The Internet of Things (IoT) has changed the world as we know it. As a global community, we’re more connected than ever – and maybe more than we realize. Thanks to the Internet of Things, we now have a vast network of Internet-connected devices that collect, analyze and store data, spanning the gamut from smart home products to driverless vehicles.
The industrial sector is no less affected by this new wave of technology. Thus, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) was born. The IIoT consists of internet-connected devices specifically in industrial applications. The IIoT enables increased control, efficiency and reliability in industrial operations such as robotics, medical devices, production processes and monitoring.
Although the IIoT has enabled significant advances in production, research and customer experience, technological advancements are still taking place. Based on research conducted by Antairathis is what the future of the Industrial Internet of Things looks like.
The future is bright for the IIoT, as small businesses and global entities will benefit from increased opportunities for cost-effective predictive maintenance and better Internet-to-device communication. Additionally, more facilities will be able to connect as the affordability of IIoT access improves. Many professionals also predict that Wi-Fi powered devices will replace those currently powered by wired IoT connections. Overall, the more accessible the IIoT becomes, the more companies will reap the benefits.
Improvements to manufacturing facilities
Companies involved in product development will see increased connectivity and usage of IoT devices. The IIoT will help production facilities reduce operating costs and improve the efficiency of the entire production process. Additionally, the IIoT will support improvements in research and testing, quality assurance, and distribution. Finally, new and improved devices that allow compatibility in extreme weather and environmental conditions are coming to market. These devices include Power over Ethernet switches or industrial PoE switches, which establish power and connectivity even in harsh indoor and outdoor conditions.
IIoT as a service
IIoT as a Service, or IoTaaS, is a developing trend in connected facilities that we are sure to see more of as we move into the future. But what is IIoT as a service and what does it involve? IoTaaS allows external or third-party vendors to manage all devices connected to the IIoT on behalf of the facility. Vendors would manage, analyze and control these devices. IoTaaS is a great option for facilities with limited related expertise and for facilities looking to speed up the production process.
One of the most exciting prospects for the future of IIoT is a combination of cloud and edge computing. The IIoT is evolving in such a way that facilities will be able to collect data from any connected source, however connected, in a common location. This is all the more exciting as the more the IIoT progresses, the more data sources generate and the greater the need for multi-site computing and storage.
Although standard and preventive maintenance are useful, the future of the IIoT will also enable predictive maintenance. This capability allows facilities to perform a myriad of tasks to keep the device running smoothly. This includes transmitting data directly from machines to the production line, allowing workers to make changes as needed. Manufacturers will also be able to determine the power consumption of devices, allowing them to make improvements. Predictive maintenance will also contribute to safer and more accurate repairs.
Lost tools, missing equipment, and inventory gaps can be frustrating at best and devastating at worst. A much-anticipated facet of the future of the IIoT is tracking capabilities for tools, equipment, and inventory items. Although GPS has been around for a long time, it’s not necessarily useful for indoor tracking. Tracking tools make it much easier and more efficient for facilities to track everything under their roof.
Data and the future of the IIoT
With so many new connection capabilities on the horizon, it’s important to consider what data a facility will collect, send, and store. Because so many manufacturing processes will be in the cloud rather than in the hands of workers, the risk of breach is greater and the cost is much, much higher. Therefore, it is imperative that connected facilities know where the data is going, how they will manage their devices (internally or via IoTaaS) and how to protect the data.
As mentioned earlier, knowing exactly where the data is coming from and where it is going is critical. Additionally, you need to know what the data is saying so you can act immediately. The more devices are connected, the more complex this task becomes. Businesses can mitigate this problem by installing connectivity devices and using them to transmit data to a remote server.
When it comes to managing devices, the task can become daunting. It is crucial to keep every device up to date with software updates and firmware. In addition, every precaution must be taken to prevent unauthorized access.
Ensure the security
Although IIoT devices are extremely useful for collecting, storing and sending data, some are not designed for security. Improvements are on the way, and since cybersecurity is a critical factor for every business, it is important to choose an IIoT device with built-in security features. To facilitate the development of more IIoT devices with security features, the IEC 62443 standard was created. This standard provides global security guidelines for companies that manufacture IIoT devices. Some of the most common security features included in these guidelines are:
- Identifying and controlling people connecting to devices (or attempting to connect)
- Increase the complexity of passwords
- Verify authorized devices before allowing them to access the network
- Configuration and serial interface data encryption.
The future is bright
What is the rapid growth of the IIoT? According to statista.com, the global Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) market was valued at over $263 billion (USD) in 2021. The market is expected to grow in the coming years, reaching $1.11 trillion (USD) by 2028.
No company is immune to the forces of change, although in the case of the IIoT, we have largely seen its impact to date in factory automation, manufacturing, energy and in the sectors of the transport industry. However, with the availability of less expensive edge computing, analytics, sensors, and connectivity devices, the IIoT is expected to provide new verticals with a toolkit to revamp their organizations to be smarter and more productive.