As remote lifestyles continue to be the norm a year into the pandemic, the Internet of Things (IoT) remains crucial in data exchanges for industrial, commercial, and private purposes alike. In fact, global IoT spending is expected to reach a whopping $146 trillion by 2027.
Surprisingly, the majority of IoT adopters didn't come from the increasing number of smart homes or the world's burgeoning smart cities, but from industrial consumers, particularly in manufacturing, retail, and agriculture. And for good reason—industrial IoT (IIoT) can improve workflow in these industries in a number of ways.
The Benefits of IIoT
We're currently in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, largely thanks to wireless automation. This is something that IIoT lets you do seamlessly between various compatible devices. Automation can power features such as smart irrigation, production, storage, and shipment tracking—features that are easily scalable thanks to IIoT’s enhanced connectivity capabilities. In particular, sensors are an IIoT endpoint that can help cut down costs by ensuring that resources are used more efficiently.
Thanks to innovations in printed circuit board design, these sensors are sensitive enough to detect and instantly alert you to even the tiniest changes. That's because they're built with enough signal integrity to sustain long periods of high-speed connectivity. This is useful, especially if the bandwidth requirements are different per signal. For example, smart irrigation systems can determine when soil needs watering. Micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) accelerometers can also conduct predictive maintenance by noting the number of vibrations produced by a device.
Another selling point of IoT is that it lets you do everything remotely, and this can also serve industrial purposes. The same sensor endpoints mentioned earlier can help construct a dashboard from which you can observe various data points in real-time, no matter where you are.
As a bonus, IIoT can also be used to generate data-driven insights on various performance indicators. These insights are then communicated to you visually for quick and easy comprehension, and can then be acted upon to improve productivity in everything from manufacturing and storage to shipping and distribution.
The Challenges of IIoT Integration
Of course, while the technology shows a lot of promise, there are also a couple of challenges businesses face during its adoption. For instance, installing a fully functional, highly integrated IIoT system is a costly endeavor. It can even involve replacing legacy equipment to solve issues of device compatibility. Using cutting-edge technology can pose a steep learning curve for workers, especially those who are not accustomed to using more high-end technology, or even with using IoT itself.
Connectivity outages are another thing IIoT skeptics worry about, as such an occurrence can halt movement completely. These factors, paired with the possibility of cybersecurity breaches, are among the multitude that contributes to the belief that IIoT adoption is too risky an investment.
Fortunately, a significant return on investment can be gained once all the right infrastructure and experience are in place. For example, blending the use of legacy and IIoT-powered devices at low risk of cyber-attacks is not only possible, but also feasible if you rely on experts. Converging the skills of information technology and operational technology professionals can help streamline operations, lower overhead costs, and maximize the benefits you reap from IIoT.
In fact, by optimizing efficiency and productivity, manufacturers who invest in IIoT will find their operations safer, more sustainable, and more profitable. They may even save up to $1 trillion that the industry usually loses to inefficient operations annually. Industry leaders who embrace IIoT really have little to lose, and much to gain. After all, the technology saves time, money, energy, and resources, all while producing a higher-quality output.