Introduction To The Industrial Internet Of Things
We sit upon the precipice of revolution. An advancement so big, it will disrupt multiple industries while changing & optimizing nearly everything we do. Imagine being able to tell when a single power tool in an assembly line’s torque is out of specifications. Or maybe even being able to tell all of those power tools to use a new torque when tightening “Screw 123A” because of recent optimizations. It might sound like science fiction, but it’s a reality that our technology is quickly moving towards and it’s called IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things).
If you are a developer, what you’ve read up until now should’ve made you excited ( or perhaps more accurately dreadful ) about all of the opportunities building such networks would represent. And if you are still not quite sure about what we are talking about or the sheer scope of this technology, prepare to start thinking about optimization on levels you may have never conceived. So, what exactly is IIoT? And how is it related to the IoT?
The Conceptualization of IIoT ( and IoT )
If we work back from the ideal IIoT future, we’ll find that the concept of the “Internet” is at the root of this “cutting-edge” technology. And, of course, we all know that the Internet is an interconnected series of networks that essentially allows whatever is connected to it to “communicate” over the network. The huge thing about the Internet when it was first conceived was that it allowed humans to connect in ways we could never imagine.
IoT and IIoT are about taking that amazing benefit of transferring ideas between people, and applying that to objects like machines. I’m sure most people have seen or heard about self driving cars. Or even used their odometer to see how many miles their car has driven. The problem with things like odometers and gauges are that they need a human to collect & interpret the data. If you don’t put a little sticker on the windshield of most driver’s, they would have no idea when to actually change the oil of their car.
What Can IIoT Do?
Imagine if your car could communicate that data it collects about itself to a network that knows exactly what to do with that data. Or even if all the information about the physical state of the car could be translated to data points and displayed/analyzed in real time by a sophisticated machine-learning system that can optimize your car maintenance based on its individual experiences. This is the kind potential IoT technology holds.
IoT, Internet of Things, is essentially connecting objects to a network for the purpose of collecting and sending data to the objects. IIoT is about taking this concept of connected objects and applying it to industrial applications. As we advance our manufacturing processes and automation continues to grow, our ability to collect data from the real world, analyze it, and act upon the data will quickly become the difference between “okay profits” and “theoretical maximum efficiency”. This level of communication has amazing potential, but it’s easy to think of some key pitfalls that we need to overcome.
Predicting the Future of IIoT
Do we have a current digital standard for all the different kinds of data we’d be collecting across hundreds of different devices within different applications? Do we even have a set language in which these devices should be communicating? How about robust networks built to process large amounts of real time data and re-distribute them across 1000’s of connected devices across a manufacturing floor? What does the security even look like in a network with so many edge devices?
The development of IIoT technology relies on the answers to these questions and more. It’s something that has great potential, but it will take large amounts of groundwork to establish an efficient network. The way computers interact with real-world objects will be changed forever as we move one step closer to being able to digitize, simulate, and even act upon nearly any connected object through data.
If you’re still not sure about concept of IIoT, ( Or maybe you are excited and you want to read about the possibilities ) I’ve included some real-life Testbeds conducted by the Industrial Internet Consortium:
- Track and Trace – This Testbed deals with the application of IIoT technology to the factory floor. Specifically, handheld power tools are being connected to the network to collect data ranging from the amount of force utilized on a screw to their location/status. With this kind of setup, a factory would be able to standardize and optimize their power tool utilization. You can find the initial details released about this project at ceasiamag.com
- Asset Efficiency Testbed – This Testbed’s purpose is to explore how IIoT can improve business critical assets. The concept utilizes real-time data combined with predictive analytics to make maintenance/operational decisions. This application of IIoT greatly benefits situations in which a business relies heavily on the operation of a key object/machine. Initial details of the project were released at infosys.com
- Industrial Digital Testbed – First, take all the steps of a manufacturing process, digitize it into data, then get a computer system to understand and optimize this data within that digital space to calculate the real-world efficient way to manufacture that and any future product. If you can do all of that, you’ll essentially have what the Industrial Digital Testbed is shooting for. You can read about the initial press release at infosys.com
With the amount of networking, data, and connected devices that a smart facility would need, it’s quite easy to see how this technology will create a huge need for skilled developers. Hopefully you have a better understanding of what exactly IIoT/IoT is and how it relates to you as a developer, but to truly grasp our opportunities here we have to take a closer look at it’s applications and the businesses behind it.
Our next article is Why IIoT, Its Applications, And The Business Behind It. If you’re just as excited about IIoT as we are, stay tuned. And if you’re not excited, we assume you’re just too busy thinking about all the new protocols this revolution will bring.