The Internet of Things (IoT) has become a familiar term for describing the vast network of connected devices that are revolutionizing how we live, work, communicate and function. With their explosive rise, the possibilities for IoT innovation seem endless. It is not surprising that Industrial IoT (IIoT) is greatly altering the traditional foundation of siloed legacy and airgapped industrial networking infrastructure and defining the next industrial revolution called Industry 4.0.
What is Industrial IoT (IIoT)?
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the internet connected technology which is being incorporated into networks to create an industrial ecosystem that is more efficient, accurate, cost-effective, productive and visible for easy monitoring.
IIoT are comprised of extensive connected devices, sensors, and actuators that collect, communicate, and coordinate their data that is fed into analytics to improve industrial output and optimize revenues. IIoT is solving complex control issues within a network of systems, platforms and applications, with embedded technology that communicates and shares real-time data.
The evolution of networking technologies has paved the way for Industry 4.0 and IIoT. Operators are harnessing advanced connectivity and automation to close the gaps of traditional industrial processes and overcome resource, transportation, and supply chain complexities.
The Evolution of Industrial Network Architecture
Industrial network architecture has significantly evolved from ethernet to our advanced internet connectivity. Industrial network connectivity traditionally relied on fixed-line connections where connectivity extended through the multi-layers of connected components. The only connection to the internet was into Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) that contained the recipes for controlling equipment. PLCs monitor the state of input devices and send operating instructions based on the collected data. Before IIoT, connectivity has typically been through an ethernet connection.
Industrial IoT advancements and a less siloed approach have led to more connected equipment at different layers. Within this environment, PLCs can’t provide the high degree of data granularity needed to fully assess machine performance. By enabling the connectivity of sensors to smaller components like compressors, pumps, and step motors, more detailed data insights can be gained. Sensors can be fitted throughout industrial processes and connected to a gateway that backhauls data to an application in a data center or cloud.
Gateways connect two networks with different transmission protocols. All data must pass through and communicate with the software prior to routing. Gateways are control points for delivering and securing the data on the gateway and in transit. Gateway connections can be wired or wireless via WiFi, Bluetooth, or through Low-Power Wide Area (LPWA) technology.
Looking to the Future and New Technology Advancements for IIoT
Industrial networking has come a long way since its early adoption from ethernet, and now newer wireless technologies, like 5G modern communication protocols, are being adopted in industrial environments. Industrial 5G low latency, high data throughput and reliability enables the further developments of IIoT solutions, as well as innovative AR and VR software.
Alternatives to fixed-line connectivity, like 5G and 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) wireless standard, allow network owners to craft a private network that specifically meets their needs. These capabilities take them well beyond just monitoring machine health, for comprehensive control functions and seamless real-time communication.
The Factors and Desired Outcomes Driving IIoT Adoption
In addition to new technology standards and supplier expansion, disruptive factors due to the pandemic and supply chain challenges have driven more IoT connectivity into industrial companies to improve efficiencies and uptime. IIoT has enabled greater product quality and delivery reliability, while minimizing downtime. Through enhanced visibility and expanded data analytics, supply chain issues can be detected and promptly mitigated.
A significant indicator for use of IIoT is the capability of predictive maintenance to continuously monitor machine health and detect potential failings. This limits the need for regularly scheduled preventative maintenance cycles that cost in time and money, and prevents machine failure downtime in a cost-effective manner.
What are the Key Drivers of Industrial IoT?
In short, there are many reasons why the industrial market is becoming more connected, from advancements and availability of technology to competitive macroeconomic trends. Motivations include:
Improve operational flexibility, productivity and efficiency
Enable greater product configurability and customization
Create new business opportunities and revenue
Maximize asset utilization and resource planning
Support the expansion of sustainability initiatives
Along with IIoT, key technologies driving Industry 4.0 are artificial intelligence, big data analytics, and cloud computing. AI automation and robotics, coupled with IIoT that intersect IT and OT, and supported by data analytics and cloud computing, are radically transforming traditional industrial paradigms.
Current IIoT Markets and Expansion Potential
The potential use cases for IIoT seem limitless, with expanding presence in automotive, hospitality, agriculture and healthcare sectors.
Currently, these are three primary market segments:
Extraction deals with excavating the raw materials used in industrial manufacturing like oil, gas, coal, lithium and other materials used in energy production. Connectivity relies on cellular and satellite technologies communicating with gateways, PLCs, and IIoT solutions, which are important for extending asset life and reducing unnecessary maintenance rolls.
Manufacturing benefits greatly from IIoT connectivity as important differentiators in meeting the KPIs for improved uptime, efficiency, quality, and visibility. OEMs are now extending to both service and sales models to capitalize on technology trends. Private network uptake in manufacturing is also greatly increasing for specificity benefits.
Utility facilities for power generation - fossil, nuclear, hydro, solar, and wind - utilize PLCs, gateways, and sensors to maintain these critical processes. Now, more and more pipelines and in-line distributed network infrastructure are getting connected partly due to LPWA technologies. Low Earth Orbit Satellites will also play a future role in sensor-based IoT solutions.
Certified Secure Devices are Essential for Industrial 4.0 Cybersecurity
The expansion of internet accessibility to critical industrial machines and systems is a top security concern given the escalation and sophistication of cybercrime. According to Globalsign’s whitepaper, Securing the Industrial IoT Market, by 2030, connected machines and production systems will exceed 1.2 billion.
This myriad of devices will need unique certified identities for operators to build strong security policies. A multi-layered security approach for certified devices should include multi-factor authentication, explicit access control, zero trust, threat detection and response, and lifecycle management. Digital certificates from a trusted authority, based upon PKI technology, are the best identification approach for flexibility and scalability.
PKI has become the primary credentialing platform for machine identities. Partnering with a trusted certificate authority will ensure greater cyber protection over our critical industrial networks and enable secure innovations in the future.
Or if you are interested in locking the door to hackers from your IoT Devices, click here to learn more about Globalsign’s comprehensive identity and security solutions.