What Is the Industrial Internet of Things?

25-01-2019 | By Christian Cawley

The Internet of Things (IoT) is coming. You've heard about how it will let your fridge manage the temperature of its contents, and let your doors and windows communicate to keep your home secure.

But the IoT has considerable uses away from the home. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is gaining importance, and its successful application will change industry forever.

The transport, industrial, and energy sectors are set to benefit most from the IIoT, with huge new possibilities. However, there are risks, too.

How the IIoT Works

Data drives profit. Efficiencies across industry, in all sectors, can be enjoyed thanks to improved data: about manufacturing processes, how people use their technology in the workplace, what routes drivers take. There are many more examples.

Low power networking devices (such as those designed to use the 5G internet) are ideal for hooking up every device in the workplace. This might be doors or toilets, printing presses, fabrication systems, or transport fleets.

An Industrial IoT system essentially relies on intelligent assets. These are things like controllers, sensors, and security components designed to communicate across the network and utilise the IoT cloud.

The resulting raw data (whether sensor data, or information exchanged between devices) is then collected and can then be processed, generating vital business information and intelligence. While the full potential of this is yet to be explored, there are key early benefits.

Benefits of the IIoT

While the domestic IoT might provide a balanced collection of data to manage a smart home effectively and efficiently, the IIoT has greater aims. "Talking" trashcans that monitor recycling, might be found in or around the office, for example, as might smart power grids with a focus on efficiency.

Entire transport and logistics divisions will be revolutionised following the introduction of IIoT-enhanced supply chain monitoring. Meanwhile, asset tracking effectiveness is set to skyrocket; all but the smallest devices will be able to phone home, report their status and location, and stay on the radar until decommissioned.

IIoT Devices Are Built to Last

Upgrading systems to embrace the IIoT isn't going to be cheap, however.

These devices need to be well designed and built to last. After all, investment in fabrication systems is long term. Every industrial asset needs to remain useful, which is why IIoT devices need to be resilient. These components will last longer, and be used more, than typical consumer gadgets.

For the IIoT to be successful, hardware needs to be durable, reliable, and when problems occur, quick and easy to replace.

Fortunately, IIoT hardware faults can be easily detected; the devices simply report issues, or go offline entirely.

With the IIoT, the Stakes Are High

Connected sensors, networked instrumentation, vehicles that talk to each other across the internet. The possibilities for the Industrial Internet of Things are significant.

But with the IIoT, the stakes are higher than ever before. The prize is considerable: almost complete understanding of manufacturing processes and conditions, massive efficiencies, and smart transport systems, to name just three.

All of these can result in superior productivity and savings, putting the business that invests in IIoT hardware and infrastructure in pole position in its sector.

Yet what if it goes wrong? What if IIoT hardware isn't up to scratch?

System failures can result in life-threatening scenarios. Even unscheduled downtime can potentially develop into a high-risk situation.

The Industrial Internet of Things is a high-stakes industrial evolution that no business will want to miss out on.

By Christian Cawley

Christian Cawley is a freelance technology writer, with a background in healthcare and financial services industries. He writes extensively online, and contributes to print periodicals and specials.