IIoT stands for 'Industrial Internet of Things', and it is one of the most important talking points in manufacturing businesses today. The rapid advances of IIoT technology across a wide spectrum of solutions, and the rapid adoption rate of IIoT technologies means that manufacturing businesses need to be aware of what is happening in this space. The implementation of IIoT technologies in manufacturing is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for manufacturers to gain competitive advantage.
But, what even is the Industrial Internet of Things?
In order to explain what the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is, we first need to explain what the Internet of Things (IoT) is. The IoT is an interconnected system of mechanical and digital devices that uses sensors in things like appliances, livestock and even people to compile unprecedented amounts of data that can then be analyzed and to actuate effects at the ‘edge’ of the cloud...or where these sensors and mechanical devices are.
The sensors can identify a wide variety of parameters such as proximity, humidity, temperature, pressure, vibration, amps, voltage, on/off state, fluid viscosity, motion characteristics and more. Actuation can include opening a garage door, turning on a light switch, responding to a voice command to find a song, or turning up or down a thermostat among many other possibilities.
By analyzing the data generated, we can identify the current state of objects and environments being measured. By collecting data over time, we can also spot trends of critical parameters and can have the means to react to the current state and trends with an action. These devices can collect and share data between each other or to an end point such as a laptop computer for processing information or a mobile device to present information. The response can be to provide information or control to an end user. This immense cloud of connected devices is the ‘Internet of Things’.
Modern IoT platforms are capable of providing components for frontend analytics and on-device data processing. Physical data storage and analytics devices, as well as remotes (smartphones, tablets, etc) for data visualization and analysis, can be connected to the internet network where the cloud that stores IoT devices’ data resides. Gateway devices are used to collect data from sensors, organize and filter it and then send it off to the common cloud. This web that connects IoT sensors, cloud and storage devices, and remotes is called an IoT ecosystem.
In the IoT ecosystem, data is constantly being sent and received through the cloud. Devices can also act upon data from each other which is retrieved from the cloud.
When people hear ‘IoT’, it’s often in the context of consumer products. As we note in our article The IIoT and Manufacturing - 2020 Trends, we note that IoT, or ‘connected devices’ is a rapidly growing space, with global technology spend on IoT technologies expected to reach $1.2 Trillion by 2022. Obviously, this is a large market, and will be in part driven by consumer products such as smart appliances, home security systems, healthcare devices, voice control devices, energy management systems and many, many more.
Because a ‘thing’ in the Internet of Things can refer to a wide range of objects and devices: from a farm animal with an implanted biochip transponder that is scanned as the animal moves through checkpoints, to a car that alerts the driver when it senses a flat tire, IoT technology is used in a great number of applications around the world. Governments use IoT systems to gain insight into traffic congestion and to optimize public services, retailers analyze IoT data to find patterns in customer behavior for their marketing strategies. By 2020, over 34 billion IoT devices will be installed and 6 trillion dollars will have been invested in this technology since 2015.
As is often the case, such as with the ‘consumerization of IT’, when innovations happen in consumer products, it doesn’t take long for industry to take notice and take advantage.
Thus the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is Born
The IIoT is the use of smart sensors, internet connectivity and cloud storage software such as SaaS analytics tools to enhance manufacturing and industrial processes or to monitor and optimize the performance of, or provide important conditional information about capital equipment.
Devices within a company can be connected to the internet through a shared software and hardware system called a ‘platform’. A platform is capable of creating and managing applications, running analytics, and storing and securing the data from sensors in a common cloud. IIoT platforms support integration with any connected device and the third-party applications these devices use.
The IIoT enables the acquisition and accessibility of greater amounts of data, at far greater speeds, than ever before. Like the IoT, the IIoT utilizes devices that can provide visibility into various machinery and processes, enabling opportunities for manufacturing improvement from predictive maintenance to big-data analytics to maximize performance and minimize costs. In manufacturing environments, the IIoT’s focus is most often to enhance productivity and reliability of production systems. The IIoT uses the previously discussed technologies to optimize processes, increase product quality and improve energy efficiency. The benefits IIoT technologies offer are further convincing today’s businesses to invest in the technology and transforming the market as a whole.
Examples of manufacturers that have implemented IIoT and gained significant advantages can be found here.
Manufacturing industries use the IIoT to cut downtimes, improve throughput and maximize OEE.
Because of its diverse application opportunities and benefits offered, implementation of IIoT technologies is enabling ‘the 4th Industrial Revolution”, or Industry 4.0. Industry 4.0 is a larger concept of which the IioT is a part, the term having been coined in German government as an initiative to ensure German manufacturing competitiveness into the future. It consists of a blend of digitalization technologies which enable decisions focused on increasing efficiency and visibility at every level of production. Although IIoT technology enables Industry 4.0 in many ways, they are not the same thing. You can learn more about the concept of Industry 4.0 here. The aspect of this technology being ‘the 4th Industrial Revolution’ or ‘Industry 4.0’ is attributed to its continuous and rising use in manufacturing and the significant impact it can have on operations.
Increased automation and better monitoring of manufacturing processes through the IIoT enables significantly improved results from manufacturing improvement processes such as Lean Manufacturing and the 5S’s. The IIoT provides a real-time view into operations and allows people who use it to make important decisions faster.
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