Most of those working in the technology sector have at least a basic understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT). Recognition for the term Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is growing, although the definition itself is still evolving as digitization becomes a priority in every industry.
IIoT is the manufacturing industry reference of The Internet of Things. IIoT a subset of IoT that is currently revolutionizing manufacturing. It enables companies to access a massive amount of data quickly, then analyze and apply it with equal speed.
Companies accomplish this by employing smart devices within their factories. Those devices are part of a network of intelligent objects and computers that share information in a way that results in increased automation and efficiency.
This Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) guide takes a deeper look at the uses and benefits for Industry.
What is the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)?
Another name for IIoT is the Industrial Internet. IIoT combines analytics, brilliant machines, and people. Further, it involves a complex network of industrial devices that communicate with one another. Communication technologies monitor, exchange, and collect data. From there, the network analyzes and reports insights that drive business decisions.
The IIoT uses these smart actuators and smart sensors to enhance industrial and manufacturing processes. Leveraging the capabilities of these smart machines allows companies to generate and use real-time analytics.
These smart devices enable companies to identify inefficiencies and troubleshoot them sooner rather than later. Thus, they save money and production time. Increased efficiencies also go hand in hand with improved quality control, asset tracking, green practices, and efficiency throughout the supply chain.
What Is the Difference Between IoT and IIoT?
The IIoT is a subset of the Internet of Things. Both technologies are comprised of a collection of devices. These devices are managed by software for data collecting purposes.
The IoT includes consumer-based components like smart technology for the home, wearable devices, and self-driving cars.
All of these technologies collect and analyze data relating to consumer use and satisfaction. They can also serve to improve process efficiency, health and safety, and create overall better customer experiences.
On the industrial side, however, IIoT focuses on industrial applications. More specifically, applications are concentrated on efficiency and improved safety.
IIoT consists mainly of sensor-embedded infrastructures, devices, and machines that transmit data over the Internet. More and more are also using the benefits of cloud technology. Like IoT, analyzing IIoT data enables companies to improve their efficiencies and reduce redundancies in real-time. IIoT also provides superior remote monitoring, asset tracking, and so on.
What Makes IIoT Unique?
IIoT stands apart because of the way it’s transforming the manufacturing industry. Quite literally, it’s changing the day-to-day operations for industrial companies. For instance, IIoT enables companies to employ predictive analytics to detect faulty pipes before they fail.
This type of predictive maintenance is invaluable. A broken pipe or machine can mean millions of dollars lost when production halts. Companies have always scheduled preventive maintenance, though that involved a degree of lost production time. Predictive maintenance uses sensors to collect data and find potential problems at just the right time, thus minimizing downtime.
Or, companies can accelerate product development by feeding analyzed data into the product design cycle and streamlining production instantly. Further, combining machine-to-machine communication with big data means companies are achieving never-before-seen performance and efficiency levels.
How is IIoT Used in Industry?
Quite simply, IIoT is a game-changer for any company that produces and transports goods. IIoT can create levels of efficiency that turn current business models inside out. During production, IIoT enables machines to self-monitor, identify, and even predict potential problems. As you can imagine, this significantly cuts downtime and bolters efficiency.
Likewise, supply chain processes become efficient and highly-automated. Using sensor-managed inventory technology, companies can automate the ordering of supplies before items go out of stock. This frees employees for other tasks.
IIoT technology also improves building management. For example, sensor-driven climate control removes the human guesswork involved in managing a building’s climate. Also, monitoring devices can monitor entry points and respond to possible threats quickly, thus strengthening the building’s security system.
Example IIoT Devices and their Function
IIoT devices range from computers to smart actuators and sensors. Some devices are a combination of tools. Here are 5 examples that we will cover in more detail.
- Digital Twin
- Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID)
- Electronic Logging Device (ELD)
- Predictive Maintenance
- Artificial Intelligence and Edge Computing
Often, engineers use a computer model of an object or machine to study its behavior and function. By studying the model (or twin), engineers can understand and predict behaviors of the actual machine. The advantage is being able to anticipate problems before they occur in the production environment.
Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID)
RFID is a system comprised of readers and tags. Think of it as a much smarter barcode system. The readers use radio waves to identify the tags. This method allows multiple readers to read tags at once and from a long distance. As a result, RFID tags allow manufacturers to track and monitor anything with an RFID tag attached.
Electronic Logging Device (ELD)
ELDs are onboard sensors used in transportation. Replacing the old paper logs, these sensors monitor driving time, speed, and even the number of times a driver applies the brakes. Measuring these factors assists in fuel conservation, driver safety, and reduction of idle resources.
For example, the sensors detect when the driver has been at the wheel too long. The sensor communicates with a larger system, which sends an alert to the driver and notifies the dispatcher.
Predictive Maintenance Systems
A predictive maintenance system involves a component or machine with attached sensors. The sensors collect data, then transmits it to a central hub, where it’s analyzed and stored in a database.
This database continues to collect and analyze points of comparison as events occur. As a result, the system eliminates any unnecessary maintenance, at the same time increasing the ability to avoid failure.
Artificial Intelligence and Edge Computing
The “edge” is the where systems create, interpret/analyze, and address big data. Using the “intelligent edge” means you can analyze data faster. It also means that there’s less likelihood that a malicious entity can intercept that data.
Adding artificial intelligence (AI) to data collecting devices means making edge computing that much faster and more context-driven. In short, combing IIoT devices with edge and AI means sharper analytics as well as a smaller AI footprint (safer computing).
What is the Potential for IIoT for Industry?
As already stated, businesses that have adopted Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies have significantly improved the efficiency, safety, and profitability of their manufacturing processes. This defines it as something more than a passing trend. It’s one of the primary trends affecting industrial businesses today.
Industries are continually pushing to modernize their systems and update their equipment to meet current regulations. The goal for all these endeavors is to keep up with the market’s increasing demands for speed while dealing with disruptive technologies. What better way than IIoT? IIoT allows you to integrate edge and cloud technologies while improving efficiency at the same time.
How will the Industrial Internet of Things Improve Productivity?
IIoT technologies improve efficiencies, as we have already discussed. It also streamlines connectivity and scalability of a company’s existing systems. Beyond production line efficiency, IIoT improves the total communications and data reporting of the entire organization. From the plant floor to the executive offices, the whole organization is connected and able to access and employ analyzed data.
As for scalability, systems interconnect and can travel through the cloud. IIoT devices can be expanded to strengthen the company’s existing systems as the organization’s needs grow.
All these advantages combine and come back around to saving production time, saving money, and increasing profits. Not only is production more automated and efficient, but other key stakeholders within the organization remain informed and able to apply analytic results to their processes in record time.
Main Benefits of IIoT
In addition to the cost savings and increased productivity, IIoT smart devices and their respective networks allow companies to open data silos. This is perhaps the main benefit of IIoT because it makes all the other advantages possible.
Making meaningful data available to all connects people and processes to it, and each other. One cannot stress the significance enough. IIoT helps engineers and workers design and perform better processes. All the while, business leaders, executives, and other stakeholders can get a clear picture of production processes, thus making better decisions. The entire organization becomes cohesive, efficient, and adaptable to the rapid, ever-changing demands of the industry.
Main Drawbacks of IIoT
No technology is without its drawbacks. When it comes to implementing IIoT technologies, security and interoperability are challenges. These devices are far from plug-and-play installations. Often, IIoT devices use different protocols. They have different architectures. Thus, connecting them is not a seamless process.
Whenever possible, it pays to go with IT-standard or open-source technologies to ensure interoperability. The most significant benefit to IIoT may be its power to connect, but only when the network architecture is sound.
A second concern is possible security vulnerabilities. Smart sensors and other connected devices can create weak spots in security. Because any company needs secure data, taking extra measures to ensure security is paramount.
Case Studies of Industrial IOT in Action
Among the countless companies employing IIoT technology, Rolls-Royce and Caterpillar are among the forerunners who are maximizing IIoT benefits.
Rolls-Royce receives over 70 trillion data points from engines that are in service with customers. The original intent was to aid in repairing engines. Though, it evolved into a system for managing and scheduling engine repair. Their system combined collected data with machine learning to notify engineers of potential issues before they could be noticed any other way.
The company also employed some creative innovation for its aircraft engines. The used hordes of miniature robots (they were a mere 10mm in diameter). Equipped with tiny cameras, the robots crawled through engines, sending images back to the engineers. The engineers could conduct visual inspections of the engine without removing it from the aircraft.
In the near future, Rolls-Royce hopes to add remote-controlled robots to make complicated repairs, thus reducing the need for specialized teams to travel to the aircraft’s location. This, of course, saves time and returns the aircraft to service faster.
Caterpillar, a company known for heavy construction equipment and machinery, has transformed its business over the last ten years. They have centered their processes around digital technologies and IIoT solutions.
Caterpillar began by adding sensors and embedded connectivity to machinery. Today, Caterpillar builds all of the company’s forklifts and manufacturing machinery with similar embedded connectivity sensors and systems. That means Caterpillar has over 560,000 connected vehicles worldwide.
The company has built proprietary analytics tools and software to go along with their embedded systems. They have also developed programming interfaces that assist customers in processing, analyzing, and storing the collected data.
These innovations allowed Caterpillar to provide customers with valuable software and services that cut operating costs while increasing productivity. These applications include predictive maintenance that cut down a machine’s downtime.
The Future of IIOT
As more companies adopt IIoT practices, the technology will continue to advance. The impact is already evident, and future changes promise to be profound. IIoT technology is well on its way towards an autonomous economy, where supply precisely meets demand. Further, production processes will become optimized, reducing waste to a level zero.
The combined innovations in connectivity, hardware, big data, and machine-learning have generated immense opportunities. Sensors are becoming less expensive, stronger, and last longer on a single battery.
It’s more economical than ever to send data to the cloud, where data analytics protocols and machine learning can generate meaningful insights into the manufacturing processes. Such insights will continue to lead to substantial productivity increases and cost reductions.
The future promises continued accelerated IIoT adoption. The benefits of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies are clear, automation, economy, increased productivity. The IIoT connects vital machines and delivers powerful operational outcomes, all of which translate to financial results.
There is no limit to the potential of IIoT. As connected machines, devices, and related systems generate more data, companies can glean all the more insights. From there, they can adapt processes, increase productivity, and reduce downtime and waste. Businesses become better connected to their products and processes, as well as to customers and each other. The potential is boundless and here on our doorstep.
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