The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a variation of the Internet of Things (IoT) targeted to handle the needs and demands of more significant industries. The only difference between these two is that the IoT is primarily for consumer usage, whereas the IIoT is mainly for industrial purposes, like manufacturing and large management systems.
“Today, we can have real-time analytics on the status of plants, which lets us respond faster to opportunities in the marketplace as they arise, as well as contributing to product quality and asset availability,” says Greg Conary, the senior vice president of strategy for a French industry business unit.
This holds a lot of truth: at less than 20 years old, IIoT is already a system of interconnected instruments that is used in applications and industries all around the world—and proves to be an excellent example of evolution of IoT and essential control systems.
What is IIoT?
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a subtype of the Internet of Things (IoT) — as we’ve already addressed. But to better understand IIoT, let’s first start with the general concept of IoT.
IoT is a system of corresponding computing devices, machines, objects, and people that can transfer data over a network without requiring direct interaction or HMIs (human-machine interface). IoT typically focuses on consumer technologies like wearable technology, phones, television, in-home appliances and automation (more commonly known as “smart home technology”).
So how does this translate to IIoT?
IIoT refers to the interconnected sensors and instruments that are networked within a computer’s industrial application. This section is responsible for data collection, exchange, and analysis in automation, factories, healthcare, machinery, transportation, and city planning. Hence its name: this system is most commonly used in industrial settings.
Impressively, IIoT is expected to generate an additional $15.7 trillion of global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030 with artificial intelligence alone. This is because major companies and industries will be utilizing AI software more and more—all thanks to systems like IIoT.
How IIoT Systems Operate
There’s a particular architecture to IIoT systems that directly relate to how they operate. There are three layers of operation, which are:
- Application Layer: User interfaces, such as screens and tablets;
- Network Layer: Communications protocols like WiFi and cloud computing; applications and software that transforms data into information
- Perception Layer: Hardware, which includes CPS, machines, and sensors
These inner systems communicate with each other when a command is made. This simple architecture is the brains behind IoT and IIoT technologies and are able to offer a plethora of advantages and benefits in the manufacturing industry.
Benefits of Using IIoT
Like the IoT, IIoT is immensely helpful in saving time, saving money, and increasing productivity. Without this system and the ever-evolving elements like artificial intelligence, manufacturing plants would be unable to meet the demands of consumers everywhere.
Benefit #1: Expanded Connectivity
Thanks to its broad network, applications can share information with users, customers, and other systems within seconds. This expanded connectivity within the industrial workplace allows for better decision-making for businesses and companies.
Benefit #2: Cost-Saving Methods
Since communication is better than ever before, IIoT can perform several cost-saving methods by increasing production time, performing automatic work, and catching necessary repairs and maintenance work to avoid any unexpected costs. Computers that can target and respond to inner-system issues help save productivity time by eliminating the need for a human operator.
Benefit #3: Efficient Manufacturing
Just in time manufacturing (JIT), the better response time between customers and businesses, increases collaboration, provides information on delivery schedules, and basic metrics are tracked like throughput, output, and fail rate.
Benefit #4: Automatic Maintenance
Predictive maintenance (PdM) can predict when a machine or system failure may occur and when it may need repairs. This prediction helps prevent unplanned maintenance checks and minimize the cost of spare parts and time spent repairing machines, allowing more time for productivity and less money spent on unnecessary repairs.
A Brief History of IIoT
The Industrial Internet of Things has significantly evolved over the past few decades. Beginning in 1968 with the invention of the PLC (programmable logic controller) that was used by General Motors, the automotive industry realized how quickly and finely PLC controlled systems operated.
“At that time, we did not know what we had built,” wrote Dick Morley, who is credited as the ‘Father of the PLC.’ “We just wanted to get rid of a problem that had plagued me for four years in specialized systems.”
Morley’s work proved to be incredible: thanks to the existence of PLCs, it was in 1975 when industry giants Honeywell and Yokogawa introduced the first distributed control systems (DCSs). These systems allowed flexible process control throughout a plant.
Then, Ethernet was invented in 1980—and just within a couple of years, people had developed smart devices. The first documented smart device was in 1982 with a modified Coca-Cola machine at Carnegie Mellon University that was an internet-connected appliance. This machine could report its inventory and tell the user whether or not the drinks were cold. At the time, this was revolutionary.
By 1999, the Internet of Things became popular and the default system used for systems and applications, serving companies today like Amazon, Boeing, John Deere, Shell, and more. When cloud technology was introduced in 2002, IoT moved onto industrial companies and IIoT singlehandedly skyrocketed.
Since cloud computing allows for storage of data by remote communications without any HMIs, IIoT found a place to advance.
How Is IIoT Used Today?
Today, IIoT is responsible for so many aspects of industries we use every single day, including healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, government, and more.
Industry #1: Healthcare
In healthcare, IoT and IIoT are revolutionary. These advanced machines can perform CT and MRI scans for patients, provide augmented and virtual reality (VR) training for staff, offer predictive analytics from monitoring patients’ vitals and identify blood and tissue samples, among many other things. IIoT in the healthcare system is vital and continually advancing, but it is now the fastest way to get patients in and out quickly, train staff, and analyze health data.
Industry #2: Manufacturing
IIoT has a real home in the manufacturing industry. This system can monitor appliances, machines, sensors, and methods by delivering and analyzing data, providing instant maintenance, and faster communication between humans and machines.
Industry #3: Transportation
IIoT communications can share real-time data to help drivers find the most efficient routes via global positioning system (GPS) technology. IIoT is also able to communicate with the vehicle’s central computer to maximize fuel usage, track shipments, and more.
Industry #4: Government
Relevant data like traffic and utility reports can be reported to government facilities within seconds of accidents and outages. This technology also mitigates catastrophes, all of which directly improve citizens’ quality of life and makes city planning simpler and better.
Types of IIoT Technologies
IIoT is also considered a more developed version of distributed control systems (DCS) since it allows for more automation thanks to cloud computing. Introduced around 2002, cloud computing is one of the five most significant technologies used in IIoT. Others include cyber-physical systems, edge computing, big data analytics, and of course, artificial intelligence.
Technology #1: Cloud Computing
“The cloud” is something you’ve likely heard before—but what exactly is it?
“The cloud” is simply a metaphor for the Internet. Cloud computing is an organized technology that stores data online so that the user can store and access this data via the internet instead of via a computer’s hard drive.
Technology #2: Cyber-Physical Systems
A cyber-physical system (CPS) is a system in which physical and software components are deeply intertwined. The system is controlled and monitored by computer-based algorithms. Industries that use cyber-physical systems are aerospace, automotive, healthcare, manufacturing, and transportation, just to name a few. It is very similar to the IoT, but CPS has better coordination between physical and computer elements.
Technology #3: Edge Computing
Edge computing is the decision networks make to deliver enormous amounts of data to the closest computing resource that was requested by the user. Edge computing is enabled by technologies like routers, integrated access devices, and sensors. This process makes the computations of IoT and IIoT much more efficient.
Technology #4: Big Data Analytics
Big data is a field that provides solutions to data sets that are too complex for traditional data-processing software. Big data can offer higher power and delivers data storage, data analysis, searching, sharing, transferring, updating, information privacy, among many other benefits. This is one of the main pros of IIoT technology since it can better serve larger industries.
Technology #5: Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the development of computer systems that perform tasks which would typically require human intelligence. This might include speech recognition, decision-making, and visual perception. Some even theorize that it’s going to be make such an impact on global GDP and be so vital and part of our daily lives that it will become “the new electricity.”
Some of the most common examples of AI are robots and machines that are widely used in industrial settings. Smaller versions of AI might be everyday devices, like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and smart home applications that control lights, temperatures, locks, and more.
The future of IIoT technologies like cloud computing, cyber-physical systems, edge computing, big data analytics, and artificial intelligence will continue to evolve and advance. Although there are numerous benefits to introducing IIoT into industries, experts urge people that it’s time to utilize the benefits of IIoT as one of our own in the workforce.
“The mindset today is man versus machine,” says Anand Rao, an AI researcher. “What we see as the future is man and machine together can be better than the human.”
So far, it’s safe to say that IIoT has completely changed the way of operation among large industries. By performing cost-saving tasks, industries can save time, increase productivity, and communicate better and bigger than ever before. In the years to come, IIoT will continue to change the world through its cloud computing and artificial intelligence usages.