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Industrial Internet of Things on the Rise in Popularity

The Industrial Internet of Things plays a vital role in digital binder among pieces of machinery and equipment in the range of industrial sectors such as logistics, energy, construction, metallurgy, chemical processingб etc.

The IoT itself is not a gimmick as we have already used to hear about smart electronics and remotely controlled devices, however, one of IoT types is erupting this day – the Industrial Internet of Things that impacts numerous businesses and commercial segments.

In the wide sense, the Industrial Internet of Things provides connection of industrial machinery, control and measuring devices, computers, automation and control electronics, any other tools with each other, so the whole industrial system is interrelated and self-sustaining. Basically, IIoT can be applied in every industrial section, yet, these days it becomes more popular in digitized fields such as cargo delivery, oil and gas transportation, high-tech production.

Being practically implemented, IIoT can exist in many forms. For example, in pharmaceutical industry, this is in-process data recording and reporting system which sends real-time quality and physicochemical parameters of ingredients preparation, mixing, moisturizing, tablet compression, coating, and packaging process to the centralized server, so the technology is fully controlled and verified online by a foreman using a personal computer or smartphone.

How far is the IIoT from traditional IoT?

The Industrial Internet of Things sometimes is called the industrial Internet, a notion contributed by General Electric, or shifting a bit – the Internet of Industrial Things. Using any of these terms, we’re talking about the same thing – a sort of connection of industrial equipment and digital devices in energy, manufacturing, transportation and many other fields.

In a nutshell, regular IoT apps are represented by personalized electronics pieces such as smartphones, digital health bracelets, trackers and so on that normally collect and transfer the data, so we can interact with other consumers or control individual processes. However, the level of criticality, ensured by usual IoT devices is rather low. In other words, our reaction to the delivered data can be optional and is not mandatory. At the same time, the application of IoT in the industrial sector is more serious as any system failure has to be properly analyzed and immediately fixed to support the whole system functioning correctly.

Therefore, the main difference between usual IoT and IIoT is the ability of the last one to respond to the emergent technical challenges that occur in the technological process.

The Industrial Internet of Things is embedding computers and support digital devices in the manufacturing area that expands the capacity of industrial machinery and optimizes the operational performance of digital control allows increasing productiveness rate significantly.

Is IIoT an independent product or subcategory of IoT?

In fact, the principle of IIoT functioning is same as in case of regular IoT: connection of the parameters reading digital equipment with internet devices, so the data can be reached by a customer online or directly from the information source. Therefore, technically, the difference between the chemical reactor sending in-process measurements to a foreman’s computer or a fitness bracelet delivering blood pressure and temperature parameters to the smartphone is not significant. However, the scale of data generation and transmission in IIoT is much bigger as the number of definable parameters and data connection points in the industrial sector has to be really huge.

How is IIoT exactly applied by industrial businesses?

The variety of potential IIoT applications is growing every day as the digitization allows the

  • manufacturing enterprises take control over the production chain more precise and real-time;
  • accounting spent raw materials and resources against obtained finished products and generated income becomes more predictable and convenient;
  • prospective analysis of technical status of industrial machinery aimed to detect failures before they have actually happened is a reality;
  • communication between manufacturing line and the operators is quicker, so technical staff have broader opportunities to navigate the technological flows efficiently.

The range of dedicated uses of IIoT can be really far-reaching, so, the list of main potential utilizations is suggested below:

  • Digitization of stock management systems.
  • Detecting potential technical failures of the industrial machinery before breaking has actually occurred.
  • Smart logistics of raw materials, intermediate and finished products.
  • Optimization of electricity, water, and gas supply networks.
  • Smart integration of industrial enterprises into city’s infrastructure.
  • The digital transformation of farming and agricultural sectors.
  • Reinforcement of industrial data security.
  • The increase of energy-effectiveness by digitization of electrical networks.
  • Smart control of climatic parameters in technological premises.
  • Improvement of manufacturing process analysis.
  • Production risks management.
  • Maintenance of proper labor and safety conditions.
  • Products quality control testing.
  • New products development and prototyping.

Does the integration process of IIoT differ from IoT’s?

In fact, integration of IIoT is more complex as the operational lifespan of the industrial hardware is much elongated than of personalized digital devices, therefore all apps and connections should be able to function adequately in a distanced future. Normally, manufacturing machinery is expected to be exploited normally within at least 10 years that is a challenging perspective under conditions of today’s fast-changing digital environment.

Yet, the long-prospective functioning is not the only tricky part of the IoT implementation. As the range of data collecting spots, communication channels, and related processes is extremely broad, it is necessary to design a special set of algorithms for synchronizing the available industrial machinery, data reading devices and online apps. Besides, due to the huge volume of information, the storage capacity of the enterprise has to be capable to handle it safely.

Therefore, the businesses intending to integrate IIoT solutions have to consider powerful data storage tools, for example, cloud. Moreover, when monitoring technological flow, in order to prepare the adequate response, the operator has to analyze in-process parameters that would take rather long time and require numerous human resources.

In this case, the outstanding data processing potential of artificial intelligence will be of use. So, as it can be seen, IIoT implementation is challenging operation as the whole range of digitization transformations is required to be exploited.

How to make data exchange between industrial equipment sharable in IIoT?

Communication of industrial machinery with each other has to be synchronized with personalized digital devices, so an operator or a foreman could interact with those pieces online. It can be achieved using specially designed platforms such as hardware-based tech Zigbee, Sigfox, software-based apps such as IoTivity and Weave. Using these technologies, self-sustained industrial data environment is created.

Data protection precautions when IIoT integration and other challenges

Being similar to regular IoT, the Industrial Internet of Things needs dedicated efforts to be focused on data security issues when implemented. In particular, the hacked IoT elements can be utilized for spreading botnets generation. One more vulnerability is the possibility of leakage of in-process technological data.

As the experts of Bell recommend, the IIoT environment can be more secured if using the approaches, designed for personal IoT systems that are: high level of automation, low-noise downloads etc. Although some enterprises may be concerned about external online impacts on their industrial software, anyway it can be an effective solution to increase IIoT safety level.

There are also some other things that make IIoT challenging:

  • Compatibility. If new software or hardware is integrated into existing tuned production process, this transformation never goes smoothly. Every piece of automated industrial machinery is operated by certain protocols and technical standards, developed by the manufacturer. Normally the producers pay attention to make all equipment range of his brand easily synchronized with each other. But when it comes to interaction with other brands’ facilities, the extra efforts are needed;
  • Format. Basically, the data format is one of the most fast-moving concepts in today’s digital field. Yet, the industrial machinery itself is replaced not more frequently than once a decade. Therefore, the parameters, reported by the pipe rolling mill, may be delivered in a form that can’t be recognized by a gimmick IIoT app. So, this is where additional adaptability of communication techniques has to be deployed;
  • Extra cost and resources. Today IIoT is more optional than mandatory even despite its obvious advantages. But these benefits cost more investments and facilities to be attracted. In case if the enterprise has solid financial strength, implementation of the Industrial Internet of Things can be a profitable optimization of the industrial processes. Otherwise, it can result in rapid financial depletion, therefore, the intention to use IIoT has to be thoroughly analyzed from the economic point of view too;
  • Knowledge. Although the industrial machines become smarter, it is impossible to operate them without properly trained technical staff. There are not so many experts in big data, artificial intelligence, blockchain and other fields of digitization who could handle full-scale IIoT adoption. On the other hand, this kind of specialists can be raised only in a practical field, therefore this issue shouldn’t be scared for the industrial businesses intending IIoT integration.

As the industry is a highly rational field which absorbs only those new technologies that bring practical value within acceptable payback period, the Industrial Internet of Things may look like a risky experiment, but anyway, the recent trends demonstrate the up-and-coming future of IIoT thanks to its strong potential of technological digitization.

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