What is Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)?
Industrial IoT, or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), is a vital element of Industry 4.0. IIoT harnesses the power of smart machines and real-time analysis to make better use of the data that industrial machines have been churning out for years. The principal driver of IIoT is smart machines, for two reasons. The first is that smart machines capture and analyze data in real-time, which humans cannot. The second is that smart machines communicate their findings in a manner that is simple and fast, enabling faster and more accurate business decisions.
IIoT is used across a range of industries from manufacturing, logistics, oil and gas, transportation, mining, aviation, energy, and more. Its focus is to optimize operations--particularly the automation of processes and maintenance. IIoT capabilities enhance asset performance and better manage maintenance. In the long run, it moves the industry toward a demand service model, increases customer intimacy, and creates new revenue streams--which all contributes to the digital transformation of industries.
Applications of IIoT
IIoT is a game-changer for any industry in manufacturing that produces physical products or manages product transportation. IIoT can increase operational efficiencies, which in turn paves the way to create completely new business models. It has a range of applications in a cross-section of industries.
Currently production sectors use IIoT technology the most. Smart machines, enabled with IIoT, can self-monitor and anticipate possible production hurdles. This results in lowered downtime and better efficiency.
While keeping up production numbers is important, smooth delivery across the supply chain is also crucial. With IIoT, orders can automatically replenish stocks when needed. This reduces waste, maintains stock numbers, and makes sure the right amount of raw materials are always available. With the automation of supply chains and ordering, employees can focus on more complex areas of functioning.
Most building management issues can be addressed with IIoT technology. Sensor-driven climate control removes all the uncertainty related to managing a building’s internal climate and takes all needed factors into consideration--such as the number of people, ventilation spots, machinery, and more. IIoT enhances building security with smart devices that assess possible threats from any entry points of a building.
Healthcare has embraced smart devices for a long time now. Healthcare professionals can remotely monitor patients and are alerted by any status change. This makes healthcare more precise and personal. In the future, artificial intelligence may be able to assist with diagnoses, enabling doctors to treat patients more accurately and effectively.
IIoT technology in retail enables quick marketing decisions specific to each store. Companies can update storefronts based on region-specific consumer interests, and they can target audiences with smarter promotions. These data-driven insights make a store stand out from its competition.
Sensors are not new technology as companies have used them to track goods or monitor machines for years. The difference in IIoT is the ability to adopt these changes on a larger scale due to the lowered costs of sensors, comprehensive wiring networks, and big-data analytics.
Globally, manufacturers spend $197 billion yearly on IIoT, according to tech analyst IDC. Transport companies alone have invested around $71 billion in it. Companies are setting aside budgets for IIoT, but how they spend these budgets varies from one company to another, based on their priorities.
How Does IIoT Work and What Are the Benefits?
IoT is a network of smart devices and via networks that are linked to databases. These devices monitor, collect, exchange, and analyze data. A typical IIoT system comprises of:
- Smart equipment that measures, stores, and communicates information
- Public or private internet networks that serve as a data communication structure
- Analytical applications that process raw data into data insights for optimized processes
- Tools that help decision-makers and employees utilize data for better business outcomes
Dataflow is crucial to ensuring that IIoT applications work optimally. To aid dataflows, companies use a databus to distribute and manage real-time data. This technology paves the way for applications and devices to work together as a cohesive unit. While a database manages historical data at rest, a databus manages data in motion.
IIoT streamlines and automates processes, which increases business productivity. It improves operational efficiency, lowers operational costs, and increases income-generation. Better automation levels enhance product quality, and this, combined with efficient operations, assists with predictive maintenance.
With IIoT, the chances of creating new revenue streams is much higher. Data insights can provide information into how an efficiently run operation can resolve little-known inefficiencies to enhance productivity. Performance or usage data leads to newer products or services. For example, manufacturers can work out asset-sharing models with other manufacturers. This resource sharing optimizes space and production capabilities while saving costs. Similarly, IIoT devices can monitor and better manage an HVAC system.
IIoT works on improving productivity and quality, without burdening resources. This helps immensely with business expansion.
Security Considerations and Challenges When Adopting IIoT
The adoption of IIoT can revolutionize industries, but this increased connectivity can create additional security issues. Companies that work with operational technologies understand the importance of worker safety and product quality. But with the integration of operations, the internet, automation, and smart machines, several challenges arise with availability, scalability, and security.
Most industries are well versed in managing availability and scalability since they are crucial to functioning and can easily integrate into an IIoT system. Security is where most organizations tend to falter. Many businesses still utilize legacy systems and processes, and new technologies can complicate integration and end-to-end security.
The increase in smart devices, particularly employee devices used for work, give rise to a plethora of security vulnerabilities. Organizations are responsible for the secure implementation and setup for any connected devices. But device manufacturers also have to prove they can keep devices safe, which is not often the case.
Cyber-security issues are rising. Successful hackers can crack connected systems and potentially shut down operations. To handle these security issues, manufacturing companies need to approach IIoT like any IT company would--with a focus on the security of physical and digital components.
Another challenge with IIoT adoption is securely integrating industrial operations with IT. User data has to be in sync with global privacy regulations. Gathering data is essential to generating essential insights for a company, but personal information needs to be separated and stored in encrypted databases. Storing personal data with business data can lead to serious risks of exposure.
Several other security problems are associated with IIoT. This could be exposed ports, a lack of sufficient authentication practices, or even the use of obsolete applications. All these small problems, in addition to having an internet network, can be dangerous for companies. Unsecured IIoT systems can result in operational disruption and financial losses.
The more connected an environment is, the higher the security risks:
- Software vulnerabilities are easy prey for hackers to attack.
- Devices and systems connected to the internet are publicly searchable.
- Hacking attempts increase, leading to targeted attacks and data loss.
- Operations are disrupted from system manipulation or sabotage attempts.
- System malfunction results in device damage, or worse still, physical damage to employees.
- Extortion attempts resulting from compromised operational technologies.
- Increased fines if private information is made public against regulations.
The last concern is that IoT and IIoT suffer from technology fragmentation, which can lead to inoperable systems if processes are not handled correctly or efficiently.
How Companies Can Implement IIoT Intelligently?
Even with all of these concerns, IIoT is still the way forward for organizations to remain relevant and competitive. Companies can take full advantage of its benefits by using methodical research, implementation, and maintenance.
Without a doubt, one key area of focus is cyber-security. Connecting operational technology to the internet makes any business vulnerable. A lack of security can undermine all IIoT’s potential, leaving a business open to tremendous risk. Security design is needed in key areas:
A Centralized Security Operations Centre
A company keen to implement IIoT must have a security operations center (SOC) in place. This will proactively monitor and defend against a broad spectrum of threats. A centralized set up allows enterprises to tackle numerous red flags and ensures quick responses. These centers are best for organizations that require increased visibility and non-stop analysis of their security positions. Pre-empting security incidents is the key to preventing any compromise. With this approach, companies can improve and update legacy systems.
An SOC can also tackle low system visibility and slow response times. With a security operations center, alerts are prioritized and handled, optimizing IT and operational technologies.
Recruiting Security Experts to Mitigate Threats
As with any technology-based field, the IT threat landscape is constantly evolving and organizations have to adapt to new threats. To prepare, companies adopting IIoT need to create a dedicated security team that constantly works on the protection of operational technology environments. This is a specialized field and that requires experts. These IT security experts can jointly work on predicting the next possible attack and put measures in place to ensure it does not happen.
A full stack of security needs to be built into the key layers of IIoT:
The device: This layer consists of IIoT devices and the associated applications supplied by various manufacturers and service providers. IIoT adopters should know how manufacturers and service providers use, transmit, and store data. If there is a security breach, manufacturers and service providers must be able to immediately notify companies.
The network: The network area has a gateway through which data is gathered from devices. Organizations need to have state-of-the-art intrusion prevention systems (IPSs) in place to check for potential attacks. This gateway is placed at the control center, sending out commands to various devices. It is critical that security measures are placed at the control center to protect against malware infections and hackers.
The cloud: Providers need to have security that runs server-based protection against hackers trying to gain control of servers and data.
In short, securing IIoT requires inter-connected threat defenses and end-to-end protection systems. These systems should:
- Constantly monitor for malware infections
- Detect threats and anomalies early on
- Prevent proactive threats and attacks between IT and operational technologies
- Ensure secure data transfers
- Implement advanced IPS to prevent vulnerabilities
- Ensure server and application protection in both the data center and the cloud
IIoT is known for its potential to enable quicker and smarter decision-making when combined with digital transformation projects. By securing real-time, detailed data, IIoT helps enterprises understand business processes better. IIoT analyzes data] from multiple sensors, increasing the efficacy of processes and opening new revenue streams. Companies can gain a broader insight into all aspects of their supply chain, enhancing collaboration and coordination.
With all these benefits, IIoT is still relatively new. Several technologies that utilizes IIoT are too expensive to be immediately adopted, such as 5G networks. The progress towards complete IIoT implementation will be slow and steady, but organizations who thoughtfully and intelligently pursue a digital future will be rewarded.
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