The Internet of Things (IoT) has changed the world as we know it. As a global community, we are more connected than ever – and perhaps more than we realize. Through the Internet of Things, we now have a vast network of internet-connected devices gathering, analyzing, and storing data, running 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 within industrial applications. The IIoT allows for greater control, efficiency, and dependability in industrial operations such as robotics, medical devices, production processes, and monitoring.
While the IIoT has allowed for significant advances in production, research, and customer experience, technological advancements are still being made. Based on research conducted by Antaira, here’s what the future looks like for the Industrial Internet of Things.
The future is bright for the IIoT, as small businesses and global entities will enjoy increased opportunities for cost-saving predictive maintenance and greater internet-to-device communication. Additionally, more facilities will be able to become connected due to improved affordability regarding IIoT access. Many professionals also predict that Wi-Fi-powered devices will replace those currently powered by hard-wired IoT connections. All in all, the more accessible the IIoT becomes, the more businesses will reap the benefits of it.
Manufacturing facility improvements
Companies involved in product development will see increased connectivity and usage of IoT devices. The IIoT will assist production facilities to reduce operating costs and improve efficiency across the entire production process. Additionally, the IIoT will support improvements across research and testing, quality assurance, and distribution. Finally, new and improved devices that allow for compatibility in extreme weather and environmental conditions are hitting the 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 across connected facilities that we’re sure to see more of as we move toward the future. But what is IIoT as a Service, and what does it entail? IoTaaS allows external or third-party providers to handle all IIoT-connected devices on behalf of the facility. Providers would manage, analyze, and control these devices. IoTaaS is an excellent option for facilities with limited related expertise and for facilities looking to speed up the production process.
One of the most exciting prospects of the future of IIoT is a combination of cloud and edge computing. IIoT is evolving in such a way that facilities will be able to gather data from any connected source, regardless of how they’re connected, into one common location. This is especially exciting as the more IIoT advances, the more sources generate data, and the more the need for multi-location computing and storage grows.
While standard and preventive maintenance are helpful, the future of the IIoT will also allow for predictive maintenance. This capability allows facilities to accomplish a myriad of tasks to ensure proper device performance. This includes transmitting data directly from machinery to the production line, which allows workers to make changes as the need arises. Manufacturers will also be able to determine how much energy devices are consuming, enabling them to make improvements. Predictive maintenance will also contribute to safer and more precise repairs.
Lost tools, missing equipment, and gaps in inventory can be frustrating at best and devastating at worst. A highly anticipated facet of the future of the IIoT is location-tracking capabilities for tools, equipment, and inventory items. While GPS has been around for a long time, it isn’t necessarily helpful for indoor tracking. Thanks to location-tracking tools, facilities can keep track of everything under their roof much more easily and effectively.
Data and the future of the IIoT
With so many new capabilities for connection on the horizon, it’s important to consider the data a facility will be gathering, sending, and storing. Because so many manufacturing processes will be in the cloud rather than in the hands of workers, the risk for breaches is greater and the cost is much, much higher. As a result, it’s imperative for connected facilities to know where data is going, how they will manage their devices (in-house or via IoTaaS), and how to safeguard data.
As mentioned earlier, it’s vital to know exactly where data is coming from and where it is going. Additionally, you need to know what the data is saying so you can take immediate action. The more connected devices, the more complex this task becomes. Companies can mitigate this concern by installing connectivity devices and using them to transmit data to a remote server.
When it comes to managing devices, the task can become monumental. It’s crucial to keep each device current with software updates and firmware. Additionally, every precaution must be taken to prevent unauthorized access.
While IIoT devices are extremely helpful in collecting, storing, and sending data, some aren’t designed for security. Improvements are in the pipeline, and since cybersecurity is a critical factor for every company, it’s important to choose an IIoT device with built-in security features. To aid in the development of more IIoT devices with security features, the IEC 62443 standard has been created. This standard provides global security guidelines for companies that fabricate IIoT devices. Some of the most common security features included in these guidelines are:
- Identifying and controlling individuals logging on devices (or attempting to log on)
- Boosting password complexity
- Verifying authorized devices before allowing them to gain access to the network
- Encrypting configuration and serial interface data.
The future is bright
How fast-growing is the IIoT? According to statista.com, the global market for the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) was sized 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 business 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 within sectors of the transportation industry. However, with the availability of less expensive edge computing, analytics, sensors, and connectivity devices, the IIoT is posed to provide new verticals with a toolbox to revamp their organizations to be smarter and more productive.