The Industrial Internet of Things

We have talked about testing IoT recently. But what is IIoT?

IIoT is the Industrial Internet of Things or Industrial Internet, and is a larger form of IoT. In an earlier post about IoT, we dealt only with consumer level devices such as wearables, where a breakdown or downtime of the device would be unlikely to cause any risk or emergency to the user. What happens if this breakdown takes place in an industry where production is interrupted, causing a loss of millions of dollars? That’s where IIoT comes into the picture. IIoT is the advanced form of IoT and it is used in industrial applications such as agriculture and manufacturing. In simplest of words, IIoT can tell an Oil and Gas company how to minimise impending damage and disruption before a leakage occurs in a gas pipeline, whereas in IoT, home users are informed when to feed their pets on time.

Industrial internet of things

Why IIoT?

Recent studies say IIoT is getting a lot of interest in the field of manufacturing, agriculture, oil and gas and health care. Why is this? These industries hold the biggest shares in the world’s economy, so even a few seconds of downtime or a longer breakdown in one of these industries can cost millions. Industries attempt to diminish these possibilities by scheduling maintenance for their manufacturing plants. But what if the machine breaks down before maintenance? Or what if the maintenance was performed too early for a machine which was at that time extremely efficient? In both cases, the cost of maintenance is huge and non-recoverable. Manufacturers started wondering if it would be possible to accurately predict need, and so schedule these maintenance jobs. We can term this as predictive maintenance, and yes, this became possible with IIoT.

How industries can benefit

With the help of highly calibrated sensors, big data analytics, cheaper connectivity and the development in machine learning, industries have started to implement predictive maintenance, much much of it supported by IIoT. This allows the optimum time for maintenance procedures to be predicted then scheduled, so lowering the cost of maintenance, which in turn helps the industry to become more efficient and deliver faster.

IIoT presents its own challenges

IIot solves a number of problems that can raise issues in a couple of areas too:

Security

With various devices being connected together by default within IIoT, they are prone to cyber attacks and potential security malfunctioning. As with all internet technologies, security must be discussed and meticulously designed.

Interoperability

With various devices and sensors needing to be connected, interoperability will also become a challenge. To have them all successfully connected can be extremely tough, as standards for each device vary and connection protocols will also differ from device to device.

How MQTT can help IIoT in overcoming these challenges

The development of a data transfer protocol called MQTT (message queueing telemetry transport), has somewhat reduced the barriers of interoperability and security. MQTT is a lightweight, secure protocol which is specifically designed for IIoT.

What is the future of IIoT?

We can make use of IIoT in so many industrial areas that will eventually result in higher efficiency, safety, productivity and performance, such as:

  • Predictive maintenance
  • Safety in health care, aerospace and oil and gas
  • Managing work efficiency in product manufacturing
  • Process optimization

Predix , General Electric’s IIoT platform, has already started to make big changes by delivering dynamic, industrial intelligence that can transform current industrial patterns to all new levels, resulting in better work efficiency and more revenues for the industrial giant.

How has IIoT already changed the world?

Proactive maintenance:

Now industries have started to move away from reactive maintenance to proactive maintenance, it reduces the unforeseen downtime of machines and extends asset life time. The result is an improvement in efficiency and cutting the costs of maintenance works.

Process optimization:

Digitizing manufacturing plants from top to bottom gives enterprises deeper insights to how their current process is going, and how well they can improve.

OT security:

Operational technology (OT) refers to a collection of hardware devices and associated software programs that are used in enterprises to detect physical changes that happen in machines and process. OT security is vital in manufacturing plants. The use of IIoT has improved the security of OT immensely.

Decision making:

IIoT helps operators to make the right decision each time there is an action to take. Close monitoring, visualization and analysis of operations helps this process. Making the right choices at the right time will lead to an optimum, quality productivity being reached at a faster rate.

Summary

When it comes to IIoT, it can feel as though you are exploring the universe because there is no end to it. As more and more systems and devices are connected together, more data will be generated. And the more data, the better the insights which can enable humans to act proactively. This, in a nutshell, is what the Industrial Internet of Things is all about.