In recent years, innovations in hardware, connectivity, big data analytics, and machine-learning have converged to generate huge opportunities for industries. Hardware innovations mean that sensors are cheaper, more powerful, and run longer on battery life.
Connectivity innovations mean that it’s cheaper and easier to send the data from these sensors to the cloud. Big data analytics and machine-learning innovations mean that, once sensor data is collected, it’s possible to gain incredible insight into manufacturing processes. These insights can lead to massive increases in productivity and drastic reductions in cost. Whatever is being manufactured, it can be done faster, with fewer resources, and at a lower cost.
The Internet of Things (IoT) adds value in three major areas: increasing efficiency, improving health/safety, and creating better experiences. The Industrial Internet of Things deals with the first two areas, increasing efficiency and improving health/safety.
You may have also heard of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and wondered, what’s the difference between IoT and IIoT? IIoT refers to a subcategory of the broader Internet of Things. IoT includes IIoT plus things like wearables, smart ovens, or smart consumer products. IIoT focuses specifically on industrial applications such as manufacturing or agriculture. Here we look deeper into this definition.
Massive Potential of IIoT
An example of the potential of IIoT is predictive maintenance. A broken machine in a manufacturing process can mean millions of dollars in lost productivity while production halts to fix the issue.
The past solution was to regularly scheduled maintenance, but this has a few issues. What if the machine breaks before the maintenance? This leads to huge loss of productivity as described above. And what if the machine doesn’t need maintenance? Time, effort, and money is wasted that could be better spent elsewhere.
Predictive maintenance means using more sensors to collect better data on machines, and then using data analytics and machine-learning to determine exactly when a machine will need maintenance. Not too late, which leads to broken machines, and not too early, which leads to misallocated resources. Predictive maintenance is just one example, and it’s already a reality.
Adoption of IIoT
In many ways, IIoT is ahead of IoT and will continue to see faster adoption. A key difference between IoT and IIoT is that, unlike consumer IoT applications, incentives for adopting IIoT technologies are much greater.
According to RTI Labs, IoT and IIoT have two distinctly separate areas of interest. The Industrial IoT connects critical machines and sensors in high-stakes industries such as aerospace and defense, healthcare and energy. These are systems in which failure often results in life-threatening or other emergency situations. On the other hand, IoT systems tend to be consumer-level devices such as wearable fitness tools, smart home thermometers, and automatic pet feeders. They are important and convenient, but breakdowns do not immediately create emergency situations.
Another difference between IoT and IIoT is that there are clearer near-term benefits for IIoT vs IoT. Manufacturing companies can reduce costs and increase productivity, meaning more tangible return-on-investment for adopting IIoT solutions. Companies like ThyssenKrupp, Caterpillar, and Thames Water are already reaping benefits from being early IIoT adopters.
IIot for Autonomous Economy
As adoption and advancement of IIoT accelerate, the changes will be profound. Eventually, we can achieve an autonomous economy in which supply exactly meets demand, completely optimizing the production process and leading to zero-waste.