Industrial Internet of Things: Potential, Barriers and Implications of IIoT

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The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are interrelated yet different concepts. Click here to read more about the Internet of Things: What It Is and How It Works.

The Internet of Things adds value to three major areas, creating better experiences, improving health and safety and increasing efficiency.

The Industrial Internet of Things, on the other hand, deals only with improving health and increasing efficiency.

Therefore, an accurate analogy would be that, while the IoT resembles a large pie, Industrial IoT only constitutes a slice of that pie.

The Internet of Things is a broader category that encompasses the IIoT along with other things, like wearable devices (smart watches, calorie counters, etc.), remote monitoring, asset tracking and much more.

IIoT, as its name suggests, focuses more on the industrial aspect of things and is specialised in improving various facets of industrial applications, such as in the fields of manufacturing, transportation and agriculture.

Potential of the Industrial Internet of Things:

The Industrial Internet of Things holds massive potential in terms of improving global industry by a margin of billions, if not trillions, of dollars.

An official report released by the World Economic Forum on the topic of IIoT read as follows:

“The Industrial Internet of Things will transform many industries, including manufacturing, oil and gas, agriculture, mining, transportation and healthcare. These sectors collectively contribute two-thirds of the global GDP annually.”

Speedy innovations have been swiftly and drastically developing the global technological scenario over the last few decades.

So, constant technological upgrades are but expected in various industries as well.

Innovations in connectivity, hardware, big data analytics, machine learning, etc. have proved that the concept of IIoT holds massive potential to revolutionise industry as we know it.

Innovations in connectivity have made it possible for us to collect, store, transmit, receive and analyse data more efficiently and cost-effectively. Cloud technology and services are a major part of innovations in this field.

Innovations in hardware, on the other hand, have made devices more durable, powerful, efficient and cheaper.

Innovations in machine learning and big data analytics are core in gaining deeper insights from data collected through the use of sensors.

These insights help in increasing productivity and reducing costs by highlighting defects and underutilisation of resources and opportunities in specific segments of industrial processes.

Predictive maintenance is a great example of the potential IIoT holds as they help in preventing loss of productivity while also avoiding wasteful allocation of resources.

Productivity tends to be greatly affected when machines and equipment break down. So, periodic services are generally scheduled to keep them working.

However, these periodic services are not foolproof as they might break down before the scheduled time arrives, thereby causing productivity to fall.

On the other hand, scheduled services with no visible issues in operation would end up in the wastage of the time, effort and money.

Therefore, adding more sensors in the machinery and equipment to better observe their condition will prevent the wastage of resources and servicing them as soon as a problem is detected by the sensors will save the productivity from falling.

Predictive maintenance is merely one of the basic uses of the Industrial Internet of Things and has already been turned into a reality.

Further adoption and advancement in IIoT will eventually lead to an autonomous economy where supply will always be kept equal to demand, thereby, leading to zero wastage.

Adopting the Industrial Internet of Things:

The Industrial Internet of Things, as mentioned above, has slowly been integrating itself into the global industrial front.

However, one point to be acknowledged is that, like all groundbreaking innovations, IIoT also requires certain factors as foundation for it to build upon. These factors may include capital, infrastructure, labour, etc.

This has naturally caused an imbalanced integration of IIoT in different countries with developed countries taking the lead.

IIoT is ahead of IoT in being incorporated into our lives as the incentives to be gained from enhancing industrial productivity far outweigh consumer IoT applications.

Another major factor increasing the popularity of IIoT among industrialists is its ability to effectively reduce costs and improve productivity.

This may be reiterated as ensuring higher returns-on-investment, which are a more tangible benefit of adopting IIoT solutions.

The need for prioritising the Industrial Internet of Things over the Internet of Things is best described by the Right to Information (RTI) petition answered by the United States Government below:

IoT and IIoT have two distinctly separate areas of interest.

The Industrial IoT connects critical machines and sensors in high-stakes industries, such as aerospace, healthcare, energy and defence industries.

These are systems in which failure generally results in situations of emergency that are oftentimes life-threatening.

On the other hand, IoT systems tend to be consumer-level devices, such as wearable fitness tools, smart home appliances, automatic pet feeders, etc.

All they generally do is to make things more convenient for their owners. Their malfunctions also rarely end in life-threatening situations.

Therefore, we can conclude that most sections of the society find IIoT more helpful and urgently required than IoT.

Hurdles in the implementation of IIoT:

Two of the most prominent hurdles in the path of widespread implementation of Industrial IoT are security issues and the limitation of interoperability.

Security becomes a major issue when the massive amount of information generated by the large amount of sensors is uploaded online.

Maliciousware and people with unauthorised access and/or malicious intentions would find it easy to acquire large quantities of vulnerable information and cause havoc on a larger scale as compared to what they can do now.

Cyberattacks become scarier when they can allow the perpetrator to remotely control or damage physical systems. They can cause huge economic losses while also endangering the lives of people.

Interconnectivity is a major issue because every IIoT-enabled machine, device and system will have to be connected with more such IIoT solutions.

This means that any issues that might arise in the functioning of one of them will cause many more to become erratic.

This will not only cost efficiency, but also lead to issues figuring out the root of the problem, let alone fixing all the problems in a timely manner.

Therefore, we can agree on the fact that security will become a topic of great concern for debates in the future and interconnectivity will give rise to many streams of technicians that will be running around analysing and resolving those IIoT solutions.

Implications of the implementation of IIoT:

As we have established so far, IIoT has the potential to increase efficiency and productivity while not having to resort to putting significantly more burden on the available resources.

This is made possible by optimising the utilization of resources rather than by increasing the number of hands exploiting them, which means that the number of traditional jobs is bound to decrease over time.

This does not mean that the integration of IIoT will not provide any new jobs. It will generate plenty of new job opportunities in the forms of careers that support the smooth functioning of these hi-tech systems.

These careers include, but are not limited to, medical robot designers, grid modernization managers and intermodal transport network engineers.

As is blatantly obvious, none of these are blue-collared jobs as they all need high levels of knowledge on latest technologies, innovations, etc., and specialized, multiplatform training to be performed properly.

This basically means that the, in most cases, the labour force being laid will not be the same one hired and those that are unable to keep up with the changing times will be left behind.

Another important issue is that the number of jobs consumed by the implementation of IIoT will be far greater than the number of them generated by it.

One good example of it is the new manufacturing facility of Tesla that Elon Musk refers to as the world’s first superfactory. It will have the capacity of generating an annual turnover of US $100 Billion with a mere workforce of 6,500 employees.

This means that people will have to adapt to the fast-paced and ever-changing global scenario to be able to stay employed.

For this, they will have to stay up-to-date with the latest technological and commercial trends while also having the necessary qualifications for applying for and performing the newly-created jobs.

However, the global heads of state and public representatives cannot shy away from their responsibilities either as they will play a huge role in ensuring a smooth transition to the era of interconnected digital-physical lifestyle.

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