Technological innovation and the power of the internet have connected us like never before. In business, this has led to the creation of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), a concept that binds technology’s numerous outlets together in a way that makes business operations more efficient. As technology evolves, it’s crucial to understand the intricacies of IIoT and how it’s poised to make an impact in business now and in the future.
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What Is the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)?
The Industrial Internet of Things evolved from the phrase Industrial Internet, which General Electric (GE) coined in 2012. Even though the concept is in its relative infancy, businesses have already seen the potential of interconnected devices for industry.
The Industrial Internet of Things, or IIoT, refers to a network of connected smart devices and machines used in various manufacturing settings that monitor, gather, communicate and analyze data in real time. These devices use predictive and prescriptive analytics to produce information from raw data pertaining to operational performance. Connectivity between machines and real-time analytics can reveal information that human workers would not. This information can be used to optimize business decisions and to handle maintenance proactively instead of after something detrimental occurs.
Benefits of IIoT
Utilizing IIoT can equip a business with several key advantages. It can boost operational efficiency and lead to a safer work environment. It can also provide more accessible performance information. Additionally, it can lead to better supply chain visibility. Ultimately, IIoT’s usage can help a business reduce its costs and increase its profitability.
IIoT vs. IoT
IIoT should not be confused with IoT, or the Internet of Things. IoT was designed for consumer devices. It’s used in the commercial space, where it provides information on consumer habits and can lead to more targeted sales and marketing strategies. IoT also offers benefits to the consumer, such as enabling them to make smarter decisions, providing added convenience and even allowing them to monitor key health and wellness data in real time.
IIoT, on the other hand, was designed for industrial devices. It’s utilized in the industrial or manufacturing space and provides information on operational efficiency and infrastructure health. IIoT is commonly used in the manufacturing, transportation, oil and gas, and power generation and transmission industries, as well as at mines and ports.
IIoT Technology at a Glance
IIoT is a complex ecosystem of various components and applications that communicate with each other to improve infrastructure and develop more efficient practices. Each component gathers specific information about devices in the ecosystem to monitor quality control, supply chain efficiency and overall performance.
IIoT Core Components
IIoT consists of three essential types of components: devices, system networks and the cloud.
Devices are split into three different categories: sensors, actuators and edge devices. Sensors are devices that monitor machines and systems to produce real-time maintenance data on machines and other forms of infrastructure. Actuators are system or machine components that control functionality and typically house the sensors. Edge devices consist of hardware that controls the exchange of data between two networks. Routers, routing switches and firewalls all fall under the umbrella of edge devices.
System networks provide the communication structure necessary to allow devices to gather and exchange key data.
The cloud consists of servers that can be accessed over the internet. Its design allows end users to access the same data across multiple devices.
IIoT serves many practical purposes. It can be used in smart factories, which are digitized manufacturing facilities that gather and share data via connected devices. IIoT can also be used with AI to improve supply network efficiency. Additionally, it can be used for inventory optimization, helping companies maintain a saleable inventory while minimizing capital used. IIoT can also be a key component of a company’s data analytics strategies. Finally, IIoT can be used for condition monitoring, which is measuring a condition within a piece of machinery, such as vibration or temperature, to identify vulnerabilities.
IIoT, when functioning properly, is part of a larger ecosystem. This ecosystem includes connected devices, public and private data communication infrastructure, analytics and “big data” functions that extrapolate insight from raw data, data storage, and people. Another part of the ecosystem is software, which is used to configure, manage and monitor IIoT devices, gather data, automate routine tasks, and sync connected devices.
IIoT in Action: Industrial Internet of Things Examples
For several companies, the future of IIoT is now. Different applications of the concept illustrate how IIoT will transform the future of industry.
- Airbus created the “Factory of the Future.” This concept is a long-term research and technology project that uses smart tools to collaborate with human users in building aircraft. It integrates intelligence tools to manage and check human tasks. Doing so reduces human errors, which saves money in the long term.
- Amazon uses IIoT in its warehouses to enhance automation, monitor workplace robotics and promote workplace safety using wearable tech. This creates more efficient warehouse operations, which can streamline logistics processes. It can also create a safer workplace for employees.
- John Deere designed self-driving tractors that use an integrated system of analytics, cameras and GPS technology to calculate distance and detect obstacles. This technology resolves ongoing issues concerning lack of skilled labor and optimizes crop yield.
- Shell uses IIoT via vibration sensors to detect early warnings on projected equipment failures. This application reduces maintenance downtime and also reduces the risk of potentially hazardous situations.
A More Efficient Future
IIoT is here to stay — and with good reason. Building smarter workplaces through its ecosystem of interconnected devices and applications promotes efficiency in many ways, from improved manufacturing processes to better logistics. Intelligent application of IIoT can have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line, increase safety and improve the customer experience.