What is industrial IoT?

Facility operator controls workshop production line, uses computer with screens showing complex UI of machine operation processes.
Image: Gorodenkoff/Adobe Stock

The industrial internet of things refers to a combination of interconnected sensors, instruments and other devices networked together with industrial applications, including manufacturing and energy management.

This connectivity allows for data collection, exchange and analysis, potentially facilitating improvements in productivity and efficiency as well as other economic benefits. IIoT is an evolution of a distributed control system that allows for a higher degree of automation by using cloud computing to refine and optimize process controls.

SEE: Hiring Kit: IoT developer (TechRepublic Premium)

Use of IIoT devices is on the rise. IIoT was a $326.1 billion market in 2021 and is predicted to be worth around $1.7 trillion by 2030 with a notable CAGR of 20.47% from 2022 to 2030, according to Precedence Research.

The IIoT market is projected to continue to grow through 2040 due to the growing use of cloud computing platforms, Precedence Research said. Adoption of IIoT systems is occurring across various industries, but especially in the manufacturing sector.

North America is the fastest holding-growing region in the IIoT market with the US the highest market share, according to the firm. This is due to major IIoT market players such as Cisco, General Electric and IBM. Statista puts the global market for IIoT over $263 billion in 2021 and predicts it will reach $1.11 trillion by 2028.

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Benefits of industrial IoT

For manufacturers, IIoT technology “holds the key to unlocking drastic reductions in downtimes, new business models and a better customer experience,” according to McKinsey.

The main benefits of IIoT include increasing throughput, reducing operational costs and providing a higher level of workforce safety, Precedence Research said.

Other benefits include improved asset and service efficiency, revenue growth and customer satisfaction, according to PTC. The company elaborates on these positives, and points out that IIoT monitoring reveals what the biggest cost drains are, from factory scrap to unnecessary truck rolls. IIoT also provides asset health monitoring, remote diagnostics and predictive maintenance.

The development of the IPv6 standard has contributed to the growth of the IIoT market. With the number of connected devices increasing exponentially, IPv4 “became ineffective in storing data” generated from so many devices, Precedence Research said, which drove the need for IPv6.

This latest standard “offers higher reliability and advanced security,” the research firm said. “The standardization of IPv6 is expected to fuel the growth of the global IIoT market.”

Drawbacks of industrial IoT

Like any technology, deploying IIoT is not without its risks. Some of the project risks hampering organization adoption include a lack of open standards, device hijacking, data siphoning, data breaches, and the ability to integrate legacy and M2M/OT equipment with IIoT applications.

Because IIoT devices are connected and interconnected into a network and store a lot of data, distributed denial of service attacks across all devices or the internal network is a major risk.

“Attackers may use the device itself or the centralized network as a way in and then flood the endpoint devices with so much traffic that they cannot complete the work they were intended to do,” said Archon, a provider of endpoint systems. “Essentially, an attack like this just renders the IIoT endpoint devices about as useful as bricks.”

Precedence Research concurred, saying that the growing adoption of smart manufacturing systems and increasing connected devices across the manufacturing facility has increased the number of cybercrimes and cyberattacks across the IIoT industry.

This places the onus on the devices’ owner and/or vendor to ensure that security controls during installation “are aligned with good practices,” according to a recent LinkedIn post. Author J.D. Bamford, IoT & OT security manager at Accenture, also makes the case that the owner or the vendor — or both — are responsible for network security, wireless security, data security, cloud security and supply chain security.

Features of industrial IoT

There are a slew of technologies that facilitate IIoT such as cybersecurity, cloud computing, edge computing, mobile technologies, machine-to-machine, 3D printing, advanced robotics, big data, IoT, RFID technology and cognitive computing.

IIoT is mainly focused on the use of smart technologies and connectivity to improve manufacturing facilities and industrial processes.

“IIoT implementations hold the promise of creating smart factories that are more productive, energy-efficient and safer than their predecessors,” David Hoysan wrote, an IoT product marketing manager in a LinkedIn post.

The basic infrastructure of an IIoT implementation consists of a network of interconnected devices that provide data to control systems, and in some cases, react and perform functions based on instructions returned from the controlling applications, according to Hoysan. A set of remote sensors and activators are typical endpoints found on the network.

Like other IoT devices, IIoT sensors gather and then measure the raw information on which the system depends. Based on the type of IIoT system, the sensors may measure environmental conditions such as pressure, temperature, moisture or other important characteristics.

Further exploration

If this theme has whet your appetite, and if you’re working toward implementing IIoT within your enterprise, then assistance is available about selecting the right IIoT software.

There are hundreds of platforms and each one is slightly different from the next, so how do you choose? Have a look at this article — including links to TechRepublic Premium resources — to help you make that decision.

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