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What Is IIoT?

To define IIoT, we first must define IoT. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of intelligent devices, computers, mobiles, and applications that are connected to the Internet. IoT collects a large amount of data, stores and processes it in the cloud, and shares it with the end user. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a subset of IoT that specifically refers to industrial automation. IIoT connects automation devices such as sensors, actuators, and PLCs (programmable logic controllers) to the Internet as well as to each other (which is known as machine-to-machine).

What's the Difference Between IoT and IIoT?

The main difference between IIoT and other commercial IoT applications can be found in the difference between IT and OT communication. OT (operational technology) refers to the operation of physical processes (machines, drives, and so on) and industrial control systems such as DCS (distributed control systems), PLCs, SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition systems), and HMI (human machine interfaces). IT (information technology) refers to the enterprise system that stores, processes, and delivers data to business management.

Advancements in IIoT technology enable IT/OT convergence in industrial automation by taking business performance to a new level. IIoT solutions collect data from field equipment, store the data on edge devices, process it using data analytics, and send it to the cloud. This helps industrial systems gain better control of process operations and safety management. The continuous collection and transition of data from smart devices and industrial equipment provide enterprises with great opportunities for growth and other positive outcomes.

4 Main Components of IIoT

  • Intelligent sensors
  • Network (wireless gateways)
  • Data analytics (edge computing and fog computing)
  • Applications (MQTT, COAP, and so on)

Benefits of IIoT

IIoT enables faster decision-making. It connects people, devices, and applications so they can interact with increased reliability and better operational efficiency. It promotes better working conditions and extends machine life. IIoT can also optimize the use of assets and predict points of failure.

When used the right way, IIoT can:

  • Improve connectivity
  • Increase operational efficiency
  • Increase productivity
  • Optimize assets
  • Help scale business
  • Allow for remote diagnostics
  • Offer cost savings
  • Reduce waste

IIoT Protocols and Design Aspects

Many intelligent devices use a variety of different network protocols based on range, connectivity, cost effectiveness, and data sharing capabilities. (For example, a few IIoT protocols are: ISA 100.11a, 6LoWPAN, Zigbee, LoRaWAN, Wireless HART, MQTT, CoAP, OPC-UA, and many more.) Choosing the right protocol depends upon interoperability, range, bandwidth, data rate, security, power consumption, and scalability.

IIoT network design aspects include end device specifications such as size, installation points, operating systems, and power supply. Also, data analysis is done based on the volume of data, size of the data, latency, accuracy, and useful parts of the data.

IIoT Challenges

The main challenges that IIoT currently faces are security and interoperability.

Security

Unsecured IIoT solutions can lead to operational disruption and loss. Vulnerabilities in the system can be exploited; bad actors can access connected devices; malicious activities like hacking, phishing, targeted attacks, and data breaches can lead to damaged devices or even physical fatalities.

Securing intelligent devices and identifying every person and system with access are extremely important factors of IIoT implementation. Companies need to know their data is secure.

Interoperability

Proper connectivity is critical for interoperability. Many industrial verticals use their own set of protocols. Some are using proprietary machine-to-machine communications and legacy systems. Integrating all these disparate systems into IIoT solutions can be quite challenging.

IIoT as a Necessary Foundation

IIoT has become one of the main trends in the industrial world today as we embrace Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing. This technology is one of the fundamental components of these initiatives. In fact, in most cases, companies won’t even be able to take advantage of more advanced Industry 4.0 technologies (such as artificial intelligence, digital twin, simulation, and predictive analytics) without collecting and analyzing lots of data, most often generated at a sensor level. This is where comprehensive IIoT frameworks and architectures are essential. IIoT platforms establish a digital ecosystem that connects people, systems, and things. IIoT provides the capacity to bring industrial plant and business performance to a new height.


This article is a product of the International Society of Automation (ISA) Smart Manufacturing & IIoT Division. If you are an ISA member and are interested in joining this division, please email info@isa.org.

 

About the Author

Manjunath Hiregange has 12 years of industrial automation and process control experience with a focus on control system design. He has varied experience in handling projects involving DCS applications and hardware integration for oil & gas, petrochemical, steel plants, and power plants. He has contributed to the SADARA project, the largest chemical complex ever built in the world in a single phase, for a successful commissioning in Saudi Arabia. He is actively involved in the fields of IIoT and cybersecurity.

Manjunath currently serves as a member of the IIoT subcommittee on ISA's Smart Manufacturing & IIoT (SMIIoT) Division. He is also a Chartered Engineer from the Institution of Engineers (India) [IEI].


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