieved with wireless IoT networks or protocols that enable fast communication. They can be mesh network protocols, low-power wide-area networks (LPWAN), or local area networks and personal area networks (LAN/PAN). We have covered the subject of wireless IoT networks in full detail in our article.
IIoT capabilities in manufacturing
Implementing IoT applications generates two central values for industrial enterprises:
- Productivity increase;
- Digital transformation.
IoT implementation increases enterprise productivity by eliminating human involvement in routine processes. Business processes become more streamlined because all relevant data is timely obtained.
The integration of transactional and accounting systems (ERP, SCM, EAM) with production systems (ACS TP, PLM, MES, CAD / CAM) is accelerated and simplified. Industrial IoT devices help improve the quality of work and free up employees’ time they previously spent on routine checkups for professional development and acquiring new skills.
The service business model implies that the company does not offer a product but a certain level of services associated with its use. Even today, manufacturing plants are selling the operating time of their plants with guaranteed results. Digital transformation is achieved by equipping the product with sensors and creating a digital model of it, ensuring the integrity of information about the manufacturing process and its further operation.
Thanks to digital production, it becomes possible to manufacture non-standard items and customize mass products. This allows companies to enter related markets. For example, large industrial companies may offer KPI benchmarking services to other organizations.
How IIoT is being used
Connected Industrial IoT devices can collect and process data using predictive models and algorithms. For example, tractors or engines are equipped with sensors that transmit performance and other data to the manufacturer. The manufacturers analyze this data and can send over-the-air updates to improve the performance.
By remotely diagnosing problems with their products, manufacturers can optimize service. For example, they can identify parts that need repairing before a service technician sees the product. It will be even better if the manufacturer detects an impending problem and performs preventive maintenance to prevent damage. Thus, the manufacturer will not only save time and money but will also be able to strengthen customer loyalty.
What does Industrial IoT enable for enterprises?
- Location tracking. This IIoT technology not only reduces the time it takes the workers to find some equipment or tools. With the help of cameras, sensors, and satellites, it is easy to track the movement of objects. GPS modules and satellites can identify exactly where planes, trains, and other vehicles are located at a particular point in time.
- Remote monitoring. They allow enterprise managers to monitor and promptly diagnose the state of production systems from anywhere. Here’s an excellent example of how sensors and object monitoring are changing lives is the multinational oilfield company, Weatherford. Using radio frequency identification, it monitors the technical condition of the drilling equipment and determines when repairs or upgrades are required.
- Predictive analytics. Real-time data from machines and equipment allows pinpointing deviations from the norm at the earliest stages and as a result, predictive maintenance can be performed. As a result, equipment reliability is increased and operating costs are reduced. Thus IIoT introduces broader and more complex planning and decision-making. The system can predict if some machine is about to go down and performs predictive maintenance, thus saving time and costs for the repair and downtime.
- Automation and control tools. One more component of the Industrial Internet of Things is using machine (artificial) intelligence to automate processes and solutions. Removing a person from the loop of control increases speed and productivity, which can fundamentally change business, education, and government.
Increased equipment efficiency. Data obtained from sensors and indicators help determine equipment performance and what measures should be taken to improve the efficiency of production and work processes.
In industrial manufacturing, the use of IoT technology provides an opportunity for “things” (equipment, mechanisms, machines, etc.) to unite into a single network to identify each other, characterize their state, transfer data to each other, and process them without human intervention. And more importantly, IoT is about collecting the masses of data, analyzing it to help manages or business owners make informed decisions faster.
As a result, the enterprise that adopted IIoT can enjoy such benefits that provide them with competitive advantages:
- Improved operational efficiency
- Enhanced operational and chain visibility
- Reduced downtime, increased productivity
- Streamlined production processes
- Improved product quality
- Improved inventory management
- Increased degree of automation
- Reduced costs and risks
- Increased business agility
Industrial Internet of Things examples
Manufacturers are starting to use IoT and data analytics technologies to stay competitive. Over the past two years, 57% of manufacturing leaders worldwide have changed their way of making big decisions as a result of big data or data mining, according to PwC’s Global Data & Analytics Survey. These changes affected the use of data modeling tools, training managers in how to interpret data analysis results, and the involvement of specialists in the field of data analysis. Let’s take a look at the bright industrial internet of things examples.
- In 2012, General Electric (the first company that comes to mind as soon as you hear the word “IIoT”) invested as much as $1.5 billion into the Industrial IoT to improve its product line and services. Within the bounds of the venture, the corporation established more than 10,000 sensors at its Schenectady, NY factory. The sensors are linked to the company’s LAN and are applied to observe material utilization, maintain the sintering heat of high-tech ceramics utilized in batteries, and atmospheric pressure.
- The Cumulocity system, developed by Software AG, provides device management and pre-configured applications for the Industrial Internet of Things, as well as real-time data analysis, integration with enterprises and cloud systems.
- Hitachi offers the Lumada platform, a complex solution for any, both cloud and local systems in resource-intensive industries such as manufacturing, transport, energy, and utilities. On the positive side of Lumada, we can note that it can be used as a stand-alone platform or in cooperation with other equipment suppliers for resource-intensive industries.
IIoT global market
The speed of implementation of IIoT devices into production is striking. It will probably continue to speed up since the prices for related technology devices are constantly decreasing. Hence, analyzing data obtained from various IIoT sensors and storing it in the cloud will be easier and cheaper. Platform-built apps stir up the development of novel kinds of real-time analytics.
According to Market Data Forecast, the global market of IIoT (including equipment, sensors, robotic systems, platforms, software, and services) reached $264.22 billion in 2019. Starting from 2021 to 2025 it is predicted to grow at an average annual rate (CAGR) of 18.7%. By 2025, its volume will amount to USD 622 billion. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, market growth slowed down a bit in 2020 but has now grown again.
The industry is undergoing tangible changes. Manufacturers face tough choices trying to realize the promise of data-driven technology as more and more opportunities appear. They have to decide which IoT technologies will allow them to discover the tremendous benefits, given the time, money, and human resources they spend on initiatives in this area. The IIoT solutions we have in our arsenal are a superset of modern digital capabilities for industrial automation. If you want to upgrade your business with the help of advanced technologies, we are at your service.